August -- the peak of summer, with the sun blazing and a small speck of fall on the horizon, you push to make the most of what is left of the hot days in front of you. Here in America, we do this by packing our schedules and maybe fitting in a long weekend of camping in between work meetings. And if you do take a vacation, you are not really, truly stepping away from your work, because chances are you still check your email -- just so things are not too crazy when you return.
Yet in Europe, for many, if not most, August is the month of vacances season. Stores close, companies turn on their "out-of-office" messages and people embrace the idea of a true vacation. It is a culture that was created and enforced, and is now the norm.