Hi, my name is Raya. I am working with Lufthansa Cargo and it is my pleasure to share my experiences on “Culture Hopping”!
Let me start with these questions:
Has anyone been to different parts of Southeast Asia?
Ever had a Thai massage after visiting the Grand Palace of Bangkok? Successfully crossed the streets of Ho Chi Minh City during rush hour? Gone island hopping in a few of the 7,100 islands of the Philippines? Or have you taken that perfect bird’s eye view photo of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak? (OK, Hong Kong is not Southeast Asia but there is a reason I am including it!)
Southeast Asia is at least as diverse as Europe. Apart from the different languages, histories and religions vary, too. Not surprisingly, distinct cultures are formed.
I have lived and worked in some of its countries for several years each, hopping from one different life to the next. Experiencing a new lifestyle when changing my place of work is one of the most challenging yet fulfilling parts of my work and personal life.
I joined Lufthansa Cargo right after I finished the Lufthansa Management Training Program (now called International Airline Professional). After gaining solid experience in Manila, I was ready for what is now the biggest cargo hub in the world – Hong Kong. I led the Customer Service Team. It was amazing to be part of a very efficient logistics process, with millions of tons of cargo endlessly flowing in and out of that region.
I learned how to walk fast in Hong Kong, everyone seemed to walk fast! To keep up with the city’s energy, I made sure I recharged my batteries with my favorite food – Dim sum. Hong Kong is not just all skyscrapers, you can find lovely beaches, marine parks, and hiking trails just an hour or more away from the city. There was never a boring weekend.
As I was about to settle comfortably in my routine, another opportunity popped up – becoming Country Manager for Vietnam. I was based in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam is a fast growing market. We just successfully started freighter operations this year in Ho Chi Minh City and we are very proud of it.
In contrast to the dynamic and engaged Lufthansa team at work, the Ho Chi Minh lifestyle made me walk slowly again. I enjoyed my free time sipping the famously-strong Vietnamese coffee in small French-inspired coffee shops while observing the whirring Vespas in the beautiful tree-lined streets of Saigon.
I am currently in Bangkok in a bigger role – as Regional Manager for Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines and Myanmar. When you hear of Amazing Thailand – I can attest it is amazing indeed. Laughter outshines the busy mood in the office. I have been here for almost a year, but I am very excited to spend a few more years finding out what surprises this country has to offer.
Aside from the fact that my line of work gives me a great sense of fulfillment, what I treasure most are the friends I made, and am making. My 11-year-old son has been with me most of the time. He has friends from different countries and his exposure to different cultures made him much more confident, brave and open-minded and he is always excited to travel to discover new places and people. We share the same characteristics. When I close my eyes, I always wonder what adventures today and tomorrow will bring.