Life Working Overseas
When you think of working overseas images of sunny places, drinking cocktails, white sandy beaches or vibrant cities will spring to mind. Working overseas gives you all that and more. You have the opportunity to experience a new destination, usually with sunny weather and designed to appeal to an array of tourists catering to their every whim.
I worked for fifteen years overseas for a major Tour Operator. My work assignments included Spain, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and Egypt.
To work overseas takes a certain individual. Everyone thinks they could do it or rather would like to do it, but after the two-week induction and the work begins, the realisation that this is not a holiday sinks in. The real individuals stand out while the rest simply go home. Working overseas tends to be in holiday destinations, yes, but the work is hard and demanding. Working in scorching temperatures every day, dealing and juggling many issues with tasks that need complete resolution, and needing to achieve rather gruelling targets – these all separate the wannabes from the workers.
So what could you expect? Why is it so hard to retain employees overseas? Firstly, the mind-set, to work overseas you must fully commit to not seeing family, friends, your beloved pet or even having Grannies Sunday roast for several months. It’s rare that you will be allowed to visit home for a weekend, or longer, once you’re overseas due to many factors; work cover, entry visas and customer service levels consistency. If you find that hard, then when family and friends do visit, you have to deal with them leaving after their one or two-week holiday. So you must be fully prepared to leave loved ones and familiarity behind to start a new adventure, being part of a new family of workers overseas and have the attitude to complete your contractual period.
If you have the mentality to succeed the first obstacle, the next may deter. Living overseas is not the same as holidaying overseas. The accommodation is usually basic. Most rooms have the must have’s only; bed, shower and chair! No air-conditioning with the heat can be unbearable and hard to sleep. You rarely live in hotels, and if you do it’s the staff room, again no air-conditioning. Think of the film Dirty Dancing and those basic huts with, if lucky, a ceiling fan moving the heat around like a fan assisted oven! As you are having that thought, also think about the staff dance hall and the amount of fun staff have, as well with the community they create! Staff tend to live together, and a community grows, an overseas family. Different skills from different people, some know how to cook, other can sew, other are great at catching the bugs (which there are many in hot countries!) and some simply know how to work the washing machine. All this together will craft the overseas family. This family that is created will remain in your heart long after your tan fades.
Lastly, if you overcome being away from home, living in basic accommodation, the heat and being independent, the last obstacle is the actual working environment. Unless you are lucky enough to speak the local lingo then there is the language barrier. The working hours vary with job to job, the travel industry is a 24hour operation, so you will need to be prepared to work unsociable hours often into the night and early mornings. You will remember sleep as a distant memory or catch up during the day, think Spain and siestas! You will need to act quickly, professionally and often independently while battling fatigue and often extreme heats. You will need to be able to make robust decisions based on facts that are fair while also considering the personal impact of the customer. You will need to learn new skills, adapt to new processes and be able to self-teach yourself.
If you can do all of the above – then you will love a life overseas and what it gives back to you will be life-changing. You gain confidence, public speaking skills, organisation skills the ability to think quickly and process information to a happy resolution. You will have fun! You will form close relationships based on a mutual experience. You will be with like-minded people that help shift your character, embracing new cultures and people from all walks of life. You live in a beautiful paradise oasis, filled with charm, stunning scenery and eccentrics. You feel amazing, a soft glow to your skin, a selfie taken of you perched high above the clouds. It’s the liveliest environment you will live through, no need for social or digital media when a knock on your riggerty staff door signals a night out, dinner, drinks, seeing a show, a midnight walk through a known ghost town, or even that x-factor has started and you are required to sit around a laptop to watch it streaming live.
Nothing will ever compare, whether you work overseas once or make it a career like I did, it will be the best decision you’ve ever made. It will break you at times, but ultimately it will make you! Mark Twain said that to ‘travel is to broaden your mind’, but to live in a travel destination will broaden much more. Nobody ever wishes that they had worked more, it’s often that they had travelled more. No-one regrets what they did do, rather what they didn’t.
So if you are sitting there reading this and wondering, then wonder no more, take that step, make that leap and you’ll fall into a world that you help create, with remarkable people filled with excitement!
Written by Cat Edwards
Ex Overseas Worker of 15years