[RECAP] WORKSHOP “CONSUL GENERAL OF FRANCE: ‘CHANGE YOURSELF BEFORE CHANGING THE WORLD’”
Workshop “Consul General of France: ‘Change yourself before changing the world’”, led by Mr. Vincent Floreani – Consul General of France, took place on August 30th, 2018. This is the first event of the workshop series “Press pedal to the medal” hosted by UEH Connected to connect the youth with three Consuls from France, Canada, and Italy.
There were over 60 participants, including people from many walks of life who are French and Vietnamese.
Before the workshop started, Mr. Vincent had a short conversation with Mr. Thang Huynh who is the founder of UEH Connected.
All participants gave a round of applause as the Consul entered the main room, followed by Mr. Thang who then showed appreciation to the audience for their presence at the event. Mr. Thang introduced the first section where Mr. Vincent shared his journey of becoming the Consul General of France.
He started by mentioning the countries that he has worked at before coming to Vietnam, which are US, UK, and Indonesia. Throughout his career, he had the chance to meet great people such as governors, mayors, actors, and businessmen. The Consul then talked about the opportunities of traveling around the world and living in nice places. In Chicago, he lived alongside the beautiful Michigan Lake, whereas in London, he attended great events, galas, fashion shows, and political meetings.
As all privileges are for a reason, Mr. Vincent then raised the question “So how to get there?” to clarify the preparations for diplomatic careers. First, a diplomat must have basic knowledge of the country where he will work at and do further research to report to his authorities of the country’s development. Thorough understanding of international law, such as United Nations Charter, is crucial. In addition, learning constitutional laws is also vital because a diplomat has to be aware of whether his new country is democratic or whether there is a real separation of power between the executive, legislative, and judiciary. Mr. Vincent mentioned that Vietnamese diplomats knew about European laws as they will sign a free trade agreement between the EU and Vietnam in the future. It is important that a diplomat understands the history of international relations and disputes. Furthermore, knowledge of economics, international trade, languages, and culture is definitely essential for a diplomat’s career.
In conclusion, the Consul asserted that diplomats were only at the beginning of their career since they still had to learn about soft skills. He moved on to the main section which he spoke about three crucial soft skills.
“Life of Consul General or of any diplomats is the life of constant changes.”, said Mr. Vincent. When a Consul arrived at a new country, he would not be at his home country anymore. He elaborated that “If you don’t change your behaviors, you will probably make some mistakes and risk giving a bad impression not only of you but also of your country.”
A diplomat must be prepared to deal with a wide range of differences. For example, in some countries, one has to be careful when talking about issues such as human rights or death penalty. From the Consul’s experience, he had to adapt to such issues as climate variations or unavailability of products and medical services. He then told a story of when he met the Vietnamese community in Chicago, he was given a main advice that he needed to meet the young people in the country. Mr. Vincent smiled and said that “That’s exactly what I am doing right now.”, which made everyone smile as well. He also found it useful to read books on Vietnamese history as well as novels and newspaper articles. “Being able to adapt well will help you tremendously in your career as a diplomat.”, he stated.
The Consul told the audience that he had been frequently involved in negotiating throughout his career. In Vietnam, he used to negotiate a project on Ho Chi Minh city’s clean air which put him in a situation where he had to call the people in Paris to accept some changes from the Vietnamese party.
Concerning the tips for effective negotiation, Mr. Vincent stressed the importance of good preparation. In the beginning, you have to identify what you really aim to achieve. Find your interests and then translate that into writing the resolutions. He stated that negotiations got stuck sometimes because people went directly into writing which was a challenging task. You also have to be aware of both the parties’ redlines. Do not try to achieve something immediately, but make sure that you and your partner are in a win-win situation.
“Communication is increasingly important in the world as we are more connected”, Mr. Vincent stated. He mentioned that we had to rely on soft power to win the hearts of people. The way we communicate is also changing. We used to depend on newspaper articles and TV interviews, but now we are witnessing the rise of social media. The Consul elaborated that in the US, Twitter and Linkedin are two prevalent yet crucial social channels. It is important that you are careful of what you post on social media as your personal views may create conflicts or misunderstandings.
After the Consul’s sharing, attendees are welcomed to raise their questions.
Q1: “Why did you choose to become a diplomat?”
He answered that he was always interested in other countries. When Mr. Vincent was in France military service, he was offered to travel to Uganda to become a French teacher for 1,5 years. This was the beginning of many trips to other countries where he came to realize that being a diplomat is what he wanted.
“Did you have a choice to come to Vietnam? What is your purpose to come here?”
Mr. Vincent replied that he had 5 choices as first including London and Barcelona. However, Vietnam was always his first choice because of common history between two countries. Vietnam is a young and dynamic nation with many potentials for fruitful developments. Mr. Vincent also mentioned that he received a lot of congratulations from friends when he was appointed to work in Vietnam.
“How do you avoid misunderstandings when you have to talk to people from other different cultures?”
The Consul stressed the importance of sensitiveness to different cultures. For example, in Asia, you have to be careful in your behaviors so that you will not antagonize people. In other countries such as Australia and Netherlands, however, people can be blunt, therefore you have to be well prepared for any situations.
“When we talk about political correctness, which topic in Vietnam was the most difficult to negotiate on?”
Mr. Vincent talked about some projects in which he was involved in Vietnam. The same ones that took few weeks in France may take much longer here. Despite potential frustration, he stated that he had the opportunities to learn to be patient.
After several more questions from the eager audience, the workshop came to an end. Mr. Vincent headed outside to take pictures with the audience. He kindly stayed longer to have more conversations with some attendees. Overall, the atmosphere was cozy and everyone was in good spirit.
UEH Connected would like to express our appreciation and thanks to Zone Startups Vietnam for sponsoring the event’s venue.