Monthly Archives: September 2014

Moving countries – part II

The last few weeks, I have been partly irritated, annoyed, frustrated. What happened?

After we have been living here for nearly twelve months, after the first school year finished and we have had our first summer vacactions, I decided that now it was time for myself. I had gotten my kids into the school we always wanted (and which had first told us that they could not offer them a place as classes were full). I had assisted them in countless homework sessions, struggling with the Spanish language that they had heard and partly used since they were born with their father and their Mexican grand-parents, but that they had never been formally taught in. I had found us an apartment. I had waited – also it seems – countless times for some handyman to not show up on time or not show up at all to fix something in our flat – informality is widespread in Mexico, and in the capital there is always “trafico” that serves as a good excuse. I had found us a maid, a pediatrician, a dentist; struggled with the lack of service from banks, insurance firms, the gas company.

So, after all that, I though that I would like to find a job; find a company or an organization that could make use of my professional experience, that would give me opportunities to add value, to grow, and hopefully appreciate my services by paying me a decent salary. And that is when irritation, annoyance and frustration started. And when I got aware of my blatant ignorance of Mexican labor market conditions.

I knew that the minimum wage was very low – it actually is 66 pesos, or a little bit more than 5 US Dollars, a day. As most laborers work six days a week, but get paid for seven, that would make close to 2000 pesos a month. Having a masters degree, I was considering my earning potential far above minimum wage. But still, what I have been offered so far is considerably below my NGO salary back in Vienna. And that was less than what I had earned working in knowledge management in The Netherlands. And that, again, was not as good as what I had gotten as a business journalist in Germany. You see – my career, when you measure it by income, has been in a downward spiral for the last 13 years. I have been doing something wrong (but that would be the subject of at least one other post, I guess).

But back to my job hunt in Mexico. I also knew that Germans are very spoiled when it comes to vacation days. I had 30 days when I worked at Financial Times Deutschland. Times have changed a bit in Germany as well, particularly if you enter the labor market, but still, Germans enjoy a great amount of vacation a year. In one of my first interviews, I learned that according to Mexican labor law the employee actually does not have the right to ANY day of paid vacation during the first year. In year two, law grants her or him six days. After ten years, you have the right to ten paid days a year. There are several employers that offer more than the legal minimum. However, for a European even 15 days a year is meager, and it does not even cover a third of Mexican school vacation. So, if you try to combine family and career, start saving up for summer camps.

In addition, Mexicans work the most and the longest hours – at least within the club of industrialized countries (OECD). A Mexican worker puts in more than 2200 hours a year; a German not even 1400; an American close to 1800.

So, bad pay, little vacation, and long hours. On top of all that, trying to commute in a metropolitan area of 20 million people can be stressful and can take an hour or more, each way. That is not exactly the jackpot. With that in mind, when I feel irritated, annoyed and frustrated, I am trying to cut myself some slack. And then I remind myself of the theme of this blog that says “keep on trying” – and I write another application.

What adds to my irritation is that I would rather like to find something, but without the searching part. Yes, I admit, I confess. After having moved countries four times in 13 years, searching for a suitable position has felt taking as much time as actually working in the different jobs. But, as the Mexicans say: ni modo. What happens to me now is just another phase of adaptation to a my new place of residence. I should congratulate myself that I have managed part I so well. Keeping on trying.