Working abroad: a client speaks!

17 Feb 2016 | Interviews

Hello Anne and thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let’s jump right in!

Today you’re based in Miami, working as Brand Manager Travel Retail Americas for L’Occitane en Provence, after having worked in Switzerland for the same company. How did you get to work abroad?

My first trip abroad was in 2001 in New York, where I worked as an au pair. I really enjoyed this experience and followed up with a 6-month internship in Berlin, a one-semester Erasmus exchange in Denmark, then one year in Australia after spending some time in Paris.

Upon returning from Australia, I targeted international companies for their multicultural atmosphere and potential international career opportunities.

I remember mentioning my desire to work abroad during my very first interview with L’Occitane. After two years in Geneva, and talks with my managers about working abroad, I received an offer to work in Miami when this position became open.

Now I am responsible for marketing and merchandising in Travel Retail for the Americas (duty free retail outlets) and I am based in Miami. Miami is the place to be if you’re in the beauty industry; it’s a platform for brands that are distributed in North and South America because of its strategic geographical location. All our competition is present here: LVHM, Clarins, Shiseido, L’Oréal, Estée Lauder, etc.

When you’re targeting the South American market, it’s important to understand the culture, and living in Miami can’t hurt, as more than half the population is Latin American.

Like most important players in the beauty industry and Travel Retail in particular, L’Occitane has 3 subsidiaries: one in Europe, one in Miami for the Americas, and one in Hong Kong for Asia/the Pacific.

Did you have any fears or apprehension before moving to the US?

Well, we always have some fears when we make a big move like this, especially abroad, but for me they were mixed with excitement.

It’s okay to be afraid, this lets you think about things and make good choices for yourself. We find information and try to understand some of the realities that lie ahead as an expat, before leaving.

On the other hand, I had no apprehension about Miami, even though I had no clue as to what to expect from the place. I love big cities and their cosmopolitan charm, so I knew I would enjoy living in Miami.

How did your family react to you leaving?

I’m not married and I don’t have any kids, so that made my life easier!

My choice did impact my family, but they were all supportive. My parents’ and siblings’ work doesn’t take them to faraway places, but they were always there for me and understood me.

Getting used to living in Miami takes a while, and the first year was difficult. I worked a lot and didn’t spend much time socialising.

Any culture shock stories for us?

Asia might have more items for a culture shock menu, at least for a European- but America is a Western country, so the shock isn’t so great, especially as I’d already had a taste of its culture in New York.

In Miami you do sometimes get the impression you’re in Latin America though: there are Cubans, Mexicans, Columbians, Venezuelans, you name it! I have met very few people who are originally from Miami. You hear Spanish everywhere, all the time! 🙂

When you were away from home before, it was for shorter periods. How does the length of your stay impact your routines?

When you leave for one year, you feel like doing everything all at once. On the other hand, moving with a long-term contract and a job with lots of responsibility, you begin working before you even start thinking about exploring the new place! It’s been two years since I’ve been working here, and there are plenty of places I haven’t had the chance to see yet.

Nowadays I live my life as if I were back home in France: looking for the same comfort, and the same hobbies.

Do you have any French friends in Miami?

Almost all my friends are expats who work in the beauty industry.

Every time I found myself abroad, I wanted to make French friends as we have common cultural references, but I also love meeting people from different cultures.

I felt the need to have a group of close friends, and personally I don’t need to work on my English skills, so I don’t only look for English speakers as friends.

Friendships between expats are much stronger, even more so in the United States, as it is difficult to build long-term friendships with the locals. While it’s easy to talk with Americans, those who become real friends are few and far in between.

So while I do look for fellow French speakers, I also actively engage in making all types of friends- for example, I am part of a dance group together with people from all over the world and we have all sorts of events and generally a fun time.

All the paperwork makes it quite hard to go work abroad, which puts some people off. What’s your take on this?

In my case, it was l’Occitane that took care of the paperwork, so I didn’t have much hassle to deal with, even though there were quite a few documents to fill out and it’s always a bit stressful waiting for you visa application to be approved. We went to an immigration lawyer, which makes thing easier in the case of an expatriation.

I am seriously thinking about going back to live in Australia, but I wouldn’t try to find a sponsor by myself. It can take lots of time, there are lots of formalities and few companies take the plunge.

On the other hand, l’Occitane has a branch in Sydney, so that might be an option in the future.

Many people idealise moving abroad. Is there a hidden side to being an expat?

For a start you have to have considered all facets of the project. You need to be adaptable. It’s a big challenge on a personal level, especially if you’re changing companies. You need to be resourceful, accept times when you are all alone, and not be overwhelmed. You have to know what you’re getting into, and take the good with the bad.

Are there many French companies who also have offices in the US?

This is certainly the case in travel retail. Some companies have offices both in New York and Miami.

Multinational corporations don’t have a choice: they need to be present in America to be able to properly take care of these two important markets, North and South America.

That being said, the American Dream is an outmoded concept, in my opinion, and not just any company can make it in the States. If they’re filling a gap in the market and if the idea is good enough, however, success is ultimately easier to achieve than in France. The difference between the US and France is that in the US meritocracy works, and if you bring skills to the table you’re noticed and rewarded, so you have more chances to evolve career-wise.

Do you see yourself back in France or Switzerland?

One day, I shall go back to Europe, but without a doubt not to live in France. I seem to love France more when I’m away. When I’m in my country, I only seem to hear complaints and I don’t see people taking action to evolve. There is a certain degree of bleakness which I don’t find appealing.

Anne Paysac-Travel Retail Americas L'Occitane en Provence

When I do have children though, I would love for them to be close to my parents and my siblings, so I will probably have a good think about this, but the time has not yet come for such a step!

Anne Paysac

Brand Manager Travel Retail Americas

L’Occitane en Provence

L'Occitane en Provence