The Great European Summer Shutdown

Every year as August comes around, Spain, and most of Europe, go into low gear. Things start to wind down, and people start talking about vacations. Traditionally, August is when peak summer hits across Europe and people take their annual vacations.

staIn Spain, most people are obligated to take a certain amount of their annual vacations in August. Some companies shut down entirely for the month. For those that choose to remain open, the jornada intensiva (meaning intensive working day) kicks in and the workday changes. The day starts an hour earlier, and around 3PM people head home for a siesta, or to the beach, as the case may be.  As one of the few who chooses to work in August, I can tell you it is probably the most efficient time of the year. Thanks to almost no one being present in the office to disturb you, you can get a LOT of work done. Plus, since we don’t vacation during peak tourist season, we save a whole lot of moolah on flights and hotels.

Out of curiosity, I investigated and tried to find out the reason behind this summer shut down. A lot of people say it was introduced by the left-wing populist governments starting with France in 1936. During/after World War 2, the rest of Europe followed suit. EHSome say it was a bid to keep the people happy so these governments/dictators could stay in power. Others say that the summer shut down has to do with the heat. It gets extremely hot in August and working becomes very difficult if you don’t have an air-conditioned office and even more so if you are a blue collared worker.

Whatever the reason for its origin, people have gotten so used to the status quo that the very thought of changing it would be heresy. It would cause a lot of discontent and resentment. I speculate of course, but any government that dared to change it would probably never return to power again. No wonder then that when the numerous crises have hit Europe (1993, 2007, 2011…) or its companies (e.g. Volkswagen 2015) during the summer, the politicians, bankers and CEOs have been in such a foul mood. I don’t blame them though; who wouldn’t be after having had their summer vacation canceled?

The good thing about all of this is the better quality of life. The next logical thought though, is about the obvious downside- decreased productivity. I can’t help but try to draw some kind of parallel between the way things are (going) and the fall of the Roman Empire.

But for now, I think I’ll just hit the publish button and leave you to ruminate on that, while the Honey Bee and I go relax at the beach.

Hasta luego!