The new kid in town

September 01, 2015 News

From working different jobs to fend for his travel goals as a student, to applying the lessons acquired from those travels on a professional level, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) Vice President for Membership and Business Services Florian Gottein proved that business is a relationship—as much as it is about numbers.

With the bustling Makati City landscape as view from his corner office at the 19th floor of the AXA Building, Gottein shares a lot has changed since he first set foot in the country as part of a university exchange program 10 years ago.

Gottein, who was offered the vice president position in December last year, was quick to reminisce his time in the Philippines as a student-slash-tourist, immersing himself in the culture and the challenges posed at the time which would soon be useful in his work as part of the business chamber.

“What is interesting for me to see is when I first arrived here in 2005, many buildings were not yet there, and 10 years later, there is a boom in high-rise buildings all over the place. So you can really see the growth,” Gottein said pointing out to the view outside.

Gottein, who hails from Austria, said traveling has always been an aid in his education, as well as his release from stress.

Packing his bag and getting his passport stamped as early when he was 17 years old for travels to parts of Europe and the United States, Gottein said his travels have opened his eyes to the realities in other places and have sparked his interest in politics, business and international relations.

“I really enjoy the international flair, working somewhere where you can meet people from different parts of the world, and gaining work experiences abroad is not only important for your career, but it broadens your horizon,” Gottein said.

The ECCP vice president recalled his days as a teenager working to save money for his trips.

From mixing drinks as a bartender, to picking up passengers as a cab driver, to assisting in surveys for a research company, Gottein said he had no regrets splurging on plane tickets and travel guides because it allowed him to see what was happening in a city in another part of the world.

And so old habits never die. At 33 years old and residing in a new country, Gottein still squeezes in trips to the countryside or makes use of simple pleasures like a bus ride to unexplored parts of Metro Manila whenever traffic cooperates.

“Back then, I used to enjoy traveling by bus and up until now I still do, taking a bus from Manila to somewhere in the province. Because you can experience much more riding a bus than being in your car or being in a taxi. You communicate with other people. I mean Filipinos are so open, very friendly. It is easy to get in touch with them,” Gottein shared.

Giving Filipinos who might be foreigners in their own land a run for their money, the Austrian expat shared his experience traveling to tourist favorites, like Baguio, Vigan, Bohol and Cebu, as well as underrated gems in Antipolo, Siquijor and Davao Oriental. Gottein said undiscovered beaches, the provinces and less crowded nooks in cities are his ideal destinations rather than famous spots.

“There are so many other nice places in the Philippines. You have 7,100 islands so there is a lot to explore. There is this place in the east coast of Mindanao I have gone to that has this stunning white beach and there was nobody there. I was the only foreigner there,” Gottein said.

He added: “The combination was quite basic but what else do you need—something to eat, something to drink—but you have the beach to yourself.”

Living the simple life

This seemingly back to basic, nature-centered preference, Gottein attributed to his humble beginnings growing up in the small municipality of Mils in the western part of Austria and being raised by his grandparents who lived at a time when the only luxury was surviving.

“Both my grandparents experienced the Great Depression and World War II. My grandfather was a soldier then. But they were really content and happy. They had their small house and they were planting vegetables and fruits there. They were showing me those things and teaching me that you do not have to have those nice gadgets and those luxuries around you. They really gave me a lot of traditional lessons so I think they really formed me,” Gottein said.

The same reservation for traditional values translated into Gottein’s choice of career, taking a degree in political science at the University of Innsbruck in Tyrol and engaging in volunteer work in their community at the same time.

Gottein said dipping his toes in the field of business and politics came as a way of “giving back” to his community that shaped him and trying to find solutions to problems and challenges in the areas he finds himself in.

Prior to his work in the ECCP, Gottein worked as a spokesman for a former secretary of defense in Austria for six years. Afterward he worked in the United Arab Emirates under the Ministry of Interior back in 2014.

Influence in policy-making

Accepting the offer to go back to the Philippines as part of a chamber of commerce came as an easy decision for Gottein.

“Remembering the Philippines were I experienced great things as a student, I said yes to the offer because somehow I know a little bit of the culture, a little bit of the country. I really wanted to try it out on another perspective, before as a student and now having this professional viewpoint,” he said.

Gottein’s appreciation for the country goes beyond the natural resources and scenic vacation spots, as he gave a nod to the country’s new found economic strength.

“There is a dynamic. You can feel it that there is something happening. You can see buildings and companies popping out. We are experiencing it in the chamber that more and more companies from Europe are interested in entering the Philippine market, but also Filipino companies are interested in expanding their business to Europe,” Gottein explained.

While economic growth rates in Europe appear dismal compared to Philippines’s 5.20-percent gross domestic product in the first quarter of this year, Gottein noted there has to be something done when it comes to the country’s infrastructure problem and the influx of people looking for employment in Metro Manila.

He also recognized the government’s role in providing laws that will open up the economy just enough to attract more foreign investors.

Gottein explained the ECCP’s major projects involve dialogue between business leaders and government offices in discussing solutions in different sectors of economy, like agriculture, energy, manufacturing, tourism, infrastructure and transportation, maritime and pharmaceuticals among others.

The ECCP has also done so far as to take the discussions to provinces and concerned local government units in a bid to provide people from the countryside livelihood and employment as opposed to the usual mentality that jobs are found in Metro Manila alone. 

Source: Business Mirror