Cabin crew life in the Middle East. My experience at Gulf Air
One year ago I was writing on my personal blog about beginnings. About the courage to step in an unknown field, about the strength no build a career from zero. About changes, decisions, risks. Looking now at all those things, I realize that I had the same feelings as many others in my place. The distance between the Middle East and Europe is more than just geographical distance, it’s also about embracing a new culture and spirituality.
Of course, this experience can be different from one individual to another. That’s why, I will share my personal, unique story, in which I learned to fully embrace the Arabic culture and to accept people for who they are, not according to their labels.
I arrived in Bahrain at 8 PM after 3 flights. I was tired, facing unknown, the heat and the dry air weren’t helping me at all. I never thought I’ll get used to such a different climate. I was feeling a total stranger. I guess for me, the most important thing that mattered at that moment was that I wasn’t alone at all. At Bahrain airport, we were greeted by someone from the company and permanently guided by this person. We received all the instructions about what’s next, some money and a sim card. Also, a bus took us straight to the accommodation. The next morning, the same bus picked us up in front of the building at 8 am sharp. So we learned from the first day how important is to be punctual.
I believe getting used to be a flight attendant in the Middle East is different from one person to another. For someone with a strong personality, life here can seem too disciplined. For a free, libertine personality can seem too rigorous. Luckily, I didn’t think those rules were too harsh, I looked within them and found their true meaning. One of the most challenging times for a European is during Ramadan. Ramadan is a strict fast which lasts 1 month. You aren’t allowed to eat in public spaces. The best is to only eat at home at that time of the year. One aspect that I truly respected was the way I was dressing. In Bahrain isn’t mandatory to wear abaya (long black dress) or to have your face covered. You can dress however you want. Still, I considered myself as a guest in their country so I adopted a more formal, elegant dress code when going in public spaces. So instead of wearing a top, I’d wear a T-shirt and because it’s hot all year I wore long skirts which were really comfortable.
If you don’t want to change your style, it isn’t a big problem, but you’ll have to get used to some prying eyes.
I believe training is the start of your aviation career. The training for Gulf Air takes up to 2 months with an 8 hours program, Sundays ’till Thursdays (Fridays and Saturdays are free days). The curriculum is indeed a lot to handle, but luckily it is spared into weeks of study with both theoretical and practical lessons. You’ll learn about medical problems, cabin service, safety and emergency procedures, security, ditching, grooming, crew resource manager, firefight and many more. You’ll have lots of situations in which you can apply your knowledge in practical exercises, so you can be prepared in any of the emergencies.
Even though at first it seemed impossible, the feeling I had when I received my diploma was totally worth it!
On my first day, I understood why the recruitment process was that long. Gulf Air Training Centre was waiting for us with everything prepared. Each classroom, each simulator, the building in which we’ll stay during those 2 months, the manuals, the free transport and many more. This shows that it took lots of preparations and they are really professional.
Our batch was formed by 13 people, 7 of them were Romanians, thing that for me mattered very much. During classes and training, we were talking all the time in English, but in our free time we were talking in Romanian and this is a real help. So if you have in your batch people with the same nationality as yours, make sure you’ll become friends! It really matters with the homesickness feeling. A good thing in Bahrain is that it is a safe city. You can go and have fun with your friends without any problems.
I believe the trainers felt the connection between us, therefore the courses went smoothly. For each course, we had another trainer. They all were well prepared and serious but at the same time very friendly and understanding. At the end of each course (which can last 2 days, up to 2 weeks), we had an exam. In order to pass to the next course, you had to pass it.
I can’t guarantee that each of you will feel the same as I did in an Arabic country, but I advise you to believe in your feelings and if something is not ok, listen to that. Make a change!
“Life can be lived anywhere. The environment is not important, what is really essential is the intensity of it.” – Cezar Petrescu (Romanian author)
*story written by our trainer, Roxana, from her own experience as a Gulf Air cabin crew.
*story translated into English by our editor, Georgiana.
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