The List

The Good Life

The 10 European countries that worked the least in 2011.

The unemployment rate in the United States may be high, but compared to many other developed countries, Americans are still hard workers -- and there's data to prove it: According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a policy advisory group representing 34 of the world's most developed countries, the average working American put in 1,787 hours of work in 2011, which makes the United States the 12th hardest working country in the OECD.

But does that really matter? As Charles Kenny writes for Foreign Policy's November issue, long hours at the office aren't necessarily the ticket to wealth. There just doesn't seem to be a correlation between hours worked and GDP per capita. So maybe it's time to slip away from your desk early or take a vacation like they do in these 10 European countries -- the ones that worked the least in 2011.

10. United Kingdom - 1,625 average hours in 2011

The British government is cutting back, and so are the Brits -- in hours worked, at least. The average subject of the realm worked 27 fewer hours in 2011 than the year before. (One study speculates the shift is due to increased work flexibility and a move toward more part-time jobs.)

9. Luxembourg - 1,601 hours

Luxembourg has the highest GDP per capita in the world, clocking in at $106,958 a person. It didn't bring in that money with long hours at the office, but if there's a country that can afford to take the time off, it's probably this one.

8. Austria - 1,600 hours

Despite their relaxed work schedule, Austrians have managed to sidestep the worst of the Eurocrisis, and they've done so while being a model for maintaining low unemployment figures. In fact, Vienna has hosted delegations from across the continent trying to learn Austria's secret. Among those struggling countries trying to learn from Austria's example is Spain, which despite its famous siestas doesn't make this list -- employed Spaniards average 1,690 hours of work a year.

7. Belgium - 1,577 hours

The Belgians have it pretty good -- so good that the richest man in France has applied for Belgian citizenship. He's trying to avoid French President Francois Hollande's new taxes on millionaires, but even though he'll be leaving France (which places fourth on this list) he'll still have plenty of free time in Belgium. (And better chocolate.)

6. Ireland - 1,543 hours

Ireland's economy has stumbled lately with growth flattening out and debts rocketing to the point that the Irish government has appealed for aid. The Irish government is doing its best to prevent protests -- and well it should. Given where Ireland falls on this list, the Irish have plenty of free time on their hands to take to the streets.

5. Denmark - 1,522 hours

Not only do the Danes work less than most of the world, the working conditions when they do go to the office are pretty cushy. A British expat writing about Danish offices in the Copenhagen Post cites the myriad gourmet options at the cafeteria and expresses a common sentiment: "Some foreigners mention how Denmark can make you soft in the long-term."

4. France - 1,476 hours

Times are tough in France, where even the president observes the traditional month-long vacation in the mid-to-late summer. Early tourism stats suggest that France might be working its way down this list for 2012: The French took 10 percent fewer vacations in July 2012 than July 2011, and 4.2 percent fewer vacations in August, according to the French tourism ministry.

3. Norway - 1,426 hours

Norway is on the up and up, with new investments in oil fueling the fastest economic growth in Europe, despite having world's third-lowest average working hours. According to the United Nations, Norway is also the third happiest country in the world. Coincidence?

2. Germany - 1,413 hours

Germany may be the engine of the European economy, but it doesn't take much fuel to run. Germans average more than a week and a half less work a year than their famously leisured French neighbors.

1. Netherlands - 1,379 hours

Playing to stereotypes of coffeeshops and legalized marijuana, the Dutch work less than any other country -- putting in a fifth fewer hours than Americans per year. The United Nations also named the Netherlands the happiest country in the world, which might have something to do with all that spare time.

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The List

The 10 Best McDonald's Meals You Won't Find in the U.S.

From French breakfast sandwiches to Japanese shrimp burgers, the international creations that helped McDonald's win the Great Recession.

McDonald's has over 32,000 locations in 119 countries, and part of its international success is due to clever attempts to appeal to local customers by inventing food tailored to their tastes. From Paris to Delhi, here's a list of the top ten McDonald's meals Americans are missing out on.


India: BigSpicy Paneer Wrap

This fast food take on a common Indian street food is both spicy and vegetarian, making it a hit at the 271 McDonald's locations in India. Made with breaded paneer, a type of South Asian cheese, the BigSpicy Paneer Wrap is one of many vegetarian McDonald's innovations, which have been so successful that the chain plans to open two all-vegetarian locations in India next year.


Japan: Ebi Filet-O

Part of McDonald's Japan President Eikoh Harada's push to tailor food to Japanese taste, the Ebi Filet-O generated sales of 10 million in the first three months after its launch in October 2005. Made with breaded shrimp, this Japanese version of the classic Filet-O-Fish is modeled after the traditional Japanese dish of shrimp tempura and costs around $5.70 in Tokyo.


Turkey: Kofteburger

The Kofteburger is the McDonaldization of kofte, a type of Turkish kebab made with mint and parsley. So authentic that even the bun is sprinkled with parsley, the Kofteburger has been a hit with Turkish customers, and as one American visitor put it, "it's good but it doesn't taste like a tastes very...Turkish."


Thailand: Samurai Pork Burger

The name says it all. Featuring a pork patty marinated in Teriyaki sauce and smothered in peppers, the Samurai Pork burger is McDonald's attempt to put a Thai twist on the classic Big Mac, although the fast food giant may be a little off the geographical mark on this one. As one customer asks, "Why does it have a Japanese name when I'm in Thailand?"


Morocco: The McArabia

Priced at about $6.50, variations on the McArabia are available in countries across the Middle East. But Moroccans, especially, seem to have taken to this cumin-spiced flatbread beef sandwich. As one customer told the Global Post, "Honestly, it tastes Moroccan."



China: Prosperity Burger

A seasonal item only available around the Chinese New Year, the Prosperity Burger is made with beef smothered in black pepper sauce and onions. Customers in China and other East Asian countries can also enjoy local delicacies like taro pie, a variation of the classic apple version, as well as red bean sundaes.


France: Croque McDo

The country that immortalized the "Royale with Cheese" in the classic film Pulp Fiction has another local McDonald's creation to boast about. This take on the croque-monsieur, the classic French open-faced ham and cheese sandwich, is popular with Parisians and tourists alike. As one American visitor to France exclaimed about the breakfast sandwich in her blog: "this was no American Happy Meal."


Poland: The WiesMac

This quarter-pound beef patty, translated into English as the "Country Mac," is served with mustard and horseradish sauce on a sesame bun. "Everytime I eat WiesMac...I want to die," says one Polish customer in an online discussion, "But it is very tasty." Apparently, McDonald's guilt transcends differences of language and culture.


Mexico: McMollete

The Mexican version of a McMuffin minus the egg, this international McDonald's breakfast creation consists of refried beans, cheese, and pico de gallo, or Mexican salsa, atop a muffin. The dish takes its inspiration from molletes, a classic Mexican comfort food.



The Netherlands: McKroket

When McDonald's first moved to the Netherlands in the seventies, they tried to tempt Dutch customers with erwtensoep, or pea soup. Although that venture was unsuccessful, the McKroket has proven a much more profitable local item. A deep-fried patty of beef ragout on a bun, the McKroket costs roughly $2.50 and is McDonald's take on the traditional Dutch croquet.

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