"It is also important that people in countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal are not able to retire earlier than in Germany, that everyone exerts themselves more or less equally," Merkel told a gathering of her conservative Christian Democratic Union in May.
"We can't have a common currency where some get lots of vacation time and others very little," Merkel said. "That won't work in the long term."
Since then, Spain has increased its retirement age from 65 to 67, the same as in Germany. Compared with Spain's 14 public holidays, Germany has eight to 11 public holidays, depending on the federal state. France has 11 to 13, again depending on the region. (The U.S. has 10 federal holidays.)
Spain's dismal jobless rate is also pushing more Spaniards to move abroad to find work. With such mobility, plus globalization, the days are gone when European nations could keep their work schedules distinct.
"I work for an English company here in Spain, and all the Brits are accustomed to eating lunch at noon at their desks. I still go out for coffee and a cigarette at noon, and eat my lunch at 3 o'clock," said Yebra, the Web designer. "For my bosses, that might be foreign, but I'm stubborn.
"Our hours or days off might change, but I'm going to cling to those things as long as I can," he said, relishing one last drag of his cigarette, in the Spanish sunshine, before heading back into work.
Frayer is a special correspondent.