France is one extreme with minimum 5 weeks vacation up to 8 weeks when combined with various holidays and compensation time when you work more than 35 hours /week.
United States is the other extreme, being the only developed economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation or holidays. As a result, 1 in 4 U.S. workers do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays.
How does this translate in term of productivity ? You can see in this table compiled by the OECD on Labour productivity levels in the total economy that France is very close to the US with GDP per hour worked as % of USA (USA=100) = 97.9
But does GDP a good indicator of well-being, quality of life and happiness ?
What You Measure Affects What You Do-Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize in Economics
The OECD has developed a tool called the Better Life Index using various parameters such as housing, jobs or health. They have designed an interesting interactive map that you can use to select the parameters that are important to you and compare how various countries perform: http://oecdbetterlifeindex.org/
So if you just take one parameter such as “life satisfaction” , the results are better for the U.S. than for France:
For the United States, the self-reported life satisfaction has been rising over the last decade. In recent polling, 70% were satisfied with their life and 80% believe that their life will be satisfying five years later. 76% of people in the United States reported having more positive experiences in an average day(feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 72%.
For France, in recent polling, 51% were satisfied with their life and 64% believe that their life will be satisfying five years later. This is however a very low ranking when compared to other high-performing economies in the OECD. 73% of people in France reported having more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is close to the OECD average of 72%.
The self-evaluation has some biases however as French are more critical and less prone to give positive feedback than the Americans.
You can also see the ranking of countries for work-life balance : People in France people work 1554 hours a year, lower than the OECD average of 1739 hours. People in the United States work 1768 hours a year, higher than the OECD average of 1739 hours. In theory the less hours you work the better you can balance your life but this is not counting the fact that working more and getting paid more can help you buy some time and the United States has a great culture of services to individuals.
In Conclusion: Don’t rely on simple numbers to decide your next international assignment. There are so many cultural factors to include on top of economical data, that you better talk to people who have lived or are working in the country you are interested in to get some information. If your company does not provide pre-departure cultural training, you may need to hire an expat coach to help you make your decision. Here the link to the Expat Coaching Directory.
Personally I think the quality of life in the U.S. is better than France but lower than Japan
Real experience is what matters, can you tell your story about living abroad ?