Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bank Vacation Weekend

This is the Spring Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK. It's always the last Monday in May. I made my little joke in the post title because it always came up when I was teaching business English in Germany. In German, there is one word for when you take several days off out of your job (Urlaub) and another word for when it's an official public day off (Feiertag). It was confusing for them when I told them that they could call both "holiday" in English. Of course this was normally for the beginners, who really only needed to get their heads around one word. For higher classes I would explain that in Canada, you would take 2 weeks vacation, but that July 1st was a holiday (Canada Day, just so you know for your next pub quiz or trivia night). And then I would explain that in Britain they would take 2 weeks holiday and then Christmas Day is a bank holiday. A very strange concept to someone from the outside; I still have difficulty with it myself, never mind the Germans.

I mean, why is a bank holiday and not a Post Office holiday? The other difficulty the Germans had with the concept is that nearly every holiday is a Monday, rather than the actual day of the commemoration. What I mean is that in Germany, May 1 is a day off and is a holiday and it doesn't move. If May 1 is a Wednesday, that's the day the shops and offices are closed. It doesn't move to the next convenient Monday. If May 1 is a Sunday; too bad no extra day off for you; you miss out that year.

Another tough one for me is that most of the holidays (in England at least) are just days off, there's no basis. This weekend for example is officially called Spring Bank Holiday, although it's apparently originally from Whitsun (aka Pentecost) but you would never know that nowadays. I thought it was originally from Queen Victoria's birthday, but apparently not. Why would I think that? Well, because the 3rd Monday in Canada is actually called Victoria Day. And it's an official (bank) holiday. I find it amusing that the "colony" still has a day off to celebrate the birthdays of a dead monarch and the official one of the current one but the birth country of those monarchs doesn't.

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