Cultural contrast between US and Europe

22/08/2016 | Posted by:

Hiring in the US

If you’re planning to start a new business in the US, it’s worth taking into account that Americans have a significantly different attitude to working than Europeans.

There are a number of reasons why America has the strongest economy in the world – and one of them is hard work. Americans are notorious for clocking up long working days and taking little time off. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2014 Americans averaged 1,789 working hours, while Germans, widely admired for their productivity and discipline, only averaged 1,371.

How Americans feel about work and why it matters if you’re hiring in the USA


A culture of work

Most Americans define themselves by their occupation, perhaps in part because they don’t have the class structure found in many European countries. When meeting someone for the first time, Americans readily ask, “What do you do?” Some English people, in contrast, would find such an inquiry to be bad manners. Americans tend to view their jobs as extensions of themselves, and therefore devote themselves utterly to their career. A recent American poll found that nearly 20% of those interviewed worked 50 or more hours a week, and yet they didn’t seem to be complaining. Most thought working overtime was important for their career and about half said they enjoyed their long hours.


Work matters more than holidays

Neither do Americans expect to take regular holidays, as Europeans do. Of the 21 richest advanced countries in the world, only the USA doesn’t have laws requiring employers to give their workers paid vacation. Meanwhile in France, for example, workers get a minimum of 30 days’ paid leave. Many Americans who are given leave often don’t take it all for fear of being thought of as slacking. British workers, in contrast are more likely to view paid leave as their right, and take into account how many days’ holiday an employer is offering when job hunting.


Rooted in history

One possible reason for America’s live-to-work attitude is that it has no history of feudalism. European peasants, oppressed by heavy taxes and the justice system, frequently revolted. This rivalry between workers and employers endured through the industrial age, and today’s Europeans still prize free time and a healthy work-life balance. Americans meanwhile tend to have a more pioneering and opportunistic attitude.


What this means when hiring workers in the US

As an employer you’re likely to benefit from the way Americans embrace hard work. By understanding what motivates workers in the US you can build a more engaged, positive and productive workforce. With a generous vacation package you can attract talent and drive performance, but you’ll need to set out an appropriate policy for both working hours and paid holidays.

Foothold America can advise you on what Americans expect in the workplace and help you decide how many hours they should work and the amount of paid vacation to give them.