Saturday, July 30, 2016

Germans and Vacations

By the age of twenty-five, my interpretation of a vacation was to take four to five days off and travel....see things....and reflect upon the landscape of wherever I traveled.  Most Americans, I think are this way.  We aren't generally the crowd who'd take two entire weeks off, and just remain in one single hotel or resort for the whole time.

Then, one day....I ended up married to a German.....which brought these 'forced' changes to my concept of vacations.

Germans, for any American who hasn't had to deal closely with them....are complex and obsessed people.  They will tell you that they are giving 150-percent effort in their work (mentally and physically)....hence the reason why Germans get a minimum of 30 days of vacation a year.

Germans have a different view of vacations....they are supposed to be for rest and recuperation....relaxing over the job stress, and getting you prepared for the next year of hard work.

Most Germans will take two entire weeks in the summer.....which generally coincides with the kid's school school (each German state maintains a schedule, and you will be off from X-day to Y-day).  If you were thinking that they'd have to make up snow-days.....well....if they have to....they will throw a Saturday or two into the make up the days lost.  If Hessen says school will end on 18 Jul and the new school year will start on 27 Aug, well....that's set into stone and actually know two years ahead of time.  That's why people can sit there and plan some airline trip eight months ahead because they know the scheduled days off.

All of this naturally leads back to the office or plant.  Leave schedules to allow ten guys in some section to all get their two weeks off (if that's their gameplan) will be known six to eight months ahead of time.  It's possible that you might be operating some function normally with ten people and for some short period....just have five guys there because of scheduling.

Two years ago in Mainz....the train controllers had some huge mess to occur when they suddenly had two guys retire (out of the blue), and they had X-number of members on scheduled vacation.  They had insufficient numbers of controllers on hand to manage trains coming in or out of the they literally cancelled roughly one-third of the trains scheduled, and infuriated the general public for about three weeks.

Where do Germans go on vacation?  There are roughly nine scenarios that unfold:

1.  They go to 'El Balcony' meaning they stay at home....conduct some paint job, wall-paper project, renovation, and maybe use the regional pool five or six times.  This will also occur if they've done a lousy job on saving money and can't afford to go anywhere.

2.  The German vacation.  You still have some Germans who vacation mostly in Germany.  This means they typically go on some hiking expedition, make a run to some quiet valley in Bavaria, or rest some beach cottage/condo along the northern coast.

3.  The Spain trip.  Spain has around three different concepts to throw at people.  There's the party-isle area of Ibiza where young Germans like to go and sip vast amounts of wine and party til sun-up.....then get the best sun-burns from four hours in the sun without any suntan lotion.  Or you have the Canaries trip where it's basically the same thing....less wine.....more family-activity....and guaranteed sun.  And finally there is the Spanish Riviera, along the Med coast where you jump on a bus in Germany....ride 15 hours....and stay at some cheap resort with cheap wine flowing.

4.  The Italy-Greece theme.  With Italy, you can typically drive down from half of Germany in ten hours (mostly because of hectic and crowded road conditions).  With Greece, you might end up going to some German airport at 11PM and arrive in Greece at 4AM, to end up at the hotel at 6AM in the morning....and leave fourteen days later at 6AM from some Greek airport.  In this case, it's for the food, culture, and sun.

5.  Turkey.  Turkey offers this wild-card of sorts (at least until the Erdogan troubles started).  You could end up with some package deal of a five-star hotel, airfare included, ALL drinks (beer, wine, soda) and all meals included....with rail-way tickets to your German airport in Oct or Nov....for 450-Euro.   You typically went to Turkey because of the economic sense and great weather.

6.  The Dominican Republic or Cuba experience.  For years, Cuba has been an option for Germans.  Typically, you'd go for the beachfront resort and cheap booze.  Same for DR.  It's not something that a large segment of Germans will say they've done in their life.  Maybe out of a hundred Germans who are 65 years might find five who've done this at least once in their life to this region.

7. The US trip.  For the most part, Germans will only go to three regions of the US (Florida, Vegas-California, and NY City).  If it's the Vegas-California trip, then it's a package deal and some bus travel involved.  For NY, it's typically renting some hotel room and walking over the city for ten days.

8.  The adventure trip.  A small percentage of Germans will go radical and rig up some bike trip to South America, or some safari to Africa, or some boat cruise around the Pacific, or end up on some Chinese wellness resort in a remote valley somewhere.

9.  The RV crowd.  For decades, the adventure of RV traveling has been expanding in Germany.  Their destinations will mostly include Germany itself, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands.  Some Germans are so pepped up....that they buy a trailer and pre-position it in Italy....going down each summer for three weeks of relaxation at some travel camp which allows around-the-year parking.

The end statement from each of these is that the German got rest and relaxation.....lessened their stress....and are able to go back to 150-percent effort at the job.

Personally, I never believed the 150-percent thing but it's best not to argue with a German.  Have I become Germanized on this two-week rest and relaxation thing?  No.  I generally play along but I'm the typical American who'd like to cram 25 hours into a normal day seeing some vast expanse of landscape or sipping some terrible Greek wine while standing in the midst of Zeus's cave, or walking down into some meteor crater.

The over-riding factors in picking a German vacation?  Here's the thing which you ought to really take into account.  First, they are willing to cram an awful lot of stress into getting to this destination.  If they have to get up at 2AM and drive for sixteen hours to reach the end-point....well, that's acceptable.  If they are willing to get up at midnight, and go to some airport to fly out and spend nine hours on a plane to reach the destination....well, that's OK.

The second obvious thing is a review of safety.  Egypt and Tunisia have both demonstrated an unsafe environment, and both are suffering long-term German fears.  I could get a fantastic two week trip into either country today, for a remarkably low price because they are literally begging for tourism to return to some normalcy.  Turkey, because of the coup and emergency conditions there, has scared a number of Germans, and they won't go there for 2016, and I seriously doubt that they will return in 2017.  The Turks will miss that chance to profit off the Germans.

And the third obvious thing is some "deal".  Germans love package tours.  Getting an inclusive deal, with free drinks for X-amount.....or having some wellness center packages thrown into the deal....or having free parking or a free welcome dinner as part of the offering.....all leads a German to consider such-and-such resort or hotel.

I should note....all of this happens months ahead of time typically.  Most Germans will start in December and January.....planning the trip, getting reservations and bookings, and ensuring everything is covered.  It's rare that a German comes up within two weeks of some leave and suddenly does a last-minute booking to some surprise location.  I'd say less than one-percent of German society is willing to consider some wild trip like that.

So, when the topic of trips and vacations come up with your German associate.....don't be alarmed if this conversation reaches the level of 'nuclear science', where a hundred things are thrown on the table and discussed like a wedding planner.  Germans are the last people on Earth who'd be the accidental tourist type and just pick some place on a map at random.  And if it seems they are recreating a ton of stress on top of the 150-percent job-stress?'s best not to note this in the conversation.

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