If you live in the UK and work for clients in Sweden and Finland, from the end of April you are constantly missing each other. This Friday is May Day. For my clients, this is a public holiday and you won’t hear much from them from lunchtime on Thursday, i.e. about 11 am., and as they’re an hour ahead of me, that’s most of the day gone. On Monday the 4th they all come back ready for work and the UK promptly has its May Day bank holiday, now held on the first Monday in May and exacerbated this year by my children’s school having a staff training day on the Tuesday and giving them all another 4-day weekend.
Then, sooner or later depending on the date of Easter, there is Ascension Day, a public holiday in Scandinavia. And as it’s always on a Thursday, the Swedes will take the Friday off too. This year it’s the 21st. On Monday 25th the UK has its Spring Bank Holiday (formerly Whit Monday). In the whole of May there is only one full working week when one of us isn’t having a day off and this year that one happens to have my husband’s 40th birthday in it and I am taking him away for 2 days for the first time in five years. It’s fortunate I no longer have any clients in Norway or we’d have to factor in their National Day on the 17th of May as well.
I’m not sure how any of this is compatible with running a business in a sensible manner. I used to take Scandinavian public holidays off and work on the UK ones, but acquiring a husband and children whose lives have to fit in with the rest of the UK has made that less workable. I just have to hope for some long jobs with long deadlines that I can do in my own time rather than the “can you do this for tomorrow?” stuff.
Being tied by UK school holidays is another change in the past couple of years, especially as these too bear no relation to the system used by my clients or my Finnish in-laws. From April onwards, clients are asking me my holiday plans so they can plan for The Summer. Schools in Sweden and Finland close at the end of May and re-open in mid-August. Businesses wind down, particularly during July. British schools, however, break up in late July, this year it’s the 21st, and start again in September. Usually I haven’t even started thinking about summer holiday plans as early as April.
Many translators follow their clients’ example and take July off, as work is often slow, but I have found that working in July has its advantages. Being available when no-one else is can gain you new clients who try you out when everyone else has vanished and stick with you when the holidays are over. When I worked in a partnership, we staggered our summer holidays so the business was always open and a couple of times translated books between us ready for the client’s return from the summer break.
But you do have to have a holiday some time or you will fall over with exhaustion. This year I am taking a month off from the end of term in July until mid-August. Last year I took late August/early September off and think that not being around when my clients returned from their own summer breaks meant it took them a while to remember I existed again. This year I’m trying to achieve the best of both worlds, and also enable my children to meet their Finnish cousins during the couple of weeks that their summer holidays coincide.