I recently told you all the tips and tricks I have learned from my colleagues about Christmas in Japan. True or not exactly remains to be seen, though to avoid any disappointment on December 25th, I am going on holiday. Booked and confirmed! At the same time I realized that is it something I should tell you more about. So, let’s talk about going on holiday in Japan.
While France is famous for its month-length summer vacation (if you have ever tried to do any business with the French in August, you will know what I mean) and the number of days off in general (famous so called RTT days, to make sure you don’t work too much), it is still said to be among the most productive countries in the world. Japan, on the other hand, is a country known for extremely long office hours and almost no holiday at all. Having said that, I have to say that we are not talking about national holidays, but classical paid annual leave. The problem is not that they do not have paid vacation, but that people do not take them. Imagine that in France!
How come, you will ask?
Life in a really traditional Japanese company is not easy. Not only for many written and unwritten rules, but the “part of the group” mind set. Being different is not a virtue and everyone here wants to be different in the same way (have you heard that before?) and does everything possible not to cause any trouble to others.
Following this logic, if someone has to cover your job, it is trouble, thus, not good. Similarly, if you are the only one going on holiday, you may make others feel bad that they have to stay working, which is not good either. Third, you are risking to be perceived as not working hard enough by your peers and superiors, which may not be good for your overall career. Finally, when sick, may be expected to use your paid holiday days as well, so you may want to have some in reserve (just in case).
Summing all the above, if you are a Japanese individual working in a traditional Japanese company, it may be extremely complicated to use your earned and well deserved holiday leave.
I stressed “traditional Japanese company” on purpose. There are efforts to change this and some companies are introducing “shut down” periods, forcing people to have holiday (in the best case it comes on top of your paid leave allowance). Yet, I have heard many stories that in other companies the approach is still very much traditional as we already discussed. If your superior allows you to understand that you are expected not to take holiday, it means that you cannot take holiday.
Having said all that, you have to see something different to appreciate more what you normally take for granted. Being a foreigner temporarily living in Japan (and working in a quite westernized company) also helps as you have more freedom to not follow certain norms.
So… what’s your plan for the next holiday?
P.S. for mine you will have to be patient for a little while 😉