The title pretty much sums it up. This is the story of how I went from corporate ladder climbing to world traveling to intimately knowing the inner workings of a dishwasher at a sketchy cafe run by a Lebanese family. And I assure you my days were packed with a daily dose of self-aimed criticism in Arabic, family quarrels and making terrible jokes with the dreadlocked, pierced and tattooed punk-emo chef who could really care less about his job (oh you know the type of person I'm talking about). At least we could relate on one level-our jobs were treacherous and everyone else at the joint was a bit, how do I put it nicely, "off."
I can't help but think of the poor Mexicans, Cubans, Chinese, etc who are respected doctors, businessmen in their countries and magically turn into taxi drivers and checkout clerks once stepping foot into the land of the free. There's something about wanting to make it so badly in a country that you are willing to sacrifice all self-respect and stoop to a new low just to survive. And there I was, lamenting over my downfall, covered in dishmuck watching business people chattering over lattes, experiencing life firsthand as an immigrant.
I felt shameful. No one could know my true identity as a dishwasher. "Actually, maybe I should tell the truth," I thought, "what if I exposed life as an immigrant, from corporate to cafe, and the battle to make it in a foreign country almost identical to my own." I didn't have a language barrier to worry about, no one could tell I was foreign just by looking at me, I was here legally and still stuck in a rut. Once I explained the situation to my friends, I realized that all immigrants had to pay their dues and it's not uncommon to start somewhere ridiculously low. One of my American friends started out as a fellow dishwasher before he scored a job at the Apple Store, and another Canadian friend swept floors at Safeway from 5-8 A.M. just so he could scrape by before getting a position as a head hunter in Melbourne. Finding a good professional job as a foreigner was anything but easy.
"Ember, you just have to hang in there a few weeks. At least you have something in the meantime, be patient and you will land a good job," was the general consensus from my friends. I started to accept my life elbows deep in dishes and actually thought I could manage for a max of about two weeks-at least that would get me another month of rent. That was, until I got promoted to Sandwich Maker.
I consequently received a dramatic cut in my hours and an endless stream of criticism for my terrible sandwich making skills and lethargic cash register operation. How is an amateur focaccia artist to cope? By the end of my first day, my boss threatened to fire me. I countered saying we could probably agree that cafe life wasn't for me and subsequently walked out, never to return again. And yes, I did get paid for my four days of work, and yes, I did just score a job as Campaign Manager for a creative marketing agency. Take that dishwashing job!
1. Abbreviate, abbreviate, abbreviate.
When in doubt just cut the last few syllables out from a word and you will sound unforgettably Aus. Here are a few of the key abreves you need to learn:
Even city and tram signs for Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market read Queen Vic Market. If the government approves, your new Australian friends surely will too!
2. Don't forget, walk on the left.
Nuff said. Try walking on the right side of the sidewalk and the Aussies burst out into a funky chicken dance sort of move trying to figure out which side you are passing them on, and they barely avoid running into you at the last minute. It seriously freaks them out. But then again, maybe you should try walking on the left side of the sidewalk in the U.S. and see what happens!
3. You don't have friends, you have mates.
4. Voice your enthusiasm for Vegemite.
Vege-what?! It's a sodium-loaded black paste used as a pastry filling and toast spread. It was invented by Kraft as a means for recycling the otherwise useless yeast extract. It's an Aussie staple and repulse to the rest of the world. Here's what President Obama has to say about it:
"It's like a quasi-vegetable by-product, that you smear on your toast," going on to exclaim that it's horrible! I agree.
5. Forget your thank you's. It has now become ta and cheers. While the Aussies still use thank you, ta and cheers have so much more character and will prove your true inner Australian even if they don't sound very Australian coming from your mouth. It's easy to work on the accent once you've got the lingo down!
Start practicing these five steps on a daily basis and you will be rolling with sheilas and blokes down under in no time! Australian slang lesson coming soon...
Of all the ways to introduce someone, “this is my new internet friend, Joe,” is possibly the worst. No one ever has anything good to say about Internet friends. I personally used to have a huge problem with online dating, thinking, “seriously, you couldn't just get off the computer for ten minutes, go for a walk and meet someone? For the sake of the social world, put those kindergarten interpersonal skills to use!” But then I realized friend finding isn't quite that simple and I've fallen culprit to the headline. It wasn't until I met some fabulous roommates on Craigslist a year ago that I became a believer in online friendships (I'm not quite ready to venture into the online dating world...yet).
Still, with what seems like an entire world full of Craigslist Killers plastered in the newspapers and Internet mingling scardeycats, it isn't easy defending my online friends. (Come one people, you just gotta be smart about who you meet. Thanks to Google and Facebook it is relatively easy to do a little background check. Now you can't do that with someone you just meet at the grocery store or your local book club, can you?). Everyone seems to have a strong opinion about the subject-you're either pro-Internet or anti-Internet-there is no middle ground. And for all those pro-Internet people, should the dreaded how did you meet question arise (and you know it will) mutual friends or the gym are always good covers. So, for the sake of my reputation and to prevent you from judging me, I am going to tell you about all the lovely people I've been meeting at the gym lately.
Making friends as a newbie in Australia requires a certain level of social creativity and craftiness. The old fashioned making friends at work, school or through old friends doesn't work too well when you are job-less, school-less and friend-less, so I resorted to my old fallback; the gym.
I’ve met a slew of friends at the gym and discovered some otherwise hidden gems of Melbourne thanks to my new workout buddies Facebook, Couchsurfing and Meet-Up, to name a few. I must say Couchsurfing is proving to be a top runner. The social networking site for travellers is bursting with enough local events to overwhelm any traveler's schedule. From Capture the Flag by Moonlight to Tango Illegal to penguin watching, he is consistently diverse and keeps me on my toes. I even scored two days of free beer tasting at a craft beer festival compliments of fellow beer loving travelers I met at the gym.
Facebook took me out one night to a Spanish/English conversation group which proved hilariously entertaining, I've met a few promising friend prospects on my 30 minute train commute into the city, and there’s still Meet-Up dot-com who I’ve been meaning to, er, meet-up with.
Here I am caught in my whirlwind of melbournian social nights, coffee shop catchups and crowd of fellow gym enthusiasts. Melbourne is proving to be quite a cultural, entertaining and charming city with a great sense of humor and I didn't expect to become this smitten with the place so quickly. I am ready to make it Facebook official, I am in love with this city! Go ahead, tell the whole world...just don't forget to mention we met at the gym.
Oh the joys of job hunting. I'm scouring the Internet, revising cover letters and glued to my email 24/7 for any slight glimmer of hope, response, inquiry...? in search of the perfect job. I am not a lazy person, but when it comes to job searching I get this really queasy feeling in my stomach and simply wish I could call in sick for the rest of my life. And, contrary to previous conceptions, trying to find a job in Australia as an American is proving to be quite a toil. The employment industry in the United States is quite a mysterious and unique creature, which the rest of the world rarely experiences, so I’m here to shed light on why foreigners should be stoked (or think twice) about hiring Americans.
Well Known Facts about the Average American (which make us exceptional employees):
· Never take vacation (because we are so committed to our jobs)
· Addicted to smartphone (so we’re at the beckoning call of our boss 24/7, of course)
· Constantly sacrificing personal time ie: relationships, family dinners, etc for corporate time (we love the office so much)
Yes, we can all laugh these off, but they’re kind of true in retrospect. How did we get this way? Behind our corporate ladder loving nation is a set of social factors that have been at work shaping the lifestyles, personalities and motivations of almost every American for the past several decades.
Take our decrepit economy, outsourcing of labor, newly overeducated generation and massive debt and you’ve got a tragedy better than Shakespeare himself could have written. We pride ourselves on freedom and the American Dream, but is it possible to achieve that dream under these circumstances?
Making it in America is a game; part survival of the fittest, part luck and a whole lot of hard work. Compared to the rest of the developed world, many would argue that we are severely lagging in social services such as health care, public transport and welfare programs. Instead, we're left to our own devices to put it simply, figure it out.
Take college for example. The majority of Australians attend university on a loan from the government which they only start paying back when they make over $55,000 annually. Some of my Aussie friends even get PAID by the GOVERNMENT to go to school! I would happily take up a career as a college student!
This is happening while American students are shelling out upwards of $40,000 a year in tuition, living off Top Ramen and drowning themselves in a pool of debt they will most likely spend a good part of their lives paying off. Job or not, the loan bills keep coming. And of course, it is pounded into our American brains from the age of toddlers that if we don't get an education, we will never amount to anything, so every mother, child, sister, brother and dog attend a four year institution. With a national minimum wage of $7.25 it is almost impossible to make it without working two jobs or achieving some form of specialized training or higher education.
In Australia the waters are calmer. Yes, they have their corporate circle, but many Aussies can live happily earning somewhere in the $20 an hour range working at a café or in retail (their minimum wage is $15.51, but I’ve never met anyone making that little). With a non-dilapidated economy, finding a professional career is anything but cutthroat. Here, the wages are decent, the pace of life is slower and people can spend their lives leisurely waltzing down career lane rather than racing to the top.
Americans, on the other hand, have been conditioned by the policies of our country, job shortages and economic state to become a bunch of 60 hour a week working, sleep deprived, corporate ladder climbing enthusiasts all in the hopes of achieving our coveted American Dream. And that is precisely why foreigners should be dying to hire people like us. We're crazy! We are willing to compete for what we want until the bitter end. If we can make it in America, we can surely make it anywhere!