x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Life lessons: The French ambassador to the UAE shares his wisdom

Alain Azouaou tells us a little of what he has learned in his years as France's envoy to the Emirates.

French Ambassador Alain Azouaou. Silvia Razgova / The National
French Ambassador Alain Azouaou. Silvia Razgova / The National

1. Always listen to others. That's the number-one rule of all diplomats, of course. But it is also a real life lesson. Listening means both respecting your interlocutors and accepting that they might have a different point of view. It can be very rewarding to learn from others' experience. And it is indispensable in my daily work in the UAE: you have to be on the constant lookout for what people have to say, what they feel, in a country where the pace of change is so fast and when so much energy is invested in building the future.

2. Cherish books. My father taught me the love of books. There is nothing as ingratiating as approaching a book for the first time: reading the back cover, touching the paper, browsing the first pages and then diving into the plot. I am so happy France is the cultural guest of honour of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2011. I hope it will trigger the same pleasure with many visitors.

3. Living in a globalised world does not mean losing your identity. On the contrary, it has given a new meaning to cultural diversity. Amid globalisation, you have to preserve your roots, both from a cultural and geographical standpoint. That is also the message of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, which promotes the diversity of languages and cultures. I am glad the UAE is the bearer of the same message, as the country just joined the Francophonie.

4. Music is where the truth lies. Classical music and opera, to be more specific. I spent my childhood listening to Schubert's lieders and Mozart's and Beethoven's sonatas that my father, a German language teacher, played on the record player. Daniel Barenboim, the world-renowned pianist and conductor who was in Abu Dhabi a few weeks ago, said that the opening of a concert is a rare moment, even more so than the opening of a book. Music is at the edge of the divine, or in Nietzsche's words, "Without music, life would be a mistake".

5. Spend enough time with your family. I should have started with that. My family is where I find peace of mind. I know my job means I am not present as much as I should be. But my wife and children remain my anchor and my strength.