Life Lessons: Ronald Perlwitz
Ronald Perlwitz, 39, is the director of studies for international languages and business, at the Paris-Sorbonne University, Abu Dhabi. Originally from Germany, he has lived in the capital for four years. He also gives the pre-concert talks at the Abu Dhabi Classics
Learn a Language. It is the best way to approach another culture. The problem we’re facing at the moment with globalisation is that English has become such a universal language, people believe that’s all they need to communicate all over the world. If you speak their original language, people will see that you are interested and that you share something. Linked to an understanding of culture is literature, and if you want to know the literature of a country you have to learn the language.
One of the good things about working in a university is that even as you get older, the people around you stay the same age. We all lose a little bit of idealism as we age and we tend to let reality become a little too strong. One of the great parts of the job is that I am still surrounded by people who believe in certain ideals, be it humanity or freedom; people who are ready to go on humanitarian missions and for whom the word freedom really has a meaning.
Cherish your identity. I am a German who grew up in France, so on the one hand I really consider myself a European, but on the other I have German nationality and am very happy to have it. We have had a difficult past and a lot of people in Germany have problems with their national identity. But for me, wherever I went, the German identity was a part of me.
Music has something to do with the language of a higher world. When you go to the opera, it talks to your heart and soul and deals with essential, existential subjects. In my pre-concert talks, I am always trying to highlight that it is your own life that is up there on the stage.
As told to Helena Frith Powell
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019