Why I would not work in the United States again

Don’t get me wrong.  There is no perfect place and each country has its own flaws but in the last year I came to a realization what fool I had been.  I am a European so why did I spend almost a decade working hard outside of Europe, in the country whose government has so little to offer even to their own people?  I could have spent the rest of my life there without realizing what I was missing but due to a small chance I didn’t.  I never worked prior to moving to the US, so I had no idea that as a tax payer I am entitled to benefits.

The first five years in the US I worked full-time but with no health insurance nor paid vacations, and I accepted it because I did not know any better.  After I graduated and was employed in the field of my specialization, I was ecstatic because I was offered the health insurance plan which with a small contribution even covered my partner and 15 days of annual paid vacation.  However these days included sick days, so no surprise I rarely called in sick.  If not for the financial crisis and consequential lay offs, I would probably still be working there now and being happy not knowing any better.  Ignorance is bliss, no?

So imagine my surprise after moving back to Europe when I found a job and I received… 30 days of paid vacation. That is six weeks, baby! The government guaranteed that all employees (despite of their citizenships) received minimum 25 days a year but my company offered even more.  Then I learned that for my wedding, the law entitles me to 6 more vacation days and 2 days each time I moved and changed my address with the officials. What, more vacation days?? When I was sick, I just got a note from a doctor and if it was serious, an employer would pay up to 77 sick days a year until the social security would take over.  Don’t ask me about the maternity leave because I never looked into it seriously but in Sweden many of my colleagues took 2 years of the maternity leave.  It is also common to see mandatory paternity leaves for dads.

And today I received a letter from the Ministry of Education.  The response came only a few days after submitting my documents consisting of a one-page application, a scanned letter from the university and a letter from the social security confirming that I am employed.  My hands were shaking.  I became even more nervous when I realized that the answer had only three sentences, so it looked like bad news.   I kept looking for je suis désolé equivalent to “I am sorry” in English when quickly typed the words in google translator.  A rough English translation from French followed:

“Following your request I am pleased to inform you that your individual training leave is granted a rate of 20 day (s) falling during the period.  Please accept the assurances of my highest consideration.”

A huge relief washed my body – “yes I got it, I did it!”

What was this all about?  A month ago I learned that the Luxembourg government has a law allowing employees to take time off for training/learning.  Any employee is entitled to 20 paid days every two years for maximum 80 days in life to take time off for studying.  It can be related to anything and anywhere as long as it is from an official institution, even if it not related to your job.  An employer can only delay your request if it has serious grounds that your departure will harm business but it cannot be delayed for more than a year.  Every 24 learning hours entitle a person to 8 hours (1 day) of the training leave which is fully subsidized by the government.  As an employee who is also studying and writing a thesis, I just received extra 20 paid days off this year, totaling 50 days this year!  Isn’t that insane?? That also means that I do not have to max out my vacation days this year in order to get my degree.  Woohoo!

I cannot believe that I spent all these years working under any other conditions and not knowing any better.  With so much time in life spent in the office, I would not want to have anything less.  It is still hard to comprehend that I am entitled to 6 weeks of paid vacation every year.  So anything else is just a cherry on top of the cake. Did you know what you are missing?

And yes, in the SardiniaUnited States my salary was increasing quicker but together with my working hours.  I earned a decent salary but in the end, I learned that it does not matter how much one earns, if he or she has no time to spend it with friends or a family… or in a place like this (on the right), the destination of my last year’s month vacation.  Yes, I spent a month there on vacation!