As for America's much shorter vacations: Both America and Japan seem to have very short vacations compared to Europe. My guesstimate: Poor economy is creating a larger unemployed class. The unemployeed class are probably college educated and technically experienced since we just came-off a large economic boom. (Japan's economic boom was a few years sooner). Thus, if you take long vacations, you get less done. Therefor employers will give your job to someone else if you decide to take a 10th of the year off (and a 10th of your total earning potential) and not work. Too many unemployed people that will work for less pay/vacation. Many european companies have to legally give you vacation time, America does not. I haven't had one in three years.