Today we’re celebrating Labour Day in Canada. Many folks are just returning home from a relaxing long weekend, which is traditionally spend out camping or at the cabin. The only thing stressing people out is the caravan of RV’s jamming up traffic on the way back to the city.
To me as a German this is special. Labour Day in Hamburg is the exact opposite of a tranquil holiday. On May 1st (the German Labour Day) the city is in a state of exemption as residents prepare for police sirens, burning cars, flying bricks, and shut down train stations. Traffic jams are also a familiar sight here, though they’re more likely caused by road closures.
Indeed, the topic of labour rights is perceived very differently in Canada and Germany. When I ask my Canadian friends if they would take to the streets for improved employee’s rights, I often receive a questioning look as an answer. ‘We are doing well!’, they say, ‘We get paid overtime and two weeks of paid vacation.’ When inquiring whether or not they should request more vacation time from their employers, I often I often get responses that employers simply can’t afford to provide more paid vacation and that it would put some companies out of business. At this point it shows, that perspective is oh so important. Where Germans could be satisfied with a legal minimum of four weeks of annual leave, unlimited paid sick days and a law that guarantees a window at your workplace, they instead demonstrate like crazy. As a German, you are basically born with the lingering feeling that your employer is ripping you off.
Despite the fact that left-wing radicals use Labour Day as an excuse to create havoc, peaceful Labour Day rallies have an important function. With these traditional demonstrations in favour of more labour rights we remember the generations before us that have fought for our social prosperity (particularily our grandparent’s generation). We commemorate the workers as the backbone of our society, and recall that their well-being is fundamental for the vitality of our community.
Nevertheless, us Germans can learn a lesson in contentment from Canadians. Sometimes it does you good to count your blessings instead of remembering the things you don’t have. To always be nagging makes you unhappy. In return, Canadians can learn from us Germans that is okay to be discontented and that it is necessary to go to the barricades every now and then. After all, think of all the relaxing camping trips one could accomplish with four weeks of paid vacation.
Cover Picture: policemen arresting a protestor on Labour Day in Hamburg
Pictures: Pixabay, WikiCommons