Working While Traveling

I’ve worked in several places while I travel. Sometimes because I had to, sometimes because I want to feel useful/have an excuse to get out of the house. To get said jobs (out of the states) I lie on my resume and say that I have “HEAPS OF XP at ______ types of shops!” Most of the time, they have me come in that night to test me out, where I pull shots, pour drinks, don’t screw up orders, I smile and I’m nice to customers and, after I’ve proven I’m kinda competent, I’m given a few shifts.

Here’s the skinny:

Australia paid the best (18$ an hour, under the table, plus tips- sometimes they were pretty hefty!) I walked in, pulled a shot and was hired on the spot- starting the next day. They weren’t clean nazi’s (requiring gloves at all times), they thought they were the bee’s knees when it came to coffee prep/display (they weren’t). Live music on Fri/Sat night- it wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was better than the house-muzak. Food was done fresh (and in-house/in-town). Benefits were free coffee/drinks during shift (including alcoholic) and free food throughout your day. I really enjoyed my time there— even if the owners were chauvinist pigs. My fondest memory was developing a different story every night to try to explain my accent.

My Cape Town cafe experience was really short-lived. It was one of the worst experiences of my life as far as just how I was treated as a human being. You go through a 3-shift “training period” (where you’re not paid at all— this is common, apparently.) They didn’t have a hand-washing station or any sink for wait-staff/bar staff to use. If you wanted to wash your hands (because, oh, I don’t know…. a customer who looks like they have Dengue just sneezed on the plate you took away?) you have to use the bathrooms (down the hall, to the left). The food was “fresh” but was disgusting and tasteless in comparison to street food (or what my boyfriend and I made in the hostel with Old Bay seasoning). I should note that I was never offered any food while working there- I had to pay full price if I wanted to eat. The coffee was worse (“You can’t make coffee! You’re American! What do you know about coffee?!?”) After you get through the “training period” you are given some day shifts (no tipping) and you make 13Rand an hour (1.30$USD). Music was “Spanish Influenced”— which was 13 “latino” songs on repeat. You also get screamed at by the customer and boss because you’re white and a woman and “what do you know?” (Did I mention it was short-lived?)

I’ve worked at several coffee shops around America. My favorite was my very first coffee-shop/wine-bar job in Troy, Ohio. I worked on the nights with live music- always the best of our tiny little town. The place was pretty clean, the serve-ware was cleaner and our hands were sparkling. The coffee was pretty tasty (roasted down the street) and I was encouraged to experiment as much as possible- even with orders! I got free sandwiches and cookies, discounted wine/cigars/coffee beans, awesome customers… the works. Tips were based on YOUR performance/personality (I never claimed them). My best memories were writing little limericks on people’s orders thanking them for coming in and ironing my tips on Sunday mornings (the bills got crumpled).

Basically, I got a skill when I was 18 and it’s served me well. If you can bartend/pull espresso in one place, you can, basically, do it everywhere. As a bonus, you get to meet a lot of people and it’s great mental and acting practice!

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