This episode is an unusual one because it will be hosted by two master students of the University of Luxembourg, Bahareh Behmardi and Bianca Pirrelli. And Tetyana Karpenko, your usual host, will be the guest of the show.
Bahareh Behmardi: Hello everyone. This is Bahareh!
Bianca Pirrelli: And this is Bianca! And our guest today is Tetyana Karpenko.
Bahareh Behmardi Tatiana, you’re originally from Ukraine and you’ve been living in Luxembourg for 17 years. Could you please tell us why did you decide to move here?
Tetyana Karpenko: Well, before coming to Luxembourg, I worked in Germany and moved to Luxembourg for personal reasons. And so basically when I came to Luxembourg, it was a bit of a shock because in Germany, for example, you couldn’t find everything online, any information. 17 years ago, it was already very developed, and in Luxembourg there was virtually nothing online. And we had these thick book “Editus”.
I don’t know, if you know, now it’s also online service, but at that time, and you still can get it at the post just like this, the big book. And everything you needed to know was in this book. Like, if you need to call your commune or this service or that service was in this telephone book, and it was just, you can choose on the topics.
So it was basically a survival tool. Without that book, you could not do anything because there was no way to find out about anything without having this book.
Bianca Pirrelli: I can imagine.
Mompreneur journey and different Challenges
Bahareh Behmardi: So you are the CEO of a company called “The Loupe”. So can you tell us a little bit about it? Like, why did you start it? How do you like and what are the challenges?
Tetyana Karpenko: I started the loop more than ten years ago, and it was typical mompreneur project because I just got a small child and I wanted to have a way to stay with my child and to work at the same time. So I can remember when I started working, my daughter was crawling around and I was typing different things. So it was quite a challenging time. And of course, years passed and it became very different. And challenges became also very different because at the beginning it was this topic, how do I combine this life with a small child and my business? And now it’s different because we changed the development of the company, because when I started, it was the company specialized on web development most, and with the time new services were added. And now in the current stage, we’re concentrating more on communication and marketing, on strategic communication and marketing. It was a long way. And yeah, it was a great journey.
First experience on the radio, making the guest comfortable
Bahareh Behmardi: I know that you already had other shows on TV and Radio, but could you also share some information or some experience about them with us?
Tetyana Karpenko: My first radio show I had when I was 17, it was on the local radio when I used to live in Ukraine. And besides of that I was in a group of teenagers who started a TV show. We were going on the street and interviewing people. So we had one question and it was called “One question show”. With this one question you would approach people on the street and ask this question. It was super challenging and exciting because some people said, “oh, no interviews”, and were just running away, some people were friendly.
But this experience helped to go above yourself, to go out of yourself. We also had tons of funny answers afterwards. And we did the cutting, video editing. It was fun.
As for the radio show, I did it alone. I was the one who created the concept. Basically, at that time, we didn’t have any shows for young people. And so the guys who worked for the radio station, they came and said, hey, we need something for young people. Can you do something? So I started to do something, my show was more informative. It was not like just playing music.It was information for teenagers on different topics, on psychology. Where can you help, if you are struggling with something at your age.
My first interview partner, my first guest was a psychologist, actually was also a very young lady, but a couple of years older than me, of course. I can remember that we were heading to the studio and we met suddenly on the bus just before. I asked her, “is it your first recording, have you already been the radio?” And she said, “no, I’m very nervous”. The same was true for me. I’ve never been on the radio. It was also my first show. And then I decided, okay, but I should not show it because I’m the host. I need to be confident. I need to make her comfortable with the situation.
We had the recording in a big studio, not like we have here. It was a big studio with a huge window, and behind that was a technician who was recording the sound. It was really impressive. And I can remember this feeling, trying to make her comfortable because it’s her first time.
Bahareh Behmardi: Thank you. That was really interesting.
The primary idea: help people understand each other
Bianca Pirrelli: It must be nice memories as well. So, on the topic of communication, do you have any advice for people active in the field of communication and marketing in Luxembourg?
Tetyana Karpenko: I think my advice would not be only for people active in communication and marketing, but more general for people doing business and being active not only in companies, but also in organizations. While you’re doing communication and marketing, try to make people understand what you want. Normally, very often, what people do is, “okay, we need to do a brochure”. We put text, we put pictures, and we create a brochure. But I think the first question should be in which way we will make ourselves understandable for the people. And with this in mind. So I think it’s also kind of a mission of my company that we try to make people understand each other. And this is the first and primary idea. First we need to find out who is the target of this message, then make the right message for this target. And the main idea is always in your head: how do you make these people understand you?
Bianca Pirrelli: Makes sense.
All expats bring their expertise, their stories, and their interesting personalities
Bianca Pirrelli: So now you’re hosting the talk show expat stories on radio era. So may I ask, how did you come up with the idea of this talk show?
Tetyana Karpenko: Actually, because I have my company already more than ten years, I often go to networking events and I meet a lot of people, and basically all the time I went to a networking event, and started talking to some person, about what’s the story behind and et cetera. And you have the feeling, wow, what a great person is in front of you. And you never know that such great people are around.
So the main idea was to basically tell other people to a bigger audience that, “hey, we have such great people living among us”, and to help them to spread their ideas, and their mission.
It must be amazing meeting these people.
Tetyana Karpenko: That’s not that complicated. You just need to go into networking events and meet a lot of them.
Bianca Pirrelli: I think that seen that terminology is really important, especially in such a multilingual country as Luxembourg. Do you want to tell us a little bit about how did you choose the name of this program and why.
Tetyana Karpenko: Exactly the term “Expat” raises some questions. I think I chose it because I was not so creative. The idea was exactly to showcase people who come from other countries to Luxembourg. However, I could not call it “Stories of immigrants” or something. On the one hand. On the other hand, I am very well aware that there is a difference between terms like “expats” and “immigrants”, that “expats” are regarded as people coming from richer countries and immigrants from poor countries. However, for this show, for me, all people are expats. It doesn’t matter from which country they are coming. They bring their expertise, they bring their knowledge, they bring themselves their interesting stories, their interesting personalities. And for us, they all are expats.
After two years in Luxembourg people have an illusion that they know everything
Bahareh Behmardi: You already told us that you go to these different events and you meet these people, but how exactly do you usually choose your guests? Because I imagine there will be many people, as you said, like amazing people, but how to choose them or how you invite them to be the guest of the show.
Tetyana Karpenko: First, it’s probably important to say that I started to be interested in networking right after I came to Luxembourg. This was one of the reasons, for example, why I did my second Master in Luxembourg. I thought, I don’t know people and I need to build my network, to make connections. And I thought university is the best place to do that. So I took part in the program and some people who became my guests I know from 14 years back, like Paul Schonenberg, the president of AMCHAM, Rita Knott, and other people. Now I know them for 14 years already. So it’s a long way. But probably it’s also important to say to those who just came that it’s important to build your network in Luxembourg. And then to the question, how do I choose guests.
I think it’s important that a person is known in Luxembourg. And then the other thing is also very important for me that this person has some activity which is not pure commercial activity, like doing something for charities or for some other organizations. Because I think it is important also to spread information about topics that are not purely commercial.
I also invite people who are in Luxembourg more than six years. I think it is important that my guests, they have already the experience of living here, and they can look back and tell about also their experience living in Luxembourg. After two years, a lot of people, they live two years and they say, oh, wow, I know everything about Luxembourg. But then after six years, they look back at themselves four years ago and they laugh, “oh my God, I really didn’t know anything”. You have this illusion, after two years, you have this illusion of knowing everything, which is not true at all.
Bahareh Behmardi: Well, you said you are going to different events, and we know that Luxembourg is a multilingual and multicultural country. So in which languages do you communicate with people? Is it only one language or how do you know even with which one to start?
Tetyana Karpenko: That’s a great question. Basically, I go mostly to the events where I know that people speak English. Basically, because I speak six languages, for me it’s not that a big problem, just I feel more comfortable in English. However, if there are French speaking people, I try also to communicate with them in French or with German speaking people in German. However, I think it’s fair. I use a language which is not my mother tongue, and I think it’s fair if the other people also use a lingua franca.
But in general, I would say that the majority of events are, especially if they are connected to business, are in English, and the smaller part is in French. But I can tell you an interesting story connected to that. There are trade missions that Luxembourgish Chamber of Commerce organises for Luxembourgish companies. And we had a trade mission to Brussels. We came to Brussels with a group of people, like directors of companies, but also people from startups, from different kind of companies. And we came there and we had a presentation on the site. Guys from the Brussels did a presentation for us, and they started to present in French. And then the lady who accompanied us from the Chamber of Commerce, she said, okay, could you please switch into English?
Because there were indeed several people in our group that didn’t know French that well to be able to follow the presentation. The Belgians were extremely surprised. In Brussels, they thought, Luxembourg is French speaking, so everyone should speak French. I would say that in Luxembourg a lot of people do speak French, but it’s not their first language, and they’re probably not that proficient in French.
Outside of Luxembourg, people do not think about the fact that Luxembourg is very multinational, that here live not only Luxembourgish people who speak French, or French people, who moved to Luxembourg, but we’re really so multinational that in the delegation there were people who could not understand very well French. And the Belgians were really, really shocked about that.
Bianca Pirrelli: Speaking of experience, has your perspective on Luxembourg changed after hearing so many points of view on it? And how can you tell us a bit about it?
Tetyana Karpenko: I would say, because I live here already 17 years, my perspective didn’t change. However, I found out a lot about different aspects of living in Luxembourg and different perspectives. There were things that I never thought about. For example, a lot of guests are saying that Luxembourg combines this attractivity, some cultural events like a big city, but advantages of the smaller place. So it’s a nice. I never thought about this like that, to tell you the truth. Another interesting idea that I heard from my guests was, that distances are short in Luxembourg. I also never thought about that. But of course, for people who needs to do a lot of tasks during the day and moving around, it’s important.
Bahareh Behmardi: Yeah, exactly. Well, doing this program or this show and meeting all these amazing people, has all this had any impact on your personal life or even professional life?
Tetyana Karpenko: I think it’s very enriching experience and it helps me, I would say, to be more creative because it makes your horizon much wider. Because people have different points of view. You kind of see your life and activities also from different perspectives.
Bianca Pirrelli: And do you have any tips for newcomers to Luxembourg?
Tetyana Karpenko: Yes, I think that I already mentioned one. So for sure, when you come to Luxembourg, it’s very important to communicate with people and start building your network of friends, of connections. On the one hand, it what make your life interesting. People often complain when they come Luxembourg, they have nothing to do or nothing is happening. If you go to networking events, if you go to other places and you meet people, first of all, you know more of them and you have much more possibilities to do things in your free time afterwards because you can write a friend you just met, “hey, let’s go here, let’s go there”.
And on the other hand, with the time, it brings a lot of advantages because you have access to more information and you have much more chances, finding a better place to live, in finding a better job and other things, maybe in finding a better childcare. So everything is based basically on knowing people and receiving different information from them. And the other thing was also very important.
Going back to the topic of nothing is happening and life is boring in Luxembourg. So interesting life starts with having an interesting calendar. Planning your activities is very important. There are a lot of things that going on but because Luxembourg is fragmented in different groups, once you see the information about some event, you need make a picture, if it’s paper flyer, because there is a big chance you would never ever see this information again.
So you just make a picture, you make a notes, you buy a ticket, and you put it in your calendar. And you keep it, because otherwise it’s lost. And then in some evening you see it and you say, well, there is nothing to do, but you just didn’t plan it before. And the places, for example, like Philharmonie, if you would like to go to Philharmonie, you need to buy tickets several months in advance because it’s often sold out.
And probably if you are sitting around and you don’t know what to do, it’s not necessary that there are ten places where you can just go like this very spontaneously. It’s not the case. That’s why it’s important to plan.
Bianca Pirrelli: I think I’ve experienced that, actually, the calendar thing is very accurate.
Bahareh Behmardi: So are there like any life hacks you’d like to share with us and with our audience?
Tetyana Karpenko: I think it’s important to be curious about the life of Luxembourgish people and try to learn more about traditions, about the way of living. Because what I experience, that even people, like expats, even living more than ten years in Luxembourg, they still have some myths and some strange ideas about how life is going on in Luxembourg. Maybe they don’t have enough interactions with Luxembourgish people, or they’re just not very attentive to this information coming from that, because there are a lot of misconceptions coming. And I think, on the one hand, it’s important to know a lot about Luxembourgish culture, how it functions here, and it’s also very enriching for your life because you live here.
Hidden gems in Vianden
Bianca Pirrelli: So, to conclude this interview, do you have any favorite places in Luxembourg that you want to share with us, or maybe some hidden gems to advise?
Tetyana Karpenko: Yes, I do. I lived a long time in Vianden- in the village with a nice castle. And what I would like to advise people to see Vienden from a different point of view. So first of all if you bring friends to this castle I would suggest that you take a road that goes down. There are two roads. One is go down so you come to the castle underneath and the other is up so you take the upper road and then kind of behind the slope, the road turns down and you see this magnificent castle suddenly in front of you very big and very close. It is just an unforgettable impression. This is one of the things that you can do but it’s great to do it with a person who never been there. It will be like shock – unforgettable surprise.
The other thing, if you are in Vianden itself there is a small bridge and after you cross the bridge you can turn. There is a small street to the left, very small. And when you turn, there are stairs. You go up the stairs and then you are on the wall of the town and you can go up to the castle. Not as everyone do up the main street, on the walls. And from this point Vianden is just a magnificent place because you can look down to the small houses, you can look into the backyards. That’s great. And then you also have a very nice garden, you have playground for children.
And you can go almost all the way up to the castle. There is also the same thing on the other side but it goes around the castle so you don’t see the Vianden itself. I would suggest to take the left side walk.
And then one more interesting thing that not a lot of people know. Vianden it’s situated directly on the border with Germany and the next German village which is very close you can walk, you don’t need to drive even. It’s called Roth an Der Our and it’s famous because it is known as the place where Templar knights were living. There is a small castle there but it’s private, you cannot visit it.
What you can see is a very interesting church there with some gothic elements and so I like it very much but as I said, tourists coming to Vianden normally don’t visit Roth because they don’t know that. And interestingly German people who visit Roth, they don’t visit Vianden.
And the other thing is also I found very interesting. Earlier there was a train that was going from Vianden to Diekirch. And now this path where train was circulating, it’s now rebuilt into a cycling path. However, you also can walk, and it’s very picturesque, extremely picturesque path. You can walk from Vianden to Bettel. Bettel is the next village in Luxembourg, the same word as our former prime minister. Bettel. The same name. In Bettel
one can still see the old building of the former train station, really a nice place to visit.
That sounds exciting. We should go. Yeah, definitely.
Bahareh Behmardi: We should add it to our calendar.