Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Problem of Work

I keep having a routine conversation with everyone. Someone asks me if I want to stay in Croatia, usually with a little disbelief in their voice. I say, of course... If I can find enough work. Then my interlocutor sort of laughs because the difficulty in finding enough work in Croatia is no joke. So of course we have to laugh about it.

I can kind of understand why it has to be this way. It’s like a cosmic irony. If jobs were plentiful in Croatia, then Croatia would just be too good. It would be a place with a beautiful seaside, no street crime, affordable healthcare, and a charming life style, filled with leisurely coffees, beautiful women, and punicas that cooked and clean all the time for you. There would be no challenge and it would be the closest you could get to paradise. The universe cannot allow this. Just like we need Mondays because the work week has to start at some point, we can’t have any place being too perfect. Nope. Sorry.

The problem that many of us face is that fact that we actually have work. We just don’t get paid enough or have enough of it to pay us well. We are the Honorarac. Part time, underpaid, expendable employees, who are stuck in employment limbo. We make just enough to live, but not enough to give us a steady future. We can’t get bank loans. We have no pension, and even though we work full time are still officially classified as unemployed. We are the non-existent underlings who keep Croatia functioning. Unfortunately, we are the future. We are the new class, the precariate: “a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security.”

For those like me, who foolishly decided to do a PhD, a similar situation actually exists in the US. AND believe it or not the Croatia situation is actually better. Better because poverty in America is terrifying! If I was trying to pursue  an academic career in the US, I would be condemned to the world of adjuncts. While I am basically playing the same role here in Croatia, I and my family at least have health insurance and live in a crime free neighborhood. Living off equivalent wages with no benefits in the US, would put us in the ghetto without my daughter even having health insurance. Croatia 1: USA 0.

Croatia, really, I love you and want to live in you forever. But it’s tough. Finding a full time, permanent position in Croatia is like winning the lottery. Really. It. is. like. winning. the. lottery. I have 2 jobs and don’t make enough to pay my monthly rent. I nearly earn less than I did working at a grocery store in high school. My little brother in New York makes what I make in a month, in a day. I don’t make any money from my blog (but I am paid in Likes, comments, and a dedicated readership, which is better than money). And yet, it’s not all about money (then again, it actually is).

So why stay? I want to stay because I actually believe we have a future here. The longer I’m outside of the US, the more it terrifies me. And of course, it’s not all about money. I am a hrvatski zet. That means something. I believe that I am able to feel an affection for this land that my wife would never be able to feel for America. And that my readers, is the difference between here and there. Here things run deep, connections are thicker, time stands still and through all that, life, my life has become something different, something profound.

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21 comments:

  1. Great post. Kudos for the "leap of faith" (language program startup thingie), hope it works out. Since I'm an IT guy - are you experienced in C++ programming? If you are, I might have a position for you. I think there's work out there if you're willing to stretch out and be flexible bout it. The options are very limited tho and this is where ur post kicks in. Keep up the good work! =)

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  2. Thank you very much for your text. It made me cry of pride that I live in such a country you describe and with such brave people like yourself. It is true, we Croats do not know to appreciate the beauty of our country and luxury of social security we have built for centuries. We should have more of this kind of text. Regarding your idea about teaching Croats to speak up English - this is great. It is exactly what is needed for young and not so young Croats who I think are good in learning foreign languages. I wish you all the luck and thank you for deciding to stay in Croatia and make it better place for us Croats.

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  3. you are so right about permanent job. when i finally got it, first thing i did, i got pregnant. 32, no time to lose.

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  4. Wonderful article Cody! Wishing you all the best with this course, I think that's an amazing idea! It's exactly what many of us need, more use of our oral skills, there are not many opportunities to use spoken english really and because of that the communication skills we have are only deteriorating with time. Would love to be a part of it!

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  5. Hrvatski zete, you are damn right and you know what, I believe in you! Great post, thanks :)

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  6. Viva Las Croatia! Who needs to work when we have cheap coffee, smokes, and spica!

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  7. I was so happy when I got a job with paid accomodation and other treats in a cosy Foggy Bottom part of Wash. DC. and said goodbye to Croatia. Boy was I wrong! After 3 months (because I couldn't endure more) I found myself kissing the ground outside the Zagreb Airport.

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  8. Cody,
    I like your idea, good luck. Also, we need something like a www.toastmasters.org.
    About the job market: it is not easy even in Australia to find a job. For sure you might be a night filler in a supermarket, but no future in that as well with an average of $200p/w for a room (or bed).
    I've never got a job in Cro with a "veza" (connections). Was lucky enough to apply and win the interviews. For the Government jobs as well. However, life is short and found myself in here. Wasn't easy but it paid off.

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  9. I vouch for your ability to make interesting conversation - some of my favourite memories of Lawrence are conversing and debating ... okay and arguing with you! It sounds like a great idea!

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  10. Having seen the difficult economic situation in Croatia first-hand, I can only wish you and your family the best of luck. For bringing me much laughter through your blog, I sincerely hope things will some day get at least a little easier. For you and hopefully, many more Croatians and even those who dream of returning. And good luck with Speak Up!.

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  11. Cody, best of luck with the language school! and I agree with Andri - conversations with you are always interesting! ;-)

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  12. Damn money ruins everything! I hear a little sadness on your voice, and yet so love at the same time. Here is to you and your next project making it big time!

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  13. Check this out, Cody:
    http://www.jutarnji.hr/hep-trazi-ucitelje-stranih-jezika--nastava-tijekom-radnog-vremena-u-tvrtki-/1124207/

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  14. You actually brought a tear to my eye. Your text reflected most of the things I keep telling my wife whenever she complains about difficulty of living here and would it be better to go somewhere else. and boy, i wish I was back in zagreb to attend your courses.

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  15. Dude, if you don't like it here or can't earn enough, get your ass back to the US. There are more than 300.000 Croatians unemployed and you say you have two jobs? I don't have a clue where you live, but if you can't afford the rent there, move out of the city. In Sesvete, you can rent a 3-bedroom house for 1200kn/month.
    So don't try to make us feel sorry for your situation.
    Get a grip or get the hell out of here.

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  16. You really are good at making interesting conversations :) You proved ;) I just read your first book is about to be published... Can't wait. Will definitely buy one. So proud :)

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  17. Helion, you totally missed the point of Cody's text. Read it again. This time slowly. :-)

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  18. @Helion Wow, jerk much? If he wants to complain, he'll complain and there's nothing you can do to silence him because that's not how freedom of speech works. It's HIS blog, nobody's forcing you to read it, or to comment on it. Also, one might tell YOU to stop complaining about him complaining, no? It goes both ways :)))

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  19. Hi Cody,
    I find your blog during my googling. Indeed, I'm on a dilemma to do a PhD in Croatia or not. I read all of your posts in Home page with their comments but get confused more!...I will be grateful if you or your great readers leave me any advise by email or join here:

    http://visitcroatia.proboards.com/thread/9767/phd-croatia

    Thanks in advance :)

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  20. What an interesting comparison!No work and no money but a kind of enjoying life in misery...I feel free to speak in this way because I left Croatia and moved in Italy to follow my life partner and where I found the same no money situation but which inhabitants have a lack in humility... :P a peculiarity which makes Croatia easier to be lived in... well,at least it was so in Istra when I left four years ago :D

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