Wackiest Odd Jobs Around the World
Across the globe, people get paid for odd jobs like cuddling pandas, shoving people onto trains and plucking grey hairs.
Wackiest Odd Jobs Around the World
Have you ever dreamed of getting paid to binge-watch Netflix or to eat your favorite foods in front of a virtual audience? Or how about being employed to hang out with a flock of ravens, an odd job that's been dubbed "ravenmaster"?
While it's easy to think these jobs could only exist on the pages of a great fiction novel, they're all legit. Right now, as you're reading this, people around the world are getting paid to do all of these things and more.
Here's our list of some of the wackiest and most interesting odd jobs the world has to offer. Just don't blame us if this inspires you to leave your ordinary job behind.
Traffic Zebra - Bolivia
For years, it’s been a nightmare for both motorists and pedestrians to navigate the streets and crosswalks of La Paz, thanks to narrow roadways and a population boom. In 2002, a government employee came up with a wild and ingenious idea to combat the issue: traffic zebras, aka cebritas.
Dressed in full-body zebra costumes, cebritas direct traffic while wielding lollipops and colorful flags, giving out high fives, and helping pedestrians safely walk or dance their way across the street. And that's not all. In addition to saving lives on the road, every zebra hired is an at-risk youth. Working part-time as a cebrita gives each kid a chance to earn an honest wage, and through additional training programs, they can develop skills to become leaders in their local communities.
Happily for tourists, a project called Zebra for a Day makes it possible for curious and adventurous visitors to slip on a zebra suit and join the fun.
Traffic zebras aren’t the world’s only flamboyantly dressed traffic controllers — the Bolivia initiative was inspired by, traffic mimes in Bogota, Colombia.
Subway Pusher - Japan
Tokyo’s trains are notoriously crowded; an estimated 8.5 million people use the city’s subway routes every day. To maintain efficiency, the city employs oshiyas, or “pushers,” who literally cram as many bodies as possible onto the trains, like sardines in a can, while making sure nobody gets caught in the closing doors.
As it was described in CNN, “It's like if you had a big laundry basket that overflows and you have to push the clothes down to close the lid. That's what they do.” To ensure cleanliness, the pushers wear white gloves.
The job helps the city maintain its famous punctuality; this is a place, after all, where a train conductor once apologized for departing the station 20 seconds early.
Mukbang Jockey - South Korea
If you love eating and can attract a massive following online, you could become a famous and well-paid mukbang jockey — someone who live-streams themselves devouring copious amounts of food.
The mukbang, or "eating broadcast," trend began in South Korea around 2013 and quickly became a phenomenon. One popular mukbang personality, Park Seo-Yeon (or “The Diva”), reportedly makes up to $9,000 a month through advertising and sponsorships, just to sit in front of a webcam and binge-eat while chatting with her virtual fans.
While the online trend may seem a bit bizarre, it’s born of specific lifestyle elements in Korean society. As Serim An, the public relations coordinator for the video-streaming platform Afreeca TV, told CNN, "We think it's because of three big reasons — the rise of one-person households in Korea, their ensuing loneliness and finally the huge trend of 'well-being culture' and excessive dieting in Korean society."
For fans following strict diets, watching their favorite mukbang jockey inhale fried chicken, chocolate cake and bowls of noodles allows them to enjoy diet-derailing foods vicariously.
Ravenmaster - United Kingdom
Regarded as highly intelligent and known to be a bit mischevious, ravens are an integral part of the Tower of London’s past and present. A longstanding superstition holds that if the Tower’s resident birds leave, the Tower and indeed the entire kingdom will fall. To thwart that bleak outcome, the birds are cared for by a Ravenmaster — a coveted and notoriously difficult job to land.
To even be considered for the position, you must be a Yeoman Warder, or an official guard of the Tower of London. A minimum of 22 years military service is required, along with a spotless record and a ranking of warrant officer or above.
Chris Skaife is the Tower's current Ravenmaster; he begins each day at sunrise, cleaning the raven's cages and preparing their meal of mice and chicken meat. Once the seven birds have been set free from their cages, Skaife spends the day watching them glide over the Thames River and nick bits of food from unsuspecting tourists. Once it's dark, the ravens return to the Tower, where they are tucked back into their cages for the night, marking the end of the Ravenmaster's day at the office.
Gray Hair Plucker - Vietnam
Thin hair, thick hair, curly hair, kinky hair, it doesn't matter. If you have gray hairs of any kind that you want to get rid of, you can pay to have them plucked from your head in Vietnam by a professional gray-hair plucker.
Traditionally, in Vietnamese families, children pluck the gray hairs of their parents, grandparents and other elderly family members. But over the years, shops have been popping up in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offering the service for a fee.
Interestingly, in the United States there's been an ongoing debate as to whether or not it's a good idea to remove gray hairs. Some believe that plucking causes the hair to grow back thicker, while others think plucking one gray will cause two or three to appear in its place.
The Vietnamese, however, believe that gray hairs trigger headaches and induce stress, and that removing as many as possible can not only improve your look, but potentially boost your health.
Panda Cuddler - China
We have found, without a doubt, the greatest job on Earth.
The Wolong National Nature Reserve in China’s Sichuan Province employs professional panda caretakers who, no joke, spend their days cuddling up to and playing with adorable pandas. And there's a twist: They wear full panda costumes while doing so, because human attachment can make it more difficult for the animals to later acclimate to the wild.
When the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center posted about a similar job opening — one that would require people to “act as carers for adorable panda cubs” — more than 100,000 applicants threw their hat in the ring.
Bomb Diver - Cambodia
The Vietnamese invasion of 1978, years of civil war and relentless carpet-bombing campaigns by the United States have left the waters of Cambodia littered with unexploded ordnance, or UXOs — explosive materials such as cluster bombs and landmines that failed to initially detonate and still pose a risk for explosion.
Since 1979, it's been estimated that there have been over 64,000 UXO-related injuries in Cambodia and over 19,000 deaths. To combat this life-threatening issue, the Cambodian Mine Action Center, or CMAC, created an elite team of bomb divers who are trained to de-mine the rivers and lakes of Cambodia.
From a group of 40 applicants, a team of nine divers were hired. In a demanding military-style training camp, the men learned how to swim, dive and locate UXOs at the bottom of Cambodia's black rivers, such as the Mekong and Tonlé Sap, by touch alone.
The ultimate risk associated with bomb diving is death. One wrong move and even a bomb that's laid dormant for four decades can explode. While each member of the team accepts this grim reality, they believe making the waters of their country safe is a patriotic duty.
Tusk Force - Bangladesh
UNICEF estimates that as of January 2019, over 730,000 persecuted Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar. Within the border area, acres of forest have been torn down to make room for refugee camps. Not only has this negatively impacted the environment but the wildlife, especially the elephants, have suffered as well.
Once a year, elephants from the Southern region of Bangladesh migrate east, and a portion of their migratory path cuts through the refugee camps. Given their genetic memories, elephants are hard-wired to follow the same route every year. Unfortunately, since September 2017, 14 Rohingya refugees have been killed by migrating elephants.
In response, the UN’s refugee agency and the International Union for Conservation of Nature created and sponsor the aptly named Tusk Force. The group is comprised of Rohingya refugees who teach their community, especially the children, how to calmly deal with the elephants. In addition to working in newly built watchtowers throughout the camp, members of this specialized group use a life-sized puppet elephant to demonstrate how to interact with an elephant on the move.
Since its inception, the Tusk Force has proven to be highly effective. According to Aljazeera, "The number of elephant deaths has plummeted from 13 between September 2017 and February 2018 to just one in the past year.”
Professional Churchgoer - North Korea
According to Open Doors USA, a watchdog organization that supports persecuted Christians around the world, North Korea is ranked as the most hostile country for Christians. Unfortunately, in the hermit kingdom, the only person worthy of worship is the supreme leader, Kim Jong-Un. As a result, Christians, if they dare, are forced to worship in secrecy. If caught, they could be dragged off to one of North Korea's notorious labor camps or murdered.
Despite this hostile and dangerous environment, Pyongyang is home to four public churches (one Roman Catholic, one Russian Orthodox and two Protestant). The catch? Their pews are alleged to be filled with hired churchgoers pretending to worship while surrounded by bibles and hymn sheets. The state hosts bogus religious ceremonies, complete with a choir, to give the impression of tolerance and religious freedom to foreign visitors and tourists.
Roadside Dentist - India
In many of India's small towns and villages, alongside rows of barbers, bike mechanics and street food vendors, you can find roadside dentists.
Experts in tooth extraction and dentures, these dentists offer a cheaper alternative to people who can't afford the high costs associated with a traditional dental office.
Interestingly, these roadside dentists don't have to complete formal training or receive an education in dentistry. Most practitioners learn their trade from generations of experienced family members. And while the tools they use streetside are cleaned, they're typically not sterilized, and all procedures are performed without anesthetic.
In 1948, the government made roadside dentistry illegal, but despite the law, the profession continued to thrive. Only recently has there been a crackdown in India's major cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai, as the government doesn't want to soil the image of these tourist-favored cities.
Bicycle Fisher - The Netherlands
In Amsterdam, incredibly, there are more bikes than people. On the plus side, this ensures the city is sustainable and healthy. On the downside, it means that a lot of bikes end up in canals, with many locals using the waterways as a giant trash can despite numerous attempts to thwart the practice.
To solve this uniquely Amsterdam problem, full-time employees use giant hydraulic claws to fish out bikes from the waterways, retrieving an estimated 15,000 bikes each year. By all accounts, the job is held in high esteem. "I love my job," a bicycle fisher told Public Radio International in 2015. "You're standing outside with a lot of freedom around you. So it's a nice job." Indeed.
Dog Mayor - Rabbit Hash, Kentucky
The town of Rabbit Hash, located along the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky, is known for its landmark General Store and its mayors — who for the past 20 years have been dogs.
In 1998, Rabbit Hash's 300-plus residents hired their first canine mayor, a mutt named Goofy Borneman-Calhoun. For years the job was dominated by the boys, but in 2008, Rabbit Hash inaugurated its first female mayor, a border collie called Lucy Lou, who unfortunately passed away in 2018. Today the job belongs to Brynneth Pawltro-Bamforth, or Brynn, an American pit bull terrier, who was elected in 2016.
Brynn, like her predecessors, donates 100% of her income to local charities. And when she's not busy fundraising, Brynn spends her downtime chasing tennis balls, hiking with her human and mingling with the people of Rabbit Hash.
Charmingly enough, Brynn isn’t the only animal to lead a U.S. town. There have been dog mayors in Idyllwood, California; Cormorant, Minnesota; and Sunol, California. In Sunol, a heartwarming animal memorial still stands to the memory of its beloved Bosco the mayor.
Stubbs the cat was the beloved mayor of Talkeetna, Arkansas, until she passed a couple years ago; Lajitas, Texas, was run by a beer-loving goat for nearly a decade; and before electing a dog this year, Eastsound, Washington, counted Alice the Cow as its mayor.
Iceberg Mover - North Atlantic Ocean
As anyone who knows the tragic story of the Titanic could tell you, icebergs can pose a serious threat to ships. Moreover, they can also cause significant damage to oil rigs.
To keep icebergs from wreaking damage, the International Ice Patrol employs contractors to locate and tow away potentially dangerous icebergs using special tug ropes and boats.
The process can reportedly take up to 72 hours.
Olive Oil Police - Italy
In 2008, Italy's National Olive Oil Association graduated its first class of olive oil police — an elite group of 20 law enforcement officers trained to taste and detect fake olive oil.
For years, Italy has struggled to contain the proliferation of the Agromafia, organized crime groups that exploit migrant workers and export cheap versions of Italy's most prized food products. This includes wine, cheese and — the Agromafia's favorite — olive oil.
To produce a knock-off, chemicals and flavorings are added to pure extra-virgin olive oil or the oil is mixed with lower-quality oil versions such as sunflower or soybean. The end product is shipped to places like the United States and sold as real-deal Italian extra-virgin olive oil.
According to a 2016 CBS News report, the unique expertise of these trained tasters has helped law enforcement bust many olive oil scams. As Major Sergio Tirro, considered one of Europe's top food fraud investigators told CBS, the tasters’ "skill is so respected, Italian courts will accept taste results as evidence.”
Traffic Lady - North Korea
Rumored to be handpicked by their supreme leader Kim Jong-Un, the traffic ladies of North Korea manage the roadways of Pyongyang, the country's capital city.
To be considered for employment, a candidate must be physically beautiful (as determined by Kim), unmarried and precisely 5'6" tall. She is also required to relinquish her position when she turns 26 years old, the age when most women in North Korea get married.
Before stepping onto the busy roadways of Pyongyang, the traffic ladies must complete a rigorous training program, where every movement is precisely choreographed and rehearsed until executed with perfection.
Eternal Employee - Sweden
Imagine a job where you're required to do absolutely nothing. And in exchange, you receive a salary with annual raises, paid vacation and a pension. Sound too good to be true? Thanks to Swedish artists Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby — the winners of an international public-art competition tied to the redesign of the Korsvägen train station in Gothenburg, Sweden — it’s not.
Goldin and Senneby's winning project is called Eternal Employment. In 2026, the artists will hire a lucky someone whose only tasks will include clocking in and out at the Korsvägen train station every working day. The employee, hired indefinitely, is free to do whatever he or she wants — take a nap, hit the gym, binge-watch Netflix, whatever — while on the clock. According to the “Washington Post,” the employee's proposed salary will amount to 21,600 Swedish krona, or about $2,312, a month.
The Eternal Employment project will begin accepting applications in 2025. And yes, according to the job description, international candidates are encouraged to apply.
Lunch Box Carrier - India
Nothing can compare to a warm, homemade lunch. Nobody knows this more than Indians, who have created an incredibly intricate system where families send lunch boxes from their houses to places of work.
The central part of this system are the dabbawalas, or lunch box carriers, who collect dozens of lunch boxes and take them around the city by bike or public transit. They then collect the empty lunch boxes and return them to their respective houses.
In Mumbai, the dabbawalas collective pick up about 130,000 lunch boxes every day. Despite this large number and foregoing the use of any modern technology, the system has a 99 percent accuracy rate.
It's so reliable, that entrepreneurs like Richard Branson have spent time shadowing dabbawalas to learn the secret to their success. And a 2013 film titled "The Lunch Box" had a love story that relied on the extreme unlikelihood of a mistake in the delivery system.
Rental Loved One - Japan
The 1990s flick, "The Wedding Guest" convinced us all that renting a date to a wedding wouldn't be a terrible idea. Still, few people have actually done this — unless they're in Japan.
Beginning in the last decade of the 20th century, Japan has seen a rise in rent-a-family services. These companies provide actors who act the role of whoever you want in your life, be it a significant other, parent, child or even friends.
Some actors are hired to play a part in front of others. Say, if you need someone to pretend to be your partner so your family gets off your back about you being single. But some people hire actors to actually pretend to be a loved one, even when there's no one around. This may mean something like hiring someone to meet you at a cafe and talk to you as if they were your mother or to go to an amusement park with you if you don't have any friends.
Though the idea is strange in most countries in the world, actors claim they help people that are lonely.
Professional Bridesmaid - United States
So your special day is coming and bells are ringing, but there's one small problem: You have no friends or no friends you can actually rely on.
It sounds terrible, but this is actually more common than you'd think, with 22 percent of millennials saying that they have no friends. Some of these people have turned to hiring a professional bridesmaid to pretend to be a close friend during their wedding.
A professional bridesmaid's duties vary. Usually, it entails being the sober one of the wedding party and catering to the bride's every need while their actual friends are busy at the open bar. But it can also include planning the bachelorette party and even giving a speech.
Stand-in-Liner - Worldwide
Is there anything worse than standing in line for hours and hours? Don't you wish you could just hire someone to stand in line while you go do things you actually enjoy?
If you do, you're not alone. Around the world in countries like Japan, the U.K. and Poland, people hire others to stand in line for them. The freelancers make money simply by putting up with the utter boredom of being in a slow-moving queue, and you get to use your precious time on something better.
If you're looking for an easy side hustle, bring a book or download a Netflix show while you stand in line to make some extra cash. Apparently, the pay can be really good.
Professional Cuddler - Worldwide
Cuddling is one of life's greatest pleasures. But in this increasingly alienated world, more and more people are finding it hard to find a snuggle buddy.
This has led to several professional cuddler services in countries like the United States and Japan. The services are supposed to be strictly platonic and provide intimacy rather than physicality.
Pros feel good about providing something they deem to be therapeutic to people who need to feel emotional intimacy or who simply don't want to be alone on Valentine's Day. Still, it's a bit sad that there are people out there with no loved ones to cuddle.
Stuffed Animal Travel Guide - Japan and France
You may not be able to travel the world, but that doesn't mean that your loved ones have to stay home with you. And by loved ones, we mean your stuffed animals, of course.
As strange as it sounds, there are at least two travel companies — one in Japan and one in France — that specialize in doing tours for stuffed animals. Customers ship their toys to the respective country and pay a fee of $50-$80 for a tour. The companies give customers updates by sending them pictures of their cuddle buddies having adventures in different places.
Activities go beyond touring, with toys often doing yoga classes, "enjoying" food and joining cultural activities like karaoke. The trend has proven so popular that a German company has started to issue passports for stuffed animals.
Professional Mourner - Worldwide
Professional mourners — that is, people paid to mourn deceased people at funerals — have been around for thousands of years. Even the Ancient Egyptians used them.
The practice has survived in Egypt and is also common in East and Southeast Asia, most famously in China. These mourners are expected to wail loudly, often asking the departed why they left so soon.
But the tradition is not always about not having anyone to mourn. Rather, the theatrics traditionally thought necessary to help spirits pass onto another realm can be burdensome and even unnatural to actual mourners. Everyone faces pain differently and being forced to mourn in a specific way can make the loss of a loved one even more difficult.
Electric Shocker - Mexico
Would you pay $1 for someone to electrocute you? If you're in Mexico City, we certainly recommend you do.
Street vendors in the city carry a small electrical box complete with two metal bars and dials to adjust the volt levels. People, often on a night out drinking, stop with their friends and hold on to the metal rods as the level of electricity increases. The point of the game, called toques, is to see how much you can take.
Most people play by linking hands with their friends, forming a circle of electricity. Whoever gives up first and breaks the chain, loses and has to buy a round for everyone else.
Even David Beckham joined in on the fun when he visited the Mexican capital.
Keeper of the Cup - North America
The Stanley Cup is the most important hockey championship, played by teams from the United States and Canada.
The winner gets to take home the actual Stanley Cup, which is invaluable for many reasons. The cup is so important that each year, one lucky person is chosen to be the keeper of the cup. This very serious, completely real job calls for chaperoning and protecting the cup as it travels from city to city during events.
It might seem like an easy way to make money, but keepers are usually very serious about their duties and commitment to protecting the cup.
License Plate Blocker - Iran
In the gigantic city of Tehran, Iran, the government has dealt with traffic by limiting the number of cars that can be in a given area on certain days. In some cases, a car's eligibility to travel through the area is determined by whether it has even or uneven license plate numbers.
The scheme is not particular to Tehran, being used in other high-traffic cities like Bogota. What is particular to the Iranian capital, however, is the odd job that has sprung up as a response to it. Rather than avoid taking their car out on days it is restricted, people have begun to hire license plate blockers.
The job entails following a car by foot or motorbike and blocking the license plate from view wherever there is a traffic camera. This way, the driver avoids getting fined. As you can probably guess, this isn't the safest nor most rewarding job in the world, and the Iranian government has tried to stamp out the practice with strict regulations and fines.
Professional Apologizer - Japan
People who suck at apologizing are the worst. But in Japan, rather than seek to improve themselves and learn the delicate art of owning up to your mistakes, many have resorted to hiring someone else to do the apologizing.
Professional apology agencies have sprung up in the country and charge various rates depending on whether the apology is written or verbal, virtual or in-person. Reportedly, many clients use these agencies to apologize to their significant other. We can't think of anything less romantic and sincere than that.
Praise Poet - South Africa
Praise poets hold a very important traditional role in many South African tribes. Before colonization, the poets, called imbongi in the Xhosa language, recounted the events of the day and praised chiefs and leaders for their roles in them.
The oral tradition dates back centuries and still enjoys a privileged position in South Africa. Leaders are often accompanied by praise poets, and inaugurations always include them. The poets don't merely praise leaders but do so by employing linguistic mastery, using lyrical tones, thoughtful metaphors and play-on-words.
Zolani Mkiva, who acted as the official praise poet in the inauguration of Nelson Mandela, is one of the most famous professional praisers in the country.
Snow Castle Engineer - Finland
You've probably heard of the Kemi Snow Castle, a winter venue in Finland that is rebuilt every year out of ice and snow.
The venue includes a hotel, a restaurant and even a wedding venue, attracting thousands of people curious for a unique hotel experience.
But sleeping, eating and bathing in a "castle" made of ice is only safe because of the snow castle engineers who make sure the design is sound. As an added perk, this Finnish team proves wrong every person who has said that engineers have boring jobs.
Language Inspector - Canada
Though most of Canada is anglophone, the Francophone province of Quebec holds tightly to its distinct culture and language.
Quebec wants to make sure that, within its borders, French is given decidedly more prominent importance. For this purpose, the government hires language inspectors, who peruse through any written communication to determine if it's French enough.
There have been reports of inspectors giving restaurants poor marks if they lack French words, even when the restaurant serves non-French foods.