Leave our national holidays alone

Last week I was talking to someone in London about holidays and so on, and the subject of Brazilian national holidays came into the conversation.

In 2011, we had 16 holidays in total, including four days that are applicable only to the city of São Paulo, one that applies for the state and all the other national holidays.

The bloke I was talking to had worked in Brazil for a while and during his stay he was apparently “staggered” with the amount of national holidays people enjoy here on top of annual leave (30 days for most companies).

He went on to talk about how everyone in the office would bugger off for the whole week if a holiday fell on a Wednesday, questioned the actual “reason” for some of those holidays (what, a dentist?!) before finishing with the old cliché of how “it is hard for a country to progress” if people have that kind of “holiday mentality.”

I’ll open a parenthesis here. I’m sure there is plenty of people slacking in offices across Brazil, but in general terms what I see here is a working culture that is much more rigid than in other parts of the world.

I know of quite a few people here in São Paulo who are not allowed to take holidays at the time of the year that they want: it is all down to the boss, who determines a roster of who goes when. I often see people going to work when they are ill: for example, my cousin’s co-worker went to work despite barely being able to get out of bed and later found she had meningitis. People put up with all that nonsense for fear of losing their jobs.

Back to the topic of time off here in Brazil and how that seems to bother locals and foreigners.

Brazilian bosses should know by now that there are better ways of driving productivity of employees than punch cards or controlling when people go on holidays. When I ask people here whether they are measured by results, I often get a puzzled look. Same goes for remote working.

That’s even crazier when you think that in a city like São Paulo, people can easily spend four hours on public transport to get to work from home and back. That’s 80 hours a week – much more than the 12 days a year that people would have (in theory) been able to take off between bank holidays and the weekend! Surely companies could use that employee time in more effective ways?

The gringos calling us lazy should remember that countries like Germany, UK, Denmark and the Netherlands have a shorter working week than Greece, Portugal and Spain – and the difference in terms of solidity of the these countries’ economies is obvious.

We can’t continue to accept these old school working practices and preconceptions. Holidays are part of our cultural heritage – get over it.

Slacking Off


  1. Drew

    If it’s any consolation, I really don’t think that’s a common perception. I’ve certainly not heard that said.. and surely nobody could argue that the country *is* progressing at quite some rate?

    Far more people in Sao Paulo appear to work beyond 5.30 than in London. Rodizio doesn’t help that, with some needing to wait until after 8.. so in addition to the transito issues you mentioned that’s another significant amount of time the worker loses regularly.

    We English might have more national holidays if we celebrated St. George’s Day, or closed shops on the Saturday of the Lord Mayor’s show.

    Maybe next time someone expresses this opinion to you, you can appear dismayed at how little the Brits seem to care about significant historical events, given that even when we commemorate the war dead it’s only with 2 minutes silence and no time off work.

  2. angelica

    Hi Drew – funny thing is that I’ve heard those comments about the amount of holidays we have quite a few times and mainly from foreigners living here or doing business with Brazilian companies. I do hope it is not a common perception though!

    And you are right about the extra time lost with the Rodizio. But have you heard that a lot of people actually buy two cars with license plates ending on different numbers so they can always use a car to get to work – isn’t that crazy?!

  3. Drew

    The length of Carnaval definitely surprises people initially, because it’s all in a row – but then when you look at Easter break in the UK is a day longer than in Brazil (with Easter Monday) and I couldn’t believe how places like cinemas are open on December 25th in Brazil when nothing is open here on that day.. and of course 26th is a public holiday in UK too. It does balance out more than people realise.

    As for Rodizio I guess I got accustomed to hearing about the crazy ways those with money would circumvent things that were supposed to apply to all! Also, as was revealed in Higienopolis, even those who don’t use public transport feel they should have a say in how it is provided for other people. *Why* would residents of such a busy and traffic-jam-filled bairro say having a metro station with them was a bad idea?

    For further craziness I was noticing the comparison of iPhone 4S as “from US$199” in USA vs “from £499” in the UK vs “a partir de R$2599” in Brazil… that’s 900 POUNDS! Personally with crazy unfair bureaucracy like that I think Brazilians deserve all the holidays they can get… but that’s possibly another article 😉

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