Ana is a global citizen, which means that you cannot know where you'll find her. Chances are that, by the time you read this interview, she would have already changed her home 2-3 more times! When we talked, she was in the airport, leaving behind her last home and project in Jakarta, for a new experience in Botswana... How's it like being a globetrotter, how can she cope with all these challenges and what do we need as a country to earn her back, are just some of the topics covered next.
Name: Ana Patrascoiu
Abroad since: 2012
Living in: Everywhere and nowhere; her job comes linked with the life of a constant Nomad, hence she's been working and living in Spain, Egypt, East & West Malaysia, Singapore, Colombia, Indonesia and now Botswana
Occupation: Freelancer, Consultant, Project Manager, Negotiator... you name it and she’ll do it!
TGR: Wow, Ana, what a life!!! Swapping places all the time, mixing business with leisure and seeing the whole world - quite a rollercoaster, isn't it?
AP: Well, it does come with advantages and disadvantages, like any other job. The thing is, I do love travelling, and happily take on the challenge of successfully managing projects in different countries. It can get tiring sometimes – only in 2016 I have lived in 16 different hotels ... But nothing compares with the satisfaction of doing business in and exploring all corners of this world!
What made you embrace this way of living?
It was back in 2012 when I left Romania for a 3-months project in Barcelona. I personally wanted to remain in Barcelona, but it seems that someone up there had a different plan for me. I had no clue what the future would bring, and if someone would have told me then, I would have laughed in their face.
I randomly met one person that recommended me for this job, and I said to myself that Barcelona will always be there but that I can’t let go of an opportunity to work around the world. So I jumped on a plane and started a project in Egypt. Five years later, here I am, in Jakarta airport, heading to my new exciting destination: Africa; and living out of 2 suitcases ever since!
What is it that you actually do for a living?
Working as a freelancer in several media consultancy companies, I became the main responsible of directing the overall strategy and operations of a given project (3 - 8 months) in a given country, managing my team to a successful finish line, as well as planning and carrying out direct marketing and sales activities, corporate communications and event organizing. My job is to meet high-ranked officials, both from the public & private sector, in order to promote foreign direct investments to the international audience. It’s quite a niche industry and job.
OK, and your latest project was in Indonesia. Can you name a few key findings from your latest report?
Not many people know that Indonesia has the world's 4th largest population, with more than 250 million people, and as a recent study of McKinsey explains, with the proper productivity boost Indonesia can become the world's 7th largest economy by 2030. Being an emerging market that has shown a notable growth in the past years, mainly as a consumption-based economy, the possibilities of growth in areas such as infrastructure, manufacturing, exports, digital economy etc are very attractive to both local and foreign investors.
How's like working with Asian vs European professionals?
After dealing in a professional status with Europeans, Arabs, Asians & Latin Americans, you become flexible and at one point you might not even recognize the small differences. I think that flexibility and adaptability are keys to success while working in other cultures. You always have to remind yourself that you are in their country, not vice versa and that you have to learn how they do business. There will always be differences, but with an open mind, you can solve anything.
What I can say about Asians, or Southeast Asians in my case, is that they are very kind, humble people. Once you managed to earn their trust, you are part of the family. And family is crucial in both personal & professional relations. In western Europe, I believe people are more business oriented, more “cut to the chase” style, no emotions involved. Features, benefits & cost.
Moving to Jakarta - was it only about a business opportunity or you actually feel attracted to this region?
As they say, “I didn’t choose it, it chose me” and I’m grateful for it. The same happened with all the other places that I had the chance to work & live in, and I don’t regret them even for one second. Of course, all my projects were opportunities and you can’t say no to those. Also, Jakarta is only 2 hours away from Bali... so from a leisure point of view, can it get more exotic than this? I can always get out of the city and hop on to one of the 18307 islands Indonesia has to offer, and sip a cold coconut on the beach.
From a business point of view, South East Asia is the place with tremendous growth right now, totally different from what I expected the first time I came to the region 3 years ago.
Could you share an unexpected experience you've had in Indonesia?
Interesting/awkward/crazy experience in Indonesia, Malaysia and if I remember well in Singapore also… having meetings with high-level business leaders .. barefoot! Yes, barefoot. At the entrance of the company, you have a sign which indicates that your shoes have to stay here.. good thing my pedicure was always done
You said Indonesia is history now, so what's next for you?
I am heading now to Botswana in Africa, for a similar project. This is where I'll be in the next few months. I don't really know what's next, only time will tell if I fall in love with Africa and decide to stay there, or try something different.
Will you ever stop? I mean, do you see yourself settling down for good somewhere?
I probably will. Barcelona will always be on top of my list, and I have to say that I miss Europe; so if the right opportunity arises, with a long-term consultancy project there, I can pack with the speed of light. Also, the Middle East has a special place in my heart and I would not say no to it... I just want to remain open-minded and spontaneous enough to find what's best for me.
Why not Romania?
Romania… I’ve said that word at least 4 times a day in the past months (and 50 times a day while in Bali as that’s the first question everyone asks you on the street). I must say that when people ask me where am I from, the reactions that I get are quite different than in Europe, in a positive way, which makes me very happy (and on a different note also very sad/angry that the brand Dracula is not being marketed by our local government at all; soon we’ll have a sheep it seems).
Sadly, my answer is no; Romania is not an option for me, at least not in the near future. Ideally, the system would have to change. I see improvements but there is still a long way to go. Sometimes, a step forward is followed by 3 steps backwards unfortunately. A good governance would convince me, a good health system, a good education system, overall a sustainable, healthy & happy environment for a global citizen in the 21st century.
You have a good benchmark after experiencing so many cultures...
The more I learn about other countries & cultures, the more I see the tremendous potential in my home country! But with it, I also understand how difficult it is to change the mentality of a society and how the driving forces behind our “unsuccess” are hard to be eliminated. I can just hope that things will change and that I will still be alive to see them (as grandma likes to say).
Do you find some time to travel to Romania?
Not often at all; it’s quite difficult for me to plan trips home, when usually I have no clue where I’m going to be next month. Hence, I can do only last-minute plans and I always end up exploring other cities in the country that I’m in or in the neighboring ones. (Happy to say now that I’ve visited 27 countries and I have a long way to go until I reach the 190 total of sovereign states)
Is there anything you miss about Romania?
Family, friends and food! If I open the food topic I will probably talk for 2 more hours But yes, after 5 years, you do get to dream about sarmale, mici, telemea, mamaliga, tochitura, fasole batuta, ciulama, chiftele, shaworma , ciorbe, cozonaci and the list can go on and on!
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
About Romania or Romanians, hehe? About Romania, I tell the fact that nobody, I mean not even in Europe people acknowledge it: the fact that it’s the only Latin country in Eastern Europe; and this is directly linked to the fact that the majority of Romanians speak at least 2 foreign languages. And here goes the explanation regarding our ability to fast-learn French, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese. The mystery that I have yet to solve, is how come we have this ability and the other nations don’t... if someone has the answer please drop me a note.
I can already foresee the answer in your case, but I will still ask this final question: what is your biggest dream?
Of course, my dream is to travel the whole world. But more than just a tourist seeing all what nature has given this world of ours (which I love more than cities), is the chance to see the different realities in which nations live, figuring out what makes us all so different and so alike.
While doing this, a bigger dream would also be to make a change in this world; I don’t know how and when will it happen but at least I have something great to think about in my spare time.
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