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September 3, 2015

Labor Day Conversational Hot Topics

The first Monday of every September is Labor Day in the U.S.A. The Thursday and Friday just before Labor Day, and a day or two after returning to work after the holiday, Americans like to make small talk about their plans for the long weekend. While most major corporations do give Monday off as it is a Federal holiday, many other companies may also give the Friday before or Tuesday after as a day off as well. Let's see what Americans will be talking about this Labor Day. 

Americans tend to always talk about gas prices, travelling and back to school during this time. Let's take a look at these topics in general and specific in relation to what's going on in 2015. 

Traveling & Gas Prices 
These two topics are being clubbed together as they often go hand-in-hand. While Memorial Day in May kicks off the summer holiday season, Labor Day sees the unofficial end to summer and the carefree travel and outings for many. Interestingly, the Memorial Day holiday in 2015 also saw record low gas prices! See the news piece below from WAVY TV in Portsmouth, Virginia for more information. 

Many may ask me, "Jennifer this is all well and good, but in your sessions, you tell us to avoid talking about prices of things with our US counterparts." That is true, I do. Here, the challenge is to avoid asking about prices of personal belongings belonging to that person, but we do talk about prices of things in general, and more commonly, complaining about gas prices when they rise, and being ecstatic when they fall. 

While many team members in the U.S. may be looking forward to filling their tank at rock bottom prices to take the last road trip of the summer, some are recommending to stay home. I had come across this article from Fortune Magazine suggesting that due to the falling gas prices, roads, airways, and holiday spots could become overcrowded leading to anything but a relaxing end of summer vacation. 

Back to School 
In many areas of America, kids tend to go back to school the day after or two days after Labor Day. This year is different. I have noticed many Facebook back to school photos popping up one or two weeks in advance of typical school start days. While some of the parents have noticed school starting earlier and earlier over the last few years, I wanted to do some research on this to find out why. 

So why is school starting earlier in most areas of the US in 2015? Well, it lies in a combination of two factors- a late Labor Day holiday and academic year attendance. 

As discussed earlier in the article, Labor Day is the first Monday of September. Technically, Labor Day can fall on any date between September 1 and September 7. As September started on a Tuesday this year, Labor Day falls on Monday, September 7. It's said to be one of the latest Labor Day dates in many years. Due to this, schools are already behind a few days in the academic year. To compensate for the lost days, some schools start earlier. 

The early start can also be blamed on another bad winter weather season prediction. Last year, some schools had to make up school days in the academic year by having children stay in school longer. To avoid that from happening in the 2015-2016 academic year and the late Labor Day, schools are starting early. In this case, starting early could leave 'wiggle room' to compensate for snow days that may be required if the weather forces schools to close for days on end, like what happened in some districts in the 2014-2015 school year. 

For more information on this, see a report on this topic from the Watertown Daily Times, To prepare for harsh winter, some schools will open before Labor Day this year

Warning: only talk about colleague's children and back to school if you already know about their family situation. Similar to the topic of "prices of things," talking about children and family is not usually part of small talk with US colleagues in the initial stages of relationship building. 

Jennifer Kumar and Authentic Journeys provides business training for international teams. See our website for more information. 

Related Posts: 
What is Labor Day about in the US? 
The Back to School Season - American Style 

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.