WORLD TIME Pi­aget’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Aus­tralia and South- east Asia, Petron­ille de Par­se­val, crosses borders to seek con­nec­tions and ex­pe­ri­ence the un­fa­mil­iar.

The Peak (Singapore) - - Contents -

Pi­aget’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Aus­tralia and South-east Asia, Petron­ille de Par­se­val, crosses borders to seek con­nec­tions and ex­pe­ri­ence the un­fa­mil­iar.

Which trip made you fall in love with trav­el­ling?

When I was a stu­dent, I went to Spain. It’s not far from France but I was amazed that a place so close could have a com­pletely dif­fer­ent way of liv­ing. They have sies­tas and par­ties, and they have strong fam­ily ties – dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions go out to­gether, and this is not the case in France. Even though we are Euro­peans and share some com­mon val­ues, I en­joyed see­ing the dif­fer­ent ways in which they were trans­lated, and this got me more cu­ri­ous about the world.

What do you like most about trav­el­ling?

The un­ex­pected. I was trav­el­ling with friends in Nepal once, and we got lost on a trek and wound up in a small vil­lage. And it started to rain. Our guide was su­per ner­vous be­cause he was wor­ried about get­ting us back to the bus in time, but our kids saw some lo­cal chil­dren play­ing foot­ball and joined in. We wound up spend­ing two to three hours there hav­ing a foot­ball party with the vil­lagers and, even though we couldn’t com­mu­ni­cate ver­bally, it was a shared mo­ment. An un­ex­pected meet­ing, a smile, or a chat in the mar­ket – this is what I love about travel.

You meet many peo­ple from dif­fer­ent coun­tries in your line of work. What have you learnt from some of those en­coun­ters?

I had to go to Saudi Ara­bia on one of my busi­ness trips when I was based in Dubai, and I was a bit ner­vous be­cause of how con­ser­va­tive the cul­ture was. I was one of the only few women at the busi­ness ho­tel I was stay­ing at. But I was lucky to get in­vited into the homes of some of the fam­i­lies there, and I got to see the warmth and wel­com­ing spirit of the Arabs. It was like go­ing be­hind the scenes of this image I’ve al­ways had of the UAE. So travel keeps me open­minded. If you don’t un­der­stand what drives or trig­gers the peo­ple you work with, you can’t build trust.

Do you have an ex­am­ple?

In Eu­rope, you are seen as ef­fi­cient if you are straight­for­ward and get right to the point, even if you’ve never met any of the peo­ple in the meet­ing. I’ve up­set some peo­ple in the Mid­dle East us­ing this style, but I learnt from that. In the Mid­dle East, if you don’t spend at least 20 min­utes show­ing care to the per­son you’re talk­ing to, like ask­ing about their fam­ily or their last hol­i­day, you can’t even be­gin to talk busi­ness. I used to worry about time, es­pe­cially if I had only an hour for the meet­ing, but I’ve re­alised that in tak­ing the time to know the other per­son, we can dis­cover com­mon ground and forge stronger re­la­tion­ships.

What’s next on your list of des­ti­na­tions?

Since ar­riv­ing in Sin­ga­pore, the list of places I want to visit has been get­ting longer and longer. I’d like to go to Ja­pan since I’ve never been there, and not just to Tokyo. I want to ski, I want to see ko­modo drag­ons, I want to meet peo­ple from Korea, Malaysia and Thai­land, and just see the pe­cu­liar­i­ties of each cul­ture and learn more about Asia.

GLOBAL CI­TI­ZEN This travel buff en­joys learn­ing about what makes peo­ple of dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties tick.

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