Friday, December 25, 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.