Lili – July 15, 2019

It’s summertime, and I want to live in Denmark. There are many reasons I’d love to live there, but I feel a particular yen for the homeland during the summer months. That’s because Danes get five weeks’ paid vacation time, or 2.08 days per month.

They also get nine public holidays off, including New Year’s Day, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Great Prayer Day, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Some companies offer time off on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, Labour Day, and Constitution Day as well.

A group of young workers talk around a water cooler.

Beginning around April or May, Danish workers begin to ask one another whether they’re taking three or four weeks off for summer vacation.

Holiday time is a vital part of Danish culture, and time off is considered sacrosanct. While here in America it’s not unusual for employees to remain connected to work while on vacation, in Denmark time away is truly time away. And that makes perfect sense to me. What’s a vacation if it’s not really a vacation?

Beginning around April or May, many Danish workers can be heard asking one another, “Are you taking three or four?” What they are inquiring is if someone is taking three or four weeks off for summer vacation. Boy, do I wish!

Danish cities are virtual ghost towns during the last two weeks of July, as many businesses are closed for summer holiday. Getting around town is a breeze during this time, too, because the streets are practically empty.

The United States is considered the most overworked developed nation in the world and is also the only country in the Americas without a national paid parental leave benefit. (Danish parents get 52 parental leave weeks per year!) As such, the work-life balance in the U.S. is severely lacking.

A office full of overworked employees sleep at their desks.

The United States is the most overworked developed nation in the world.

Denmark, on the other hand, is fifth in the world among countries with the most paid days off. In fact, vacation time is mandated by the Danish Vacation Law, known as Ferieloven. No wonder Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world!

While some Danes use their time off to fix up their homes or just be with family on a “staycation,” many visit Denmark’s idyllic islands and seaside villages. Some have summer homes and cabins where they can spend weeks at a time relaxing in the light of day, which lasts until about 11:00 p.m. and begins again around 4:00 a.m. during the summer. A visit to Copenhagen, even for native Danes, promises an entire long vacation’s worth of things to do.

Other popular vacation destinations for Danish people are Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Sweden, Greece, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Norway and Turkey. How nice it would be to have time to really explore such places or visit more than one country on holiday!

Recently, some staff at The Danish Home and other Chicagoans traveled to Denmark to experience Rebildfesten, a festival that celebrates American Independence Day. Its founder, Max Henius, was one of The Danish Home’s early board members.

My friend Britta at The Danish Home was particularly interested in hearing about their trip, because she was born in the northern city of Aalborg, where the festival is held in Rebild National Park. She fondly recalls the long holiday time her father had in Denmark and the extended vacations she took with her parents and siblings.

While I am looking forward to my week-long vacation with Brad and the girls to Michigan next month, I know it will be over far too soon.