Jain Temple

Hot Spots

India Links
Call Home


Art & Culture
Book Shelf



About Us

Contact Us
About Us

Article by Mohan Babu


In pursuit of happiness: Long weekends in the US 

Indians brought up to believe that ‘work is worship’ take to the American concept of long-weekends like ducks to water. These weekends are marked in calendars, as get-togethers and getaways are planned weeks and months in advance, says Mohan Babu

Over two centuries ago, America’s founding fathers envisioned a nation that would work towards securing “Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness...” to its citizens. Long after attaining “Life and Liberty”, Americans are still serious about the pursuit of happiness, a key to life that everyone here, including my fellow Indians, takes seriously.

Working hours and conditions are highly regulated and unless one is working for a dot com or financial consulting house, projects and work-cycles are highly organised to optimise the working hours such that people generally do not have to put in endless hours of overtime unless warranted by contingencies.

The work-weekend cycle here has been refined into an art form; so much so that the pursuit of happiness is actively encouraged and is something every one strives for. One gets initiated into this on first landing here, and realising that to most Americans, weekends are sacred. The average John (or Jane) Doe has a life outside work and they rarely like anyone transgressing their personal time. Of course, that is not to say that one does not come across the odd nerd who “lives and breaths” work every waking moment of their life, but they (nerds) are too few and far between as to be inconsequential. Most people like to take the weekends off and pursue their hobbies or passions.

Indians, after a few weeks or months in the US, realise that we need to ‘get a life’ outside work and fall into the rhythm of workweek and weekends. It takes a while to get used to the fact that people work only forty or fifty hours a week, except when faced by aggressive project deadlines (which is rare and too far between). Weekends are generally reserved for socialising, shopping or catching up with the new movies. It is the long-weekends that people start looking forward to. Long-weekend is not merely an American concept Canada, UK and the Europe too have a tradition of long weekends. Although the exact days vary, the concept is still the same. In America there are five or six long-weekends, well marked on most calendars.

In India, the ‘festival seasons’ are generally associated with religious fêtes and the festive atmosphere is contagious. Weeks before any major function, families start shopping and preparing for them. This changes when one moves to the US. Most first generation Indians, myself included, are unable to appreciate the nuances of Thanksgiving, or summertime barbecue, so we decide to make the most of the holidays in our own way by hitting the road.

The annual long-weekend cycle begins with the New-Year’s day - 1st of Jan, given to people so that they can recharge their energies for the new year after the revelry of the holiday season. The next holiday comes during the second Friday in April - Good Friday. Memorial Day, generally the last Monday in May, the official beginning of summer, also heralds the summer holiday season. Fourth of July, the American Independence Day is as sacred as any other long weekend. Next comes Labour Day, generally observed on the first Monday of September. Thanksgiving, which generally falls in November, is an All-American holiday when most families get together to thank the pioneers of the nation. Of course, December ushers in the Christmas season, culminating in Christmas Day along with the day after Christmas, which is also a holiday. These are the major holidays and most companies have their own schedules of ‘extra’ holidays that they dole out to their employees.

It might not come as a surprise to you that even Indians, brought up to believe that ‘work is worship’ take to the concept of long-weekends like ducks to water. These weekends are marked in calendars and socialising, get-togethers and more-often-than-not, getaways are planned weeks and months in advance.

Every region in the US has at least a dozen national parks, resorts and other tourist attractions. The most popular way to get to any of these places is to rent a car and drive down. Hertz, National, Alemo and other big car-rental giants anticipate the demand and hike their prices around the holidays; so do the local hotels and motels near the tourist spots. Driving 800 to 1000 miles (each way) to visit some of the ‘nearby’ attractions is not unheard of. Of course, the intriguing system of interstate highways criss-crossing the length and breadth of the country facilitates road travel. All one needs is a good car and a map.

This past weekend was Memorial Day and my wife and I joined a few friends to drive down to visit Mt Rushmore. The planning began over a month in advance with the booking of rental car (a large Jeep Grand Cherokee), the motel near Mt Rushmore and of course included a study of brochures of nearby tourist attractions. Thanks to the Web, what would have taken a couple of hours or days to plan, took just a few minutes. Booking hotels, accommodation, rental cars and planning the trip could all be done by the click of a mouse. Incidentally, at times like these, hardcore techies like myself get to experience what it feels like, to be the ‘user’ of someone’s complex customer management e-commerce system. Did someone say that e-commerce is dead?

We covered the round-trip, of over 1500 miles in a little over two days with a number of stops at the local tourist haunts. The trips, per se, are generally enjoyable and help us get away for a short while. Of course, needless to say, most Indians in the US also tend to think the same way. One invariably bumps into hundreds of fellow Indians, who have planned similar trips to get-away from wherever they happen to be living and working.

Fast forward to today, it is Tuesday morning and I’m back at my cube-farm, checking on my e-mails getting back into the groove, ready for another short workweek. By afternoon, I am already thinking of the next long-weekend and shoot off a mail to my buddies, and start planning for the Fourth of July.... In pursuit of happiness?! I think we are working to make America’s founding fathers proud.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
  • Sponsored Advert

    Advert: Visitor's Travel Insurance

    Click for free online Quotes


    For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section

    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


    GaramChai® 1999-2005