Helen Hoffmann │email@example.com
My first summer job was shit, and I mean this literally. When I was still in school, I worked in a local hospital as an underpaid cleaner and helper to the nurses. Not born an early riser, this meant dragging myself out of bed every morning at 3 a.m. to start my shift at 4.30 a.m. One day, my boss asked me to clean a bathroom that was “quite contaminated”. After that experience, which as mentioned was literally crap, I could clean anything I ever encountered in my many student homes. That summer I learned that with gloves, I can face most anything.
“That summer I learned that with gloves, I can face most anything.”
Summer is already here but you might still hope to be spending your Euroculture-free summer working at a nice place. Maybe that place, too, will turn out to be a little out of the ordinary. And possibly you will get some useful lessons for life there – with or without gloves.
I wanted to know where other people have worked to make a part-time living so I spoke to three former summer workers in the MA Euroculture network. Testing alcohol levels, teaching history to ignorant tourists, interviewing celebrities – Euroculturers have had some peculiar jobs.
Rieke: Hunting drunkards
When Rieke applied for her summer job, she could already sense that it was a job out of the ordinary. A bunch of weird people, a lot of strange interview questions. “When my friend and I got out of there, we burst out laughing!”
“A summer job with handcuffs”
Still, she and her friend decided to take the job and the next thing they knew they were standing in big fairs in the German countryside with handcuffs. She was sent out as a “Promille-Girl”, an alcohol tester dressed in a fake police uniform and equipped with a measuring instrument to check people’s breath. What is feared on roads, proved to be popular among party people.
“Some people even handcuffed themselves to me
and stole my police hat.”
“You didn’t have to know much,” Rieke remembers. During daytime the job was easy, but when night fell and alcohol levels rose, fair visitors would crowd around her. During working hours she had to be completely sober of course – but everyone else was heavily drunk. “A terrible situation!” she recalls. “Some people even handcuffed themselves to me and stole my police hat”, Rieke laughs. It was mostly men who wanted to test their alcohol levels and sometimes even deliberately drank a shot before. Not everyone trusted the measuring device though. “Some doubted the results and sometimes we got an “Error!” message when people had way too much alcohol in their breath.”
The “Promille-Girls” charged 2,50 euro for testing, but only got 20 cents of that themselves. On a good day, they would earn 90 euro each. Rieke only worked as a “Promille-Girl” for one summer. “Getting to the fairs often took a very long time,” she says. Before and after this alcohol experience, she worked in other promotion services – with less of an alcoholic element.
Rieke studies MA Euroculture in Groningen and Bilbao.
Giota: Giving history lessons to tourists
As a sales person for tourists in Athens, Giota did not have ideal working conditions: a normal day meant 11 hours of work with a rude boss that liked yelling at employees. But the salary was okay and the co-workers were great. “I was working six days a week and I never knew when my day off would be. But I needed the money so that I could stay in Athens.”
“You sold me a broken Parthenon!”
Giota’s favourite customers were from the USA and India. Working with tourists was at times even amusing. “Once a guy came and wanted a miniature of the Parthenon. I gave him a replica of how it is today and he replied that he wanted another one because the one I gave him was broken!” The customer was not joking and Giota had a hard time educating him about the state of the ruins. In the end, she told him that he could buy the other half in London where half of the real temple is today!
“I learned that I can do anything if I want to.”
Even if the job was not always enjoyable, Giota feels that she gained some useful insights. “First of all, I learned that I can do anything if I want to. If I want, I can go past limits and work many hours.” Her interest in working with people from abroad was also fostered through her job as a tourist helper. It helped her to realise the differences in culture and mentality.
She quit her job after a while and is now looking for a Master’s programme. MA Euroculture would be an interesting choice to her.
Giota is from Greece and likes The Euroculturer magazine. She heard about it through her friend Penelope, our News Editor.
Murat: Interviewing KGB agents
Murat Tutar had a television intermezzo in his most random summer job. For three weeks last summer, he worked at a TV channel in his home country of Turkey. “It was everything”, he remembers, “Fun, passion, pain, gossip, lies, discipline!”
“You discover what is happening behind the screen.”
Working conditions were, however, precarious. No contract, no payment, no insurance, but he wanted to gain experience in the media world. Like so many other students working in summer jobs or unpaid internships, he recounts feeling “like a slave” at times. Murat describes the TV station as the CNN of Turkey: to get the opportunity to work at Habertürk TV was in itself a success. “You actually learn a lot in a short time”, he sums up, “because you discover what is happening behind the screen”. How to prepare a broadcast, talk to people on the streets, search for news, as well as familiarising himself with the rules and regulations of media work was part of his job. Knowing everything was the dictum.
His position was very informal: he was an intern, correspondent, interview, advertiser, and reporter – all at the same time. “You just go and work there, you learn, show what you can do”, Murat remembers. The employers wanted to see if he would be suited for a job at the TV channel. Getting hired was an option, but the Euroculture office called and offered him a spot in Krakow instead.
“Anna Chapman is in Istanbul now. Go find her and do an interview!”
The most exciting incident happened one afternoon when Murat’s boss walked in and asked if he spoke English. “Here is your mission”, his superior instructed him. “Anna Chapman is in Istanbul now. Go find her and do an interview!” A lot of questions popped into Murat’s head. Questions that he had to answer in the five minutes before the cameraman and the taxi were ready. “Who exactly is Anna Chapman, where is she, and how can I find her?” In the streets of Istanbul, with a population of 14 million, Murat set out to find the Russian ex-spy and now TV host, Anna Chapman. He did manage to find her, in a café, and convinced her to accept his interview request. “It happened entirely spontaneously. That was what I liked so much about my job: you go into the office in the early morning and it seems like nothing is happening, but then suddenly everything is turned upside down because of a particular piece of news,” Murat explains.
After this job, he does not watch the news like he did before. Working at the TV channel changed his perspective: “I know how much they cut and skip now. I don’t believe everything so easily any more”. To see the whole process of research and broadcasting was an enriching experience for him. Murat had taken media classes before, but real-life TV was a whole new world. Still, he is glad today that he exchanged the TV camera for the student’s desk again. “Euroculture is so many amazing topics to discuss. It’s new and exciting”.
Murat is a current MA Euroculture student at Jagiellonian University, Krakow and Palacky University, Olomouc.
What was your weirdest or best summer job? What do you think about working conditions for part-time workers? Let us know in our commentary field!
Helen Hoffmann, Creative Editor
Helen was part of the Euroculturer Cohort 2011-2013 and studied Euroculture in the University of Göttingen (DE) and Uppsala University (SW) where she was sufficiently “swedified” to today serve as the Country Manager of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Germany.
Her interests are film, literature, the Eurovision Song Contest (and not ashamed to admit it), and everything printed – even TV magazines. She’s also fascinated with communication, marketing and commercials. And of course, her interests include the Swedish Royal Family.