German word of the day: Der Bildungsurlaub

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German word of the day: Der Bildungsurlaub
Photo: DPA

If you work in Germany, this is a word you need to know.


Bildungsurlaub is a word that can be misleading. It translates literally as “education holiday".

While it might sound to some like a holiday from education, it actually means something completely different: A Bildungsurlaub is a paid holiday used for further education, so perhaps a better translation is "education leave".

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The concept has existed since 1974, with every state in Germany having its own law for a Bildungsurlaub. As an example of this, I’ll talk about Lower Saxony. The legal duration of a Bildungsurlaub in this state is five days a year.


The type of training people can do during a Bildungsurlaub varies but it is typically things like language courses. The website gives more information on what the leave can be used for.

A heads up, though: Bavaria and Saxony don’t offer a Bildungsurlaub for any of their employees.

If you’re taking a Bildungsurlaub, you have the possibility of attending certain seminars, but also to organize the training yourself, according to the laws.

Unfortunately, some people take the word Urlaub (“holiday”) too seriously and don’t really do much in their time out of the office. That’s why Bildungsurlaub is also called Bildungsfreistellung (“education exemption”), to avoid the impression that it's a vacation for fun.

You have to do some training on a Bildungsurlaub. Photo: DPA

While about 50 percent of all employees in a state are allowed to take Bildungsurlaub every year, the actual numbers are much, much lower: According to the press office of Bremen’s senate, only about three percent of all the employees in Bremen actually take their entitled Bildungsurlaub.


Nächste Woche bin ich nicht im Büro, da bin ich im Bildungsurlaub.

I won’t be at the office next week, as I am taking my educational leave.

Viel mehr Leute könnten ihren Bildungsurlaub wahrnehmen.

Many more people could take education leave.

Ich sollte meinen BIldungsurlaub wahrnehmen.

I should use my right to education leave.



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