Feeling like I am not allowed to participate

Posted: May 23, 2011 in employment

OF late I have been on the old job hunting roundabout.  Living in a small country town in Norway as a foreigner can be a little frustrating at times.  Whilst I am aware that my personality and manner can be construed as brash and somewhat aggressive, I still feel that the playing field isn’t level.

Recently I had a particularly nasty experience when applying for a job.  The job in question was at a hardware store.  I was employed at a hardware store in Geilo for 6 years and underwent many of the training courses and even took my trade certificate in sales and service in Norwegian, attaining a good grade.

It was an all too familiar chain of events that finally motivated me to put my foot down, or get off my arse, whatever the case may be and do something about what I perceived to be a ridiculous state of affairs.

I noticed a job advertised in the usual places on the net and in the local paper.  They wanted someone for the summer, with the possibility of full time employment if things worked out. The requirements listed were the usual stuff, but they were after someone who knew about paint, mixing paint and being able to ascertain what customers required.

So I duly sent off my CV and cover letter and was surprised to receive a rapid response.  No more than 15 minutes later I was rang by a very excited case worker at the employment agency that was handling the applications.  They expressed that I was well suited for the position, had all the relevant training and experience and my knowledge of paint, fireplaces, flooring and tools as well as the fact that I run a small handyman service in the area came together to qualify me as a very suitable applicant for the position.  I could start straight away, I could come down for an interview that day if required  and I was keen to get work, even if it was just for the summer season.

Here in Geilo we have lots of winter work, being a ski resort and all, and I really enjoy my work at the ski lift working with the kids and new beginners, really involving and fun, rewarding to see the progress and joy people get when they finally nail it.

Anyway, the case worker said they would make a call to the company that had engaged them to fill the position and that I should expect a call back really soon, so get ready to jump in the car and head down for an interview.  So far, so good, perhaps my day was looking up.

I duly continued my job hunting, trawling the net for positions vacant and sending applications.  After about 2 hours I realised that they hadn’t called back, so took the initiative and made a call to the case worker who had contacted me earlier.  What happened next was to say the least, infuriating and extremely mortifying.

The same case worker who was so energetic and excited earlier was suddenly very cagey, and reticent, not at all happy to be having to speak to me.  This rung some alarm bells and I asked how it went.  I was then informed that I was not suitable for the position which struck me as a little odd, seeing as how I met all the criteria. So down the garden path we went with myself asking why not and what had changes.

” they have found another applicant that is better suited for the position and they are very interested in them” was the reply.

So I queried; were they as qualified as I was, with the same experience, training, especially in regards to paint?

“ahh, yes, no, maybe , you aren’t suitable for the position” came a very sheepish reply.

I started to wonder a little more as this sudden reversal is becoming all too familiar here.

I dared to ask the direct question;

” Is it because I am not Norwegian?”

 The reply was a very embarrassed yes.

Now I understand that an employment agency has to follow the instructions of the company that engages it.  But I have to admit, having my suspicions confirmed like this was really offensive and quite frankly, downright scary.  I mean, Norway is a modern Western country, a player in the globalised marketplace and the culture has borrowed heavily from foreign ideas, methods, technology and other aspects.  Pretty sure Norway didn’t invent pizza, the automobile or many of the other things that permeate the society.

In the past I have had positions where all is well, then a new manager pops into the picture and the personality clash arises.  I am pretty independent and have learnt how to make decisions based on the available information and in-line with the stated objectives of a business.  But I have been harassed by a manager due to my nationality, held to different standards than the Norwegians I worked with, subjected to unreasonable scrutiny, especially as this manager created such a climate of fear, the fear of being the person in the gunsights, that the inevitable backstabbing  develops as people attempt to not be noticed.  I have been told to my face, with witnesses present that I am not paid correctly as I am a foreigner and that I work to subside the higher wages of the Norwegians in the company.

Wonder why I get a little pissed off?

My nature is not that of a person who gives up, lies down or tolerates injustice or bigotry.  This doesn’t always work out well for me and being met by brick walls, being hauled over the coals for the slightest infraction and having a manger jump into the middle of a situation, ignorant of all the facts and then attacking my integrity is somewhat infuriating.  This of course leads to the anger issue and the explosions that follow.

Don’t get me wrong, I seek no excuses and see the mistakes that I made in that situation, I could definitely approached and dealt with the situations better and more ‘diplomatically’,  but the question still plagues me; what is the problem with these people?

Why in a country that has mass tourism, both in and out of its borders, are foreigners treated as inferior, somewhat stupid and only worthy of subservient positions?  Why in a tourist town dependant on foreign tourism can the foreigners not get more involved in the tourism sector?  Perhaps we have a perspective that is important to incorporate into the marketing and delivery standards of the ‘product’.

Why is it acceptable to discriminate on the basis of nationality alone?  What is it that leads people to believe that they are superior by birthright?  And really, are Norwegians aware of just how recently they crawled out of being one of the poorest and undereducated nations in Western Europe?  Judge me by my experience, my education, my training and my results.  Treat me as a person, not a threat to your culture.  If your culture is so fragile, is it really likely that it will survive?  Can I please be allowed to contribute and participate?  to do my share and pitch in, to contribute to the society as a whole is the core of some of the values I was taught as a child and still adhere to.

Allow me to maintain my integrity and my honour.

If I hear the word competence used one more time to disguise xenophobia I think I will go completely, stark raving, cornflakes in my underwear, nuts.  And yes, I can communicate in Norwegian, I speak it (albeit with my own special dialect – ‘Halling-Stralsk’ a combination of Halling and Australian), read it everyday, especially newspapers, the job ads and other media available on the net and I can write it, although I need to work on this as I slaughter the grammar with a very large and messy axe.  For that I do apologise.  I am working on it…

So there you have it, my little rant for the day.   Somewhat disjointed and all over the place generally.

But it feels good to get it out.  Suggestions?

  1. Ian Anderson says:

    You are scaring me Craig…. 🙂

    You really did need a blog didn’t you! Walking around with all that inside you can’t be good for anyone!

    Bit scared though as I have only been here exactly a year, lol! Already though I have come to the conclusion that I will either have to sell something outside of Norway or be self employed here in some way.

    I have been a ‘house husband’ for the last couple of years (although was also teaching myself HTML and wordpress plus learning how internet marketing works) and my youngest starts school in August so I thought that I would have a look at the job market.

    Quickly realised that getting a job is a non starter. All the construction agencies want to send me to Oslo to start at 7am. meaning 5.30am starts. Not for me since I find it very difficult to go to bed before midnight and I can’t take the kids to school quite that early!

    I am afraid that there are no 9 to 5 construction jobs on the tools and no language keeps me out of the office.

    Did you really write all of this in one day off the top of your head man? Kudos if you did.

    The .com part of wordpress has some really cool themes, all the ones over at the .org are boring by comparison. This one looks great!

    Thanks for the info about your handyman stuff, right on the button and about what I was thinking of. Just quoted for a big terrasse (60m) so fingers crossed for the next few weeks. Just need to find out what insurance I need by law to operate and to register for the dreaded VAT (avoided it for 25 years in the UK, but then the registration threshold is 750,000 before needing to register.)

    Looking forward to the work but not the Norsk tax system……

    Anyhoo, talking of work, I should go and do some now, the kids have been asleep ages!….Catch you later mate,

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