We cannot believe the amount of horror stories that we have heard from business owners, particularly in regional areas, that have had travellers working or woofing with them and just absolutely taken the piss. This is not just relating to international travellers either, but also Aussies who seem to forget their manners as well as their brains as soon as they leave the big cities. Besides that fact that it is always sad to hear that one human has ripped of another, I guess you’re asking yourself just how do the actions of other travellers affect you? The answer: their actions affects you in the same way that if affects us. A lack of future opportunities.
If travellers who are working or woofing in regional Australia continue to treat businesses that give them as a job with such disrespect, or contempt even, these businesses will simply stop hiring travellers.
If it’s no longer good economic or business sense to hire travellers, then why would they continue to put their reputation on the line for the sake of offering you a second year VISA or few months of work?
If businesses stop offering short-term work and woofing opportunities to travellers, then we will all be in trouble. Long-term travellers need work to be able to live this lifestyle that we live. If that work dries up, so does our nomadic freedom. Yikes.
So here are our simple tips for how not to be a douchebag when working or woofing in regional Australia. These are all from examples of real events that we have seen ourselves, or be told first hand by business owners who have had this happen to them.
- Don’t steal. Simple right? Well you would think so. We’re talking both big and little scale here. Don’t take money from the till, don’t steal soap or coffee from your housekeeping shift, don’t take a towel and the curtains when you leave. Just don’t do it. It makes all travellers look like thieves.
- Don’t take the piss. For example, if food is included in your work deal, then don’t eat like you’re at all-inclusive buffet for three months just to stick it to the boss or to see how far you push the friendship. Act and eat like a normal person. Treat your regional job just as you would any city job. We’re not sure why but people seem to think that they can slack of in regional areas and not try to impress as much as they would in the city. Not true. Unemployment in most regional areas is higher than in the cities, there are more people who could really use that job that you are taking for granted.
- If you don’t like the arrangement with your boss, then leave. Don’t spend all day winging and whining and contaminating the rest of the staff with your misery. You may think that you are being worked too hard, or that the conditions are shit, but it maybe perfect for someone else. All you’re doing by staying somewhere that you’re not happy is wasting your own time and making everyone else around you miserable. Move on.
- Don’t lie to your boss about your intentions. We saw a lot of backpackers who were working for accommodation in hostels along the coast. Many places request a three-week minimum for WFA arrangements. Many backpackers lie about wanting to stay these three weeks just to get a few nights for free. That screws everyone around. The existing staff are stuck training twice or three times as many new recruits and the hostel overall suffers. That being said. If you have every intention of staying the three weeks but find that after four days you are miserable, you hate the accommodation, the boss is a jerk and the hostel dirty then by all means refer to point 3 above and leave. You are not bound by your intentions in a WFA agreement, however if you’re straight up and honest with your boss from the start, then you can leave with your head held high.
- Make sure that you understand the difficulties and restraints that many regional businesses face in Australia. Maybe you’re working in a drought-stricken area, a bushfire-prone region or somewhere remote that has additional freight and cartage fees on all their produce to consider. If there are water restrictions or fire-bans in your area, observe them. Ask questions about them and do your best to understand the rules. Chances are that if you’re in a regional area (and not on a fruit farm) fresh produce maybe expensive and hard to come by. Don’t be an ass and complain about it. Everyone around you is well aware of the situation and would probably also like some fresh strawberries or an apple from time to time. But they manage with what they have and while you’re working there, you should too.
- Don’t judge people who are different than yourself. We are city kids, from the greenbelt northern suburbs of Melbourne. Our electorate has one of the highest Greens votes in Australia and the area is brimming with vegetarian and vegan restaurants, Socialist Alternative posters advertising Marxism discussion groups and bearded hipsters who are saving/changing the world by brewing craft beer in the bathroom/laundry of their share-house. We were recently working in an area where ‘greenie’ is a dirty word and may of the customers have very different political, world and cultural than us. That does not make them wrong, or us wrong. Simply different.
- Know your place and just go with the flow. Guess what, once you leave that job your boss will be just find someone to replace you and the world will continue to turn. Your years of experience and all your qualifications mean very little when you’re a travelling worker. What your boss and co-workers want you to do is put your head down and get the job done. What they do not want you to do is tell them how you think the job should be done, point out every inefficiency you see and try to implement your own regime whilst you’re working there. You were not hired as a consultant and at the end of the day you’re leaving to continue on your travels, but they are staying. You are new, they have been doing this a while. You may not see the reasons that things are done the way they are, or you may not even agree with the way things are down. But that is the way that you should do them while you’re on their payroll.
- Keep your room and yourself tidy, clean and presentable. Many regional jobs will come with accommodation included. It can be difficult when you are living and working in the same location to separate your home time and your wok time, but you need to do it. It’s okay to have messy hair and walk around the premises unshowered on your time off, but when you’re in work hours, make sure you are presentable and clean. It does not mater if you live only 20 meters from the front door of your workplace, make sure you are presentable and ready for work when you walk in the door. Speaking of your living quarters, treat it like you would a rental property that you have paid a bond for. That room should be kept clean and returned to the boss in the same, in not in a better condition that when you were given it. If travellers continue to trash rooms or leave them in states of filth then bosses will no longer allow free accommodation to be included in the deal, or they will not bother to clean the accommodation before the next travellers, figuring that we’re all as disgusting as each other.
- Enjoy yourself and take up every opportunity offered! If you act like a nice, caring human being, then opportunities will come your way. Be sure to say YES PLEASE to all of them and not act like an unhappy child sulking in your room all day. Yes, life in regional Australia can be rough, and at times you will want to shut your door and just be by yourself. But make an effort to be social and not a hermit.
- Be thankful. This is an opportunity that not everyone gets. Just remember that and be thankful; even when the shit get rough think about all the people who struggling just to get a position somewhere. The alternative is that you head back home, or get one of those ‘real’ jobs that your parents keep talking about – and neither of those sounds at all attractive to us and we’re guessing they’re not attractive option for your either.
So do your fellow traveller (us) a favour and just don’t act like a douchebag, you’re ruining it for us all.