Saturday, 7 May 2011

I think it would be fun to be a hotel receptionist

The Manor House Hotel in Castle Combe
That was the comment Cry gave on my last post. So, is she right... or is she wrong....

When I worked for Club Med years and years ago (well, in 1991-1992), I realised fairly soon that working all week and spending all your time with the guests was on the one hand a great thing, on the other hand, it made me loose sight of the world in general. When I lived in Tignes (French Alps), I didn't know there had been an earthquake in the Netherlands until several days later. And the only reason I knew anything about the Olympics taking place that winter, was because we were smack bang in the middle of it! So, I realised that as fun as the job was, it was time to find a different job. Without children because the next time I would look after children would be when 'I had my own' (yeah right).

Anyway, thanks to a very lovely Scottish chef, I wrote an application letter to six different hotels in England. For some reason one of them decided the letter was good enough and after a further fax and a short phone call, I had a job at the Manor House Hotel in Castle Combe (about an hour and a half west of London). Brilliant!

My very first room, not so glamourous
At the beginning of June, my brother accompanied me by train to the Belgian port from where I would sail to England with my two ginormous suitcases. After arriving in England I took another train, then another (do you know that trains in England drive on the left as well?) and fortunately was helped at Chippenham trainstation by someone who realised it would take me the better part of an hour to get those two suitcases up and down the stairs again! The last bit of my journey was in an Easy Taxi (nothing to do with EasyJet) and finally after a whole day of travelling, I had arrived at my new job! Since I was to live in, the porter made short work with my two cases and carried them up to my room which was decidedly ehm... unglamorous. Especially compared to the hotel itself.

The next day my training as a receptionist started. Since I had been working with children for about 2 years by then, I hadn't worked with computers since leaving school (where I hadn't been very good at it either), so that took some getting used to. All the different words for change (alter, amend and I probably forgot a few now as well), made my head spin, but after a few weeks, I was deemed to be good enough to do a quiet shift on my own.

The hotel I worked in was a four star hotel and there weren't that many rooms (about 25 at the time), however, some clever clogs had decided room numbers was for sissies and had given names to all the rooms in the main house, no numbers, just names. Lordsmere and Horse Tyning for example. The rooms were also all different, not one was the same as the next, which of course made it even more special. When I took reservations, I had to remember what room was which size and what price etc etc, but I managed.

Bored anyone?
There were still some things that baffled me. The question about the Christmas Crackers for example. Asked by a Welsh person on the phone, I didn't have a clue what they were going on about. Wellies was another one. Also, the person at reception had to type and print the menus and the times where I phoned the chef to ask whether he was having me on, are too many to count on one hand. Spotted Dick, Bubble & Squeak: did he really believe that I would fall for those? (By the way, they are both proper dishes, the first being a custardy dessert and the second being heated up cabbage and other veggies, which bubble and squeak, hence the name.)

So, what made me leave and work in the restaurant then? Was it the utter boredom on days where you started at seven in the morning and the first phonecall arrived at seven minutes past twelve in the afternoon? Was it the inactivity of mainly sitting down all day and not being allowed to read or knit or do a crossword? No, I got fired! Yes, you read it right: I got fired! For the best reason ever: my English was too good!! I admit, when I heard that I couldn't believe my ears: English too good??

It turned out, there had been several complaints about me over a couple of weeks and instead of the manager showing them to me, so I might be able to change my ways, he just brought them all on me in one fell swoop and told me enough was enough. The thing is though, my English is very good. It's English with an English accent and only if you talk to me for any length of time or with specific words, do you realise I am not in fact English. But of course by then the damage had been done, since even if I spoke the Queen's English (well, not quite), I didn't have the English sensibilities to complaints. So, if someone phoned down to complain about their tea being served cold, I would tell them I would note it down and inform the waiting staff. WRONG!!! I should have sucked up to them big time, got the restaurant manager involved, do everything in my power to get the guests happy again. Which is very unDutch and since I am Dutch, it was not something I was used to. Enter complaints against me and me being fired.

Don't get me wrong, I did love my job as a receptionist (apart from the occasional boredom): the dealing with customers, both on the phone and in person. Making reservations for rooms and restaurant. Giving people information about the surrounding area. Handling money. And of course the interaction with colleagues from other departments (most notably the maids and to a lesser degree the restaurant staff).

My clogs
I think it would be fun to be a hotel receptionist again. Hopefully in a hotel where they believe in room numbers and where it's busy enough. A hotel where I would be able to use my language skills and where my English would be perfect as is. Perhaps I will wear my clogs though, just so people know I will not be getting the Queen down to sort out any problems...


  1. That's hilarious! More English than many English and more honest, maybe;-)

  2. How interesting of a story.
    If you worked at a hotel again would you have to live there?
    I Blows my mind how very different our world is that we live in together.

  3. We don't do Bubble and Squeak, etc., in Canada. And many Canadians have trouble with English-English.
    Other than that, you should do fine here.
    Dick (unspotted) will be home later today, and I'll have to ask him right away about his hotel friend, because he (Dick) is working long hours this week and I'll barely get to see him.
    Sigh. And I'm still sick, how about you?
    Luv — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  4. I do think it would be fun to be a receptionist providing it was a really nice place. I definitely would want room numbers! You have had some very interesting jobs.

  5. Now, that's a special reason being too good in English, lol !
    The hotel reception looks very nice and you very decorative in there.

  6. Be forewarned: North Americans are really into service with a smile. But most of us are also pretty nice. :)

  7. Well I think that was most unfair. However, my father, who was the manager of several hotels and restaurants in his time, always said that the British (he being British) didn't know the first thing about service. That means ALWAYS smiling, being friendly and helpful and falling over backwards to please someone.

  8. Haven't been in Blogworld for a couple of days, thought I'd see what you posted to enjoy the world with, landed on the post following this one, but had to read this first of course. Well Godfried Bomans! Fired for being too English. Even though you're not. What has the world come to. Perhaps they need a hotel receptionist in Canada?


Any weighty (and not so weighty) comments are welcome!