“YOU got the shoggi job,” says my boss when we’re talking at lunch about the general trend towards summer jobs in the mountains. With shoggi the Swiss mean chocolate, in this context my boss means that I got really lucky with my job. I pretend to not understand and ask if this has something to do with the color of cow dung.

Actually, he is right. A summer job at a mountain farm (Austria: Alm, Switzerland: Alp) could be a lot worse. Your average office-accustomed dropout imagines it as somehow romantic and then gets faced with painful realities: 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day the same work (e.g. mucking, milking, cheese-making, wood-chopping, cabin-cleaning, spending hours looking for the cows). The expression muscle soreness does not even get close to what you experience.

In the case of Alms/Alps with additional gastronomy you will have the people as well as the cattle (although sometimes the difference is not that big). Then you will see the tourist life with different eyes. You’re still up to your ankles in cow dung and there they are, the first happy holiday hikers demanding fresh buttermilk. My tip: When searching for such a job consider the distance to the nearest lift station.

On the upside, the fresh air is exactly what has been missing in the office and the hard work is saving you boring gym visits. There are people who would say: “What does not kill you makes you stronger!” I’m not one of them. Being a freelance journalist is more of a job for idealists and not for money earners. There comes the time when your bank account drops into minus and stays there. Then such a summer job is the best thing for getting quickly over the financial crisis and even saving up some for the next trip. Room and board are usually included and you won’t have any time to spend your earnings. Speaking of food, butter never tasted better than the one from fresh, alpine milk.

However, not every summer job is the same. You can make your life a lot easier by already considering some items during the job search. There are online options, for example, www.almwirtschaft.com (Austria) or www.zalp.ch (Switzerland)

My tips:

  •     Do not sell yourself under value. That is: no internships. Unless you want just a taster for a few weeks or you are not in financial distress. PS: Swiss wages are great.
  •     You should have at least one day off per week. At some point you have to get out, otherwise the cabin fever is granted.
  •     Unless you have prior experience, avoid gastronomy jobs. Even the greatest philanthropist will have a hard time smiling on top of the hard, physical work.
  •     Avoid jobs where you are working side by side with the senior boss. Exceptions prove the rule, but usually the atmosphere is more comfortable in a team with a similar attitude towards life.

This time, I chose a job in Switzerland, first of all because I’ve never been to Switzerland, secondly, because the wages are simply better and thirdly, because this one actually is a shoggi job. I live in a mountain village at 1500 meters altitude, in a house with shower, electricity and Internet access (the quaint mountain huts with the fireplace I still find pretty cool, but for five months, nowadays, it’s too much for me).

The work begins pleasantly at 8.00 am each day and Sundays are off. In the first month my muscles often reported “definitely, completely empty”, causing bedtime to be 10.00 pm latest, but eventually I got used to it and by now I’m fit enough in the evenings to write the occasional blog post.

About the actual work: I assist my boss. He is someone who does not mind that I have no clue about putting up fences or bringing out the manure. He is someone who even uses positive expressions when criticizing, such as “too little fast”. He is someone who occasionally stops next to a “too little fast “cyclist and shouts from the car window: “Bad engine, isn’t it? ” Yes, this job could have been a lot worse.