English Corner

Veröffentlicht am Sa., 22. Jun. 2019 00:00 Uhr
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Please look here for more information in English.

What is an “Urlaub?”

If you come from the United States, as I do, or from another country where the laws and traditions concerning work are not like those in Germany and Europe, you may be baffled by the concept of the Urlaub. In the US, we take time away from work and call it either a vacation or a trip. British English tends to favor the term holiday. In general, all these terms mean similar things: a scheduled time away from work, employment, or school. However, it became clear to me when I moved from the US to Berlin five years ago that the German Urlaub and how it operates in German society were very unfamiliar concepts.
What is the Urlaub in Germany? Most of the time, what people are referring to is that they are taking a form of Urlaub, which is technically called the Erholungsurlaub. Erholung means rest, recovery, recuperation. The major difference I find between the US and Germany in this regard is that there are almost no federal laws in the US regarding what this vacation time away from work entails. In contrast, there are many German laws that determine how the Urlaub functions, from pay to scheduling, length of time, and reasons for time away from work.

As you may have heard, many Europeans take time away from work during the summer. This can often last 4 weeks. Offices and businesses prepare in advance to shut down or reduce their operations so that most employees and management can take the same time away from work. The public schools coordinate their Urlaub time with this so that entire families can travel or have time together during the summer. Of course, as times have change, business needs have also changed, and more businesses remain open through the summer. This means that some employees take their Urlaub before or after many of their colleagues do. In addition, an Erholungsurlaub can be scheduled during any time of the year, such as during Advent season, with the agreement of the employee and the employer.
As an American, I was accustomed to a different system where vacation time, especially in the corporate world, was minimal and was earned by how many hours were worked – and how many years a person had been employed. In fact, one of my previous jobs included scheduling and tracking bank employee’s work hours and hours of vacation time they “accrued.” The concept of accruing vacation time does exist in German businesses, but the focus of the laws is more centered on ensuring a fair system that recognizes the right of each employee and manager to take time away from work for that rest, recuperation and recovery. I know examples of people who might not have accrued enough paid time for their Urlaub, however, they were granted 4 weeks away from work while their pay was slightly reduced. In my opinion, this focus on the rights of the workers feels like a blessing. I would have much preferred managing giving the maximal number of employees’ time away from work – rather than mainly managing the dollars and cents of pay accrued.
Here in this month’s Bote, please look at the information regarding this year’s elections for the church council (Gemeindekirchenrat). If you are living in the district of our Kreuzberg-Mitte congregation and paying the church tax (Kirchensteuer) to the Evangelische Kirche, you are likely able vote in the November election. I happen to be one of the people running for re-election to the council after having now served the last three years. A future Bote will include introductions from all the candidates – along with details on how to vote. In an upcoming English Corner, I will include the basics of how to participate in the voting. In addition, if you have questions about the election or about our congregation in general, please consider me your English-speaking contact person and send me an email. Take care!

Greg Gillum

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