From after-work apéros in Paris to typical “braais” in Cape Town, Xavier Tallot—Marketing Director for Africa, the Middle East and India—moved from France to South Africa after three roles and nearly 10 years in our Group.
Moving to South Africa after living in France?
It was a big move; it was no small feat bringing my wife and daughters 10,000 kilometers away from home. However, Cape Town is probably not the worst city in which to be an expat. On the contrary, the town and its surroundings are absolutely beautiful, and there is limited time difference with France, which makes it easy to keep in touch with family and friends. Plus, there are so many things you can do in Cape Town and the surrounding area: from the wineries, to the mountains, water sports, even safaris.
You can’t really understand it until you live it; it’s Africa, but in terms of lifestyle, it is simultaneously very European. People see it as a vacation destination, but this isn’t the quotidian reality. Our routine is similar to what it would be in Europe during the week when we are not travelling within the zone. On weekends, you go to the beach rather than the park and have “braais” (i.e., local barbecues). This is the Cape Town lifestyle.
On the other hand, we have to deal with local security issues, social discrepancies and the severe water crisis that has hit the city, but this has become a part of our daily lives. The HR team in Paris prepared us by helping us understand the opportunities and the risks of relocation. But most importantly, I had help from the South Africa team to face local issues and learn how to adapt.
Why did you go abroad?
When I was younger, I enjoyed the six months I spent interning in Singapore, which influenced my desire to go back abroad. I was seeking a new challenge in a dynamic region beyond France to really experience a different culture. On top of that, it was a family choice to have this rich experience together. Discovering a new region—not as a tourist, but as a resident—opened us up to new cultures and friends.
Did you always want to move to South Africa?
To be honest, I was open to any interesting opportunity between the US and Asia. I was more looking for a new challenge in a zone where I could use my previous experiences at Rémy Cointreau, while having an enriching family experience. Now, it’s come to be my new home and a base camp from which we manage the zone, which reaches up through Africa, to the Middle East and India.
How did Rémy Cointreau help you with the transition?
As mentioned, they helped us understand the opportunities and risks of relocation. We were able to spend a few days in Cape Town to familiarize ourselves with the city, and I had help from the team with logistical issues. We are a small team, and I really felt like I was joining a new family within Rémy Cointreau.
Advice to others moving abroad?
Be open, in terms of markets and positions, and make sure it’s a family choice. Also try to avoid the clichés of expat life. You have to change your lifestyle; you don’t live the way you lived in your former country. Don’t keep missing what you left in your home country (especially food for French people). Regardless of where you come from, be open to the local people and culture—otherwise, you miss out.
What can you say about working with Rémy Cointreau after nearly 10 years?
It’s like a new frontier, and the company has changed so much in a positive way: opening up more opportunities abroad and expanding our portfolio with the acquisitions of Westland and Domaine des Hautes Glaces. You can feel that there is lots of opportunity within the Group. Africa, the Middle East and India is a land of opportunity for Rémy Cointreau. I feel very lucky to be a part of a company that offers opportunities like these. It’s been an incredible journey.
Since his testimonial, Xavier has been appointed General Manager for Malaysia.