Getting Deported Ain’t So Bad

IMG_0012After almost 5 glorious months of living and working in Copenhagen, sadly I’ve had to pack my bags and skedaddle out of there. Life in Denmark’s big smoke was hectic, but awesome. Just when I thought I had it all sorted – a job I loved, with awesome workmates and a great collection of friends (no small task in a very introverted culture when compared to the likes of NZ), a fabulous apartment (also a marathon effort with central city housing subject to incredible competition). Unfortunately for me, the government seems to have taken a pretty tough stance on immigration in the last few years, and decided (in the words of the immigration office) I wasn’t “special” enough. After a long discussion I managed to translate the reasoning into something a little less literal. In essence, the government has decided that unless you are super highly skilled (Masters degree minimum) and being paid over 384,000kr (around NZ$84,000) per year, work permits were only being handed out to EU citizens as unemployment is so high. Sadly in a graduate job at a startup, and with a mere bachelors degrees, I fit into neither of those categories. It would have been real nice of them to mention that on the visa application form, or any official website, or when I handed in my application and asked “is this likely to be approved?”

Now this is a view I am most definitely going to miss!

Now this is a view I am most definitely going to miss!

Never mind. Communication has never been the forte of any Danish bureaucratic organisation. Or politician for that matter. I’ve decided to pin the blame squarely on NZ’s favourite Danish politician Marie Krarup, given it was (so I’m told) the disproportionately large influence of the Folkeparti (coalition governments and all that) that contributed to the tightening up of the immigration regulations (but seemingly only behind closed doors).

And so on to Plan B. Go off on an adventure, being sure to catch some sun before heading back to NZ. Plan B involved chilling out on a beach somewhere for a few weeks (maybe Greece? Maybe Spain), using the money I (not without great difficulty) got back from the enormous deposit I paid for my apartment. I still had 3 weeks before the official “fuck off out of our country” date (OK, maybe it wasn’t worded quite that bluntly, but it was close) and in those three weeks my imagination spun wildly out of control. Before I knew it, I’d launched into Plan C and embarked on an adventure with no set plans, no exact date of return home and a whole lot of excitement. Luckily for me there are plenty more letters in the alphabet before I have to resort to the plan that involves selling my body.

Whilst on the one hand, finding myself jobless and homeless on the opposite side of the globe is pretty much the definition of stress, on the other hand it is also very exciting! Fortunately my initial life backup plan, should my job in Copenhagen not work out for any reason (be it the visa, or the fact I started as an intern, or that I was working at a startup), was already in action. I’ve been studying by distance through Massey University, slowly making my way towards a Masters in Economics. So plan C involved heading somewhere I could live off my student loan living costs of NZ$172 per week, that didn’t cost to much to get there. Say hola Spain! My first stop and current destination is Granada, to visit a lovely friend of mine studying on exchange who not only offered me somewhere to sleep but has been giving me a crash course in Spanish and been a wonderful tour guide.

Whilst making my extravagant plans, I’ve also been looking for all sorts of ways to reduce my living costs and increase my income. Step one has been eliminating accommodation costs. After a great tip-off from another friend, I signed up to Workaway, which is sort-of like  Wwoofing only instead of (or as well as) working on organic farms, you can find all kinds of short term work-for-accommodation type arrangements. Given I have worked for the past 4 months in a company specialising in online advertising, I’ve managed to lock in some work opportunities that can help me build those skills and do something somewhat career relevant (as much fun as manual labour or childcare would be). First stop is a Spanish language school in Conil De Frontera who wants some help with office admin, social media, and some ideas to relaunch their website and get a bit more traffic. I think the thing I’m most excited about is that I get Spanish lessons for free. Already in just a few short days in Granada I’ve learned so much, and it has really put in to perspective just how difficult Danish was to learn. Ironically enough, I was proud to realise on my very last day in Denmark as I called up to cancel the power and internet bills, I could finally understand and navigate my way through the customer service menus. Slim chance of me finding that language useful ever again, but at least I know what buttons to press now…

In terms of upping the income, in my short time working for Admazely, I quickly discovered my favourite part of the job was writing the company blog. No surprises, given the amount of content on this here blog that I’ve churned out as a hobby. I had been thinking for a while that it would be great to turn writing in to a full time gig, and getting the boot from Copenhagen has certainly thrown me out of the nest fairly quickly. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find there are a number of opportunities out there. From friends with connections, to Elance, an online market place for freelancers of all types to Copify, the site that has thus far been the most lucrative. Whilst many sites (like Elance) require you to bid against the masses for a shot at a somewhat vaguely described job, once you’ve been accepted on Copify it is a first-in-best-served situation, which gives a level of certainty I am much more keen on. While a lot of the jobs are small and low paid, there a quite a few of them, and its not a bad deal if you land one writing a press release or something with a larger word count.

So for anyone else wanting to go adventuring on the cheap, I can definitely recommend a make-your-own-exchange with Massey distance learning, working for free accommodation  and seeing if you have some skills to sell online. And for all those viewing from home, unless I end up on plan D, or E, or F, I’m aiming to be back on the mothership in September.

Well I can think of worse places to study...

Well I can think of worse places to study…

96. Move to the Countryside

After a few financial scares kicking me in to action (a certain NZ government department that seems to have cut their monkey-training budget and just employs monkeys with NO idea messing with my student loan and even McDonald’s not considering me for employment) I decided to get a little creative with my job hunt. On the search for a babysitting job, I came across an Au Pair matching website and got talking to a lovely family that lives just outside of Aarhus. Next thing I’m living out in the country!

Some have critiqued such a choice, particularly moving in with a relatively unknown family. Certainly you have to approach these sorts of things with reason and caution, for example the single Dad with a baby advertising for an au pair and ‘personal assistant.’ Who knows, could have been a lovely guy but there were alarm bells there. Or the families who specify they only want someone from the Philippines so they can take advantage of the difficulties getting jobs and visas by overworking some poor girl. Anyway, I think I’ve struck gold with this particular family. So far it has proved to be an amazing way to truly immerse myself in the culture, learn a bunch of things I never would in a dorm, increase my Danish vocabulary, and most importantly they treat me like I am part of the family.
It has also provided a great opportunity to learn about Danish food and customs, try out recipes of things I have discovered on my travels and just generally enjoy having a proper kitchen! So expect a whole lot more cooking posts.

The downside is i am now about an hour out of town, but commuting has been pretty good for getting my readings done before class. And I only seem to have classes a couple of days a week most of the time so it isn’t too much of a tax!
Living out in the country provides for some beautiful views too, some of which are featured below. I feel awfully European when I cycle through the beautiful green fields to get to the bus stop. Any romantic illusions are, however, shattered by the fact that as we approach spring/summer, it is that time of year where farmers cover their fields with animal excrement…

16. Rejected by McDonald’s

Maybe it is paranoia, but I am really worried I am going to run out of money this year. I still get student loan payments during regular, NZ University weeks (which haven’t started yet) but they barely cover my rent here in Denmark. So one of the first things I have been doing is looking for a job.

The other reason, which is probably more important, is that I believe that working in Denmark will not only be helpful for learning the language, but also for meeting the locals and getting a completely different perspective on the culture, something you don’t get as a tourist, or when lumped in with the International Students.

It is (unsurprisingly) quite difficult to find work when you don’t speak the local language. My options so far are bartending, waiting, cleaning, packing boxes and other such warehouse/labouring work. I will just about do anything! I was, however, quite excited when I saw that McDonald’s was hiring. Surely an International, food-based, American owned company would hire an English speaker with relevant hospitality experience. But alas as I got halfway through the application, it turns out they wouldn’t let me proceed because I am over 18 and they would therefore have to pay me more. I am now officially against Youth Rates, thank you very much Mr John Banks.*

Throughout the process I had read a fair bit about the Danish CV style being somewhat different to, well, the rest of the world. Working in NZ and Australia my experience (and that of sitting on the other side of the interview table and reading piles of CVs) is that brief, obvious bullet points of your relevant experience are at the top of the priority list. In Denmark, however, every piece of advice was to ‘use your CV to tell a story about yourself.’ This seemed a very odd concept, especially as there is fierce competition for jobs so you would think the less reading the better. Luckily there is a Career Centre on campus, and a specific office for International students who first of all read through my CV and ripped it to pieces with criticism, and then helped me re-write it in a completely different way. Along with a number of conventional tweaks, the main change was writing a paragraph after each job you have done which describes the outcomes of the job and the skills you gained and what you liked and disliked about each job. While in NZ there are a number of different ways to write a CV, the Danes seem to be quite specific about only using one or two types.

Another challenge is cutting down the size. I always find it difficult to stay under a word limit, so some helpful feedback on what experience to include for each job I was applying for was really good.

The next issue was the Danish-vs-English CV debate. At first I had read that a Danish CV and cover letter (although with the amount of description in your CV apparently cover letters aren’t that important and often aren’t read) will have a much greater competitive advantage. However, for certain jobs I have had to reconsider, as I feel it would be misleading to give a Danish CV when I don’t actually speak Danish. So depending on what is in the ad, how much communication will be required and what their process are I have only sent my CV in English. Lucky for me I have an absolutely wonderful housemate who helped me to translate my CV, or more accurately, did some incredible proof reading after I put it through Google Translate!

Fingers crossed I get some employment soon… or at the very least have some interesting experiences with Danish style job interviews…

*Not that the Act Party ever had my vote in the first place…