The Story of the Dish-washer

30 Sep

This is my story. It is not fictional, but a real one. It began in 2008, a month after I have  firstly arrived in the Netherlands.

For exactly two years, I have been part of the Dutch system and had the chance to witness how certain levels of the business, administration, politics and culture worked. Employed as a dishwasher in a grand cafe, I was simultaneously negotiating an identity of a student and an employee. I was an international students who contributes for the diversity in a college and  a dishwasher who occupied the lowest position in a restaurant.

The dishwasher, Het Snitzelparadijs
My life mimiced  the story of the protagonist from the famous Dutch comedy Het Schnitzelparadijs, however not too exaggerated. Like Nordip, the protagonist, I intended to distance myself from school and establish new relationships with locals. In contrast with him, I combined studying and working. However, the romantic story line in the movie did not happen to me.

Based on my personal experience I claim that the wish-washing position is occupied by teenagers and immigrants. Firstly, teenagers supply cheep labor for the Dutch market not only in restaurants, but also in many other sectors. One could see teenagers working in the supermarkets, snack shops, pizza huts and so forth. This does not directly imply exploitation of children labor. Secondly, immigrants are given the position of a dishwasher due to their inability to speak good Dutch or due the demonstrated Dutch employers’ superiority towards other nations. Implicit associations make it also possible for people from a mixed origin (Egyptians, Moroccans, Turkish etc),  although in a possession of a Dutch passport, to be hired as dishwashers.

I was bound in the second category. A man in his early adulthood who was alienated from his country of origin and who had no command of the native language.  I had to quickly adjust to the new circumstances in the environment. Perhaps, I had chance to find any kind of a job even if it was ‘shitty’. It was vital because I could pay my tuition fee and housing rent.

However, not everything was that rosy. Trapped between the political- economical restriction of the Dutch law, I had to find ways to beg for the desired work-permit which would give me the possibility of receiving a student financing from the the Dutch government.

My boss, a authoritarian figure, did not care much of the personal stories of his employees and pretended not to know that I needed a work-permit.  For him any thing that involved filling of a documents, even if they were 5 pages, was a tedious chore. Since he was too demanding and less sympathetic, I had difficulties communicating with him. However, one day when he was left with a few personnel, I urged him to apply for the work-permit which every employer was required to ask if a foreigner was about to work in a Dutch organization. I got it, but too late. After year and a half, working three days in the week (more hours that the average student at a college during the semester), I had the chance to get extra financing from the government.

This is not the happy end of the story, yet. In the restaurant I met employees  who were ‘cool’ and others who were too much into their work as if their job was their life. Unfortunately, the ones I got along with left the restaurant very soon because of the boss or because they were unsatisfied of other things.

Although I was not completely satisfied, I was limited in my choice and opportunities for a new job.  However, I used every opportunity at the dish-washer position to learn and practise some Dutch, to get to know the ‘Dutch’ cuisine, the manner of offering, preparing and serving beverages and meals.

When I got solid competences and enough experience I wanted to leave, but the boss insisted that I had to stay since I had a contract until the end of the month (although the work-permit was expired).  In addition, he said that he would make me a problem if I did not show up at work. I did not bother to complain to any authorities because I could survive working one month extra.  At the end of the month, I showed up for the last time. The boss was sad. He shared that I made him a big problem because an inspection checked him and found out that I was working without a work-permit.  He paid EUR 4000. I was wandering how it was possible to be in the restaurant business for years and pretending not to know what documents your employees need before you hire them.

This is the “happy” end of my dishwasher story.


2 Responses to “The Story of the Dish-washer”

  1. Adiba 17.10.2010 at 2:22 am #

    nice one Miro…I’m glad you got your happy ending.
    thanks for stopping by at my blog. 😉


  1. Big Achievement (B.A) « WordPuzzle - 29.08.2011

    […] out the lecturer‘s handouts in advance to take notes in class. To finance my study, I have done the dishes in a restaurant for two years. Because I was required to live on campus, I socialized easily with people from […]

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