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18 July 2022
"Living in an adoptive country and culture offers up different types of challenges, but also alleviates others, like how the hell to get through a British winter!"
Giles Heasman, executive assistant to Condé Nast Taiwan’s MD, shares how a side hustle got him his start at Condé Nast, why he loves living in Taiwan and why the father of three considers having children the scariest thing he’s ever done.
“The first 24 hours at home after hospital felt like something out of The Twilight Zone at times,” he says.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you find your way to Condé Nast? My story starts in Singapore. But that’s right at the very beginning, so let’s fast forward to me at six arriving in the UK, where I did school, modern Chinese studies at uni (with nine months in Beijing, and two months interning at the British Chamber in Hong Kong), graduated and then came back to Asia, this time Taiwan, ready for the start of the millennium.*
I loved it here and published a funky little bilingual lifestyle magazine to let everyone know why it’s so great. SARS and the Bali bombings extinguished that venture unfortunately, but media and publishing remained in my blood.
*Yeah, I’m well past the middle in age, so thank heavens Condé Nast is all about diversity and inclusivity: that includes us older folk, right?! The story continues below (side hustle).
How do you describe your job to friends and family? I rarely do…no offense, but who wants to talk about work when they’re with family and friends?!
What made you decide to move to Taiwan? Is it your forever home or would you explore somewhere else? I needed to live and work in a Chinese-speaking society to really grasp the language. Taiwan was the only one I hadn’t experienced. And wow! There’s so much more to this island than you’d imagine.
Stunning natural scenery — the largest number and density of high mountains in the world, with 286 peaks over 3,000m (9,800ft) — loads of hiking, river tracing, waterfalls, hot springs, and water sports, high speed trains between the subtropical north and tropical south, warm people, a young and vibrant progressive democracy, the world’s lowest poverty rate, safe and easy living, top healthcare, amazing food, no open liquor laws and a thriving cultural, arts and nightlife scene…This all makes it very hard to leave.
The hardest part of being a transplant in Taiwan is… Life! It’s a never-ending series of challenges, hey?! Living in an adoptive country and culture offers up different types of challenges, but also alleviates others, like how the hell to get through a British winter! So it all kind of balances out, but the facts of life remain.
What’s your favorite content genre? Definitely not horror, which is surprising, as growing up I loved leaping out of my sisters’ wardrobes to see the look of terror on their faces.
Have you ever had a side hustle or considered having one? Funnily enough, it was a side hustle that brought me to Condé Nast. After my magazine folded, I worked at Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Office of the President for many years, and was one day approached by a colleague about tutoring the then head of CNX, who was due to go on a training summit at the Adelphi in London. That led to me tutoring other ELT members pretty much every lunchtime for over a year, until it was agreed that I’d be useful in a full-time capacity as EA to the MD given the global transformation that was about to happen.
What are you most proud of in the last year and what are you looking forward to? All three of my children are getting to adulthood relatively unscathed! Two of them are now studying in the UK, with only the youngest here in Taiwan, so getting us all back together is something I’m very much looking forward to.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done, and why did you do it? Having those very same three children, especially the firstborn! The first 24 hours at home after the hospital felt like something out of The Twilight Zone at times. Why’d I do it? The lure of procreation, and the substantial and enduring positive effects on life satisfaction, if not always happiness!
List three things on your bucket list. 1. A spade. 2. Travel as a food tourist to India and the Middle East. 3. Start the 100-80-100 (100% productivity promised, 80% of the time, 100% of the pay) coalition for the 4-day working week at Condé. You’ll never guess what the hotline number will be!
Lastly, tell us the best Taiwan cuisine. Not a cuisine per se, but fruit and vegetables in general. This island is so fertile. The mangoes and pineapples drip with sweet joy, and vegetables you didn’t know existed grow like there’s no tomorrow. Chayote vines, aka dragon whiskers, anyone?!
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