My horrible work experience in Norway
Hey guys! It’s time for me to tell you about my first ever horrible overseas work experience and how I dealt with it. By sharing it with you I hope to encourage you to quit any job if you feel like it is horrible and/or taking is advantage of you (especially if you are a foreign person working in a new country for the first time). I am also sharing this because I want to share the real side of life, not every job will be the best you’ve ever had and you won’t always find legitimate employers. Unfortunately that is life but it doesn’t mean that you should stay put and accept it. Love yourself enough to know that you deserve better than that.
If you’re new to my blog here comes a little back story before we dive in. If you’ve been following me for a while you can skip this part if you’d like to; Hey I’m Nathalie! For 3 years now I have been moving around constantly, working seasonally (mostly abroad) and traveling a lot. I have worked a few months here and there, traveled a few, worked some more and traveled some more etc. so I have somewhat of an idea of what one can expect from a seasonal location. I am not going to mention this company nor village by name out of respect but if you are looking for jobs in Lofoten, send me a message and i’ll give you a hint on where not to look. Now that we got that out of the way, here comes the story.
While I was working as a Bartender at the ICEHOTEL last winter I heard stories about the magical Lofoten Islands located in Norway. Being from Sweden people expect you to have been to every Scandinavian country but I had yet ticked off Norway from the list of countries I’ve been to. Intrigued by the idea of working closer to home (heh ‘‘closer’’) in a gorgeous location and ticking of yet another country of my list I started looking for a place to work.
Together with a friend, my boyfriend and his friend we started looking at places in and Nearby Henningsvaer as we got told that this was the place to be! My boyfriend and his friend got a job in Henningsvaer while me and my friend got a job in a smaller village close by - or so we were told.
After a telephone interview I got the job and we kept in touch via email until we arrived end of May.
The boys dropped us off before they headed to Henningsvaer and at first everything seemed okay. A woman showed us around the newly-renovated Hotel and took us through the kitchen/restaurant/Bar to show us where we would be working. Still everything seemed okay. Then they showed us our staff accommodation. I have never seen such a dump being disguised as ‘‘staff accommodation’’, still, I tried to keep my spirit up! I wasn’t expecting a 5 star hotel.
It’s funny how fast things changed, I remember sitting in the car on our way there, feeling super excited, happy and longing for what Norway had to offer. But in no less than 3 days after arriving I was lying in bed, bawling my eyes out. I hated it, I was sleep deprived and my healthy food habits had gone out the window.
We found out the accommodation we had been given used to be an old bank, which sort of explains why Ebba (my friend) had a glass wall with see-through curtains & a sink in her room that wasn’t working?? Or does it?? In my room there was power failure in the outlets and if i plugged in the vacuum cleaner (which I did the first day because the room was already dirty when I got it) and turned it on, my sealing lights would flicker and turn on. I also swapped my bed out with one in a different room because part of the mattress in that bed was missing and had been replaced with pillowed tucked into the blank space (???), but as I moved the other bed one of the legs broke straight off. By then it was 11PM and we had been driving all day so I just silver-taped the bed stuck as an emergency solution and went to bed.
When I woke up the next day I realized that the bathroom, located in a dirty basement, had no locks (there was a separate boy & girl bathroom) with the shower cabin with glass doors located just in front of the opening. Being somewhere new and knowing nothing about our house mates, this didn’t exactly feel safe. The shower was also leaking so every shower resulted in a pool of water in the room. We also realized that we only had a faulty Microwave and 2 stove tops in ‘‘the kitchen’’ so cooking possibilities were limited. After having a quick look through all the drawers and everything we realized we had no pots - which limited the cooking EVEN MORE. Like come on, we couldn’t even cook pasta??? Not even pasta.
I like to give people the benefit of the doubt so I brought this up with the Restaurant Manager, but instead of getting a solution to our cooking problem, she made it worse by informing us that there was no fan in the kitchen and that the smoke alarm located in the room was connected to the rest of the hotel so that if we fried things like pancakes or bacon (her examples) we could set it off and then we would have to evacuate the entire hotel.
For this dream accommodation they wanted us to pay 4000NOK a month. WHAT A JOKE. It was the first time I had ever been to Norway, so I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of standard I could expect but luckily for me I have a few Norwegian friends, a step mother that has worked seasonal in Norway for several years and friends currently working in Lofoten, so I had some people to ask and consult about this. All of their response were somewhat the same - NO WAY, GET OUT OF THERE, THEY ARE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF YOU, THAT IS NOT NORWEGIAN STANDARDS - to name a few of the things we were told.
Above you can see some pictures of the accommodation, they used part of it as a dump, literally.. But hey, so far we’ve only covered the living situation, let’s dive into the actual work conditions shall we?
We came in the day before we were suppose to start working to work a few hours to get to know the place - or so we thought. When our manager found out that we had worked with that kind of register-system before she left us alone in the restaurant for a few hours to run some errands. Keep in mind that she had only known us for a couple of hours, had never seen us work before, did not know if we had any idea of what we were doing and you know, the tiny detail of the whole ‘‘New country we’ve never been to - New language we don’t know’’ thing. We also didn’t know where anything were and it took us some time to find the teabags when one of the customers asked for a tea. Which is ridiculous.
After a few days they brought me up to the office to sign a contract. I was so nervous about this, I had talked to Ebba and we both agreed that we would give it a chance but if it didn’t get any better we would leave. Signing a contract would mean we would be stuck, at least temporary. So I told them that I didn’t want to sign anything before I was sure that I wanted to stay and work there - which I wasn’t at the time. The boss instantly accused us of only coming there to be closer to Henningsvaer (where my boyfriend + friends were) and that we were planning on getting a job over there and ditching them in the middle of the season. Which was not true at all, me and my boyfriend live in different towns in Sweden so being distant from each other is not an issue, quite the opposite, we were looking forward to getting to know 2 different places on a deeper level. - secondly, that he would just assume that straight away was very rude. After glancing at the contract I also realized that our pay on the paper and the pay we had discussed via email was very different (and not in a good way). That + a few other lies that day made us go back the same day and quit.
When we quit, they told us they really needed us to stay for the entire week, but after several people telling us the chance of us getting paid for the work we’d done that week was very slim we decided to say no. They told us to think about it over the day and that we would talk later again that day and give them our decision. Ebba had to work in the bar that right but she didn’t want to be alone (I don’t blame her) so I sat at the bar during her shift. First we saw the boss walk by the window and leave without saying anything, then after a while the head chef came out and said that the Manager had asked if he could ask if one of us could at least work breakfast in the morning. Real professional huh? When we asked him why she didn’t come out and ask us herself he told us she’d gone home to avoid further conversation with us. At this point I had 0 confidence in the place and everything just seemed really unprofessional and I had no reason to believe that we would ever get paid for the work we had done.
I could go on - Probably forever - and there are still plenty of things that was unacceptable that I haven’t mentioned, but I feel like you get the picture and I don’t want to overwhelm you. After Ebbas shift we went back to the staff accomodation and packed our bags straight away, the boys came and picked us up in the middle of the night and offered us to stay with them while we looked for another job.I am very lucky that I had my boyfriend and friends nearby so that I had a possibility to find a better job and could enjoy a summer here in Lofoten but even without him and his help, I would not have stayed there.
I would have left, looked for a job for a few days and if I wouldn’t have found one I would have bought myself a ticket home. No job and No money is worth risking your Mental Health for. After the bad encounter with this place I felt myself slipping, both from my routines and emotionally, and we didn’t even end up spending an entire week there. It even took me some time to get back on track and recover from the incident. I believe a piece of this place stuck with me, but until recently I didn’t know why. Now I do. I just couldn’t let it go without using this experience to educate people about their rights and to try and make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else - and that if it does - you should know you deserve better and be brave enough to leave.
A short little update on how everything’s been after that: I feel like myself again! I found a job at a cute little cafe/pub in Henningsvaer and Ebba found a job at a hotel, also in Henningsvaer. We were both super lucky to find jobs so close to peak season!! So in the end, I assume this is where we were meant to be, Life just took us on a little detour first. The summer has been amazing. We are still living with the boys because we couldn’t find other accommodation. Here we live in a much nicer place, with a proper kitchen and not only one, but 2(!) clean, modern bathrooms - and for all of this we pay half of what we would have paid over there. I also earn a lot more here, although I was very happy just to have found a job and didn’t even pay attention to the salary, this only proves that they were trying to trick us over there. I did sent a final message to our manager explaining why we left abruptly like that but I never heard back from here. We also never got paid for the days we did work, but neither of us can be bothered fighting about it so we’ve just left it alone.
Unfortunately there are people out there taking advantage of people’s lack of knowledge, especially if you are a foreign person working in their country for the first time. I hope this post was informative for you and if you liked it, please like, comment & share it on social media so that I can reach more people out there in the world! And hey, If you’ve got a similar story to mine, or just a horrible work experience you’d like to share, drop it below in the comments. I would love to read it!
With that said, all I ask of you in case you like my blog and wants me to continue creating content is to not only pop in for a visit every now but to also Like, Save, Comment & share it on social media. That way I am able to see if what I’m writing is appreciated by you and I am also able to reach more people around the world.
And until next time, take care! xo Nathalie