Eight Things You Should Be Ready For Before You Move Overseas and Become a Flight Attendant

1. Homesickness. Being a flight attendant, part of your job perks is that you get to go home basically anytime you want. ‘Anytime’ being relative; relative to your days off or annual leave, relative to your prior duty, relative to your next duty. So yes, while it is so much easier for us flight attendants to go back to our home countries to spend quality time with our families (or just satisfy your craving for real Pinoy food) compared to other OFWs in other industries, there will still be days when you can’t go home – just yet.

2. Missing homecooked meals. I became a flight attendant at the age of 23 and while I have been living away from home since I was 16, I’ve never really developed a sincere liking to cooking. I’ve lived on budget meals and instant noodles when I was in college and working in Manila. I would only get spoiled with homecooked meals by my mom or my boyfriend then (now my husband) when I go home to my province or when he comes to visit. Living overseas and being a flight attendant for more than five years now has not exactly changed a thing about my cooking skills. I think I just am lucky because both in KL and Doha, I had and have good cooks for flatmates (Thank you, Ja and Ate Sha! :p) Otherwise, when left to my own resources, I’m back to my cupboard or clicking on Talabat.

3. Different time zones, different weathers. Starting out as a flight attendant, you don’t have to have a closet full of winter clothes and another one for summer. Just be sure to have at least a few pieces that you can mix and match for extremes of weather. Always be sure to check the weather forecast for a particular destination you’re headed to before you actually pack your suitcase. Case in point: Three years ago, I flew to South Africa for the first time. I stupidly assumed that since it is in Africa, it will be hot, hence I threw in a couple of knee-length sleeveless dresses in my suitcase never once thinking to check the weather forecast. Lo and behold, when I was going out for dinner with a few other crew, I had to make do of that dress on a 12° Johannesburg night! My cardigan (which I always throw in the suitcase even on summers because I’m one of those people who get cold easily) literally saved me from the cold. Seated with a bunch of people in bubble jackets and turtlenecks, it didn’t save me from feeling and looking so stupid the whole night though. Oh well, just another lesson learned! 😜

4. Time flies when you fly. Time is going to be a breeze, darling. Before you know it, another month is over. Flight attendants live on and off their monthly rosters. We don’t do Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, whatever.. In a flight attendant’s head and tongue, we talk dates. We don’t exactly care which day of the week it is as there are days we work on weekends and there are days we rest on weekdays. One layover flight is typically equivalent to three days off your roster. Two destinations flown and you’ve already said goodbye to a week off your roster and yes, your life.

5. Say goodbye to family events and reunions. Like I’ve mentioned, staff tickets and discounts make it so easy for us to go home but just like in any job, your work schedule (aka your roster) will be of more importance. It is a reality in the life of a flight attendant especially one in an international airline, to miss many important family celebrations and events of friends. I’ve stopped counting which cousins’ and friends’ weddings I haven’t attended, which nieces’ or nephews’ baptism I missed, which birthday celebrations I’ve only celebrated on video calls. I remember spending my birthday last year in a funny twist of events. I was rostered to fly to London Heathrow and meet my college friend in the city. I knew it was going to be a great birthday as it will be a reunion with my friend after so long and it will be my first time to meet her husband. Less than two hours before the departure, sitting in the pre-flight briefing room, the telephone rang. At this point, let me tell you that the phone usually ONLY rings on two occasions. One, when one crew is missing. Nope, everyone on the list is present. Alright then. Two, when one crew is being pulled out of that flight. Guess whose staff number was being called out? Of all people in the briefing room, of course it had to be me. 😂 So I pulled my trolley behind me and went on to ask where I was flying to instead. Colombo, Sri Lanka. Deadheading. Not bad, I thought. I just had to let my friend know to cancel their trip to London. I was already picturing my birthday hotel staycation in Colombo. Operating coming back right away. 😳😳😳😳😳 So to cut the story short, I basically did a Colombo turnaround flight – on my birthday. (PS. I also missed on getting the birthday flowers my guy asked my friend to buy and give to me. Lol) Not complaining. Just warning you this is a #crewlife reality that you may face.

6. Long waking hours. Picture this. You see a flight attendant hustling in the cabin for a flight that’s scheduled to depart at 10AM. The million dollar question is: What time do you think she started her day? Roughly 3 hours pre-departure, she’s supposed to be headed for work. 2 hours pre-departure, she’s supposed to be signing on for the flight. Add two to three hours for her to prepare and create the look you’re seeing now. If that is a normal flight attendant, probably 5AM. If that flight attendant is me, the answer would be 4AM. (I like to take my time. 😉)

7. Creating and maintaining friendships. In this industry, you will meet so many people. You may fly with people who could be your soul sisters or brothers and have a good time with them on a layover. But that could be the last of it. Keeping in touch and actually meeting up to keep the bond will be truly challenging as it is very unlikely for you to fly with them again or have the same days off and rest days. The same goes for your friends outside the industry. Most of them will have weekends off and as for you, you will know no weekends as you could be flying those days. It is not impossible, it is just really frustrating sometimes to find a common free day.

8. Brief (thank God!) periods of disorientation. I don’t think there’s ever a flight attendant who has not experienced this. At least once or one of these two, I’m sure a lot, if not everyone, had this mini panic moment. One: Waking up and NOT knowing where in the world you are. You just woke up alone in a nice bed and you had to look up and stare into the ceiling for a good five seconds to allow your brains to land on the idea of where you currently are. Sometimes, the hotel pen and notepad by the bedside table helps. 😛 Scenario 2: You know how waking up before the alarm sometimes gives us the fulfilled feeling? Well, as a flight attendant, waking up before your alarm especially when everything is dark and quiet could give you a heart attack thinking you’ve hit the snooze button in your sleep, overslept and missed your flight when the sad but funny truth of the matter is you’ve just had three hours of shuteye. True story. #

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