That Week I Worked in a Bakery in London

Now that the shine has worn off and the flat has been properly situated and settled, my next quest in London life was finding a London job. I knew this would be a difficult feat because of what I am qualified in (publications) but also the fact that I am a foreigner. But I have made finding a job my job scanning several different websites like Gumtree (UK Craigslist), Film/TV Pro, LinkedIn, etc.

I have applied to a job or two everyday that I seem qualified for to no avail, and it has been rather frustrating. My usual response is, “Do you have a right to work in the country?” “Yes.” “Great, you’ll hear from us.” Silence…

So now, I wait for Jeff to come home after spending the day wandering around the neighborhood and trying to come up with activities outside the home before I go stir-crazy. I have a reverse glee for the weekends because instead of waiting to do nothing on Saturdays and Sundays, I am waiting to go and do things with my other half.

I have gone out to sight-see on my own, but there is nothing quite like being surrounded by hundreds of people you don’t know to make you feel small.

I generally can’t sit still. I always have to be doing something, so when the prospect of sitting on my hands and watching the clock tick away is here, it makes me nervous and anxious, hence my near breakdown regarding not having a job. I’m very good about putting pressure and stress on myself when it is 100% absolutely unnecessary.

One day (on a busy weekend), Jeff and I casually strolled through Borough Market. They were closing up, so we didn’t have too much time to see the complete glory of the insane market place, but I did happen to walk by a bakery stand and grabbed a card on the off chance that maybe the owner was looking for an intern.

One of my far-fledged dreams in life was to one day open a bakery. I have always loved baking and used it for stress relief. I even have a name for my little bakery and a menu. My wedding gift from my husband was not only this fabulous opportunity to see the world, but also to really take the time to explore my passions in life and decide on what I would want to focus on and pursue.

So, while it was a long-shot, I thought, why not email this woman and ask? Jeff said, “It was dreams that got us here, why stop there?” Why stop there, indeed?

I got a phone call agreeing to have me come in, not as an intern, but as a porter. She said that I would be able to learn baking while washing dishes, but it was primarily cleaning up, and full-time. So I gave it a day trial for no pay to see if I was interested. Needless to say, after that day, I was pretty sure I would decline. No pay? And washing countless butter-crusted dishes? This was not my idea of the “British dream.”

For the record: I’m not above working from the bottom. I’ve done that before and was able to rise with several companies in the past with respect and knowledge of how the company works from inside and out. But also, it would give me the opportunity to learn the business and also some baking tips. My reason for declining was mainly because of the environment.

For one, the two other staff members/bakers were from Bulgaria and spoke to each other in their native language. It didn’t bother me until I heard my name. Great, I was being gossiped about on my first day.

But when I heard how disrespectful the boss was to the staff members and visa versa, I had decided that I would not be talked to like a child or manipulated for personal gains. On my way home, fighting the hordes of commuters and frustrating train schedules, it was absolutely decided–no negotiations.

What is they say about the best laid plans? I was convinced to work at an hourly rate for the week and see if I could reconsider.

The next day, when I walked in, I couldn’t have been happier to decide to give it another go. It was just me and the other bakers, so I spent most of my day actually baking! It was amazing and the girls were so welcoming and bright once the shine of “otherness” had worn off. A day in the life and working the conveyor belt. I was actually considering reconsidering my decision to work there, but then as soon as the boss came back, it was a room of tense, gray clouds and back-talking and yelling. I was not going to have any of it, but I did stand by my word to finish out the week.

I learned all kinds of things like how to make tarts, cookies, muffins, etc. and all gluten free. It was very eye-opening and I learned a lot in my four days– mainly how to treat and not treat staff. And the girls even brought me in giving me a bracelet of white and red that apparently was a Bulgarian tradition for the beginning of March called Martenitsa.

My handmade bracelet made by my Bulgarian coworkers for their national festival.

So, after Friday, I left the bakery and headed home very happy with my decision. Just last night even, Jeff said to me that he was so much happier with housewife Alison than working girl Alison–mainly because I was staying up late enough to watch a whole episode of TV before passing out in a clean apartment with washed sheets and a healthy lunch made for the next day. Domestic life is alive and well, folks.

Until I find a job, though, I am making it a mission to sit back and enjoy the time we have out here and not waste it away by waiting for something to happen. Whatever does come my way will come to me when the world and I am both ready for it. And it was quite liberating today to have nothing on my list of things to do besides go to the grocery store for honey and tea and to also pick up my husband’s dry-cleaning.

If anything this adventure is going to teach me, it’s going to be about taking life a little slower and not taking a single second for granted. The rat race is a farce, and the American dream is dead. Do what you love because, in the end, that’s what matters. Life is too short to take orders from terrible people.

Take that, zen! Namaste.


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