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  • first sea phase going terrible

    So, Iv just started my first sea phase and have been really looking forward to it since I started my cadetship. I was waiting around for over a month and then suddenly got thrown on a cargo ship with a days notice.

    At this point I didn't mind because I was just eager to get to sea, as it turns out the whole crew onboard the vessel are Polish, I was a bit worried when I first found out but I thought that they would be used to British cadets etc.

    I have now been on the ship a few days and I hate it, the whole crew talk in polish together and I am completely left out. they have even sat me on a separate table in the galley on my own, I am the only cadet on board so there is no one I can relate to. the chief engineer and captain will speak in broken English to me on occasion but most of the time it is difficult to understand them.

    I'm really worried because I'm an engine cadet and I can't communicate properly with the 2nd engineer, this is on top of being completely outcast and feeling like a stranger.

    I just need to know if anyone else has been in this position? no one to talk to, feeling like a piece of **** on the bottom of the crew's shoes! it's really making me want to quit and Iv got another 4 months, can I request to change ship or do anything about this? Iv even tried learning polish!

  • #2
    Getting 'thrown on' is not out of the ordinary.

    They are required to speak a little English, ask some questions - I doubt they will completely ignore you.

    Try having a conversation with them, if this fails - speak to your sponsor. They will help.
    "Knowledge is gained through experience and experience is just another name for our mistakes" - Albert Einstein/Oscar Wilde
    "Choose a career that you really enjoy and you will never have to work a single day in life."

    Experience with Container, General Cargo and Cruise vessels.

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    • #3
      If you keep saying 'Korva' they will think you can speak Polish and not ignore you. I have genuinely seen this happen.

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      • #4
        this will do the job: 'sem yoorek kiler e mam shisko v doope' everyone knows this famous quote from polish comedy

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        • #5
          Been in a very similar situation to the point I did start learning the language and now as an officer use it more than English, problem is that it's very slow in the start but it definitely helps you cross the 'us and them' line, even a few words. I think it's a very unfair and a difficult circumstance to be in as a trainee and severely impacts both on your training and even more on your well being, it can be very lonely eating dinner alone for months, no one speaking or showing you a thing. However it is not easy to find a solution particularly when you are onboard. A few days isn't so long though, even though it probably feels magnified given your situation... give yourself a few more days to see how things go, a goal like: to the next port or the following week. Failing that and it still sucks:

          1. Are you able to speak to anyone onboard, the Chief? You've been foisted on them and they probably feel equally as uncomfortable with you in that they find it difficult having an English speaker/ Brit with them- maybe laugh it off/ sort it out together, even if its I don't want to be here/ you don't want me here... hint hint- email to the crew co-ordinator.

          2. Speak to the company, can they send you somewhere with British Crew/ even Cadets- explain your difficulties but try to keep from getting angry, even if you are frustrated with their response.

          3. If these avenues don't help, speak to Nautilus, they will offer support, if you are not a member- join! If not I would recommend you approach them anyway.

          4. Port Chaplain... not my first choice but they seem well connected and used to dealing with welfare issues

          Short term...

          You're learning about a new culture the hard way unfortunately... try to observe and see how things are done... this includes how people interact/ speak to each other, not just jobs onboard, pick up phrases, swear words go down well. Then get to thank you, good morning and ship terms. Makes all the difference.

          Try to get stuck in to something in the Engine Room they'll see you're keen, it'll take your mind off the situation, if you look like you're genuinely trying and it will kill many stereotypes they have of you/ your culture/ way of doing things, killing the 'us and them' barrier.

          Ask to or just sit at the same table, sitting alone will isolate you further (I hated meal times as a cadet, adopted an eat and run tactic), even if you're ignored it will remind them you're crew too! Ask questions, often people find English difficult but that doesn't mean they don't understand just shy to talk. Try and force yourself to hang out after watch... cards in the mess, a friendly beer do not require good English! One of the best crews I sailed with didn't say much in English but made me feel welcome, other crews didn't despite speaking more English.... it's awkward but stick in, do you smoke? Football? Find common ground? Harder at work but get stuck in and suck up the initial awkwardness even if it is hard.

          I hate hearing stories like this from cadets... the Merchant Navy seems like a lottery in who gets a good company/ a job/ decent training and so on.

          Feel free to PM me just to get it off your chest if you want, won't judge and don't care who you are or where you come from- been in a very similar situation and stuck it out to the point it paid off but had some very lonely and frustrating times at sea. I sucked it up but maybe it's better to get out of it early if possible.

          Anyway, hope things improve soon.

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          • #6
            Having attempted to run that through google translate and gotten "sem yoorek kiler and I sysko in the ass" I'm going to recommend you don't try that one, It would probably make them laugh, but not for the right reasons I fear.

            Size4riggerboots

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            • #7
              I'm nearing 30 and have worked with people from different backgrounds a lot... and I also hated my first few days. I'm not the homesick type, but the sense of isolation was overwhelming (and I am the type to seek isolation when at home!). There are two nationalities on board my ship - Norwegian and Filipino. I'd love a table on my own, sat with the Norwegian officers is a bizarre experience, however I am fortunate that their command of the English language is very good, even if there understanding of my non-BBC accent isn't. It takes time to settle on your first ship, I'm only 6 weeks in and I'd be lying if I didn't say there were still ups and downs. Only a few members of the deck crew have a bad command of English and unfortunately one is the bosun. That is undeniably impacting my training because he'd rather not have me around as our lack of understanding between one another is frustrating.

              I have tried picking up words of their language, but it usually ends in laughter at my failed attempts to apply it, but even that makes you feel more accepted. When I was first onboard nobody spoke to me, but as they get to know you it will change and events will happen that change relationships, Getting stuck on 6 hour lookouts with one of the AB's during a Gulf of Aden transit gets you talking, getting drunk with the captain and finding a mutual love of motorsports and ice hockey. It takes time, I'd give it a month at least, then contact your sponsor. Don't consider quitting until you've explored every avenue and given it a chance. Ultimately, if your trip ends and you still hate it, evaluate it at that point, but if you're anything like me the first few days/weeks are the hardest. I'm semi used to the isolation now and quite happily sit reading karaoke lyrics in Tagalog.

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              • #8
                I think what Laura said is very good , common ground is always a good ice breaker. I dont know what your into but the majority of European men know a bit about football and thats where I usually try to start off . Even ask them where abouts in Poland they are from ? If you dont know much about the place use wikipedia. 75% of Polish guys I've worked with were from the Gdansk/Gdynia area and its actually a really nice place.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by bobofinga View Post
                  I think what Laura said is very good , common ground is always a good ice breaker. I dont know what your into but the majority of European men know a bit about football and thats where I usually try to start off . Even ask them where abouts in Poland they are from ? If you dont know much about the place use wikipedia. 75% of Polish guys I've worked with were from the Gdansk/Gdynia area and its actually a really nice place.
                  If you know, roughly, what the nationality of the folks you're going to sea with is, get on ze google and learn how to say hello, thank you, etc in their language! Be surprised at what that can do for you....
                  I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.....

                  All posts here represent my own opinion and not that of my employer.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ramfeild66 View Post
                    I'm nearing 30 and have worked with people from different backgrounds a lot... and I also hated my first few days. I'm not the homesick type, but the sense of isolation was overwhelming (and I am the type to seek isolation when at home!). There are two nationalities on board my ship - Norwegian and Filipino. I'd love a table on my own, sat with the Norwegian officers is a bizarre experience, however I am fortunate that their command of the English language is very good, even if there understanding of my non-BBC accent isn't. It takes time to settle on your first ship, I'm only 6 weeks in and I'd be lying if I didn't say there were still ups and downs. Only a few members of the deck crew have a bad command of English and unfortunately one is the bosun. That is undeniably impacting my training because he'd rather not have me around as our lack of understanding between one another is frustrating.

                    I have tried picking up words of their language, but it usually ends in laughter at my failed attempts to apply it, but even that makes you feel more accepted. When I was first onboard nobody spoke to me, but as they get to know you it will change and events will happen that change relationships, Getting stuck on 6 hour lookouts with one of the AB's during a Gulf of Aden transit gets you talking, getting drunk with the captain and finding a mutual love of motorsports and ice hockey. It takes time, I'd give it a month at least, then contact your sponsor. Don't consider quitting until you've explored every avenue and given it a chance. Ultimately, if your trip ends and you still hate it, evaluate it at that point, but if you're anything like me the first few days/weeks are the hardest. I'm semi used to the isolation now and quite happily sit reading karaoke lyrics in Tagalog.


                    Which part of Norway are they from? Most Norwegian seafarers are either from the West or North with only a few from Oslo or the South East... if they make fun of your mispronunciation... try this 'j?vla vestlendinger' jav-la vest-len-ding-er... it means 'bloody west coasters' or more literally bloody west coast speakers.. and point out no wonder you can't understand them with their west coast dialect! . most Norwegians have dialects as we do (non BBC norwegian if you like) and they're very interested with which part of Norway they're from, they'll get the joke, I tend to use 'j?vla vikingar' which means 'bloody vikings' a lot which they all laugh at me for... it's all said in good nature though... wouldn't recommend it in an argument though!

                    Also Scandinavians, don't tend to use the word 'sir' I would lose that quickly... use titles Captain, Chief etc if they haven't said already to call you by their first name, you probably know this already, but just in case, whereas with Filippinos... Sir it is!

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