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Kevin, International Expat

Who are you?

My name is Kevin, I’m French, from Paris. I am an International HR Professional and a great travel addict ;)I have completed a few expatriations. Now I am a cruise ship officer, exploring the world. In addition, I am a blogger in my spare time, trying to share my experience and my different expatriation adventures.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I started my first expatriation in October 2016. I stayed 6 months in Dublin, Ireland. I wanted to learn English language. Not just at university with other French students but abroad. Where I would be forced to speak English to live, learn, visit, etc.

In July 2017, I found a job in Cardiff, Wales, UK. It was a huge opportunity so I left Dublin and joined the UK to be HR Business Partner for Airbus. It was my first professional experience in HR.

End of 2018, ending my temporary job with Airbus, I found an unusual job offer to be a HR Manager on a cruise ship. Of course, I applied and I am now working and living on the Seven Seas. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to travel around the world and to be paid for that! It was also the fantastic chance to live and work with so many different cultures.

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What challenges did you face during the move?

In Ireland, I wasn’t prepared enough for this move. It was my first expatriation and I was excited to leave France. So I just applied for my school of English and booked a room with a host family for a month and that’s it. So I realized very quickly that the real estate market in Dublin was extremely tense! Trying to find an accommodation was a daily challenge. You had to be the quickest to call, ready to wait in front of the flat with 10-20 other people, have your deposit with you and ready to take the flat….

In the UK, I didn’t really face any challenge, everything was smooth. Some difficulties but nothing concerning I would say. When you are getting close to British people, especially Welsh people, nothing’s impossible!

At sea, everything is challenging. And every day is a challenge. I live, work, rest, eat, laugh… 24/7 on the ship. It is sometimes difficult to be surrounded by the same people all the time and to never really be in your bubble.

How did you find somewhere to live?

In Ireland, I was very lucky. I managed to call an agency, to visit a flat and to quickly send the deposit. My studio was awful. Very expensive and dirty/old/damp. But I found it within my first month in Dublin. You have to accept to live in a flat in poor conditions.

In the UK, I found a bedroom to rent within a week. I was living with a colleague. It was perfect! And a little bit later, I found a bigger house with 4 other roommates, closer to the city center. My bedroom had a nice waterview!

At sea, well…. My cabin was always ready and waiting for me 😉

Are there many other expats in your area?

Yes! This is a very unique environment and a very original way to expatriate. Onboard a cruise ship, you can live and work with 40 different nationalities. Sometimes, even 70!

What is your relationship like with the locals?

In Ireland and the UK, I always stayed close to the locals. Expatriation is not holidays. I want to understand and learn the culture. I never wanted to have my own flat and live by myself but always with the locals so I can embrace the culture.

At sea, it’s a little bit different. I don’t live with one nationality and/or culture, I live with 40, 50, 60…70 of them! I have to adapt my attitude, my behavior and my communication to each individual! You can’t make any mistake, otherwise, you will have to solve a conflict immediately…
It’s the same when the ship is docked. Depending on where the ship is, I have to adapt myself as well to the locals. However, cruise ships are always welcomed in each port. It’s easy to talk to the locals as they are always curious about the life onboard.

What do you like about life where you are?

My life is really unique! I just love it!

I really enjoy walking around the ship in the evening, catching the sunset – there is absolutely nothing prettier than a sunset at sea! – or at night so I can see the stars.

I also like to finish my day at work, coming back to my cabin, and checking the ocean through my porthole. Listen to the sound of waves and slowly falling asleep.

And I would say that the most amazing feeling is to be in one country one day, and, the next morning, to spend the day in a totally different country and a different culture. And you repeat this every day!

What do you dislike about your expat life?

It’s part of the life at sea. You spend several months onboard your ship and you can’t go back home when you want. So, sometimes, you can miss some events: births, birthdays, weddings, etc. It could be hard so you must be prepared to accept it when you sign your contract.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Well, all my expatriations have something in common. I come from Paris, France. It’s a cliché but it’s true: people are definitely not friendly there and, most of the time, quite angry. Irish and British people, especially the Welsh, always welcomed me and always helped me. No matter the place or the time, they are open-minded, generous and helpful.

The same at sea, there is something in common with all nationalities that you won’t see on land: solidarity. It’s impressive how all nationalities/cultures don’t really matter as soon as you need help. Everyone is ready to support you, to guide you, no matter who you are.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

So, I was a little bit harsh on French people on the previous question, so let’s be nice this time. French people are very talented with food. So, Ireland or the UK, or onboard the ship, food doesn’t taste great in general… I always missed my country, just because of the food.

However, of course, there are great things abroad. I love the Irish and the British breakfast. This is so great and so tasty in the morning. I actually started to have breakfast when I left France for Dublin.

The good thing at sea, is that you eat what you can find on the itinerary. In Alaska, you have plenty of smoked salmon and lobster 😉

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

A career at sea is a very special expatriation. You work and live in the same environment for several months, with many cultures and many nationalities. You must adapt to all of them. It’s very hard and challenging but also incredibly rewarding.

If you want to start this experience, I would recommend to have an experience away from your home country first. Try to live far away from home. It will help to see if you can be away from your family.

Stay with the locals, do whatever it takes to get out of your comfort zone and to break your routine.

And… try a journey on a ferry or a cruise, just in case you are easily seasick 😉

What are your plans for the future?

I will definitely stay at sea. I still have many many places to visit.

You can keep up to date with Kevin's adventures on his blog, Away With Your Fairies.

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