Over the 17 years and counting I have spent traveling the world visiting countless of industrial facilities, I get asked a lot of questions about what it's like to live on a rig. "What are the accommodations like?" "How do you manage being away from home so long?" "How can I fit in without making it obvious this is my first time onboard?" "How do I know if this lifestyle is for me?"
This is the focus of the topics in this category. Students, interns, newcomers to our industry or people with general interest and curiosity about life in the oil patch now have somewhere to get some answers, and perhaps find some inspiration.
There is so much to cover here, so where do I begin? There are so many different topics to elaborate on that it is difficult to choose a particular starting point. Taking a step back though and evaluating why the questions are asked instead of what the questions are, I came to the conclusion that one of the primary reasons why people want to know what something is like is because they wonder whether they might like that "something" too. In other words, they want to know if that "something" is right for them. So, I figured the best place to start is with one of the simplest and most universal expectations of any communal environment where people live and work together: Be a good roommate.
As "uncool" as it sounds, yes I was one of those students in college that lived on a dorm for the full 4 years, and I do not regret it one bit. While there was obviously not as much freedom as you would have residing off-campus, the list of pros for staying on-campus is extensive. One of those benefits is the experience of learning to coexist with others in confined spaces, even when you had no choice of who was assigned to your room.
I believe this is one of the cornerstones of living on a rig. If you cannot coexist with people you may not know, stop right there because this is not for you. A typical deployment (whether land based or offshore) usually lasts anywhere between two to four weeks, and unless the accommodations allow for single room occupancy (which is rare), you will be rooming with one, two or even three others (or more... been there done that) in a very small room. Offices and work sites alike tend to be shared, so it's not just where you sleep. You will be surrounded by the same folks 24/7 while you remain at the site, so you need to be considerate of others.
Yes there is typically a catering and cleaning crew in charge of general housekeeping. But make no mistake, the rig site is not a hotel. The catering crew is tasked with sanitizing and keeping communal areas in the accommodations clean, but they are not hotel housekeepers or maids. Be mindful of your belongings and keep them stored away from common areas, not only for the sake of safety (should you need to evacuate) but also to be courteous to your mates. If you spill something or make a mess, clean it up. This is especially relevant anywhere outside of the accommodations where there is no cleaning crew. It is up to you and your mates onboard to maintain those areas. How would you feel if every time you try to sit at your desk there are coffee stains and crumbles on the counter and grease on your chair? Or you are ready to go to bed and there are people right outside your door talking loudly and slamming doors just outside your room?
Being courteous and considerate of others goes a long way in building meaningful professional relationships and showcases personal integrity. I have seen people let go for being slobs even if they were perfectly competent and performed well in their job. If you are insufferable to be around, there is no room for you onboard. Not only is it unsafe for you, but unsafe for others and kills morale. I've heard numerous department heads and rig managers say they'd rather have a less experienced hand onboard that understands camaraderie and is a joy to be around, than have a field expert that is inconsiderate and impossible to live with. Experience you can easily learn in the field; character traits are not.