WHEN I moved into my new house in Clapham, I asked one of my housemates about how easy it was getting work in the area.
“It’s pretty easy,” he said.
“People love Aussies over here, because we’re not afraid of a bit of hard work.”
That made sense to me. After all, if you’ve ever seen a VB ad you’d know that at our core we’re a country of sweaty metal workers, unfazed by the beating sun coming down on our soot smudged faces.
Armed with this I set out with a fistful of resumes. I soon realised that I’d been somewhat deluded. For one employer my accent seemed as off-putting as if I’d come in looking for heroin and then casually asked if they had any jobs going on my way out.
After handing over my perfectly acceptable CV, this guy arched back in his chair.
“The problem with you Australian guys is we train you up and then in a few months you’ll go off travelling,” he said.
I assured him that I’d just signed a six month lease and wasn’t going anywhere.
“I just can’t risk it. I’m not having a go at you, but it’s just a nuisance on my side.”
I should probably point out at this juncture that the manager wasn’t some dusty, monocle wearing, snoot, jabbing me in the chest with his cane in between tea sips. He wasn’t getting pay-back for sometime a digger had blown a raspberry at him while he was stationed in Tobruk. Rather, he was drawing on a fairly contemporary cliché of Australians ex-pats as nomadic shirkers.
“Look,” he said, “my advice for the next place you go is don’t mention you’re…”
“Australian?” I interrupted.
“No, a traveller” he answered, as if the two were synonymous. I hadn’t mentioned any plans for future travel. I told him I’d been in the UK for 8 months, and planned to be here for good, but he just shrugged to indicate the conversation was over. I left him with my CV and walked out.
Whilst it’s unfair to say the cafe-owner’s reaction was typical of the English attitude towards Australian workers, it made me wonder whether being a young Australian is a disadvantage in the job market. It at least seems we’re required to justify ourselves more than any other English-speaking jobseeker. Where is the line between affectionate jibes at our national identity and hardcore prejudices?
Anyway, I’d love to finish the article, but my flight to Spain is boarding…