In this interview, Diego Herrero de Egaña tells how, during his time in Turkey, he has coordinated the twinning project for the training of fish producers financed by the European Union and managed by the FIIAPP.
What has your adaptation to the country been like?
I arrived in Turkey in April 2019 and the adaptation was relatively simple as it is a country with great similarities to Spain, from its climate to the kindness and hospitality of Turkish people. Everything has been very familiar. Turkey is a very easy country to live in and which Spanish people find easy to adapt to.
What have been the easiest and the most difficult things to adapt to?
The most difficult aspect in my case is being away from my family; however, apart from that, I have to say again that Turkey is an easy country for us, it’s not hard to get used to living here.
The easiest part is that it is a wonderful and truly beautiful country, with a rich Graeco-Latin and European culture. Together with the reception we have received throughout the country and the courtesy of its people, this makes visiting Turkey and getting to know the place a joy for anyone.
Is this your first experience of living outside Spain? If not, is this mission proving to be very different to previous times?
This is not my first experience outside of Spain, as more than half of my working life has been abroad, unfortunately. Where you are based plays a major part when making comparisons, as do your personal circumstances.
The main problem that a Spaniard might encounter Turkey could well be the distance from Spain, because in every other aspect you feel completely at home. The truth is that it is very different from my other experiences, but more than anything else, this is due to it being a very easy country to live in. In other places where I have lived, this was not quite as clear.
There is also a factor that has changed everything – SARS COV 2 that has affected all of us everywhere, our way of life, which has had a great influence on work in terms of the progress we have made with the project, as well as on the personnel side, since the fact we do not go to the ministry every day affects the constancy of relationships.
What are your work and your daily routine like? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
With the onset of the virus, everything has changed everywhere. I now see my previous way of life as very removed from the present. It was very simple and straightforward, since it basically consisted of going to the Ministry of Agriculture and organising the project’s scheduled activities and actions in association with the Turkish ministry.
Due to the special circumstances of this project regarding fisheries, I often have to travel along the Turkish coast, something I did not do in Spain. Throughout this project however we have carried out activities along the entire Turkish coast in various stages, holding two meetings a day in different places over the course of a week. It is like a group going on tour, covering thousands of kilometres in a minibus with a very tight schedule.
How is your relationship with the FIIAPP team in Madrid and your colleagues in Turkey?
I am fortunate to be able to say that it is very good. I have worked with very professional technicians all of whom have extensive experience. In such a complicated project, with the added complications of COVID-19, that is something that is very much appreciated. I also believe that I have a good relationship with the other FIIAPP technicians and the rest of the team.
How would you rate your experience of working abroad for FIIAPP?
Very positively. I think that working outside your country with people from a different culture is always a challenge, but it is also highly rewarding.
With experience, you also come to understand that even with all the strengths that such a project has, you will still always be an outsider in another administration. You also have to ask for a lot of things and that obviously, creates tension that you have to learn to deal with.
Do you have any stories that sum up your time in Turkey and how you have adapted?
There are always lots of anecdotes to tell when you come to live in another country because almost everything catches your attention. Generally speaking, something that you do notice in Ankara is the honesty of the people here. It is inconceivable that a taxi driver would try to con you, or if you leave your phone or wallet in a cafeteria they will always keep it and give it back without having touched it, which is incredible.
Regarding the world of work and the administration, the arrangement of the chairs in the offices is curious because first they are distributed to accommodate many people. What’s more, they are not arranged to face a visitor head-on but rather from the side.
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