Getting a job

Your A-kasse will be filled with smiley happy people called Mikkel and Thilde who happily speak English, offer you coffee and have comfortable home lives. The Jobcenter, however, will be the polar opposite.

Many graduate their Danish educations and then immediately fall into the terrifying job search spiral.

I had been in this spiral a while when the UK decided to leave the European Union. Hearing the result, my first thought was: “F*ck. What about my dagpenge?”

Unsurprisingly, the wobbly crutch of A-kasse falls into the hands of many internationals who decide to stay after studying. It happens gradually, like slipping into some sort of alcohol dependency.

After abusing the relaxed Danish education attitude to ‘deadlines’ until breaking point, you finally submit something when the guilt is at an absolute maximum.

As you hit the ‘indsend’ button you are met by that horrible brick wall of what-am-I-doing-here-in-Denmark? Suddenly the Nordea bank account is looking ikke så godt.

So, time for the wobbly crutch. And, for anyone who hasn’t used A-kasse: well-done. It is a particularly soul-destroying period of your life, entirely because the Jobcenter is involved.

You must constantly navigate two different worlds: Your A-kasse, a private insurance fund, happily takes your money when you work and happily pays it out when you’re unemployed.

The Jobcenter is there because of Danish government bureaucracy around unemployment. You have to prove to them that you don’t have a job, and you must make use of their services in order to find one. So you’re bounced between meetings with these two.

Your A-kasse will be filled with smiley happy people called Mikkel and Thilde who happily speak English, offer you coffee and have comfortable home lives.

The Jobcenter, however, will be the polar opposite. Housed inside a Stalinist-architectural-style building is an interlocking set of copy-and-paste hallways filled with the sounds of phones ringing and people sighing.

You will receive a small vending cup of warm water and sit in a queue with people that would not look out of place in a death row line-up.

The aim of the game here is to get you in steel-toed sikkerhedsstøvler and off to a warehouse somewhere godforsaken like Tilst. Your objective is to pretend to be interested, offer no clear promises and immediately cancel whatever warehouse training workshop they have shoehorned you into.

Side note: I was once sucked into a mandatory Jobcenter meeting in the middle of the most beautiful summer day. The invitation just gave a room number and a sentence about some predatory warehouse company looking for desperate internationals to exploit.

The Jobcenter building is specially designed to block out natural light and joy, so we were sat at conference tables under fluorescent lights waiting for anyone to give us information.

After an hour long delay in this hot and dusty room the door opened and a thoroughly depressed shadow of a man staggered in.

He briefly apologised for being late then gave a long and boring speech about the importance of work and explained why a warehouse was shit but we deserved it. The best part was his emphasis on time management, to which the room gave muffled laughs.

After all this, he brought out sheet of paper on which to write our phone numbers. It had been through a photocopier at least four thousand times, copied to oblivion, just like the souls of all his unwilling employees.

Mandatory meetings, avoiding warehouses and submitting CVs to random companies are the three core pillars of your A-kasse experience. Don’t worry, you will soon know those Franz Kafka Jobcenter hallways off by heart. The vending cup water will start to taste normal and very soon this wobbly crutch will become a close friend.

Brexit or not, it’s a torturous place to be but I promise you: there’s a flickering light at the end of that long depressing corridor.

Full disclosure: my dagpenge is still alive and well post-Brexit. Not because there was some policy exception for non-EU citizens to claim but actually because the Danes (along with everyone else) were so sick of working out what Brexit actually means that they just gave up.

Fantastic news for myself, and my unstable stand-up comedy career.