Anca is used to expat life. First she left her home country, Romania, to settle in France. Then she decided to take part in the Volunteer for international experience (VIE) program: she spent a year and a half working in Japan. Though she found the adjustment process rather difficult in the beginning, Anca found her experience in Tokyo extremely rewarding. She now is back in France, probably not for very long…
You went on a VIE assignment in Japan: what was your job and what did you learn through this expat experience?
My assignment took place in a middle-sized investment bank which was trying to expand at that moment not only in Japan , but also throughout Asia. I was in charge of coordinating the activity between the local sales force (mainly Japanese) and the operations teams back in Paris for a specific perimeter of products dedicated to institutional investors.
Although the assignment lasted only 18 months, it has been an incredibly enriching experience: professionally through the challenges I had to cope with, culturally since it implied adapting to a wholly different working environment than the one I was used to and personally because I discovered and made the most of new abilities.
Why did you then choose to return to France?
Towards the end of my contract in Japan, the activity was not anymore on a “business as usual” trend and in the light of the financial crisis of 2008, the department did not survive in Tokyo. The context being unstable, I preferred to return to the old continent and continue my activity in France.
Did you ever have trouble fitting into a host country?
I suppose initial troubles when adapting to a new country are unavoidable. As far as I’m concerned, I had a really hard time during the first three months or so in Japan. The language barrier apart, it took me a while to understand what was happening around me, what the habits and traditions were, what was expected of me in a certain environment. After a while, I started feeling much more at ease and looking back at that period, I consider I succeeded in fitting into the Japanese society to a greater extent than in some European countries.
How often do you go back to your home country?
Wherever I am, I try to go to my home country once or twice per year, usually around important holidays such as Christmas or Easter time.
Where do you intend to live in the future?
I can’t say I have found the right place to settle for the long term. The world is full of opportunities and as long as I’m still flexible in terms of professional activity and personal constraints, I intend to experience as many continents & countries as possible.