The Grand Duchy’s pistachio queen is #CelebratingLuxembourg
Parissa Rafii, president of Luxembourg-based nut producers Ireco, is one of a number of personalities to be featured in the “Celebrating Luxembourg” series, presented by Delano and other titles published by Maison Moderne.
Throughout the year, Celebrating Luxembourg profiles the people who contribute positively to the Grand Duchy’s international reputation.
Jess Bauldry: What do you do in life?
Parissa Rafii: It’s been five years since my father retired as president of Ireco. I’m the president of the company and I do purchasing, which I do much better in than sales, since I’m not diplomatic! Ireco buys and processes pistachio nuts from California, cashews from India and Vietnam, macadamias from South Africa and Australia, and peanuts from Argentina and the US.
JB: Can you summarise the key dates in your career and life?
PR: I was born in 1970. I began working at Ireco in 1991 when I didn’t know if I wanted to study business, human resources, translation or work with disabled children. I gave myself a year to figure things out and that year turned into ten years. In 2000, after the passing of my best childhood friend, I decided I didn’t want to have any regrets in life so I considered what was on my bucket list. One of the things was to learn Spanish. So, I went to Madrid for six months. Then in 2002 I went to university to study Persian and development studies. In 2005, I did an MA in diplomacy and international relations, at SOAS, London. In 2011, I became a mother.
JB: When you speak to non-Luxembourgers about Luxembourg, what do they say?
PR: Most people don’t even listen when I tell them where Luxembourg is. When I say “it’s a little country between Belgium, France and Germany”, they say “OK”. Then, when they introduce me to someone else, they say “she’s from Germany”. Even some Europeans don’t know where Luxembourg is. But, it impresses me when I meet someone from India or the US who knows about Luxembourg and what it is known for.
JB: What advantages and disadvantages does being a Luxembourger bring you?
PR: I was born here and don’t have the merit of having chosen Luxembourg. My parents did. But I like being Luxembourgish and having a Luxembourgish passport because no one hates us. Luxembourg until now exemplifies how to integrate foreigners into society. I also love the fact that no one understands Luxembourgish when you travel and you can have a private conversation even in a crowded place.
JB: When was the last time you were proud of Luxembourg and of being a Luxembourger?
PR: When I was in London, I would defend Luxembourg and its European values because Britons were so anti-European. I wasn’t surprised by the Brexit vote because the few years I lived there, everything I heard on the news regarding Europe was completely negative. When you grow up in Luxembourg, being European is part of your everyday life. It’s part of you. Although I am not sporty, I am super proud when a Luxembourger wins at international sports.
JB: Would you like to live abroad?
PR: I feel at home here, but I could feel at home in Buenos Aires or Spain. I’m more attracted to Mediterranean culture or America. I’m not attracted to Asia and could never live in Africa because of their concept of time. I don’t have the patience for that… It would definitely be cheaper to build a factory somewhere else. But I’m resisting. Luxembourg is my home. I think Luxembourg has given us a lot so we’ve the philosophy that we give back to the country we are in and I want the company to continue here.
JB: Where is your favourite place in Luxembourg?
PR: The Pétrusse and the old town... In summer, I often go with my son to the lake in Echternach. When we have visitors it’s either Vianden, Echternach or the Mullerthal or any other old towns.
In 2017 Maison Moderne and Nvision will celebrate Luxembourg by profiling 100 people who contribute positively to the country’s international reputation and brand image. The series will culminate in a gala evening on 13 December at Luxembourg Congrès. If you know somebody who you think deserves to be on the 100 list, let us know: [email protected]