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Key differences working in US or EU


Although additive manufacturing has been with us for many years now, it’s still an innovative, dynamic, and expanding industry. Companies are constantly discovering new applications and developing improved methods to broaden their additive capabilities.

Although additive manufacturing was first conceptualised in Japan, the USA and European countries have led the way in progressing, developing, and commercialising the technology over the past 30 years.

As such, there is a wealth of knowledge in the two continents for companies to use in their applications, leading to US-based companies creating EU subsidiaries and vice-versa. Companies are approaching highly skilled people from both sides of the Atlantic to help push their additive technologies further.

On paper, it should be a relatively straightforward process. Still, companies and staff in both continents are often surprised at the differences between EU and US working practices, employment law, and statutory expectations. These differences usually only come to light at the end of recruitment processes, when offers of employment are made then subsequently rejected by not meeting the candidate’s expectations.

Before delving into the differences between EU and US employment, it’s worth noting that each EU country has a slightly different set of rules, as does each US state. Therefore, we recommend researching the specific country or state you’re interested in, so there are no nasty surprises.

So, what are the key differences?

  1. Working Cultures

Hours of work

This is one of the first surprises for companies and employees in both regions. The US work culture is “work hard, play hard”, and US employees work significantly longer hours than their EU counterparts. This can give rise to Americans seeing Europeans as lazy and Europeans seeing Americans as workaholics. Of course, neither is true, but it’s a critical cultural difference for both parties to understand to avoid future clashes.

Out-of-hours emails

In the US, it’s pretty common for staff to email or message colleagues in the evenings and weekends. However, in the EU, this is generally frowned upon. So, by all means, email your European employee in the evening, but don’t expect a response until they arrive in the office the following day. In fact, France passed a piece of legislation in 2017 which gives employees the legal right to disconnect from email outside of working times.

Break times

Break times and lunchtimes are another surprising contrast. EU countries tend to take longer lunch breaks. For example, in France, a two-hour lunch break is typical, and Greece favours a three-hour lunch, which they consider the main meal of the day. In Spain, they take a siesta in the afternoon, shutting down from 2 pm to 5 pm then opening again until 8 pm. However, the average lunch break is 30 minutes in the US, with only one in five people leaving their desks to eat.


Driving to work is more common in the US than in the EU. On average, Americans drive 32 miles each way to work, often through heavy traffic. However, in the EU, where the fuel costs are higher, and the public transportation system is reliable and comfortable (apart from the UK), they favour using trams, buses, trains, bicycles, and walking to work.

  1. Employment Contracts

Contracts of employment aren’t a legal requirement in the US but are in the EU. Staff in the US are “employed at will”, which means their employment can be terminated without notice and for any reason (other than a protected one such as gender, race, religion, etc.). Employees can also terminate their employment the same way.

In EU countries, both parties have to give notice for terminating employment, which must be set out in the initial employment contract. Depending on the seniority of the individual, notice periods of three to six months are pretty standard, which must be factored into a recruitment process.

In the EU, employees have the legal right to a contract of employment which is a common problem US companies find when employing EU staff for their EU subsidiary. As a result, the EU candidate won’t accept an offer of employment until they have seen, read, and understood all the terms of their employment. If the US company doesn’t have this documentation before starting the recruitment process, it can cause it to break down and candidates to walk away.

  1. Holiday entitlements

In the US, there is no legal requirement for companies to offer employees any paid time off. However, in practice, many do provide this benefit. The number of days’ holiday depends entirely on the company, but the average is ten days per year.

However, in the EU, the holiday entitlements range from the statutory minimum of 20 days up to 30 days annual leave, depending on the country. Plus there are national holidays to consider as well, which also vary by country. Sometimes these are incorporated into the total entitlement; other times, they are in addition.

For example, France has ten days, Germany has nine, and Italy has twelve national holidays. Interestingly, Netherlands has nine days, but there is no statutory entitlement to having time off for them—it’s up to the individual company whether or not to close.

  1. Sick Pay

In the US, there is no federal law demanding that employers pay sick pay to employees. However, many states have mandated that companies pay sick pay. The number of days varies per state. In addition, the Family and Medical Leave Act specifies that companies with 50+ employees must allow unpaid time off for sickness or care for a sick relative.

Even though there is no federal mandate, most companies offer an element of paid sick leave, though this varies by company.

In the EU, there is no EU directive stating a minimum sick pay that companies must offer. Instead, the legislation is decided at the country level. As such, sick pay varies considerably within the EU countries. For example, in the UK, the employee is entitled to statutory sick pay of £95.85 per week for 28 weeks, but in Germany, employees get between 70-100% of their salaries for up to 84 weeks.

  1. Pension Contributions

The US retirement plan is the 401k and is a tax-efficient way of paying into a retirement fund. Note, the 401k is different to a pension fund, which you can also set up. There is no requirement for a US company to pay into your 401k. However, many do as an additional benefit to their employees.

In the EU, the pensions system is substantially more complex and varies by country. Companies in all EU countries have to make salary deductions to pay into the relevant state pension scheme. In addition, all companies must provide a pension scheme for their employees, but the minimum company contributions vary by country.

  1. Healthcare

In the US, private medical insurance is a common employment benefit offered to employees. With the privatised US healthcare system, patients must pay for all their treatment – there is no national healthcare service. As such, medical insurance is a must for people to avoid substantial bills for hospital treatment.

Private medical insurance in the EU is less of a requirement as most countries have a national healthcare service.

  1. Salaries

On a like-for-like basis, US companies will pay significantly higher salaries for the equivalent role in the EU. For example, an AM Engineer in Germany would expect to receive a salary of around €40-50k ($47-58k). Whereas in the US, it’s more likely to be €85-100k ($100-120k).

However, the whole cost of living, factoring in the previous points, should be considered to make an accurate comparison.


As you can see, there are significant differences between the European and American styles of work. Of course, neither is right or wrong, but all parties must understand these differences before committing then having regrets.

At Kensington Additive, we’re recognised specialists in recruiting additive manufacturing professionals for US and EU businesses. Our account managers are on-hand to answer any questions you have on recruiting in those regions.

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