Throughout August in Europe, shops are shuttered, offices empty, streets go quiet.
The European Union requires that every worker gets at least four weeks of paid vacation a year, and many countries mandate six. An extra guarantee was added to that this week, when Europe's highest court ruled Thursday that if a worker got sick on vacation, that person had the legal right to take another one.
For Americans, this is hard to fathom. Here employers don't have to give their workers any paid vacation or sick days, and big business lobbies have fought bitterly to keep it that way. Many critics of the EU, including presidential contender Mitt Romney, have also tied luxurious benefits, like a month of salaried downtime, to Europe's current financial troubles.