The challenges of managing ever dwindling funds are something all travellers can relate to.

The need to find cheap or, even better, free, food can be all consuming (literally!). So much so, that it can override our sense of decency and respect for those around us. This can be particularly true in the workplace.

A warehouse I worked in would supply drinks on Friday afternoons. During the last hour of the week, people could go to the kitchen and grab a beer or glass of wine. I remember asking a couple of working holiday makers who had recently joined us if they wanted a beer, to which they immediately declined before asking how much they were. When I said they didn’t cost anything, their eyes lit up and they swiftly made their way to the kitchen and helped themselves to a stubby of beer each.

They then stashed their stubbies in their bags and minutes later returned to the kitchen for another stubby, also stashed in bags to take home for later. No one said anything, but there was a lot of headshaking and eye rolling. It wasn’t in the spirit (!) with which the drinks were supplied.

A Job Possum colleague tells a similar story about some working holiday makers in an office in which he used to work:

“We always had a jar of biscuits in the kitchen, and these working holiday-makers would eat all the biscuits. And I mean all – they wouldn’t even bring lunch.”

Yet another colleague recalls a working holiday-maker who would help herself to rolls of toilet paper from the supply room.

This sort of behaviour isn’t exactly wrong – after all, those beers, biscuits, and toilet paper rolls are there for the employees, right?  But it is extremely disrespectful to both the company that entrusted you with employment and to your colleagues who have established and maintained these codes of conduct in their workplace, codes of honesty and trust.

Those of us that noticed the backpackers stashing the beers in their bags could never fully accept or trust them as colleagues (as we had with previous working holiday-makers). Their actions were a statement that they were unwilling to be part of the team. This was a shame because it was a great, friendly company and could have provided them with friendships, contacts around the country and other forms of assistance had they not been so blinded by their need to live cheaply.

This constant need to live cheaply when travelling can become an addiction. And, like addicts, our perspective of social conventions and common decency become distorted.

Taking on a job as a working holiday-maker may not necessarily be a long-term career move, but it’s important to remember that you’re most likely working alongside people for whom it is, and who don’t appreciate their livelihood being disrespected.

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