People who move abroad for work often trade one cubicle for another, no matter how exotic the new locale. But according toa recent study by financial services company UBS, a number of cities across the world average at least 30 days of paid vacation time – more than six weeks – not including national holidays.
That’s especially generous when compared to destinations like Bangkok, Beijing and Los Angeles, where annual leave averages between 10 and 14 days. We talked to residents in some of these places to find out what life is like – and where they travel during their days off.
São Paulo, Brazil
Residents were quick to call São Paulo a city of workaholics, so even though the Brazilian government requires 30 days of paid leave each year – and Sao Paulo averages even higher at 31 – the only workers who generally take the full amount off are government workers and employees in retail and hospitality.
“Businessmen, people who work with arts in general, companies directors and managers cannot take 30 days because they cannot stay away from work that long,” said Sao Paulo native Julienne Gananian.
But that also doesn’t prevent residents from getting away when they can. “Paulistanos really love to travel,” said native Melissa Fernades Olivera, managing director of Hotel Unique and author of travel and food blog Mel Fernades. “Those that remain in the state of Sao Paulo mostly go to the beach: Guarujá, Santos or North Beaches such as Camburi, Maresias, Baleia. Some go to the countryside where there are many private farms, and another portion goes to cities in other states like Rio de Janeiro, Buzios and Angra.”
When residents take longer holidays, usually around Christmas and New Years (São Paulo’s summer), top destinations include Miami, Orlando and New York City. Shopping is a big draw in all of the US cities, since local import taxes are high.
In general, residents say that São Paulo is an expensive city, but it’s always bustling with things to do. Fernades Olivera lives in Paraiso, close to the green oasis of Ibirapuera Park. “My neighbourhood is calm, where families live,” she said. “There are local restaurants and Paraiso is close to Jardins and Itaim, other famous – and very alive – areas in the city.”
Gananian suggested those looking for a bohemian lifestyle should consider Vila Madalena, 9km west of the city centre. The neighbourhood has excellent shops, bars and restaurants.
Though paid time off averages about 32 days in Rome, current economic conditions—12.5% unemployment across Italy with 44% among younger workers – are keeping residents from taking full advantage of the perk.
“The market is currently very constrained,” said Maria Pasquale, who moved to Rome from Melbourne four years ago and blogs about life in the city on Heart Rome. “Romans with a decent job are hesitant to rock the boat in the workplace for fear of losing their job.”
The Italians who do take days off often spend time within the country, taking advantage of a beautiful and diverse land that draws visitors from around the world. An extensive regional train network makes local travel especially easy. “Italians spend summers on the Italian coast, near lakes or in mountain areas,” Pasquale said. Low-cost airlines also make it easy to find direct flights to other European capitals.
Even in the face of difficult conditions, Romans enjoy all that the city has to offer in their down time. Pasquale lives in Trastevere, in the centre of Rome, just across the Tiber River. “It’s often compared to New York’s Greenwich Village or Paris’ Left Bank in that it is very unique and has an small town feel,” she said. “It’s a little boho and full of cafes, bars, restaurants and small boutiques. It’s where Romans and foreigners come to eat and drink in the evening; street performers entertain in the main square; and during the day it’s a bustling hive of activity with locals going about their daily shop at the market and students sitting at cafes using free wi-fi.”
Other popular expat neighbourhoods include Monti by the Colosseum and Prati by the Vatican. Gentrified districts like Pigneto are also up-and-coming, Pasquale added.
With an average of 31 days of annual leave and plenty local holidays, Lima residents can take full advantage of the surrounding areas; mountains, rainforest and beaches are all within a few hours.
“If people only have one day off, they might go to Cieneguilla, which is a beautiful area east of Lima with lots of small hotels and restaurants, as well as some larger resorts,” said former Californian Mara Rutherford, who writes about her expat experience on Most Eligible Family. “It’s much greener there and very quiet.”
On long weekends, residents head to the southern resort town of Paracas or the northwest beach town of Mancora. Rutherford recommended the city of Huaraz for a mountain experience with hiking and horseback riding. Expats and travellers might also visit more popular destinations like the rainforests around Iquitos, about an hour flight to the north, or historic Cusco, an hour flight to the east.