I’m halfway through my first overseas contract, performing at a big theme park on the other side of the world. I was excited to land this job, and the first few months were amazing.
The show is excellent, with high production values, and the pay is good, but despite all the cool photos I post on social media, I am feeling more and more homesick and enjoying things less than I used to.
I don’t want to be that awful expat who moans all the time (there are one or two of those in the cast and crew already), but while the park itself is ultramodern, trying to get any day-to-day life stuff done in the surrounding towns can be a complete pain.
There is so much bureaucracy involved in doing the smallest things, which is frustrating when we have such a full-on show schedule and time off is precious.
I’m a ‘show must go on’ type of person, so I’ll keep going, but once this contract is over, I’m not sure another overseas job will be for me.
It sounds like you are experiencing a classic case of culture shock, which is not unusual for even the most seasoned overseas performer, and which usually hits later rather than sooner in a long contract.
Our first dip into a new country or new job, especially in a tourist venue, is generally positive and exciting.
It is quite common to find that the more starry eyed we are about all those fresh colours, tastes and sounds in the beginning, the more the pendulum swings the other way after a few months. When it does, the differences, confusions and minor irritations of not being able to do things can easily become our main focus.
Christmas is a prime time for emotions like this to rise to the surface – I often hear from actors struggling with homesickness and low mood while on long panto runs in Britain, never mind halfway across the globe.
Fortunately, the overly negative period is also just one stage of the process in getting acclimatised, and it too will usually pass with time.
There are some practical steps you can take to help you get to that happy place a little quicker.
Having recognised the perfectly understandable tendency to compare everything unfavourably with home, we can catch ourselves as soon as the negativity creeps in. For instance, an effective seasonal strategy is simply to remind ourselves that how Christmas or other significant events are done in the new location may be different, but that doesn’t make things better or worse.
Rather than making instant value judgements, try instead to make the deliberate choice to be interested, curious and enjoy all the unfamiliar experiences on offer. If your show schedule is intense, make sure you also take care of yourself in terms of rest, food and, especially in a hot climate, non-alcoholic hydration.
The way we feel physically definitely affects how we feel mentally. Getting so tired and irritable that we stop noticing how run-down we are is a very easy trap to fall into.
How you feel has a lot to do with who you spend time with. If your professional circle is full of people who constantly moan about missing home, it is very easy to get sucked in.
Connect to more positive spirits and it will be easier to embrace what’s good in the moment. You’ll also make personal and professional connections that could result in new work leads and opportunities for the future, regardless of whether your next gig ends up being at home or abroad.
Contact careers adviser John Byrne at firstname.lastname@example.org or @dearjohnbyrne
John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne