1. Can you describe your experience in traveling to European countries? I have got many chances to travel to many European countries including Italy, Spain, England, Germany etc since my secondary school. I learned Spanish when I was very young and got chances to join an exchange program to Spain. They are very kind to me. I learned Spanish since I was very young. Spanish is energetic which reflects its culture of passion and power. I have a godfather and godmother in Italy that introduced me to the warmth and hospitality of European culture. I studied at a university in California. In my college years, I have met a lot of MexicanAmerican friends who speak Spanish. They are so friendly. I enjoy very much spending time with them and learning Spanish from them. In essence, their warmth and amicability go in line with the Latin culture of passion and love of life.
2. Do you notice any cultural difference between European and HK Youngsters? HK people emphasizes on efficiency. We do everything so fast and we are target oriented. It’s hard for us to purely show love and care to other people. But most of the European people want to pursue quality of life and they are not shy to show love and care because they are grown in a place with a lot of verbal appreciation with warm and harmonious atmosphere.
3. Is the connection / familiarity in European countries an advantage to your career? It’s certainly a big advantage to my career. I work as a global trader in electronic manufacturing and I always need to have meetings / calls with different people in the same day like morning call with Asians, afternoon meetings with Europeans and evening conference calls with Americans. Jumping from culture to culture flexibly, I made a lot of incredible memories meeting people because of my knowledge and languages and cultures.4. Which part of JC is the most valuable to you? Why? Working on different projects with different people. Sometimes I can get irritable when I work or deal with some problems in JC and in life. I always have to remind myself to be patient and peaceful. When I adjust my mindset, circumstances tend to improve. Just like I work with people in JC, I would rather listen to others and show care to them.
Interview with JCI Queensway Member Cheryl Ma
My Internship in Belgium I had an unforgettable experience when I was an intern in Belgium. When I was in the university, I was offered a 2- month internship at an NGO called the Federation of European Direct Marketing (FEDMA). It was in Brussels, Belgium. Perhaps because I spoke a bit French, the university assigned me there.
Working in Belgium
FEDMA worked with marketing regulations of direct marketing in Europe. It represents the interests of marketers and works with the associations and companies who have an interest in influencing legislations. It keeps members, governments, media, businesses and consumers up to date with the European direct, interactive and digital marketing industry.As I was a law student, I was interested in the process of law-making. The internship opened me to a new field as I was neither a European nor had any marketing sense. I knew nothing about the European marketing policy. I strived to understand and contribute during the short period there by reading related articles and helping to translate short passages into English. FEDMA colleagues also brought me to their meetings in the European Parliament where they advocated the interests of their members and the direct marketing industry. This had literally pulled me away from the textbooks and led me see how the law was made in the real world.
The European Working Culture
What is most memorable to me is the European corporate culture. We had a regular meeting every Monday morning. Before discussing any work matters, every one including the head of the company would share about their weekends, travels and families. Every morning, colleagues would also drop by each of the rooms in the office building and greet each colleague good-morning one by one when they arrived the office. I felt so respected as an intern that I continued with this habit at work in Hong Kong today. The office was a 3-storey European building built in Beaux-Arts style. Its backyard was a beautiful garden where we all sat together and enjoyed our lunch. Barbeque was common as we could help ourselves with the utensils there. Work life was relatively more relaxing than in Hong Kong.
How Life was like in Belgium
The general culture of Belgium was different too. People were so calm that they were expressionless when the train or rail got an electricity cut during peak hours. It was a common phenomenon. You could also cross the roads blindfolded because no drivers would rush on the road (and the penalty of negligent driving was exorbitantly high). My only stress back then was to rush to the supermarket by train to do my grocery at lunch because the supermarkets closed at 6pm, exactly the same time when I get off from work! All shops were closed too on Sunday as people spent their time with their families. During the weekends, I usually took the rail or ride the budget flights of Ryanair and Easyjet to visit the other European cities. Sometimes, my flatmates – an Italian, a Peruvian, and a Belgian couple – would drive me to some nearby towns and cities and we would spend the day together. The Belgian couple were acrobats in the circus and they even brought me to watch their practice!
What Belgians think about Belgium
As good as Belgium is depicted, there were also some disgruntled in the country. A young colleague expressed to me that he was determined to move to the USA because the tax in Belgium was heavy and that there were more opportunities to prove himself successful in the USA.
Europe, JCI and COVID-19 I went to the JCI World Congress in Tallinn, Estonia last November. The Europeans I met were mostly professionals like lawyers or passionate entrepreneurs. Compared with ASPAC, the World Congress focused more on topics related to business networking, sales and digital marketing whereas the ASPAC in Jeju, Korea had sessions covered more on leadership skills. With COVID-19 affecting all walks of life and halting many activities, JCI members have still been eager to develop their leadership skills. I can see some members had made good use of their connections during this challenging year. They invited speakers who had delivered valuable insights to our members. For example, the speaker from FactWire in JCI Dragon’s July MFG had provided great insights on how a news agency endeavored in looking for the truth from the facts. All the participants gained a lot from the event.