From Iceland — Side Hustle Of The Issue: The Receptionist

Side Hustle Of The Issue: The Receptionist

Published September 14, 2023

Side Hustle Of The Issue: The Receptionist
Photo by
Art Bicnick

An introvert’s hell, an extrovert’s paradise

Like many other young people, Johanna Gascoin moved to Iceland to work as an au pair. Although her time working with her host family has ended, she continues to live with them while juggling two jobs. Both seem to be temporary – this winter, Johanna plans to turn her dream of finding a job as a dog sled guide into a reality.

Johanna Gascoin, 26, a graphic designer

I got a Master’s degree in graphic design in France, and then I moved to Iceland to work and improve my English. That was the plan. I’m still freelancing in graphic design for some French brands while also working as a receptionist in a hotel. These two jobs help me afford the cost of living in Iceland. I work at the hotel almost every afternoon, doing the afternoon shift from 15:00 to 23:00. This way I have my mornings to work on my other job.

Most of the time, I have meetings in the morning because it’s the best time to have them. Sometimes, during the afternoon when it’s calm at the hotel, I can also work on design projects, which is good. That’s why I decided to stay at the hotel – it’s a quiet place and I still have time to work on my projects on the side.

Homey vibes

I love the mood of the hotel. I love the fact that it’s small; it’s not like a big chain. Customers are always so nice to us. Once, there was this woman from Romania. She gave me her card at the end and told me, ‘Anytime you want to come to Romania, just text me, and I’ll take care of everything for you.’

Photo by Art Bicnick

I feel at home at the hotel. We have a staff bathroom with a shower, our own lockers and everything. Even when I come to work by bicycle after a 40-minute ride, I can take a shower, relax and have a coffee. There is a big lounge, so even if I’m not working, I can come and sit there to work on my computer. It’s a good place and I’m close with my colleagues and my boss. Sometimes, the shifts can be quite long and boring. For example, between 20:00 and 23:00, there aren’t many customers to check in. But I can use this time for something else.

Patience is key

You need to be patient as a receptionist – patient and smiley. Everybody can have a bad mood and nobody has to be 100% smiling all the time. But when you’re at the hotel’s reception, customers expect you to be friendly. You cannot be mad, impatient or grumpy. You can’t just hand them the keys and be done. You have to talk to them. You have to know your country. You have to provide them with advice. You’re getting paid to be nice, so be nice.

I’m an extremely social person. I get strange energy from people. Seeing new people daily, giving them a smile or advice, and being nice to them makes me feel better. As a designer, you often work alone, constantly in front of your computer, and you don’t interact with a lot of people. Having this job where you’re constantly meeting new people is very nice.

Want to share how you’re making ends meet? Email us at with the subject line “Side Hustle.” We’ll happily keep your identity anonymous.

Follow along with the Side Hustle series right here.

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