Hospitality Jobs Abroad – Bartenders

Bartending is not just knowing how to mix a drink, make a good cocktail, or garnishing that exotic drink your customer just ordered, it requires more than that. As a bartender, or bartendress, you are in a “front end” position, which means you interact closely with people coming to the establishment. You must like people, enjoy conversation, and be a good listener. After all, as most of us know, the stories often get longer and sadder, as the evening wears on. You really don’t have to be a juggler, dancer, or a singer to please your customers, as we’ve seen in the movies. If you have such talents, however, you are skilled in “flairtending,” as you’ve added entertainment and variety to the job of bartending. The best bartenders treat their customers well, remember their preferences, and greet them by name. In return, many of these satisfied customers will return again and again to the same club, bar, or pub where they feel at home in a friendly environment.

Bartending has come a long way from being just a job somewhere in a smoke-filled, dingy room to a very popular occupation, with annual worldwide conferences and competitions in the art of what is often referred to now as mixology. Bartending jobs can be found in every country of the world where people tend to gather and socialize frequently. Bartenders do not make a lot of money in many countries, and tipping outside the U.S. can be a sometime thing. However, there may be compensation of another sort in bartending jobs overseas. Some bartenders, especially those hired in Ireland and the UK, are often able to live at the same place where they work. This can be a good deal for young people without enough income to pay for separate accommodations, transportation, and even their meals. Of course, the downside to this is that you are more readily available and may be called upon to work longer hours, open and close, or fill in for other staff.

In addition to the small town, city, village pubs, and neighborhood bars, there are always jobs for bartenders at island resorts, restaurants, hotels, airports, and even on cruise ships. As you gain experience and recognition, your services may be in demand for private parties, weddings, and numerous other social events. For long term employment, you will need a work visa or some other type of permit in most every country. Only a few employers require contracts, but many will require that you have a sponsor in the country where you want to work. Since this may be a problem, some people will enter the country on a tourist visa, find a sponsor, and then apply for the bartending job. In countries, such as Mexico, you have to live there for 3 to 5 years before you can legally work. There are a couple ways to get around some of these restrictions, however. If either one of your parents or your grandparents was born in the UK, for example, you could work there for as long as 5 years on a so-called ancestry visa. In France, you may be able to obtain a private business permit, if you have the means to set up your own establishment. (This is probably impossible for a bartender who is just starting his or her career.)

The pay for bartenders in Australia is usually quite good, but your qualifications must include a Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certificate. Courses are reasonable and can be completed online in about 4 hours, which will allow you to apply for most bartending jobs, except in New South Wales, where the course has to be completed there.

Formal training is usually not a requirement; however, a certificate of completion from a bartending school or other similar course, as well as references, will help considerably in your job search. Some employers may or may not require at least 2 years of experience, but if their turnover has been substantial, they will appreciate someone who is reliable, hard working, and seeking long term, permanent employment. There has been a recent trend to offering more extensive, professional training to help bartenders who want to become members of the International Bartenders Association and establish a profitable and rewarding career. A few schools do offer job placement overseas after you complete their course, and worldwide job openings are posted frequently on the Internet.

You should remember that bartending can be stressful, as are most customer service jobs. There may be complaints and unreasonable demands from impatient, weary travelers and out of town visitors. You have to welcome the regulars and after work customers, and have patience to deal with the loud, noisy crowds that descend during happy hours. On the plus side, however, bartending is a great option for anyone who is interested in interacting on a daily basis with people in another country. It provides an opportunity to earn some money, perfect the skills of your occupation, practice or learn a 2nd or 3rd language, and gain a real understanding of the country you work in and respect for the people you work with. Bartending can be interesting and fun wherever you decide to work, as people everywhere always appreciate good service and a pleasant personality.

Sharon Slayton

Filed Under: Travel & tourism jobs

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Comments (3)

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  1. James Trotta says:

    Thank you Sharon. Reminds me of when I was 22-23 and applying for my first job abroad. I tried:

    1. Bartender at the James Joyce Bar in Vienna

    2. SAT teacher in Turkey

    3. English teacher in Japan

    4. English teacher in Korea

    They never offered me a job in Vienna – not even an interview. Who knows how different my life would be if I had gone to Vienna to work instead of Jinju back in 2001?

  2. Norm says:

    I’m interested in being a traveling bartender but how do I figure out where the pay / tips is good compared to living expenses?

  3. Sharon says:

    I think it depends on your expectations – are you comfortable with a conservative to moderate living style, or a big spender. Then, check out job openings and do a search on cost of living in the area you’re interested in. Expat forums are usually helpful too for living overseas. Offhand, I would say that some countries in Central and South America, some of the less frequented Caribbean islands, Australia, and parts of the UK and southern Europe are possibilities. Of course, the pay would be better in larger cities, but then you have a higher cost of living. Better figure on being paid a set salary, as tipping cannot be depended on as a source of steady income.

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