Friday, 25 December 2009

Holidays is a cultural thing

Today is Christmas day – virtually everywhere in the world, today is a holiday. And here I am , at my desk, pretending to be working. For its not a holiday in atheist China. Despite the best efforts of companies to tempt the Chinese into “Christmas shopping”, the day remains stubbornly irrelevant here.

I have a stream of people walking up to my desk today. They are all asking me to approve carrying forward their leave entitlements which they have not used up. Everybody knows that they will not use them up next year as well and will ask to carry it over again. This charade goes on every year. Much as I rail against them for not planning their leave properly, its not going to change. For the Chinese (and Indians) don’t like to go on holiday. They like to work.

Contrast this with Europe. In August, most of Europe, at least France, completely shuts down. And between Christmas and New Year, not a soul is seen anywhere near the office. So here we are, working in a global business, where the lights have gone out of the offices everywhere in the world, bar the solitary illumination seen in China.

It's not that one is wrong and the other is right. It just shows the cultural differences between Europe and Asia. Europeans prize their holidays highly. To them its 46 weeks of slogging to earn the 6 weeks off. Asians start to feel uncomfortable at the very thought of taking anything more than 2 weeks off. And a second holiday during the year will prompt snide remarks of being on perpetual holiday.

But this is time for holiday cheer. Whether you are at your desk in China or stuck on the Eurostar between the UK and France, here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and the compliments of the season. Maybe you are having a white Christmas, as seems to be the case in most of the Northern Hemisphere. Or, you may be in Bondi beach in beach clothes soaking in the sun. Or you might be the classic NRI, on the once in two years trip “back home”. To you, may I quote from an unknown author - Let the spirit of love gently fill our hearts and homes. In this loveliest of seasons may you find many reasons for happiness.



Sandhya Sriram said...


What a lovely closure. its like sudden splash of chilling water on a pile of burning coal.

Coming to subject, while i agree that it is largely cultural, this has also lead to how the countries have evolved. If chinese (indians) were to take 6 weeks off and cut off at 8 hours work every day, then the cost of a chinese output would go up by atleast 16% (some layman mathematics - pls pardon for errors)

If i were to buy a burger in europe, it costs me 10 Euros. i could buy atleast 6 in India for the same money

On the other side, every 10 euros i earn, i can buy 6 burgers here against a fellow europeon who could probably buy only one.

Well thats the boon or bane of a developing nation.

P.S - what i have written makes stupid in the language of economics and is just a load of crap on such a nice holiday mood blog of yours - sorry about this!!

TV Balasubramanyam said...

I guess a holiday is 'me time'. That means the other time is 'my slavery time'. The more you feel like a slave, more you feel taking a 'holiday'...escaping from it all. I would argue that those cultures that 'escape' on a holiday are 'unhappy' people compared to those who don't. Let me explain.
The employees in developed countries have an 'arms length relationship' with their employers. This is good for the organisational productivity because there is a definite & clear understanding as to what I am selling my soul for..."this is what you want me to do? OK, I will do it"
On the other hand, in India (as of now, but it is changing) the relationship between the employees & employer is like that of a parent & child. Nothing is defined. Whether you are filial or not you are entitled to the food at home. You can work if & when it pleases you. You can pout & stomp your feet if your employer asks you to shape up. If your boss asks you to come on time you are entitled to feel as if your human rights are violated.
Just ask yourself: do you want to take a holiday from your family? You would if your relationship with your family is stifling.

VA said...

Amen to your wishes! And wish you and your family lots of joy and happiness too!

I was somehow waiting for this one to come and here I am writing this comment on my way "back home" though not an NRI... as the bus is getting ready to depart...

Now a days, leaves are very much encouraged by management and I take this time to spend time with family and friends and introspect on several key activities around us. I feel that these breaks are very important for one to divert their attention on a few other significant matters and plan the times ahead in a better manner.

As you rightly said that the work never leaves us, I can see myself spending quite a lot of time thinking on the work-front subconsciously these days... But then this may be cultural :) Happy holidays!

Sindhu said...

How right...Don't you worry though, far away in another continent, we would be working too, if it was not a Friday. But this has nothing to do with work culture, it is just shutting out the 'other's culture. But if it was Eid, we would have had holidays for 2-3 days but all other festivals are conveniently forgotten, even New Year, is of no importance...
But as you say, for each his own...

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Economics made easy - not a load of C at all. This isn how economics must be explained - not those obscure graphs !!

@Balasubramanyam - Thanks for visiting and your comment. As you say the relationship between employer and employee has hugely changed in the last 10-15 years, even in India. The familial feeling is all gone. So your perspective was very true in the days gone by. Today its completelyn different I think. And yet, culturally, Indians aren't too holiday conscious.

@VA - Yes, there is a lot of merit in taking breaks and delighted that you do those. But because of the technological revolution, holidays aren't holidays anymore , even in the West. We've all become Email addicted !!

@Sindhu - Oh yes, the Gulf is another exception. As you rightly say, there it is shutting out of other cultures. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

LG said...

Certainly true and thanks for this post. Here in Singapore, the gazetted holidays include Deepavali and Hari Raya apart from CNY and Christmas + New Year. Having said that we people work either from office or from home (including me) to satisfy the client (no no, not all 3 days though). I don't think we can live without this.

But I see different thing at way back home. There we celebrate Pongal, Deepavali or durga pooja or whatever local festivals with total enthusiastic with family and friends.

To conclude, as long as we work in a country other than home, we, practically challenged of our owns and dance to the tunes of that MNC where we belong. I may be wrong as my journey is just so short as of now. GOD BLESS!! hallelujah!!

J said...

Here's wishing you all the cheer of the season even as you sit at your desk pretending to work :)

Ramesh said...

@LG - Have a good break and try not to work too hard !! Its the same in India or abroad - we tend to work just a tad too much.

@J - May thanks and seasons greeting to you and S too.

Srivats said...

I am so sorry abt ur loss of holiday during the season , to me christmas is defn a festivity to be at home watching fun filled family movies, gosh i am so sterotyped and westernised . Almost forgot Happy christmas and prosperous new year!

gils said...

elaam ok...but wat are YOU doing in opice during christmas :D:D

gils said...

this comparison of westerners taking vacation vs asians slogging their rear off wl again translate to rich guy vs poor me nowhere going near tht topic :D my frnds mom in mumbai is celebrating her vacation in swiss :D and my neighbours have gone to kulu for a 2 week break ...nt tht they represent the billion strong us..stl..times are changing i guess :) (i've been no where near opice for the past 96hrs..before they take me off payroll hv to show my face there :D )

athivas said...

Whatsoever, this holiday season, we had an excellent 3 day off, away from usual routine n place, with fun and laughter,that marks the essence of holidaying--with whoelse, but Chotu!

merry Christmas and wish you a fabulous new year, Ramesh!!

Ramesh said...

@Sri - You ? totally westernised? No way. you are the lovely belnd of all thats nice about Indianness and the western world. Best wishes to you too, my friend.

@gils - stay well away from the office and stay glued to your computer. Your comments are the spice of any blog !!

@athivas - Lucky you !! So thats where you and AJCL disappeared. Green with envy .....Wonderful New Year to you too Savitha.

Deepa said...

Happy Holidays! I have to say, I realized the importance of spending time at home only after I was grounded! I think is whatever you do, just give your best.

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Enjoy the "grounding". Just think, at this time of the year, how energising it is without the attentions of a certain Fatima !!

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