A Parisian in Fiji
The desire to experience living and working in an English-speaking environment led Finance professional Florence Oudin from France’s capital, Paris to the shores of Fiji in 2010, passing through Tahiti first. Three years on, we catch up with Ms Oudin in Suva to hear her story.
Q: Hello, thank you for accepting to answer our questions. To begin, could you please tell us briefly about your background?
A: Of course. I studied Commerce specialising in Audit / Finance. I chose to focus on gaining international experience via internships. This allowed me to pursue part of my education in Helsinki, Finland and do internships in Europe.
Before my final year of specialisation in Finance, I had the opportunity to take a gap year and incorporate an attachment with an Audit Firm in Paris, Deloitte, for 6 months. This allowed me to have a first professional experience as a Finance Auditor before deciding to pursue it as a career. Altogether we were 300 new employees when I joined Deloitte, it was unbelievable. I finished the fiscal year, then I decided to make the most of the remaining 6 months I had and left to fulfil one of my dreams – to travel around the world. It was on this trip that I, for the first time, discovered the Pacific.
Back in France, I completed my final year of study and graduated. I decided I no longer to stay in a big city but preferred a more pleasant environment. This is how I returned to the Pacific, at first working at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Tahiti and now with Pacific Energy here in Fiji.
Q: Where were you born? Tell us a bit about where you’re from; it’s cultural, social and geographic characteristics?
A: I was born in Paris and I lived there until the age of 20. It is an extraordinary city, where it’s impossible to get bored in between the theatres, museums, monuments, concerts, parks, stadiums, shopping and libraries....Like all capital cities, Paris is multi cultural and very cosmopolitan, that’s what I like about it.
It is often said that life is fast in Paris - people rushing about in the streets, the underground trains packed at rush hour, the traffic is impossible and the Parisians are unpleasant! There is some truth in all that but I say that is part of the city’s charm. I love going back for the holidays.
Q: Please tell us about the company you work for?
A: I work for Pacific Energy (PE SWP) that specialises in the distribution of fuel products in the Pacific.
Pacific Energy was created in Tahiti, Vanuatu and New Caledonia in 2006 following the acquisition of Shell in these countries. The Fiji subsidiary of Pacific Energy South West Pacific was established following the purchase of part of British Petroleum (BP Oil) in May 2010. It covers six countries: Fiji, Tonga, American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati.
Our organisation is different from other oil companies known worldwide. Pacific Energy is a "local and family" company, whose main Shareholder is Tahitian and Chairman is New Caledonian.
Q: What is your role in the company?
A: I am the Chief Financial Officer of the South West Pacific region, based in Fiji. I have also taken up the role of HR Manager for the last two years.
Q: When did you arrive in Fiji and how long will you stay?
A: I arrived in Fiji in August 2010, shortly after the purchase of BP by Pacific Energy. I will stay as long as my post requires me to.
Q: What motivated you to come to Fiji?
A: My previous post with PwC Tahiti involved a lot of travel. I first discovered Fiji in August 2008 during a workshop. I never imagined that two years later I would be unpacking my bags here. I loved living and working in Tahiti but I was still just beginning my professional career and I hoped to expand my international experience while remaining here in the Pacific. In 2010, an opportunity arose here in Fiji – I was curious about working in an English-speaking environment; whilst at the same time exploring a part of the Pacific that I did not know very much about. In addition, the activities of the company and the post represented a new challenge for me.
Q: Do you like living in Fiji?
A: Yes, Fiji is a welcoming and authentic country.
Q: What do you hope to achieve by the end of your stay here in Fiji?
A: Just to make and leave behind good memories of my stay.
Q: What shocked you the most, culturally, when you first arrived in Fiji?
A: Like all Pacific Islands, I am always appreciative of the sense of belonging to the land, the ocean and the nature that Islanders have. In big cities, we have a tendency to forget these ties.
Q: Would you come back to Fiji?
A: Of course!
Short Answer Questions
Q: Your favourite place in Fiji?
A: The Ocean.
Q: Favourite restaurant?
A: Daikoku and The Galley at the Yacht Club, for fabulous home cooked meals.
Q: Favourite bar?
A: A drink on the beach!
Q: Favourite beach?
Q: Worst memory?
A: None that I would say is my "worst", I’m lucky!
Q: Best memory?
A: It’s hard to choose one - between the paddling races with my team, people’s smiles, places discovered and the wonderful improvised meals with friends.
Q: One word to describe the Fijians?
Q: A last word in Fijian?
A: Vinaka (Thank you)