About Salary Transparency in Britain

I`m from Germany, so for the first 26 years of my life, I`ve been living in a country where one`s salary is one`s best kept secret only to be disclosed to one`s bank and spouse (no, probably not even fiancee).

I used to negotiate my pay every time I started a new job (and then again when I felt I deserved a rise) and remember finding out by pure chance that I was earning significantly less, and then more (same woman, few years later – I got rises, because I asked, but she obviously hadn`t) than a colleague who almost did the same job.

It felt weird coming to Britain and seeing the salary already stated in the advert. My Scottish husband advised me not to question it – if it was written in the advert, it was non negotiable.

I fiercely disliked it, and I had loads of questions. So, did this mean that anybody could look up anybody`s earnings, and will this not inevitably lead to jealousy, comparison, stigma and “assessments” in work and in personal life, e.g. when looking for a prospective husband? Indeed I`m still finding the question “What do you do?” (for a living), and then “What does your husband do?” (I hate this question!! People ask this before they even ask his name or how long I`ve been with him), is posed far too quickly when meeting new people, and it is obvious what this is aiming at.

The longer I live here, though, the more I grew to like this transparency, for several reasons:

  • I don`t need to waste my or anyone else`s time applying for jobs who won`t pay as much as I want to earn.
  • Where adverts are brief, the salary gives a good indication on what level of skills they are looking for.
  • I`m reassured that my salary will not depend on my negotiation skills or gender, and that the male colleague doing the same work as me will earn exactly the same as me.
  • If a mistake is made with people`s pay, the member of staff will become aware of this, because colleagues openly speak about their wage slips, and can then be rectified.
  • Pressure on employers to pay a good, or at least not extremely low, wage, if they want to attract good people (and press)
  • People are more accountable, particularly those with a higher salary, because others know what they earn and expect them to really “earn”** this.

** Note: in German language, the word for “to deserve” and “to earn” is the same – could this be why we are more private about the matter, because there`s more emotional meaning just to the word?

  • The issue of women who only want to marry rich men seems a bit tricky. Instinctively, I dislike like the thought of sussing out each other`s finances at dating stage, but what if this is really important to someone (and I know people to whom it is)? It seems rude to reject someone based on their finances, but if this was me, and you would substitute “lack of wealth” with “strong desire for children”, I would like to know early and say that I may not be the one, rather than splitting over it later on. Or am I wrong here?

Nikolaustag

(Apologies to my non German speaking readers, but this is an entry that I copied from an old blog that I had on another platform. It`s about my childhood experience of the custom of Santa coming on 5th or 6th December with a small gift of the edible kind in Germany, and it can be translated at least semi reasonably here.)

Der 5. Dezember war fuer uns immer einer der spannendsten aber auch schlimmsten Tage des Jahres…

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… and then we were on a boat (Rhein in Flammen)

Rhine on Flames is an annual spectacle during which all (!) villages and cities alongside a particular stretch of the river Rhine are putting on fireworks in a consecutive order. There are fun fairs and camping, or you can book yourself a ticket on one of 60 boats travelling slowly alongside all fireworks, so you can enjoy a full two hours of them, against the spectacular scenery of the area`s hills and castles, ending with the great finale in Bonn, our formal capital.

Here, in the park Rheinauen, I remember many a Rhine on Flames with my friends, wearing silly headbands that glowed in the dark, eating deep fried fish in a roll, and daring each other to go on those crazy rides. I once even went on a date there – we sat on the same small jacket in the grass watching the dramatic firework display and then holding each other`s hand all the time while rushing back to the tram, careful not to lose each other as thousands of others came along.

I`ve been on the boat before, when I was around 20 (my aunt worked for one of the sponsors, and her husband was on duty), but I wanted my husband to experience it, too. It was hard to photograph as I and all the other boats and fireworks were moving, and it was even harder to chose from the many photos that I have:

Leaving Linz

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Moving North

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(for those with an interest in history – the tower belongs to the Bridge of Remagen, whose story in WW II was turned into a movie)

dsc_2127.jpgThe Grand Finale

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Too many photos? I hope not. If so – sorry 🙂

And if you are interested, the good news is that you won`t have to wait until next year – there are more events upcoming on other parts of the Rhine until September – see link at the beginning of this post for dates.

… and then we were in Linz/Rhein…

It was like a step back in time… For a long while, every time I came home I found something had changed, but this time, I was very aware of how same it still is from since 30 years. Same shops, some of them hadn`t even been painted since I entered secondary school, and I felt like I still knew every pothole.

Pretty as it no doubt is – I couldn`t cope with this town any more. At 6000 inhabitants, it once represented the big wide world to me (I lived in a village 10km up through the forest), but now, I was puzzled because I couldn` t connect to WiFi anywhere, nor could I get rolls in the morning because the baker`s oven had broken, and when we walked into a wine bar at 9.30pm on Sunday night we were told they had actually just closed.  Sales staff rush up to you almost as soon as you start browsing their shelves and give you advice on how to wear that dress as you` re stepping out of the changing room in it. Everything is very personal… too personal, at times. I feel everybody knows each other bar me. I feel we are turning heads for speaking English. Even the language – everyone is talking very slowly, and their dialect is so familar it seems unreal.

I feel strange (in the proverbial sense) and at the same time taken care of. A woman rushes up to help as I almost fall over an uneven cobble, and I`ve got a feeling I know her from somewhere…

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Cigarette and Chewing Gum Dispensers

… and because there was a festival going on…

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We were in Bonn…

The weather was absolutely glorious…

Of course, we ate white asparagus, which is only available in May and early June and on menus everywhere, so everyone will eat it as much as they possibly can…

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Beuel Train Station hasn`t changed in 20+ years…

My first poppy seed cake in a loooong time … had to be consumed at the earliest opportunity…