I used to have a job in one of Fredericia Kommune’s schools. When I left to go work at my new job, they sent me a bumper pay cheque with ‘holiday pay’ in it. I banked the holiday pay because I knew I wouldn’t be getting much (anything?) from new job.
This is because the Danish holiday period goes from April to April but you accrue from January to December. If you start in August (as is the wont of teachers), you can’t accrue enough before the holiday even though you’ve worked a full year. Whatevers. The first job I had in Denmark had not explained this fully to their first cohort and one of them nearly starved in the summer or something, so with me, they made me do loads of cover lessons in the first year so that I had a summer paycheque. I miss those guys!
Current school hasn’t got that system in place, so even though I started work in January, I’d only accrued something like 300 kroner.
Anyway, I got a letter from Fredericia Kommune saying “hey girl, you earned holiday pay” and I went “dude, I know, it’s in the bank, thanks” and put the letter in a shoe box.
They sent it again and so I read it much more carefully. There are about fifteen 10 dollar (54 kroner) words in one sentence, so I got google translate to have a look. Google translate said “well, um, not sure? Like either YOU owe them some money or they owe YOU some money but… Um?” USELESS.
My Danish boyfriend rang me from his serious business on exercise and I read the letter to him. He said
“They owe YOU money.”
“How do I get it?”
“You… Um… I think you fill in a form?”
“Dude, I don’t know.”
“Have I already paid tax on it?”
So I waited for him to come home. In the meantime, I cleverly and cunningly found the holiday pay website and wrote to them. I wrote something like
“I got this letter. Don’t know what to do. Can’t find on webpage. How money in bank?” and scanned the letter in for good measure.
The letter they wrote back on a scale of 1 to shitty was “a bit shitty”.
I knew there was going to be trouble when they started out with
“As you can see on the letter…”
Well, I obviously couldn’t, could I? But appreciating that important fact would take what we know in the business as ‘a theory of mind’.
The message of the day was “Fredericia Kommune don’t even USE us for holiday pay, they have a different system.”
But they did go on to say that I needed to fill in the boxes at the bottom if I wanted my bloody money.
I waited for my boyfriend to return from pretend war. He came back, looked at the letter and said
“Where’s the rest of it?”
“Where’s the letter that explains what to do?”
“That’s all there was. Now tell me O Dane, what now?”
“Not a clue.”
So, I resolved to visit Fredericia Kommune in person. They would know! They would answer me! They would help me fill the form out! The boxes that bothered me were “working day holiday”, “hours” and “certification” in reverse order of botheration.
Last time I went to the front desk, they were spectacularly shitty to me. I was fresh off the boat, apologetic about not speaking Danish and they wiped the floor with me. I don’t like going there but trying to deal with it online had got me exactly nowhere.
I showed up and was confronted with a screen that dispenses queue numbers. There were two options, neither of which applied to me. I looked around. Another screen!
I approached it and although there were more than two options, none of them exactly applied. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to take a photo. It reminded me of the Asterix where he has to get a form stamped.
I selected ‘Holiday card and burial’ because it had the word ‘holiday’ in it. Then I sat down and missed my turn because they yelled out the number but didn’t display it on the screen. Good LUCK blinds, deafs and foreigns! (considering the main three groups who need to go to the kommune in person are foreigners, older people and the disabled, this is spectacularly bad customer service)
While I waited, I noticed people had to fetch staff from behind the desk to show them which button to press. Some older people stood staring at the screen for more than five minutes. Which is exactly the purpose of them. They don’t want to pay people to help, they want people to help themselves for free.
What if they can’t help themselves? What’s the contingency plan?
I got up again and this time I selected “Pay out and Pay in”
My number was called and I ran for the desk.
“Hello! I don’t understand the system at all. I got this letter and I don’t know how to get the money.”
“Are you still in work?”
“Yes but not here.”
“Where are you working?”
“So, you are still in work.”
“When did you have holiday?”
I wanted to ask if holiday in the past was acceptable but I decided to let the dates speak for themselves.
I produced a scrap of paper where I’d written it down.
“Write them here. I’ll get you a pen.”
She had a pen in her hand but she was fucked if she was going to let me touch it. She got me a pen. I started writing.
“1. Juli 2013-”
“You need to write the DATE!”
“This is a date…”
She took the form away from me and started writing
“That’s the same thing….”
“It won’t FIT otherwise, you were going to fill up the whole sheet! How many days holiday?”
I paused for a moment to think how to calculate it.
This is when she spoke English to me
“‘Ow meneee daiz ‘olidee?”
I blinked and took a moment to think about what to do next. I considered pretending I didn’t speak English to see what she did. Then I considered pretending I didn’t understand HER English. Then I did what I always do. I just Judi Dench’d it right the fuck up.
“I. Do. Speak. Danish.” (said in English)
“Oh. Ok. I thought… So, how many days holiday?”
“Ummm. Shall we say 25 just to make it easier?”
So she wrote 25 herself. In case I wrote twenty-five and needed an extra sheet, presumably.
“Now sign here.”
The word they use, as you can see on the letter, is ‘attestation’
FEEDBACK TO FORM WRITERS:
if you want a signature USE THE WORD SIGNATURE not ‘certification’ or ‘documentation’.
So I signed. And she goes
“Is THAT your signature?”
(It sort of looks like an ‘x’ and I get a lot of shit from allcomers, I’m used to it.)
“Yes. Yes it is.”
“Ok, so the money will be paid into your account.”
“Cool. Wait. Do you need my account details?”
She stared at me. I wasn’t making myself understood. I repeated it really slowly and showed her my bank card.
“Do you need for me to write my bank account number? I can see you don’t have it on your form?”
“Do you have an EasyAccount?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Then, no, it’s automatic.” (‘duh’ implied)
I thanked her for the help and left.
My observations about all of this are:-
My Danish boyfriend has no clue about this system. It’s not common knowledge. I’m at an even bigger disadvantage because 54 kroner words can throw me and so do cultural-shock things like “we know your bank account details without you telling us but the company called Holiday Account doesn’t deal with your holiday pay”.
Then there’s how I’m treated like an idiot because I’m not a native speaker. Just because someone has a strong accent and buggers up word order doesn’t mean they don’t know what a ‘date’ is or if they don’t answer a question immediately they haven’t understood it.
The issue I bumped up against was they assumed that because THEY knew something, everyone knows it. And that anyone that doesn’t know it is a dick.
What would have been useful would have been a copy of the form with the possible ways of filling it in. Then I could see I didn’t need to fill in all the boxes or I could see they really wanted a signature not a certificate. Also, an addressed envelope would have been useful, so I knew where to send the thing. But to be able to write a document like that, you need to put yourself in the shoes of another person.
There’s not a lot of that around here.