Expats discuss their work and life in Armenia

22.05.2015 | 00:00 Home / News / Articles /

A number of Armenian companies employ expats. Of course, there are not many of them as in developed countries or even in neighboring Georgia. However, they considerably contribute to changes in the Armenian business culture.

We asked 3 expats to answer a few questions on their work and life in Armenia:

1. How long have you been working in Armenia?
2. Was it easy to make the decision to move to Armenia?
3. What is the difference between the job in Armenia and that in your home country?
4. Is it difficult to work and live in Armenia without knowing Armenian?
5. Will you return to Armenia after your posting ends?

Lali Svimonia, Head of Marketing and PR Department of VTB Bank (Armenia)

I’ve been working at VTB Bank (Armenia) since 2010. I’d not say I easily agreed to work in Armenia. While making a life-changing decision, one should take into account many factors, although it was not my first time of living and working outside of Georgia. I studied in Germany for 4 years, and then was an intern at Marketing and PR Department at Sparkasse Bank.

Going back to Georgia, I started working in an international bank as a PR Manager. Some time later, I got an offer to support team-building, experience exchange, PR and marketing campaigns, at a new bank of the same bank group in Armenia. My prior experience gave me courage to try my hand at VTB Bank (Armenia). I can say that VTB is my largest experience - both life and work experience.

Lali Svimonia
Photo: from personal archive

In PR and marketing field, peculiarities of mentality is key. VTB Group in its turn has its marketing policy, brand book and general principles applied in the countries of their presence, but, of course, taking into account the local mentality. It’s critical to combine everything in a right way in every country. For instance, VTB has different product slogans for loan and deposit products in Armenia and Georgia, but the image communication in the two countries carry the same messages. One can’t find significant differences between our branches in Armenia and Georgia (both banks are universal), they have similar design and zoning, but we have various ad campaigns and the accents are different.

Speaking about the job in Georgia, I’d like to note that good technological capacities, a large assortment of local and international marketing and research companies and creative agencies greatly benefits complete and professional work there. Online media monitoring and online ad monitoring which is very important in our work was introduced in Georgia 15 years ago, while Armenia hasn’t introduced it yet, unfortunately. The Gross Rating Point (GRP) system was introduced only 2 years ago in Armenia, while it has been operating in Georgia for already many years. Of course, all this makes the process of right planning and enhancing of competitiveness of banks more difficult.

Professional banking analysis is on a high level in Armenia. Detailed researches are conducted and full analysis of banks’ operation is provided. There are many online magazines and news agencies which correctly filter and post quality materials, and professional journalists writing on financial topics. Of course, it helps build correct and partner relationships with the media.

I wouldn’t say I don’t know Armenian at all: I understand almost everything but can’t talk, though I know many phrases that I can boldly utter. Not knowing Armenian is not an obstacle during my work as everyone in the bank knows Russian very well, and it greatly facilitates the process. Outside of the bank, I freely communicate with customers, journalists and the bank’s partners in Russian or other languages.

I’m sure after my contract expiration date I’ll by all means visit Armenia. It’s a very interesting country for keen travelers. Over these years, I have visited all the marzes. Besides, my daughter and I have many friends here. We will by all means come here to ski in winter and spend vacation in Sevan in summer.

Maksim Khalmatov, ArmenTel IT Director

I have been working in Armenia since late October 2013. I at once agreed to work in Yerevan easily, as before coming to Armenia, my closest friends are Armenians. That’s why I didn’t face any problem.

Comparing Armenia with Uzbekistan, I’d mention that, first of all, people here are very amiable. Of course, I’m not saying people in Tashkent are not amiable. But here, when you approach someone and talk you feel you have known the person for a long time. If we project this onto the job, I can say that in Armenia, I reconsidered the notion of keeping one’s word. Here, if someone makes a promise, he keeps it by all means.

Maksim Khalmatov
Photo: from personal archive

The ideas of friendship and acquaintance are quite different here, too, for instance, when a person can talk about a third person: yes, we can sit together, have a drink, but he’s only an acquaintance to me, not a friend. The idea of friendship is a bit different here.

Basic life principles of people in various countries are not so different. If comparing Uzbekistan with Armenia, in both cases, family is in the first place, and I like it a lot.

However, I’ll mention one difference. The Armenian ArmenTel team employs one of the best professionals that I’ve ever encountered. I don’t know if it’s Armenia’s characteristic or ArmenTel’s, but it’s true.

The lack of Armenian language skills has never hindered me. As I have already said people in the country are very friendly.  Once, during my first days in Yerevan, I went to the market to buy meat and the seller didn’t know a word in Russian. But people around explained to him at once and translated everything and helped us understand each other. Even if we travel to the remote regions of Armenia, the situation is the same. One may not know Russian but you can always find people around who will explain everything, help and hint.

My 14-year-old elder daughter already has many friends here. The younger daughter was only 6 months old, and she was born in Armenia. In January, when we came back from the vacation, the border guard asked why I enter the country, and I answered: “I’m coming to work and my daughter is coming back to home land”.

Toni El Khoury, Marketing & Communication Deputy Department Manager at VivaCell-MTS

I have lived and worked in Armenia for almost 8 years.

Working in Armenia is more challenging for a non-Armenian person. The main differences are of cultural aspect, language, the way things are perceived.

Toni El Khoury
Photo: from personal archive

Being part of a big Enterprise gave me a healthy environment to build a positive business experience and corporate governance. Every rising economy faces ups and downs and I would rather call it the learning curve which leaves no room for likes and dislikes. It is just a healthy experience. We are in our business at VivaCell-MTS changing the business culture on a daily basis with each practice on the internal and external level, adding value to the business sphere.

The fact that I don't speak Armenian is not an obstacle as I am surrounded by colleagues and friends who speak English and those who don’t are friendly enough to try to communicate their ideas in many other ways

I can definitely assure that I will be back to Armenia after my posting ends. Armenia did not just offer me a job, it offered me a second home where I already have great friends and friends are for life.

Aram Araratyan

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