August 13, 2015

Journalistic experiment: what means to be a Muslim in Lithuania

The third day: buying in the market and looking for a job

We decide to start the third day of the experiment by buying in the Halė market. The red signal of the traffic lights close to the market stops us at the pedestrians crossing together with a small group of by-passers. A young woman standing in front of us and holding a child’s hand is having a phone conversation and turns to us from time to time. „Here are those, how are they called, Muslim women! Both dressed in black, one with fully covered face and another with a scarf and sunglasses“, the woman tells somebody loudly feeling herself free.

We step into the market and suddenly it seems as if everybody‘s eyes will pop out of their orbits. Sellers are overlooking us even hanged over the stalls and buyers turn to us from time to time. It is likely that the Halė market have never seen such buyers. „Please please, come up. New collection came“, – we get surprised having heard an invitation of an elderly seller but soon we get to smile having seen that we are invited to the pavilion by the seller of scarves and shawls.

We stop at one stall to buy some berries and notice how our photographer Adomas, having stopped not far away from us, take pictures of us. „He filmed those black women“, – an elderly woman standing beside us says to the sellers. It is the second time already during a few minutes when strange people standing close to us speak so as if we were empty place or some any decoration but not alive people. Then conversation starts with the seller. She is interested what country we live in and whereof nationality our husbands are.

“I think that religion is everybody‘s choice, – she assures and inquires immediately. – Are you ok? Don‘t you need to count every Litas?“ After confirmation that we are happy and materially supported the seller noddles approvingly: „Good, since I alone had to grow up three kids, it was very hard. Visit me any time, I always trade here, either myself or my daughter.“

After buying in the market, our next task is to find a job. We decide that Jurgita will try to find job in the trade networks shops. This time we leave the niqab in the car: we decide that even without it we could face high challenges.

After calling to Rimi located in Savanorių Avenue, we inquire if they are currently looking for employees. We are confirmed that they are looking for employees and receive an invitation to visit them in the afternoon. After a few hours we arrive at Rimi and go the information office.mentre pagano al mercato

Our appearance seems funny to the guy working here – turning his eyes aside and suppressing his smile as much as possible he listens up our request to call the chief cashier, as it has been agreed by phone. “No, she is having lunch at the moment, please come an hour later“, – after talking on phone, the guy informs us. We thank him and go out.

During that time we decide to visit one more shopping centre, this time – Maxima. We get into the shop and ask for the first seen female employee where to apply regarding job. The employee evidently gets surprised but, having asked nothing, accompanies us to the service entrance and asks to wait. Five, ten minutes pass but nobody comes to us – we see how the shop‘s staff behind the door stop to overlook us through the door window.

After some time, a director, as we understand, comes through the door. An elegant middle-aged woman looks askingly at us. “We are looking for a job, do you need any employees?“ – Jurgita asks. “Today we have just employed two students. Excuse me, now we really do not need any more employees. Apply to the central personnel division of the trade network “, – offers the head of the shopping centre.

Having failed, we come back to Rimi. “I will just invite a responsible person. Today we have already employed people but I think that we still need some“ – assures the seen guy.

We see how two middle-aged female employees come into the offfice and, secretly overlooking us, discuss something silently. After a few minutes the same employees come to us. “Are there you who are looking for a job?“ – they ask us. “Yes. We called to you in the morning and you said that you are looking for cashiers“, – we answer.

„Today we have already employed five girls and sent them for medical examination. We do not have vacant places anymore, I am sorry you did not come before“, – the women spread their hands aside. „But we came before and you were having lunch, – we get surprised and still do not settle down: – Don’t you really have any vacant job places? Maybe you will have them later?“ “I do not know, really. But you can try to ask a few weeks later, maybe then some will be“, – our conversers do not want to promise anything.

Therefore, we did not get a job. It is never easy to find a job, thus, we could think that then we just failed. Anyway, the information collected later allows suspecting that success does not matter here. After a few days we called to the same shops and asked for a job.

We got to know that Rimi at Savanorių Avenue needs employees. The director of our visited Maxima firstly resented: „How do you call by phone regarding the job? Yes, I need good employees but I need to see you alive. I need a cashier, an employee of weighing division, a loader. Please, come today or tomorrow“, – the same director, to whom the Muslims perhaps did not seem to be capable to become good employees, explains.

We are making conclusion that employers in Lithuania nowadays do not trust and still avoid candidates with different appearance. On the other hand, it is gratifying that there are also some tolerant people. Even though we did not receive the job in two shops, we would, likely, be employed in other two shops. Our appearance did not shock at all managers of the shops Maxima in Naujininkai and Iki in the North Town. By the way, both managers were young thirty-year-old males.

To say the truth, at the beginning the director of Maxima also hardly suppressed her smile; however, later she inquired business-like Jurgita about her working experience, told about working schedule, salary and its perspectives and later offered a job.

„Will it be possible to wear a scarf at work?“ – we both asked. „To be honest, such case has not happened for me yet. I think that no, as the dressing code is very strict and defines a hair set, makeup and dressing. But I will ask on it“, – the manager of the shop promised. By the way, later we were explained in the Ombudsman for Equal Opportunities that prohibition to the Muslim woman to wear the scarf in the working place could be a pretext for a claim.

We were also particularly kindly accepted in the shop Iki in S. Žukauskas street. “What nice you are“, – we could not believe in our ears when, just having arrived at the shop, we got a compliment from a woman at the cash desk. In the administrative premises, we were accepted by a young guy and woman – even though the employee did not introduce herself, her conduct allowed to guess her being a manager of a few shops of the network.

The director of the shop assured us that at that moment the shop did not need new staff, however, he offered to call himself regarding job to another shop. At that moment the woman started asking us if the job in the city centre would suit to us: “We need very much employees in Flagman. Do you know where it is? Would it suit to you?“ Having noddled agreeing by us, the woman just called to the mentioned shop and promised to send two girls there.

Both the manager of the shop and the woman looked generous and kind; therefore, after so many unkind experiences when wearing Muslim dresses we left the shop with sincere pride that we had also met people with tolerant attitudes in Lithuania.

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