One of the biggest shocks I seem to give people while working on board, is the fact that I am American. I cannot count the number of guests that tell me I am the first American they have encountered while on board. My only response is the truth: There are not many of us from the United States that work on board. On my current ship, I have only met six others that are from the States, and really only interact with one other American.
On board the small ship I am currently on, we have over 60 different nationalities. There are people from every continent (excluding Antarctica… at least to my knowledge). On my team alone, in just one month, I made friends with men and women from Serbia, Scotland, South Africa, Brazil, England, Columbia, China, Argentina, Peru and the Philippians. How amazing is that!?
In fact, that is one of the main reasons I wanted to work on ships. So that I would get the chance to interact and learn from people all over the world. I continue to meet people from countries I know very little about, and get a chance to expand my mind, knowledge base, and world views/understanding. It really is amazing.
When it comes to language, the main language on board the ship is English. It’s the language that connects us all. But of course, it is in no way the only language that is spoken. I hear conversations in Spanish, Serbian, Chinese, Philippine, Croatian, and so on. Sometime I get a chance to hear languages I would have never had a chance to listen to otherwise.
To be honest, as cool as that is, it can become very difficult at times. I only speak English, and know basic ASL. So, unfortunately, I have very little Spanish and French vocabulary. When I first got on board, it was amazing to hear conversations in different languages. But, being that I am now in the minority when it comes to being a native English speaker, it can be difficult sitting around listening to people speak and not understand what is going on. And, not everyone on board speaks perfect English, which leads to lots of asking people to repeat what they are saying or acting out what you are trying to say in order to be understood.
Of course, the advice in that situation would be to start learning a new language…. but when the language of the conversation changes depending on who you are around, it’s hard to choose which language to learn first.
It’s become easier since I first began. I have been picking up bits of Spanish and one of my friends is even helping me learn. Many people I have encountered only started working on ships knowing one or two languages and have expanded their language abilities since then. Namely, Spanish seems to be the language many pick up on. And trust me, I am trying my hardest to do so.
One thing I will say is I’ve only just begun and I’ve made friends from all around the world. More than I ever have before. I know if I was ever in their country I’d be welcome, just as if they were ever in mine they would always have a place to stay.