“Where is Europe during the month of July and August?” If you are a business who exports to Europe or has any international investment within this continent, then you might feel like you are playing the game of ‘Where’s Wally?’ if you do not take the time to prepare and get ahead of what is often referred to as ‘the silly season’, in other words the July/August shutdown in European businesses. Failure to do so means you will likely find yourself going round in circles, getting nowhere fast and coming up against ‘out of office’ messages, ‘no availability until September’ and ‘closed’ signs, which could really put a spanner in the works if you don’t factor this in to your export, business meeting and customs’ schedules. For example, if you are a manufacturing company who sells to several European countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Germany or Norway, and you are looking to get your products through customs during these months, then think again. Businesses pretty much close down for the whole of these months.
Since many European countries receive a higher amount of holiday entitlement (e.g. Portugal and Austria are deemed to be the most fortunate in the paid annual leave stakes at 35 days, whilst Spain and Germany receive 34 and France 31), they might as well take a long break during these months. After all, August for example is generally considered the hottest month of the year in France and Spain (heat in the cities is often unbearable therefore flocking to the coast or countryside seems the most sane option!) and children are on school holidays, so it would really be rude not to! Also watch out for those Nordic countries heading to their summer homes in the month of July (hardly surprising when Scandinavians experience such long, cold winters, which would result in them wanting to take advantage of the long, light and warm days). Perhaps it would benefit us all if we followed in these countries’ footsteps, coming back to work revived and refreshed after a long break; as the French call it ‘la rentrée’ (the return or back-to-school!), potentially leading to greater productivity … just a thought!
This ‘silly season’ is often seen as a crisis and many international businesses would rather see Europe put a risk management process into action to avoid postponing everything for a month. On the other hand, this European shutdown need not be a crisis. If you learn the rules of the annual holiday game and play your cards right your business need not go into meltdown. However, just when you thought you’d understood the rules of the game, another set of instructions have been added to the European closedown mix, as Europe stays open for tourists. This exception to the rule means that if you wish to go on holiday during this time, most tourist attractions will remain open (of course there are always exceptions to the exception to the rule, meaning some shops and restaurants will still take the time off) … mindboggling! Nevertheless, don’t complain if your bank balance is given a beating, as these shutdown months are the most expensive time in which to holiday!
In short, whether it is ‘le conge annuel’ in France or ‘de bouwvak’ in the Netherlands (a period of holiday in the construction industry when all construction jobs are on hold), there’s no escaping this ‘silly season’. It is here to stay (although recent economic struggles have led to some countries adapting their rules, e.g. Spain … just to confuse matters), therefore it is wise to make the most of the situation and plan ahead so that everyone is happy all round. After all ‘organisation and acceptance’ is the name of the game!
By Madeline Prusmann, Project Manager, June 2017