For this paper I interviewed Anna Davtyan. She is 34 years old woman of Armenian origin. Being relatively young she managed to live and study in five different countries as well as gain almost 10 years of work experience. Anna has Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with majors in Corporate Finance and Portfolio Management. She is also married, has 8 y. o. son and is working full time as PR events and sponsorship coordinator at Orange (mobile operator).
During our conversation I tried to understand her views about the cultural diversity, relations between different races and minorities. She also shared information about how she achieved her personal and professional goals.
When asked about her cultural background she cited Armenian classic poem by saying “We are few, but we are called Armenians”
Armenian – it means so much and so little at the same time. She is proud to represent the culture, which is one of the most ancient ones. According to the Holy Bible Noah’s ark has landed on Armenian’s Ararat mountain from where one can conclude that the human race was reborn in Armenia. Armenians were the first nation to adopt Christianity as state religion. After the darkest page in Armenian history – the genocide in 1915, Armenians are scattered all over the world. In fact almost as many Armenians live abroad as many live inside Armenia. As a result Armenians desperately struggle to reserve their cultural identity. In that respect they are somewhat similar to Jews.
In late 80s Armenia had very difficult times. In 1988 severe earthquake distroyed several cities and later a war with Azerbaijan started. The country was in terrible crisis with no electricity, gas and heating, with food deficit and blockage. That was when Anna's father got a job abroad and together with the whole family they relocated to Bulgaria. The intercultural experience started from there. Later she also lived and studied in Russia, Czech Republic and Belgium.
The whole situation I was at became my very first “grown-up” challenge. All aspects of my life consisted of different size challenges I had to face different difficulties to overcome. I still remember the guys and girls staring at me and discussing something I did not understand. (A.Davtyan, personal communication, November 23, 2011)
That was the first time she realized that the way people live and think and the way they see things are not the same everywhere. In each new country she was discovering a new culture – with the stories about their past and their traditions. She was also exploring their mentality, which was different from hers.
What I realized is that no matter which culture you get acquainted with, the best way to know them better is not to observe them from aside but to try to get “inside”their nature. One should try to act and live like them, read their literature and find out about their history as well as try to speak their language. Never evaluate the cultures in terms - good and bad, because there is no such thing as bad culture. Each culture is good in its unique way. (A. Davtyan, personal communication, November 23, 2011)
At the university she studied together with students from 45 different countries. No matter how different they all were how strange they all felt in foreign country and how many challenges connected to cultural differences they all faced, they all were young students who loved having fun and going to parties, dancing and doing things students everywhere do.
As a result she became a true cosmopolitan.
I believe that each culture has both better and worse representative and if you look at them not as representatives of certain nation but as individuals it will be much easier to get along. There will be less tension and hostility between nations. (A. Davtyan, personal communication, November 23, 2011)
Now she is able to enjoy and appreciate the cultural differences and fluently speak five languages. She feels at ease no matter where she goes. She knows what it is like to be an outsider and she understands people much better.
The issues concerning the cultural diversity have been many. Not always she was understood, not always she was accepted and there were times when she was a weirdo just becaude she did not think and act like others. When she was a teenager her classmates thought she was boring, just because she did not wear make up, did not smoke and did not have a boy friend. She had internal fight and had to choose between staying the way she was brought up and sticking to her own cultural values, against following the crowd and behaving like all others around her did.
Being full time working mom leaves her with very little leisure time. But if one does not schedule free time it will never appear. So with the whole family they to gym three times a week, where they enjoy the pool and she does some fitness stuff. Besides that she mentains her personal blog at www.lifeprobabilities.blogspot.com where she shares her creative writing pieces, which she writes with a bottle of beer or two.
Anna told me that Armenia has very homogeneous population and other ethnic groups are almost not present. It is not a touristic country either, so many did not have any experience with foreigners. In very few cases when in Yerevan streets one would see a black guy or girl people could not help themselves but stare. Children were asking why they were so “dirty” since they truly believed that it is because they did not shower for long time. These days things are different. Some of Anna's friends who emigrated to US have black husbands and although not everyone understands and accepts their choice, no one bears extremely negative feelings towards “other” kind of people either. So in any case the race relationships are definitely better these days.
Unfortunately Anna can not tell the same about the sexual minorities. Although national minorities are accepted and respected among Armenians, sexual minorities are not at all. Although they are many lesbians and gays in Armenia, most of them are hiding the fact of their sexual preference, since the society is not yet ready to accept and be tolerant towards them. One of Anna's recent sponsorship projects has been the Orange Book Prize (www.orangearmenia.am/book-prize), which encouraged new authors and the reading in general. The jury had selected short listed works which were eligible for public voting though Internet. Anna's company received a complain letter from various NGOs protecting minority rights, since one of the short listed stories included a sentence with homophobic flavor. Anna told that those NGOs were fighting for minority rights so strong that sometimes they crossed the limit and jeopardized the right of freedom of speech. According to them even a literature character did not have the right to share its own opinions, which is absurd.
With the globalization process and the technological innovations the world seems to be small. It seems that technologies tends to erase cultural differences. All, no matter what language they speak, which culture they belong to and where they live love iPhones and iPads, watch the same Hollywood films and play the same Playstation 3 games. The new technologies, according to Anna are the neautral common ground among all cultures, age groups and cultures.
Working at telecom industry Anna has witnessed amazing innovation products launching into the market. After a certain period of time those products are used in average person's everyday life. As a result their everyday lifestyle changes too. Now Anna's friends abroad do not seem so far because they all already have Facebook and Skype. Now she knows who is doing what and where, because she has her Android Smartphone with different unbelievable applications. At the same time Anna believes that technologies are harming interpersonal communication. People get more attached to the screens of their devices and spend more and more time in their virtual realities. The need for dating sites is also example of today’s changed lifestyle.
What concerns the challenges young people will be facing in the future, below is Anna's belief.
The time pace is becoming faster and it seems that people are in a hurry most of the time. The biggest challenge young people will face isto understand the need of and to be able to stop and evaluate their lives, enjoy it and relax. With the time it will be more difficult to balance the main values of life – the family, career and friendship. (A. Davtyan, personal communication, November 23, 2011)
Anna does not like giving advises, since she believes that everyone is unique and there is no common magic rule for all. For every individual life values and goals are different. Maybe that is why what she would strongly recommend is taking the time to understand what will make you happy, what are your priorities in life.
According to Anna's words, she is very unstable person. She gets bored very often and periodically she is re-evaluating her life and goals, which later make her change different things in her life.
What I have understood so far is that it is ok to change life priorities from time to time and with them change my life accordingly. Although I should admit that my personal goals have been more consistent than the professional ones, at the same time I achieved my personal goals by chance, while I achieved my professional goals by consistent hard work. (A. Davtyan. personal communication, November 23, 2011)
Anna truly believes that although finding your second half is extremely important for complete happiness, still you can’t force things and work for the goal. Life and destiny either do it for you or don’t. She feels it out of the scope of one's control. That is why she considers herself extremely happy person to have loving husband and a wonderful son. She thinks that no matter what happens in the future she has already achieved a lot, since together with her husband they have brought to life a wonderful new person.
As to her career related achievements, the credit is all hers. She has been learning the languages of countries she lived in, she made sure that she gets most out of the expensive education taught at the university and since more than 10 years she worked full time climbing the career ladder of different organizations. What her personal experience showed is that having only academic knowledge is not enough to be successful at work. It is extremely important to have strong interpersonal skills, understanding of human psychology and know basic negotiation techniques. The obvious conclusion from the interview is to identify life priorities, do the best to achieve them and include them in your life. No matter what happens in life try to understand the people next to you, even if they are different from you.
Diversities should be accepted and appreciated, since they hold a potential for creation of something creative, different and unique. (A. Davtyan, personal communication, November 23, 2011)
At the end I would like to thank Anna for her time and wish success in her future re-evaluated life and goals.