If you’ve explored my site a little you will know that last semester I studied abroad in Australia. One of the few reasons studying abroad in Sydney is difficult is the high cost of living. The exchange rate is close enough to 1 to 1 that either way you exchange money you get less than what you give, but everything is around 20-25% more expensive. So, I needed to get a job. side note: it was cheaper to withdraw money from my American bank account using an Australian ATM and deposit it in my Australian account than to electronically transfer the money online… why? This practice also probably caused the teller at the bank to think I was a drug dealer.
As for the job, I began by searching on Gumtree, their version of Craigslist. After a couple of days of no success I found a listing for working the “till” (cash register) at a Vietnamese place called MissChu’s. The location was ideal, not because it was close, but because to get there I got to take a bus through downtown Sydney. The ride was only 20 minutes, but navigating the Sydney bus system is more of an art than a science. Even after taking the trip dozens of times, (spoiler; I got the job) the buses I took still seemed to work like the stairways at Hogwarts. The manager was a great guy, and liked me enough to ask me to return the next day for a practice run.
The cash register was laid out in a way that, for the most part, was completely logical. The difficult part was to recognize the 100 different ways people would identify the items they wanted, especially while I was getting to know the menu myself. I took pictures of the cash register and a copy of the menu home so that I could practice. I even asked some of my housemates to ask for different items using small pieces of their name to help me learn. Over time, I got the hang of the cash register.
Still, I was not an elite member of the team yet. Some items; the dumplings and the rice paper rolls, were prepared in the front, while everything else needed to be called out and placed on a chalk board for the kitchen. At first, to keep my life simple, I had been told to just call out the items and not worry about writing them up. Eventually though, I had to advance. To keep this short, the chalkboard was not as simple as one might expect, but eventually I got it.
After I felt like a professional with the chalkboard I needed to learn how to prepare the dumplings, which all looked similar. Keeping it short, eventually I did. The rest of the things I learned are not that interesting. Instead I would like to refocus on my enjoyment working there.
I’m not sure why, but I had always wanted to work as a waiter somewhere, probably a combination of enjoying interacting with many people as well as the stimulating fast pace working environment. Finally I had found that opportunity. I found a picture of the actual place I was working: (the place did well enough that there are now 6ish around Sydney and one in Melbourne)
Ignore the grumpy looking girl, she probably looked like that because the place was so popular that there was often a large line of have-heres, take-aways, and deliveries (oh la la, Australian lingo). As you can see from the photo, it was a real hole-in-the-wall type place. I LOVED this. While you were super busy you were forced to constantly dodge and lean over your crew-mates. It heightened the exciting fast-passed nature that I enjoyed.
Another advantage of the place was that I got to work deliveries on one of these hot rides:
Australians do not tip, a custom that eventually I began to like (though not while I was working). Nonetheless, working deliveries was great. Though at times it was nerve-racking having to bike on the wrong side of the road, I got to learn the area well. My learning was helped by the fact that I did not have a smartphone while in Australia. (Don’t worry, my phone was super high-tech sporting such luxuries as T9 texting and a pixellated solitaire game) Lack of a smart phone with a GPS caused me to look up where I was going before getting lost and asking people for directions. As it sounds, I spent a fair amount of time getting paid to ride around in circles in hopes that I would find where I needed to go. Perhaps another reason I liked deliveries was because the first place I delivered to was a brothel. Actually, they were one of the few places where I got a tip; no, it was a $2 coin. Eventually I learned the area and needed only to write out the last turn or two to get to the right place. (another side note: in Australia the street numbers are terrible, it is common if not the norm for the numbers to not match up whatsoever with the numbers across the street)
The best part about the place had to be the friends I made there. Most of the employees were from Southeast Asia, but others were Australian, English, and South African. Working in a fast paced environment really brings everyone together. We worked hard, we owned our mistakes but got past them, and we had fun. It seemed like some sort of erratic dance we all did behind the scenes to create an illusion of simplicity for our customers.
Oh, one other advantage: the rice paper rolls we did not sell were free