Are Americans Really Worst at Taking Vacations?

Congratulations, America, you’re not at the bottom of the barrel.’s annual Vacation Deprivation® study is out and (spoiler alert), if you’re an American, you are likely leaving vacation days at the office. Shame. On. You! Contrary to popular opinion, though, you are not alone. In fact, you’re not even the worst offender!

As expected, Europe leads the world in vacation time, both given and taken, with participants from every country in the survey reporting 20 to 30 vacation days given, and an average of 26.25 days taken. (Ireland pulls the curve down, with 21 vacation days a year, compared to 25 to 30 elsewhere.) The survey shows attitudes in Europe are distinctly different than the rest of the world, with more Europeans viewing time off as a right more than a privilege.

The rest of the world earns an average 18 vacation days, and uses a fraction over 15 of them. Much has been made of Americans being vacation deprived, but the award for fewest vacation days per year goes to workers in Thailand, who only get ten days. Malaysia is next with 14 days, with a host of nations, including the U.S., getting 15.

Thailand may get the fewest days off, but they report using each and every one of them. Americans report using 11 of their 15 days – 73.33% – which isn’t altogether terrible. Ranking below the USA is Malaysia, using 71.43%, and Japan at 60%. But the worst of the worst are the South Koreans, who apparently are not familiar with the phrase “work-life balance.” Despite having a healthy 15 vacation days per year, workers report taking only six, or 40% of their allotted time away.

And yet, when it comes to attitude, South Korea keeps pace with the rest of the world. The survey asked respondents how vacation deprived they feel, and 57% of South Koreans said they are “very or somewhat” deprived. The U.S. was right at the global average 53%. Oddly, those who reported feeling most vacation deprived – at 76% – were workers in the UAE, one of only two countries outside of Europe with 30 vacation days per year.

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You would probably be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t like more vacation time but, despite all the reporting that Americans don’t know how to take time off, it turns out we are, at very least, not at the bottom of either statistic. The vast majority of us, whether American or not, are still leaving vacation days behind, though! As we approach another new year, maybe our next resolution should be to take!

Results of the 2015 Vacation Deprivation survey.

Results of the 2015 Vacation Deprivation survey.

About the Survey

In the Vacation Deprivation study, the consulting firm Northstar surveyed more than 9,000 working adults across 26 countries in Europe, Asia-Pacific, North and South America, in October 2015.

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