No joke. At last, after six months, I finally get to be paid in the local currency. Things are about to get pretty busy around here.
I’ve had a post centered around my miserable job hunt in progress for a while, with a goal of publishing it later for the benefit of hopeful expats plopping into Scandinavia in the dead of winter to search for a job. If this applies to you and you are reading this in maybe… September-ish, your chances are slim. Tourist season is ending, and the entire country is about to burrow into hibernation. Nobody goes outside unless they absolutely have to. Wait until March.
I was told these things over and over, but thought, dude, I am fucking awesome, so obviously I am an exception to this rule. Well, in my case, Copenhagen is where my post-grad dreams went to die. It’s at this point where I wonder how many of my friend’s ‘I’m-fresh-and-ready-to-take-on-the-world” phases played out in their own respective cities. Here, my mind was blown when what I thought was a simple goal of finding work as a waitress or bartender proved to be the toughest challenge I’ve faced since… maybe ever. I never quite got over the fact that I was trying so hard to land a job in Copenhagen that would conventionally be considered a temporary, last-resort type of position in the States.
In a nutshell, here’s how this all went down.
September 2012: “You don’t speak Danish? That’s totally fine! Everyone in Copenhagen knows English. Don’t worry about that.”
Sweet. I print fifty copies of my resume and made it rain all over the coolest restaurants, cafes, and bars in the city.
October 2012: “Haha, you think you’re special because you can speak flawless English? The entire world speaks your language as a second language. We will not hire you unless you speak Danish. Fluently. Half our customers are old and don’t speak a word… come back in a couple of months when you can speak Danish.”
Sure! Because a couple of months should be enough for me to be able to spit flawless Danish. I stress out for a while about how I’m going to pay for Danish lessons. They are a couple hundred dollars, unless I have a CPR (social security) number. I stress out about how I’m going to get this CPR number. I nearly go blind reading every corner of the Danish immigration website, and decide I’m going to be a student again (already).
November 2012: “What’s a resume? Do you have a CV? We would like a CV.”
WTF is a CV? I spend a few weeks crafting a CV. I use my career center back at UC Davis, look at examples all over the internet, and finally come up with this thing that’s essentially the same thing as my resume but with more white space and some pointless information about my personality on it. Cool.
December 2012: “We can’t even afford to keep the people we have right now. Has anyone mentioned to you that it’s hard to get a job here until March? Also, don’t email us. It will get lost. Don’t bring applications in person either, those will get lost too.”
What? Fuck you guys, I’m going home.
(Fly back to California and cry about being poor for a month.)
January/February 2013: “Your CV is ridiculous. There are too many words, it’s too hard to read. I also care very little about your degree in International Relations. What is an Aggie? Have you studied waitressing in school? Then what qualifies you to work in a cafe? Nothing on your CV is relevant. The font is too small. And it needs pizzaz.”
I go home and forget everything I’ve ever learned about drafting a resume. I download a cool font online and slap my passport picture onto the top of a silly document that talks about my interests and activities and hopes and dreams and maybe a few lines about everything I’ve worked hard to accomplish over the past four years that now apparently counts for nothing.
March 2013: My silly resume works. I now have two jobs.
Truth: the job search in Denmark in the dead of winter will take a massive dump on your self-esteem. You will feel ignored, insignificant, untalented, invisible, and a waste, while sinking deeper into debt waiting for somebody to hire you. These emotions hardly inspire any good reading material unless there’s something to show for it, which is why I’ve waited until now to be able to give advice to all expats on how to get a job up in this piece: know how to pick your battles. Let go of your pride and listen to others when they give you a crucial bit of information such as the city as a whole shutting down until March. As much as I believe in going for something if you want it, it was a huge relief when I accepted that there was great value in being able to recognize a lost cause.
Which brings us to today. On a whim I sent my CV into Orsted Olbar, a beer place I’d stopped by with Sean when he visited Copenhagen back in October. I got a response within hours, interviewed the morning after my birthday… and got a glorious phone call a few days later. Cafe Plenum offered me a trial shift not too long after that.
So it took a little while. I don’t think anything has ever tested my patience more. But now, I start the trial tomorrow morning in a sweet cafe/bar, and get to start in a few weeks at a new craft beer place with 20 taps and 185+ on the bottle menu. Not only will it provide me with field research opportunities for my arts management project, I’ll save money on the one thing I spend money on regardless of my financial status…
It’s a joke that it took this long to get here, and that half the effort at home would likely have landed me a decent salary and a reason to put on big girl pants (or pants at all) in the morning. But no one at home is getting paid in three different currencies, are they? Yes, I have a total commitment issue, but I can honestly say, for the first time in awhile, that I have everything I want.
Although, this has less to do with being employed and much more to do with the fact that last Friday, Josie and I were able to pack our apartment with enough people that it was impossible to move. But more on that later.