We want you to be able to #CelebrateDiversity without doing yourself any lasting damage, so here are some of the things that many of us wish we’d been told before our first Eurovision event and some handy resources if you want to read further. Whether you’re off to your first ever preview party or you’re doing Kyiv and want to avoid the dreaded Day 4 mood crash, you stand a better chance of keeping yourself well and happy with some of this advice.
Here are some tips and resources for avoiding a Eurovision-related crisis in health or happiness.
Make Sure Your Body Is Ready
If you know you’re going to a big and stressful event like the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s probably an idea to get your mind and body strong before you go. I’m talking about your immune system (there will be all of Europe’s germs in one room and a few from Australia), mental resilience, and physical stamina. I’m not saying that it’s necessary to go down the gym and get totally ripped, but if you’re not already, get used to being busy, social, active and out all day. You need to be able to cope with the totally different social environment, the mild disorientation of being in a new city and the total emotional whumph of the Song Contest itself.
Make sure your body is really ready. If you’re considering getting any kind of health treatment, don’t leave it until after the Contest. You are more valuable than the Contest. If you need to build accessibility and rest concerns into your trip plan, do it and be forwards about letting people know what you need. If you’ve got standing tickets for the shows, you need to be prepared to stand for over four hours and be prepared for there to be nothing to lean or sit on.
Take your medication. If you take prescription medications, make sure that you’ve got enough to get you through your trip. If you need over-the-counter medications for things like hayfever, migraines or similar it’s better to take your own than to rely on being able to find exactly what you need in another country. Also, it’s good to be prepared for the usual sorts of travel medical issues – things like painkillers, blister plasters, cuts and bruises, colds and definitely stuff for dealing with diarrhoea and sickness.
Get Travel Insurance. Bad stuff happens to good people and at some point even the luckiest traveller will find themselves stranded without their bags, in need of medical assistance or forced to cancel because of an unusual random factor. Eurofans who plan on doing a whole National Final season will probably get good value out of an Annual multi trip plan, which you can usually get fairly cheaply from comparison websites or whoever you bank with.
However, if you’ve got some fairly common conditions (including heart disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety), it may be more expensive and complicated for you to buy travel insurance. You should still do it, even if it means tedious admin or making a phonecall. Don’t ‘accidentally on purpose’ forget to declare your condition to make buying insurance easier- it might make any claims you make invalid.
Make sure your wallet and ID is ready. No-one has unlimited funds. Make sure you’ve got some idea how much you can spend each day and try not to get carried away. Also photocopy your passport, find out where your relevant Embassy is, write your important information and phone numbers down and print out confirmations, tickets and travel itineraries. Assume you will have no internet or printer access when you get there. You should also find out what your mobile data roaming rate is where you’re going and if it’s Very Bad Indeed, turn off your mobile data roaming before you even get on the plane.
Get comfortable shoes and wear them in. So much of your Eurovision trip will be spent in places where standing, walking, and dancing happens. Even if you think you’ve worn your shoes in, you might still find that you get Eurovision blisters. Get some really, really comfortable shoes. Style may have to become a secondary concern (even if they are golden).
Join your local OGAE. The clubs are filled with not only a wealth of knowledge to help you get yourself to the contest, and what to do at the Contest on the ground (as they will provide a good deal of a fan-based entertainment experience), but will also be a great support network and a ready made family of friendly people when you finally get there. You won’t be alone at anytime, and the people sharing such an experience at Eurovision with you will probably end up being the overriding memory of the trip.
Stay Healthy On The Ground
Make sure you sleep. Your body’s regular schedule is going to be messed up, you’re going to watch shows that start at 10pm and then you’re going to be too excited or too busy on the dancefloor to sleep until after dawn. Plan ahead and do what you need to do to get restful sleep, even if that is disappearing for afternoon naps under a blankie with a cute unicorn sleep mask on. (This may be what I’ll be doing, I cannot confirm or deny) If you don’t sort out your sleep, the likelihood of you having a good time decreases rapidly.
Drink water. Staying hydrated is vital. Nothing makes people tired, headachey or grumpy like being parched. There are reports that the tap water in Kyiv isn’t to be relied upon, so it’ll have to be bottled water for the duration of the Contest.
Find fruit and veg every day. The chances of you getting your 5 a day are slim while you’re at a Eurovision event, but if you’ve made the effort to ingest one natural thing, you’re doing okay and getting some form of nutrition.
Wash your hands. You are exposing yourself to a random cross section of the germs from around the world, it is absolutely vital that you wash your hands properly when you’re supposed to. Avoid the dreaded lurgy! Wash your hands!
Take time out. You’re definitely going to get overstimulated and at some point things will definitely get too much. The benefits of having some non-Eurovision time during a Eurovision event cannot be exaggerated. Get outside, look at a tree, walk in a park, lounge by the river, sit outside a cafe with a cold drink and watch people go by. It’ll give you perspective and re-energise you for whatever happens next. It’s absurdly hard to do this when you’re surrounded by the Eurovision circus and feel like you’ve got to take every second in, but it’s very much worth it.
Let people know your personal space boundaries and be aware of the boundaries of people you meet – there’s a lot of hugging, touching, cheek-kissing and air-kissing at Eurovision. That kind of thing can be uncomfortable for many people on a number of levels. If you’re not sure, handshakes and ironic fist bumps are usually fine, as is my personal tactic of going ‘Hiiiiii’ and doing an enthusiastic double handed wave, which I can demonstrate if you introduce yourself to me in Kyiv.
It’s only a gameshow. So don’t take the results personally. One of your faves will fail to qualify. One of your faves might surprise us all. One of your faves will hopelessly flop. It’s not the end of the world, even if it feels really intense in the moment. Some useful advice for moments of high drama around results is: ‘Take a deep breath and a step back, and then have a nice cup of tea’. This advice stopped me from totally losing my composure at Eesti Laul, where I was somehow taken massively by surprise by the best song winning. Yes, exactly.
Aggressive nationalism is not fun. The Eurovision Song Contest isn’t the place for fans to aggravate international tensions, it’s supposed to be quite the opposite. Let’s be a bit more Love Love and a lot more Peace Peace. Don’t boo, don’t jeer, regardless of your history or your current diplomatic relationships. Don’t exacerbate problems that are already there and do your best to avoid causing any new international incidents. Wave your flags but don’t cause trouble.
In short, always make sure someone knows where you are.
Basic travel safety precautions. Leave your accommodation & contact details with someone back home, and if you’re meeting up with new Eurofan friends, it’s a good idea to leave their names too. If you wander off on your own, make sure that someone is at least aware you’ve gone and when you’re likely to be back.
Make sure you know where you are. Plan your route to and from the main action areas in advance. This is especially important for pubs and clubs. You don’t want to be lost in a strange city after dark, especially if you’ve been drinking. Don’t walk home alone if you can avoid it. If you’ve got a friend you’re travelling with, look after each other and wait for each other. The buddy system is great. Your buddy can also make sure you’re eating and sleeping properly, in case you get carried away.
Make sure you use real taxis. Pre-check for reputable taxi firms and only use them if you can help it. Negotiate the price before you get in. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
Don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing. The golden rule in any party situation. Emotions are running high, people are having the time of their lives, you don’t want to harsh anyone’s fun, but quietly passing on a round of shots or turning down another hour in the club is sometimes what you want to do. You’ve got the power to say no to things. This goes double for any kind of sexual activity. Enthusiastic consent is vital – give it and get it repeatedly.
Don’t feel guilty or shy about refusing alcohol or drugs. Only you know how your body reacts and only you know your limits, and it’s definitely better to leave the party while everyone is still having a great time than cling on for that extra disastrous drink. The FCO advice for UK travellers in Ukraine also specifically warns that penalties for drug offences are severe. Don’t get involved.
If Things Go Wrong
If someone is harassing you, tell someone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a member of a security team or the police, but at least tell someone who can help you decide what to do next. If something happens to you – it is not your fault.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tell someone and get yourself some space. It’s probably even better if you can tell people in advance that you might just nip off for a quiet moment, but at least telling someone you trust that you’re off for 5 minutes of fresh air is a good thing. You can also ask people not to make a fuss, if that’s what you need.
If you’re a victim of crime, report it and if you’re abroad. seek consular assistance if appropriate. For the 2017 season, here are all the consulates in Kyiv and their contact details.
After The Contest
We all go back to our lives. After the high of the Contest comes the low of Post-Eurovision Depression. You can deal with it in many ways – start new projects, further investigate your faves from national final season, make art based on your experiences, arrange future trips to see your Eurofriends. If 2017 is anything like 2016, you can probably even buy Eesti Laul tickets the day after the Grand Final. Treasure your memories, make new friends and enjoy your summer.