A huge interview from Elena
Here’s the large interview with Elena. She has already changed several resorts and continues to work in one of the most luxurious hotels on Maldives!
When did you first come to Maldives?
I first came here in 2014 when I was almost done with my bachelor’s degree with a major in hotel management. But I was still considering what to do in life. I had to choose whether to continue my education or to start working. Although I was already mature enough. In 2012 I was a participant of Work and Travel Program (cultural exchange program which allows students to spend their summer in the USA). I came back home and tried it next summer, but unfortunately I didn’t get a visa. Anyway I didn’t give up and found an opening in Turkey as an animator for children. But in reality I didn’t really enjoy that and decided that it’s enough and I should switch to something else.
Finally, I decided that constant traveling around the world made me think of a way to continue working abroad. But to tell the truth, I didn’t have in mind that I would ever happen to live on Maldives. I was steadily seeking for some new openings abroad. At that moment I even found a job as a waitress in Greece, but unfortunately didn’t manage to get it due to some troubles with the documents.
Maybe it was for the best. I rather often receive messages on social media asking how to move to the Maldives and find a job here. I would say that a language should not be a barrier for you once you decided to move. You should have at least spoken language, guys! That is a must. English is the second language on Maldives after Dhivehi (the official language of the Republic of Maldives). That’s why I don’t understand how people believe they could find a job here without a good command of English.
So one day I came across one job opening advertising Maldives. I didn’t know anything about these islands before. For sure I knew that it’s a heavenly and luxurious place, but that’s it. I didn’t know any hotel or an island. Nothing in particular. So the vacancy I found was for the restaurant at Vivanta by Taj Coral Reef Maldives. So to say that fact meant nothing whether it’s a good hotel or not.
And I didn’t have in mind anyone who would work on Maldives to ask for advice either. Of course I googled some photos of this hotel and with a sense of having fulfilled my duty I decided that I was ready. I remember regretting whether I made the right choice leaving the university and relatives for a completely different world. Although all of my friends envied me at that time that I’m flying to the Maldives. By the way the interview was easy.
My position had to be F&B hostess (hostess in the main restaurant on the island as I learned later). The date of departure was scheduled after the interview and I started to get ready for a journey. At that time I had no idea that my trip will prolong and last for more than two years.
What are your responsibilities and why did you chose this profession?
As I’ve already mentioned before I work as a hostess in a restaurant which is open for guests during breakfast, lunch and dinner. In other words it’s all-day dining restaurant. Why did I choose this occupation? First of all my major at university was in hotel, resort and restaurant management. And I always thought of making a career in this area. Because it’s clear that people will always travel and visit restaurants no matter what happen in the world.
In theory after my graduation I had to work as a manager-economist selling tours for a travel agency. But still you need to succeed to be hired for this agency. I forgot to mention that I’m from Kharkov, Ukraine. There we have to compete not only for a salary but for a place. At that moment I just completed my bachelor’s degree. But in reality my studies didn’t give me any opportunity although I studied on the contract and not with the funds allocated from the national budget.
I remember thinking: “Well, let’s have a try. That it’s definitely something new for me”. Although I’ve already worked both in a restaurant and at a hotel in my native city this job didn’t really impress me. As soon as I arrived on Maldives I understood that I knew nothing about the hotel business not to mention catering. But it was high time to learn more.
During your stay on Maldives you changed several resorts. Was it that easy? And what made you do so?
I changed three resorts during the whole time here. It’s my third island now. I used to work at Vivanta by Taj Coral Reef, Taj Exotica and Jumeirah Vittaveli. Why is it so? Well it’s a true fact that we’re always looking for better opportunities for our carrier. The first two hotels represent the world known brand Taj. That’s why the principal guests would always be Indians although it’s completely multinational. Yet working at this hotel I received an invitation from Taj Exotica which is considered rather classy than Vivanta. The rooms are more expensive and consequently the salary is far way higher. So my choice was predefined.
Still at the same time working for Taj Exotica I was in search for further opportunities. I didn’t really enjoy either food or our accommodation at this hotel. All the dishes were spicy and I don’t like such food at all. Our room was very old with bunk beds. And my place was on the top part which was really horrifying. But actually the matter was in the management of my restaurant. All the staff were natives and they couldn’t really emphasize with me.
Even the restaurant manager and his assistant also were Maldivians. Eventually I came across a new hostess opening at Jumeirah Vittaveli with the knowledge of Russian required. So I quickly applied (it was 2015) but received a response in a month when I completely forgot about that. Their HR manager called me and after some quite easy questions he said that if everything was good I would be invited for an interview at their hotel.
After another month of awaiting I received a phone call and an invitation to Jumeirah Vittaveli. To tell the truth I completely forgot the questions they asked. But the thing is that I wasn’t worried as usual. I’m definitely sure they’ve made several calls to the previous resorts I used to work at. That’s why I always leave the manager contacts who would recommend me. And it happened, they sent me a contract so I had to quit and leave the country.
Why did I have to leave? Because once you’re a foreigner and you want to change the island you should leave the country and then come back with a new visa. For instance I don’t really need to go home, I can visit Shri Lanka, India or Thailand for example. But I decided to come back home because I hadn’t been there for a while. What did I feel moving from one island to another? Well I wasn’t afraid at all. I was quite open for a change. I knew my job so the only different thing was the island and new people. But I needed that change and thought I’m moving in the right direction.
Describe your ordinary week day and a day off
I begin my week day from the very start of the breakfast time. To be more precise I come a little bit earlier than it starts, that’s something around 6 a.m. And the whole breakfast time I’m staying at the restaurant. It’s something till 11 a.m. My responsibility is to meet the guests, to keep order and for sure to help Russian guests if they don’t speak any English.
I work during breakfast and dinner time. I have a break for a lunch. Mostly I try to sleep during this period and to restore some energy because more guests will come in the evening. Or sometimes I hit the gym, read a book or keep in contact with my family. It seems like it’s an easy job and in reality that’s true on a psychical scale but every moment differs from the other. Sometimes it happens that we have about 250 guests for breakfast and all of them are multinational: Chinese, Arabs, Russians, Japanese, Koreans, and Europeans. And everyone should be treated in an appropriate way. So I’m not so tired psychically as psychologically.
And also I work with Maldivians. I wouldn’t say they’re bad at work but they far way slower. We’ve got a different mentality so we cannot work in the same tempo. But everyone has his advantages and disadvantages. What concerns my day off I would sleep till noon or I would tidy up the room. Sometimes I would meet my friends in Malé or visit another island. But in general would probably sleep through the whole day saving energy for the next. The first year I used to go to the beach but now I’m not really up to anymore.
Having talked to many expats working on resorts I’ve noticed that they almost don’t have any free time. Tell me why it happens and how you handle it?
To tell the truth I don’t really know why it’s so. It should seem that you’ve got plenty of time working only 8 hours a day. But in reality you don’t have any free time probably because of the day which is very short here. The day breaks at about 6 a.m in the morning and it darkens at around 18:30. As soon as you would finish breakfast you already need to run for a dinner. And it’s strange also because I have a break for lunch but one my friend doesn’t. She works at the reception desk and guests would usually call anytime they like.
I consider my work at resort as a labyrinth. You are stuck to the place and cannot get out of it. I would say that I got used to but still you want something different. After a work day we gather at a bar for staff only. But at the same time you cannot do anything like you could at home for example. Because everyone on the island knows each other very well and on the next day the whole island will get to know that you’ve been staying up all night drinking at the bar I don’t know whether it’s good or bad but to tell the truth I don’t feel free on the island.
Many people don’t like Malé at all. And what do you think about it?
To begin with I’d say that the Republic of Maldives is a Muslim country and in its capital you won’t find any entertainment at all. As well as you won’t find any alcohol there, it’s prohibited among the Muslims. You’d not find any nightclub either. Good shopping is also a deception. For sure they have shops where clothing and shoes are sold but for that price the quality might be better. To my mind Malé is a dirty city overcrowded with taxis and scooters. And I certainly would not like to live there.
Moreover life is much more expensive in Malé. It appears that a rent of nice flat would cost you something around $1000 and more. Yet it doesn’t guarantee you’d get an apartment in the center. It seems that Maldives should be a low-rate country but in reality everything is overestimated. I don’t want to be rude that’s only my opinion. But for me there’s nothing to do in Malé. Even if they try to convince our guests to go on a tour to Malé I would slightly suggest that they won’t get so much from this trip. Although in theory I should advertise the opposite.
What’s more three times a day all the shops will be closed as everyone goes for a prayer. And Friday is a holy day for Muslims so you’d find the shops open only in the evening. I only pay a visit to Malé when I need to buy something or when I get extremely bored on our island.
Do you have any specific attitude about Maldives having lived here for some time? What attracts/repels you the most?
I’ve been living on Maldives for more than two years already. When Russian speaking guests get to know this they’re always wondering if I could speak the local language and would marry a native. The questions are always the same so I’ve already learned the answers by heart. I know some girls who got married and have children here. You know I would refer to a saying never say never. But as you know I don’t want to stay on Maldives.
I don’t get such lifestyle of working on one island and seeing your family probably once a week yet they’re living in Malé for example but not on any other island. Some of my Maldivian colleagues live on different islands which you can reach only by a seaplane or a speedboat. As I’ve already mentioned I don’t feel free in such conditions.
There’re always different restrictions on the island and it’s boring in Malé. Some people would prefer such a lifestyle but I’m not cut out for this pastime. Anyway with this job I would get to look for Nicolai Bascov or take a selfie with Polina Gagarina. In a real life I would never even visit any of their concerts not to mention that I wouldn’t get to have a conversation with such people. One of the main advantages living here is that climate doesn’t really change.
We get heavy rains in a low season during the summertime. But the temperature doesn’t really change. It’s very easy and really inexpensive to fly to Sri Lanka, India or Thailand. Moreover work in the international team always brings much of experience and improves your stress level. Genuinely speaking I don’t really know for how long I would stay on Maldives. But I would say while I’m here I feel like it’s a break before my new adventure.
Tell us any funny/sad moment about your life here. (With Maldivians and at work)
During my life here I’ve got to experience plenty of everything: from happiness to tears, and love by the way (but not with a native). I’d not really say that I have a sad story to share. But I’ve got numerous facts to impress. For example when we go on a barbecue the natives would always cook fish and meat until it becomes a condition of a coal. Each Maldivian (no matter how much he earns and where he works) must get the latest iPhone and the coolest sunglasses. Moreover he would have an apartment in Malé, a wedding for at least 500 guests and of course his children would study in England.
This is what concerns the rich but no matter what a Maldivian would definitely have the newest phone and cool pair of sunglasses. Moreover they love Indian films and music too. And for a good shopping and entailment they’d fly to Sri Lanka as it’s close and considerably cheap. As you know there’re always good and bad people so the same is in here. They’ve got their own culture and traditions and being a foreigner you should always keep that in mind no matter whether you like it or not.
When you work at resort you definitely face lots of sad and funny moments as well. Especially it concerns our tourists. I would never forget one couple. I gave them a nickname “Carmelita”. The man who was five times larger than me came for breakfast a little bit tipsy and tried to treat everyone in the restaurant with a drink from the early morning. What to say? Russian kindness doesn’t know any borders.
And later he’s beaten his wife, broke up with her and left. At that moment I was the only Russian speaking person on the island thus I experienced this Santa Barbara series mostly to myself. So I cannot say it gets boring throughout the time.
Do you have any advice to share with those who want to come for work here?
I would start from the question: “Do you want to work on Maldives? Do you really need that?” So before you come up with a decision you should think it through for a while. Because this work does not only bring you pleasure of clear ocean and white sandy beaches, it also restricts your freedom. If you’re ready to sell your freedom for the place under sun – you’re welcome.
Be ready that every day you’ll not stand still. Either the guests will be dissatisfied or you’ll find your colleagues misunderstanding. The life is rather slow because we’re on the islands and don’t need to hurry up. I always speak from my heart so I won’t recommend anyone to come for work here. Otherwise you’ll close your freedom in a safe named Maldives.