“I’ll laugh it off and simply say “We’ll see what happens”, because I’m far too polite to burst their corporate bubble”.
Over the years, I have found myself working a variety of different jobs to keep the dream alive and fund my “extended gap-year”, as I hear it labelled all too often. Despite common misconceptions, it’s not all sunny powder days on the mountain and wild après-ski parties. Life as a British expat in Austria can be tough. Evidently, the language barrier one way or another contributes most, in my opinion, to some of the hardships of living in this foreign country. Admittedly, I could almost certainly have tried a lot harder to speed up the learning process but the bone idle part of me has become too comfortable socialising with other English speakers and thus having little need to become fluent in German. I have worked for my fair share of British travel agencies, pulled pints in countless shady bars and offered my knowledge of the area to hapless English visitors as a tour guide. Turns out, the latter of which I actually demonstrated quite some flair and offered a slightly more valuable experience for my clients other than “if you look left you will see Austria; and if you look right, you will also see Austria”. Result! Unfortunately English speaking tour guides in Austria aren’t paid quite as high as say a Prime Minister, Doctor or even a Cashier at the local supermarket but it was progress and an important part of immersing myself in the culture and perhaps gaining more of a true sense of what it’s like to be a working member of the Austrian society.
Despite the trials and tribulations of my lifestyle, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that I am a far cry from impoverished nations all over the world nor am I relying on food banks to feed my 6 hungry children. You won’t hear the “life is hard because Daddy didn’t leave me a trust fund” speech coming from me.
That being said, the classic image of spending a season in the mountains suggests nothing of the low paid work, dreadfully early starts and disgruntled customers demanding a refund on their holiday because “the snow is not as white as the pictures in the brochure”. Or the empty feeling experienced as soon as the snow begins to melt and you’re on the first plane back to England. Or deciding you’ll just “wing it” for the summer, knowing anything is better than being back home, only to realise there aren’t so many ways to afford such a lifestyle whilst the tourists are recovering from their ski trip on a beach somewhere in Spain. Least of all, searching for an affordable apartment with limited language skills which in a luxury ski resort, amounts to a filthy sofa in the basement of a derelict building on the outskirts of town.
Yes, you’ve guessed it. I’ve been there, done that. Got the T-Shirt, put it in the bin and fished it out again because I was a penniless seasonaire who couldn’t afford another. So the next time someone, in that distinctive condescending tone I am all too familiar with, asks me…
“When are you going to get a real job back in the UK?”
I’ll laugh it off and simply say “We’ll see what happens”, because I’m far too polite to burst their corporate bubble. Unbeknown to these self-righteous darlings, I know only too well that the view from a chairlift at 8am looks a whole lot better than the inside of their boss’ office.