How is a waiter satisfied with his job in a restaurant? When you were waiting for your food, have you ever wondered this question looking at the person who carried the plates back and forth? Last April I started to notice a waiter. His service was fantastic, with his agile movements in spite of his old age; he looked the oldest among the servers in that restaurant. He came up to my table and asked:
"How can I help you, Sir?"
He did not have any particular facial expression, but he fascinated me. His charm might have come from a combination of humility and confidence. I truly felt that he really enjoyed what he was doing. I imagined his whole life while I was having the food he served.
When I left the restaurant, I walked over to him while he was busily serving his customers, I had lots of questions for him but I only asked a brief question – his age.
"Me? 56 years old. I am Klaus Petersen; I want to continue my job until I can walk with two feet)"
I admired him and asked him to take a photo of us. When I came back to my accommodation I realized that I should have asked him to have an interview with me.
Two months later, at the end of June, I visited the restaurant again during my second visit to Denmark for my in-depth report. Luckily he was there and he recognized me instantly.
"You must be the reporter from South Korea?" he asked.
He was pleased to take an official interview this time.
"There are 30 staff members here in total, and I am the oldest one. I can have like 30 minutes for an interview because we aren't't so busy yet. This is a kind of senior's benefit (Laughter)."
Now, here are the secrets of his happy life.
[Special lecture about happiness by Klaus①] My life, do what you really enjoy
"You looked really happy" I said.
"Because I truly love my job now." he replied.
"I have worked as a cook and waiter for nearly 40 years, since I was 17 years old. I thought I did not need to go to university so I got a job that I liked, in a restaurant as a cook and waiter, and there I worked and studied at the same time."
Working and studying at the same time is Denmark's distinctive system; Danish workers enjoy vocational programs while working, for 10 weeks a year with government support.
"I took this kind of education for 7 years; during this time I had a chance to love my job more and more."
He learnt not only labor skills but also the meaning of fruitful labor in a vocational program. That is why he really enjoys what he is doing now.
[Special lecture about happiness by Klaus②]
Don't be discouraged, all occupations are equally honorable
Klaus has a son.
"He is 22 years old and works as a locksmith now."
He was really proud of his son, but to be honest, I could not understand him, because normally in Korea, most of fathers who were waiters wanted their son to get further ahead in the world.
Instead, he said, "I never asked him to get a highly-paid, specialized job such as a judge, doctor or professor. Because I think that being a locksmith is also a valuable and necessary job in our society."
I suddenly recalled an interview with a Korean executive in a big firm. He has a son who works for a medium enterprise, and he felt ashamed of him. Another friend of mine also has a similar attitude toward his son. My friend is a doctor, while his son did not go to a famous college and does not even have a decent job; this is the reason why he did not tell me about his son's job until recently.
Klaus goes to his high school reunion every five years and he never hesitated to talk about his story and even his son's. So, who is happier between the Korean doctor who is ashamed of his son, and the Danish waiter who is proud of his son? This is not the problem of a relationship between father and son, but rather a different attitude of valuing labor.
[Special lecture about happiness by Klaus③] Live together, band together
Klaus has never worried about getting a raw deal because he is not the only one to be against it.
"We have a labor union for restaurant staff called '3F' in Denmark; I have been a member there since I graduated from high school. I have paid 200 dollars every month for last 40 years."
There are about 300,000 members in the union and all of our staff members in this restaurant joined it.
"So there is no discrimination in our workplace, if it happens we can report the union and its representative can talk about the problem with the relevant owner.
Surprisingly, he never has experienced bad things in his workplace. Nevertheless he continuously pays 200 dollars every month to receive unemployment benefits later; 3000 dollars per month is the amount that both unions and the government together provide us for one and half years.
"We can also take unemployment benefits from the government for 2 years, but it is not enough to earn a living so we pay union fees, like purchasing insurance, so we do not have to worry about losing our job."
Danish labor unions' coverage reaches to around 70% now; the highest rate was once about 80%, while in Korea it is about 10% (the World average is around 23%.)
[Special lecture about happiness by Klaus④]
Being happy with transparent relationship and trust each other
Klaus cooperates not only with staff members but also together with his boss because they trust each other, and it comes from a transparent relationship.
"Our salary should be evaluated as 15% of daily total sales and we share them equally. So we have to help each other to increase our sales."
He does not have any complaints about juniors and seniors having the same salary.
"What is a senior's benefit? I can have an interview with you during the work time without anyone's permission, which is my benefit. (Laughter)"
[Special lecture about happiness by Klaus ⑤] No greed, enjoy today
Klaus confidently states that he is in the middle class. He not only has his own apartment downtown but also an individual summer house nearby Copenhagen.
"I enjoy my spare time there on the weekend or on vacation, it is good for me to cultivate various vegetables and fruit trees there."
"Am I happy? Sure, I am really happy because I enjoy today and have no worries now."
[Special lecture about happiness by Klaus ⑥]
Do you want to be happy? Then create a better society
"In my father's generation, there was some discrimination among careers, as well as the gap between the rich and the poor. However before we knew it, they disappeared and Denmark has become an equal society," Klaus said.
Since the 1930s, the Danish government constructed stepping stones for a better society and after the 1960s, Danish political communities, labor and management buckled down to settle the welfare system together. On the basis of this, our present equal culture has been permeated into Danish society. Since the Danish government guarantees the people's basic human rights such as education, medical treatment and employment stability, an equal culture has been settled.
There's no free lunch. Denmark has achieved 'the great social agreement'. The rich willingly pay over half of their belongings as a tax and normal workers like Klaus also pay 36% of their salary as a tax. Moreover, owners support the worker's employee participation and workers make an effort to communicate with them by talking instead of strike actions; they even allow workers to be fired according to their business's financial problems.
I could find the secret of a happy society through Klaus' eyes. If you want to be happy, then you should contribute to your country a society that has the spirit of community.
덧붙이는 글 (This is translated by Eunbin Ko)