Q: Kate, Junior Stewardess, 22:
"I’ve been on board this yacht for 2 months, and I’m just not fitting in. It’s a big boat full of big personalities and everyone parties a lot. I’m fairly shy and I get a bit nervous in the crew mess when everyone’s talking, I can’t seem to get the courage to pipe up and say anything.
They have now started teasing me about being so quiet! I also feel like my cabin mate doesn’t like me. I don’t want to give up the job because I know how important longevity is on my CV, but I am struggling. Do you have hints on how I can make it through the season and maybe fit in with the crew a bit better?"
A: The Crew Coach:
Hi Kate, thanks for reaching out to me about this, I am only too happy to answer this question. Firstly, do you know how good it is for a yacht to have a few quiet types? The culture of a yacht gets very unbalanced when there’s too many boisterous characters – in fact, have you thought about the fact that maybe this is why you’re there? That the captain chose you at least partly because you’re more quiet and introspective? Smart Captains try to shape a balanced onboard culture with their hiring strategy. A calm presence is probably what the yacht needed, and you’re here to provide it. So, let’s ‘rebrand’ you from shy and quiet, to calm and balancing.
Secondly, did you know that most of us get nervous in the crew mess in the beginning when everyone else seems to already be so close – they have all their in-jokes and shared history and we are new to the conversation? But often those confident people you’re admiring are also shy in some ways, so don’t assume you are so very different from them. If it feels too scary to pipe up in front of everyone, carry on chatting in smaller groups until the day where you feel comfortable enough to make a comment in front of everyone. It’s a wonderful feeling when everyone else cracks up at your remarks – and don’t worry, this will happen when they’ve had more time to get to know you. In fact it’s even more likely to happen because they’ll be surprised at you actually speaking out!
As for your cabin mate, have you had a chance to talk to her and get to know her, or have you just decided she doesn’t like you? Sometimes we jump to conclusions about how others think about us and that makes us behave weirdly, which then makes the other person behave in a way that convinces us we were right, and that they don’t like us. It’s a vicious cycle but of our own making - you are the only one who can turn that around, and often it can shift just by choosing to stop thinking that the other person doesn’t like you.
Even if you have gotten off on the wrong foot with your cabin mate, just start talking to her more and see if she thaws. (Hint: people can rarely resist talking about themselves- so ask questions about things she is interested in.) Or if there really does seem to be a problem, approach her directly and ask if you’ve offended her in some way. Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t- but if you have, then you can work towards making it better, rather than tiptoeing around her and feeling sad. That’s not going to help matters one little bit.
The other thing is you may be putting yourself under too much pressure to fit in too soon. You don’t need to make best friends with the entire crew in the first month, don’t panic! You don’t know all their stories or their behaviours yet… and time will paint a much better picture. For instance you might find out that the Chief Stew gives everyone a hard time for a month, just to see if they’re tough enough and really want the job. I’ve seen this happen before (although I certainly don’t condone it as a management practice!)
If things don’t improve at the end of three months, have a talk to your HOD or Captain, and tell them you’re having a bit of trouble fitting in with the team. They may be able to help with this and include you more in conversations or socialising, or find other ways to integrate you more in the team.
Finally, reconnect with why you want to do this job and as much as possible keep in contact with your true friends and family back home – people who do know and love you (the real you!). This will help to keep you sane and keep your eyes on the prize – in other words, the bigger picture about what it’s all for. Trust me, the best way to solve this problem is to stop trying too hard and stop worrying about it. Relax and I bet you’ll find it begins to happen naturally.
Above all, chin up, be brave and give it your best shot! Remember what fantastic opportunities this job is providing for you and some of these other smaller stresses will fade away.
What do you think, do you have any tips for fitting in to a new crew? Post your comments below!