Who works harder? Aussies or Americans? What does this mean for tourism?

In this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australians are touted as working the hardest out of people in the developed world.

Here are the statistics given to prove the point. In Australia:

  • Almost 60% of the people with full-time jobs don’t take all of their four-week vacation time.
  • Years of this practice have many people with 8 weeks of unused time.
  • Corporate men ages 35-49 with kids under 12 are the biggest culprits of this practice.

I find the statistics interesting since I don’t know many jobs in the U.S. where people have a starting vacation time of more than two weeks. Many begin a job with less than that. Many folks don’t even get a paid vacation. In order for people to have acquired eight weeks of unused time in the U.S., they would have had to have not taken ANY vacation for at least four years if they are the ones with the two-week time frame. In a Gadling post in 2007, Willy pointed out the U.S. statistics which don’t bode well for those looking for R&R on a beach somewhere.

However, given that if the Australian statistics are indeed correct, and who really cares anyway, the larger point that the article makes is important indeed. Unused vacation time means unspent tourist dollars. In today’s economy, tourism could be a big economic boost to many parts of both countries–Australia and the U.S.

In Australia, the not taken time equates to $31 billion in holiday pay. Yowza! Hoping to tap into the dough, Tourism Australia has a program called “No Leave, No Life,” in order to get the business community to buy into the idea of the importance of taking that vacation time.

I think the U.S. needs to tap into the idea of more vacation time, period. If people are given four weeks, they may take two at least.

As part of the campaign in Australia, and I’d bet the U.S., part of the TV and print ads need to address the issue of how important it is for dads to spend time with their children. AND show dads having fun doing it.

Anyone with kids who are bickering at home with each other and arguing about cleaning their rooms, or whining from the backseat, “How long before we get there?” may think that work is actually more relaxing than that family vacation.

Italy bans crotch scratching

If you’re a male and making your way to Italy soon, be warned: crotch scratching in public is officially off limits.

The Italian Court of Appeals made the decision after listening to the plea of a 42 year year old man from Como who had been fined 200 euros last year for adjusting himself in public. The Court would have none of his appeal and made it clear that any touching of the privates in public is “a sign of ill manners and must be considered against public decency.” Not only was the man in question forced to pay the 200 euro fine, but he was also ordered to pay another 1000 euros in costs. At the current euro to dollar rate, that is a hefty price to pay.

The ban might make many Italian men weary as superstitious ones often hold or touch their private parts for good luck when they see a hearse, or to ward off bad luck; similar to our own “knock on wood.” No pun intended. Moral of the story: keep those hands above the waistline.

A Canadian in Beijing: Exposed Bellies For The Fellies

I’m writing this from Canada. I suppose I’m no longer technically a “Canadian in Beijing.” Still, there are a few things I haven’t yet had a chance to tell you about from my trip and so the next couple of posts will be slightly anachronistic. And then, I’ll give you the full low-down on my reverse culture shock that I’m currently experiencing!

Now, something I haven’t yet talked about falls on the heels of my post entitled “Umbrellas Not For Fellas” (hence the wacky title above!) This was a post about how women use umbrellas to block the sun in Beijing, but that men rarely do so. I often wondered what men do to keep cool and then I quickly discovered their technique:

Exposed bellies.

Yes, it seems that men in Beijing feel quite comfortable rolling up their shirts and exposing their bellies to cool off. I have not yet seen a woman doing the same thing. To top that off, there is no requirement for abs of steel to take part in this tradition. Any sized belly can be exposed as long as it’s hot enough outside to warrant the half-roll-up “look.” It’s perfectly acceptable and certainly replaces the North American way, which is for men to remove their shirts altogether.

I have been noticing this phenomenon since late May when the weather got warm enough to warrant the need to cool off. The problem has been in the photography. I haven’t felt comfortable just plainly photographing one of these men in order so that I had blog material. In fact, I felt more like a paparazzi than ever in this pursuit and I tried to stealthily take pictures, which you can tell was not always successful.

This gentleman caught me right in the act of photographing him. In fact, he wanted me to buy a tourism book in exchange for the photo I snapped. I almost did just that. I feel pretty guilty about my interest in his innocent stomach exposed to the misty mountain air, but not guilty enough to fork over the inflated price he wanted for his souvenirs. I left as stealthily as I had approached, apologizing quietly and self-conscious about having been “caught.”

My one consolation is that he probably doesn’t actually realize that my interest was in his belly. He probably thought I was just an obnoxious white tourist wanting a picture of a Chinese man selling souvenirs. Hardly a real consolation, but enough to quell the embarrassment at least!

I suppose I bring with me the North American notion that exposing one’s midriff is a rather vulnerable and private act. Well, alright, maybe that’s just my own notion considering the number of exposed bellies I have seen in videos on MTV or Much Music! But of course those are women I see on television and the men in China are not doing it for style or for sex appeal. It’s a practical act.

It’s ventilation.

Even so, there’s just something more intimate about these exposed bellies of Chinese men, to be honest, and despite how “everyday” it appeared to be to these men, young and old, it was something I dared not be too obvious about wanting to further expose.

But, now that I’m back in Canada, I feel okay about it somehow. Have I escaped my shyness via distance? Perhaps I’m far enough away to no longer feel self-conscious about looking and being interested in this phenomenon.

Well, regardless of the psychological self-assessment that I’m currently applying to this very blog, here you go… the bellies of Beijing-area Chinese men cooling off throughout the month of June. Sent to you directly from Canada and in answer to your burning, post-umbrella-post question as to “what do men do to keep cool in Beijing?”

They show their belly buttons.

Without removing their shirts.

Can you imagine that sunburn?

Would they call that a Beijing belly tan?