First off, I have to say the fact that this book is written by a very successful graduate of UMD is awesome. I truly enjoyed this book for several reasons. The first of which I just stated, it is written by a UMD graduate. The second reason is that it goes through a little bit of the history of China, explaining certain important events throughout China's history and the Dynasties during which they happened. It was interesting to see how events that happened so long ago could still have a major effect on doing business in China today. The first 30 or so pages are simply lists of all of the main characters and what they do/did that was so important to China. I will admit, the book was a slow start, but once it got rolling, I had a hard time putting it down. McGregor goes through different case studies to explain to the reader what to do and what not to do when attempting to bring your business to China. At the end of each chapter, he recaps the main points that he wanted to get across in the section, which was truly helpful to me because there was a lot of information in each chapter. The thing that I really liked about the book is that the reader can really tell that McGregor truly knows what he is talking about. He offers many warnings to the business man going into China, along with other humorous stories. He also explains how the higher officials in Chinese businesses and even the government obtain their positions. I found that part to be extremely interesting. It is almost as though he is trying to scare the reader out of doing any sort of business in China, but then he explains that most of the country is not operating the way that he describes. He explains that a lot of what he talks about is the more corrupt parts of China's past, so a lot of the things that he is saying does not apply to simple business transactions with the country. Although the book was published in 2005, it still is an excellent source of tips and tricks for doing business in China. I highly recommend that you all read this one. It is truly an eye-opener.
June 2011 Archives
Reading this book after the trip makes me wish I at least read the beginning before we had left. Doing Business in China by Tim Ambler and Morgen Witzel covers various topics about business differences between the Chinese culture and the Western culture. Starting off with an intro about some differences, the book also covers why you should want to go to China, ways to prepare for your trip (including things you should understand before you go), differences in culture (from values to beliefs), and suggestions on how to fit your business into the Chinese environment.
While the book was published back in 2004, the information it provides is still quite valid. The introduction alone is worth the read, as it talks about the different cultural shocks that the author experienced in doing introductory business in China.
The most important thing you can do before heading to China is to do some preparatory study beforehand. Understanding cultural differences is the most and best thing you can do before you head over to China. You should understand that there is a group attitude in China, and depending on if you are in or out of that group, people will treat you very differently. Along with understanding in-group/out-group behavior, you should understand the difference in power distance in China. You should also understand the general geography of where you are going, along with the etiquette/manners that are expected.
The book also addresses Market Research; however this part of the book seems to be dated. Back in 2004 there wasn't a lot of information about the Chinese market because we were only just starting to interact with China at the time, but now that we have had about six years, there is a bit more information about what the market demands.
As the book goes on, it gets more and more in depth toward how to succeed in business in China. The book even covers a few Chinese values such as Guan Xi, your on-going relationship with another person, what influences it, and why it is so important. I would definitely suggest reading this book if you intend to pursue a business career in China. I would even read the first two chapters if you're just planning to visit China, no business involved.
I can't believe it's finally over. We were finally leaving China, and I wasn't ready to go (I don't think a lot of the group was ready either). Waking up around 5am wasn't fun, either. I will miss all of the fun I had in China. What I learned throughout the trip was a lot deeper than I thought it would be. I already have made many changes to the way I approach things in life. I will always remember the places I've seen, the people I've met, and the experiences I had on this trip. If I get the chance, I would like to go back to China and visit my new friends (I plan on learning the language before hand, though). I hope everyone had a great of a time that I did. Thanks to everyone who helped make this journey possible.
Today was the last full day we had in Shanghai. It was a relaxing day for the group. We started out visiting one of the famous Gardens in Shanghai. A shopping area surrounded the garden, and we got to explore the area after we were done. We had 5 hours to explore, but a few people wanted to go back early (including myself), so we decided to take the subway back to the hotel. We had taken it the night before, so we knew how to get around on it. It was a different experience. I had never been on a subway car before Shanghai. It was good that we only needed to ride one train to get to back to the hotel. However, once we got off the train, it was a different story. We kind of got lost. By 'kind of', I mean we thought we were lost, but we were actually going the right way, so we asked for help and got pointed in the wrong direction which caused us to actually get lost.
During all of this, I found out one cultural similarity: people love street performers. Apparently, when two people walking down the street get tired of looking for a hotel and begin to beat box (make cool noises with their voices that sound like music), passer-byers begin to clap and enjoy that music. It was cool to know that people in China wouldn't be freaked out or confused by two American kids making strange noises down the street. It was a nice way to end the trip.
PS: The taxi drivers in China are INSANELY FAST AND AMAZING DRIVERS!!!!!!!!
Before we left to go on the trip we were assigned a book to read to get us into a Chinese mind set. I choose The Coming China War by Peter Navarro.
The book I felt was written as a scare to the American people about some of the practices that go on in China. One of the biggest is the coping of products. I saw this in the knock off market in China. There are actual stores and markets that sell designer bags, watches, and anything a person could think of. I know if i was the one that made these products I would be upset, not just from the losing of income but some of these products are really inferior to the product of the real nature.
Peter Navarro has listed many things that the world needs to worry about from pollution, to population and China's ability to have such cheaper labor due to it's large population down to political upheaval. I thought it was a very good read and addressed a lot of the problems that we see in China and what we need to do to solve this before it becomes an actual shooting war with real bullets instead of bullets.
Today we went to the Pearl tower to get a better view of the city. It was so cool to see how big the city looked from as high up as we were. While we were there, we got to see images of how much change Shanghai had went through in the past 20 years. The changes were drastic. I was amazed at how fast the city has grown. My favorite part of the day was the time we spent at The Bund. It was one of the largest shopping streets I have ever seen. There was so much to do there. I loved the atmosphere of the people and sounds everywhere.
What I noticed about this place was the amount of effort people put into getting people to visit their shops. I'd find vendors left and right trying to get us to go to their shops. Their would be people trying to lead us to many shops that they work for on the streets. It was different from the US, where the only thing stores do is use advertising and PR; they don't physically drag you into their stores. It was fun, either way.
I was taken by surprise when we got to Shanghai. It looked just like we entered a city in the US, only ten times larger. It was amazing! The part of the day that stood out was when we headed to the shopping area later that night. It looked nothing like what I expected it to look. I had more of a European look and feel to it. From what I was told, the shopping area did have European influence, so that may be why it looked the way it did. Everything looked so tall. It was like being a mouse in a mansion... or something like that. I didn't realize how modern everything looked here, especially in Shanghai. This area also seemed like it was a hot spot for tourists. It threw me off a little to hear English being spoken almost everywhere I went in that shopping area. It was cool to see how far Shanghai has come from even ten years ago. It was a good first night in Shanghai.
Today we are heading to Hangzhou, but before that we went to a well known silk factory in Suzhou. It was cool to see how silk cloth is made and the amount of effort is put in to make one garment. We started the tour with an introduction to the silk factory followed by the tour and ending with a showcase of the products made with the silk. Throughout the tour, we saw the way silk was made in the past and how it is made in the factory today. It was cool to see how similar the methods were to get silk was from the past and today. Even though they use heavy machinery to make gathering the silk easier, they still had workers that did they very detailed tasks: checking for bad silk chrysalis, checking water temperature, etc. It seems that when people in China create something of value, they put a lot of effort and time into it. I saw it in their cakes and meals, performances (such as the one we saw that night) and the image of their cities. If I learned anything today, it's that I need to put effort into the things I do.
Suzhou is very smoggy, but other than that, it was amazing! One place that I want to highlight is not one of the places that we were required to go, but for the KTV in Suzhou. It was AMAZING! The theme was Star Wars!!!! We arrived at the KTV and from the outside it looked like some sort of alien space craft. I then noticed that around the perimeter there were little statues of R2-D2 surrounding the building. Once inside, we were greeted by a Jar Jar Binks standing near a futuristic information desk/register. The halls they led us down felt like going down one of corridors of the Death Star, only with more lights. And as for the room we sang in, it was designed to look like a console room. The console we chose songs from even looked like it belonged in Star Wars. Once again, I could tell that the Chinese take their karaoke seriously.
This was the last day in China not including the traveling day tomorrow. We started it out by heading to the Yuyuan garden. It was very beautiful just as were the many other gardens we had seen over this trip. China values gardens very much because it is place where people can connect with one another, nature, and beauty. The older generation of Chinese like to come here to spend their day with being captured around beauty while getting exercise. Many of the common themes of the gardens included Bonzai trees, Coy ponds, old structures where rich people had once lived and dined, rare rock formations, and so one.
We had our last dinner later that evening and had to bring this journey to a close. I felt like a rock star on this trip. Our tour bust would roll us up to the front entrance of almost every must see place in Beijing, Tianjin, and China. We would have people waiting for us everywhere to teach us about everything from recycled waste to fine silk. Our tour guides were absolutely great. Never will I be able to thank them for enhancing the experiences and places we got to see. Lastly, thanks to everyone who went on this trip. I am grateful and proud of everything you were, everything you are, and everything you're going to be.
We started out the morning with the Shanghai Science Museum. It had been a while since I've been to a museum so it was refreshing to see one. After the museum and lunch we went to the TV Tower??? It brought us up to an observation area where we could look out into Shanghai. On the uppermost level was the glass deck which allowed you to feel as though you were floating hundreds of feet in the air. The TV Tower?? Also had a museum below which showed the history of Shanghai. Not even a hundred years ago there was practically nothing in Shanghai. Now there is nothing but skyscrapers and buildings as far as the eye can see. As the biggest city in the world it was surprising to see how much it had grown. They had all the automobiles and modes of transportation that was used through the times of Shanghai. From horse and carriage to taxi cab of the 2000's it was pretty cool to see how the automobile contributed to the lifestyle of Shanghai. Richshaws have been used in Shanghai for nearly 100 years and you still see them today. You don't see richshaws in the U.S. though. The new ones are really cool too. I would get one just to get around town with if they were available in the U.S.
I got a chance to use the subways a couple times in Shanghai. I've been to New York and rode a few lines in New York as well. Shanghai's subway system is so much nicer than New York's. New York's subway system is way dirtier and slower and just poor quality. Shanghai had clean stations, easy to use machines, friendly workers, and above all respectful riders.
The cruise this morning was peaceful. It took us around a lake in China surrounded by low rolling green mountains. The fog blanketed the mountains and made for great scenery. The nearby garden and coy pond was beautiful as well. After lunch we got to go see a tea farm where we sampled teas of all kinds. We also learned some traditions of tea drinking. In China, if you are given a full cup of tea that means drink this one and then it's time to go. If you are given a half full glass of tea that means you are welcome to stay for another cup.
We arrived in Shanghai at dinner time. We were taken to a place that had dancers and our private room had dancers as well. Afterward we went to a high end area of Shanghai. It was one of the most beautiful shopping/dining area I have ever been to. We looked around mostly because it was so expensive but I would come back to this area again if given the chance to go to Shanghai again.
Happy Birthday Vince!
First thing on the agenda was Suzhou Industrial Park. While there wasn't much open when we got there in the morning it was still a good stop to see some of the architecture. There was a canopy like the one in Vegas that lights up at night. Later we went to a silk factory where we got to see the silk making process start to finish. We also got to watch a fashion show and it was the closest I 'v ever been to any runway fashion event. After the great lunch next to the silk factory we took a road trip to Hangzhou. Hangzhou was even nicer than Suzhou in my opinion. We started with some shopping in a tourist area and then the rain came. It rained most of the night. The sidewalks and storefronts of Hangzhou where we drove through were made of beautiful brick and cobblestone. The city has a nature feel to it so when the buildings accommodated with the trees and the lake it made for nice scenery.
We also got to see a show that told some ancient stories of Hangzhou. They had a carnival style environment surrounding the theatre where you could play games and enter a haunted house.
We got off the train early in the morning. We were in the city of Suzhou. Our tour guide, Joe, took us to Tiger Hill and Zhouzeng Garden. The garden was probably one of the nicer places I saw on the trip. The bus then took us to a large shopping area. The off streets were all cheap but when you got on to the main road big stores like Nike had shops and the clothes were more expensive than in the U.S. It was a hot day. Later we took a cruise in the canal. Suzhou is the Venice of the East. For one the tower at Tiger Hill leaned just like the leaning tower of Piza. Also, the cruise I imagine is much like Venice because of how the houses are built submerged in the water and the steps go right in the water. At night, the group went to the KTV karaoke club.
This was our last day in Tianjin. We had presentations and a closing ceremony in the morning then after lunch went to the train station where I got to experience riding in a train with four beds. I personally enjoyed the train ride. We were in the VIP section of the train which gave us a lot more privacy than normal passengers.
Speaking of room and board I got me thinking of the dorm rooms of the Nankai students. One of the professors of the university told us that the students have not the greatest living conditions. When I saw them I understood what he meant. They had four boys to a room and the room was half the size of my dorm room when I shared with just one. The beds were also very thin and must have been hard to sleep on. Other things like washing clothes by hand and having to walk to the shower complex all must make for a lot of inconvenience. The bright side is that when they graduate they'll have an opportunity to make more money and buy a really comfortable bed.
Today we had a lecture with Ren Bing on Huwei, a telecommunications company that has had problems getting into the U.S. market because of various problems such as doing business with Iran and keeping their record books private. They have made it into the U.S. but with a very small share of the U.S. market.
After that I went to the Pizza Hut and it was very different from the pizza hut in the U.S. For one thing it was very big and very busy compared to the Pizza Hut's I've been to in the U.S. Also, there menu had a lot of different things on it. The menu was probably around 30 pages thick The pizza was also different offering pizza like boneless chicken wing and green bean pizza. One thing I have noticed when dining out in China is that they don't bring food out all together like in the U.S. They bring out it to the person when it is ready. The good thing is that you get your food hot but on the other end you end up eating in front of others.
Today was a sad day. Today, however, is also a happy day. We had our farewell ceremony at Nankai University. It wasn't the ceremony that made me sad. It was the fact that I was about to leave the new friends that I made while in China. They were all so kind to us and they taught us so much about their lives and their culture. It was a bitter-sweet farewell, but we did have Shanghai to look for the rest of the trip. Soon after the goodbyes, we headed to the train station to begin our 14-hour ride to our new destination. As we traveled, I got to see another side of China that I haven't seen during this trip. The rural area in China looks nothing like the areas we've been in while in Beijing and Tianjin. The area looked very broken down and underdeveloped. It reminded me of how China looked in Jackie Chan's Drunken Master. I didn't really realize that the rural areas were as unaffected by all of the development in other main cities around China. It was interesting to see people herding sheep, kids playing in trash piles, and old, simple buildings all around the country side. Overall, I enjoyed the ride very much.
Tianjin: Day 14 (Monday)
Final day of classes!!! We had our final lecture of the trip and everyone was excited for the get-together that night. I was happy that we all were able to get together for one last time before we left Tianjin. We had hot pot and took many funny pictures together.
Something that I learned that night seemed very important: joking around isn't always the best thing to do. One of the students had come up with a Chinese name for Mike. The name was Ma Li Fu (not sure if spelling is right). Well, the first part of the name sounds a lot like Miley. Because of this, some of the guys thought it would be a good idea to call him Miley Cyrus. It was funny until the girl who gave him the name got upset over it. We tried to explain to her that it was just us joking around, but we could still see she wasn't too happy about it. By the end of the night, everything was fine with her and the others. I guess in Chinese culture, sarcasm and joking around isn't used as much. Other than that, the night was fantastic.
This experience has been an opportunity of a life-time and helped me to understand the Chinese culture much more than I could have in a classroom. The long history and deeply rooted traditions are very important to understand, especially when doing business. The knowledge I was able to gain about the Chinese culture was just a scratch on the surface of what I hope to learn someday. The language barrier really limited the amount of interaction and information that I could take away. This trip has motived me to pursue a study of the Chinese language and culture. Someday I would like to return to China and be able to communicate with locals in their native language. Even without knowledge of the Chinese language this was still one of the best trips I have taken abroad. The largest take-away that I will always remember is just how different cultures around the world are, how much they have to offer humanity in new knowledge and how important it is for people to travel to increase their understanding of the how the rest of the world operates outside of their hometown.
The hospitality of our guides was more than I could have asked for, day in and day out we were treated well and enjoyed the highest quality experience imaginable. Thanks to Lina, Lisa, Monica and Joe for making our trip so enjoyable and trouble free. Your hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed. I was also very happy to have met all of the wonderful students of Nankai University who took the time to show us around Tianjin, take us to the finest dining in town and get to know us, even playing badminton and table tennis! Most of all I would like to thank Dr. Li for putting together such an enjoyable business and culture study in China. Your planning and connections in China have made this trip an extremely valuable learning experience and I appreciate all of the work you have done to ensure this study abroad experience was a great one for all of us.
This weekend was amazing!!!!!
We started it off by going to see Kung Fu Panda 2 early on Saturday. It was one of the few movie theaters in the area that was dubbed in English, so we were able to watch it without being really confused about what was going on. Later, we went to a KTV karaoke bar with some of the Chinese students. It was weird to walk into the place, expect it to be small and plain, and have it turn out to be huge and look like a luxurious hotel. I was surprised to see how ritzy the place looked. From what I've been told in the past, karaoke is a big deal in China. Just like American's love their bars and clubs, the Chinese love their karaoke. The Chinese students truly put it all out their when they sang any of their songs. It was one of the best times I had on this trip.
Saturday night we had the opportunity to check out the local night life in Shanghai. Joe, our liaison in Shanghai, took us out to Sky Club on the west side of the river in Shanghai. I have noticed throughout the trip that the drinking culture is very different from the United States. When you go to a bar or club you usually put money down on a VIP table if you would like to sit and drink. The night usually starts with conversation and light drinking of mixed drinks as the venue begins to get busy later at night. Without a bar closing time of 1-2am the dancing on the floor usually doesn't get going until midnight. A lesson we learned at Sky Club was that you only have the VIP table so long as you are ordering drinks and if you go through your purchases quickly the staff will seat another paying group at the table.
A popular type of drinking activity is a dice game which involves a few simple rules and plays similar to poker as you attempt to bluff and call bluffs. This game is known by most locals and can lead to an entertaining evening of drinking, talking and having a good time. If less people go out on the town than planned for locals will sometimes transition to a very simple dice game to increase the rate of consumption. This game basically includes adding to the drink size, passing the drink to another, reversing the order of drinking and finishing the bottle. Often this game is played when individuals must leave early and they have a limited number of people at the table. Joe, Brian and I had a lot of fun playing the first type of dice game which plays similar to a quick game of poker with a cup and dice instead of cards.
On Friday we traveled to a local tea farm where we learned of the 1000+ year history of drinking tea in China that was pioneered by Lu Yu. At the tea farm I learned that the finest green tea in all of China is processed by hand, and even lips, which is only sold to the Chinese government for officials and their guests to consume. The tea leaves are picked off of the tea plant by the lips of virgin girls in March. These leaves are then dried in bags which are places between the breasts of the young girls. This type of tea, which is called Emperor Tea is produced by families in the Southern part of China and is never exported from the country. This tea has a number of health benefits as it contains a lot of antioxidants and is also manufactured into capsules which can help reduce cholesterol. Many people drink green tea to detoxify their bodies and the drink should be consumed after each meal. Shanghai was our final destination this afternoon. What a city of contrasts from modern areas to older parts of the city.
The silk factory was quite a memorable experience in Hangzhou. I was quite amazed at how many uses silk has and how many products can be produced from it. The silkworm's entire life cycle is around two months and each cocoon can be unwoven to a length of 1000-1800 meters. The products that were sold at the silk factory ranged from underwear to bedsheets. Some of the products produced were: ties, quilts, robes, dress shirts, children's clothing, dresses, coats and scarfs, just to name a few.
We also went to an area designed like the ancient Song dynasty and saw a performance that was nothing short of spectacular. The show was split into multiple scenes that depicted important Chinese individuals and history. My favorite scene was when the warriors engaged in a fierce battle. The theater that we saw the show in used a plethora of stage sets and effects to present the various stories. I was again impressed by the attention to detail and the all-in mentality that I have observed throughout the trip. The stage opened up multiple times to reveal a large pool of water and waterfalls streamed from the back of the stage. In addition the show's visual effects were made possible by massive screens which streamed video and visual effects for the duration of the show.
So today was the last day we as a group are in China. I am sad to have left such a beautiful place so soon. I knew one month was definitely not enough time, but I have taken so much from China at the same time. This program has taught me so much more than any books or other sources of information could have provided. Just seeing the massive amounts of people in each city we were in was amazing, as everyone we see is on the run somehow, someway.
My most favorite thing from this trip is meeting all the people we have encountered during our trip, from our classmates in the program, the students from Nankai University, to other foreigners, etc. I hope we will always stay in touch, as I will definitely do my part. It was an honor to meet everyone from UMD that has partaken in this trip, and I hope we will all stay close for our entire lifetimes, where ever we we end up in our life.
Last but not least, we need to give a big thank you to Dr. Li. To all the planning to all of the food we have eaten, it was a journey for everyone. I guess this will be my last blog unless further notice. Thank you Dr. Li for allowing us to join you in the trip to China. I will be back in the near future, and will try to contact you and the rest of the group to join with me!
It has been about one month in a foriegn land that is worlds apart from the one we all come from and I have to say... I dont think I am ready to leave just yet. When I first signed up for this program I figured that a month away would be the perfect amount but I have come to realize that this is really just scratching the surface for what this country really has to offer. We easily could have spent the entire time in any of the cities we visited and never ran out of things to do. In each city we toured multiple famous tourist sites a day when we could have spent the whole day just at one to really take it all in. All the tours felt like just a glimpse into what china really is and that there is so much more out there left to be learned and explored. This program has taught me so much more than any textbook, teacher or sit down classroom could have. Getting out and seeing all of the sites and how the Chinese people act in person gives you actual perspective on how everything truly operates over here. Not to mention meeting and interacting with all the people that you would never of dreamed you would ever cross paths with in a lifetime. I will miss every student from the Nankai University that I had the privilege to spend this last month with. I hope that in the future we can all stay in touch and see where we all end up. As for the UMD students, it as been a real pleasure getting to know everyone in this group and I hope that once we are all back in the states, we can still get together from time to time and stay close. Other than that, China, it has been a good ride but I guess it is time to say goodbye for now and get back home.
Last blog in China definitely has to be about seeing little children going number 1 or 2 in public areas and facilities.
As many of you have seen, when mother nature calls the youth of China, parents naturally find a tree, trashcan or wall on which their child may urinate or poop. It's actually kind of interesting. One experience I had was in Tianjin while we were at the carre four store. Blake, Vince, Brian and I were enjoying the massage chairs when a mother suddenly dropped her son's pants and hoisted him over a trashcan in front of us. Shocking would be the initial reaction that was immediately overcome by intrigue and confusion. No one was stopping them or punishing them. This is definitely a different turn of events from what would happen in the US. For one, I don't believe parents naturally go about that routine. I think maybe it is just accepted here as a part of life. Everyone has to pee or poo at some point, so might as well get used to it. The only thing I am concerned about are the janitors that have to clean up the possible mess.
To clarify, I never witnessed a child going number 2 in a facility. I also do not believe that they would allow it. Also to clarify, China is not some dirty toilet bowl. This post is just to express the culture shock in how people operate between the two countries.
On a more interesting note, if the phrase "G G" [gee gee] is pronounced correctly, it actually means dick as our friend Mike found out while giving a small origami chicken (chicken in Chinese is pronounced similarly, "G") to a young girl. Unfortunately Mike decided to try and say "Chicken chicken" in Chinese which sounded like "G G". Funny :P
Today was a pretty short day, we just went to a park, and then had free time in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening.
One thing that we've been experiencing all trips, but especially today, was transit. In the US we are very used to driving just about wherever we want to go, otherwise taking a bus or an expensive taxi. In China, most people tend to walk or bike if they can; otherwise the bus and subway are frequently used. The subway system is very good here in Shanghai, and also was very good in Hong Kong. You can get anywhere in the city within a short time, and there is a map available at every stop, as well as a live indicator on the subway.
People are generally very friendly on the streets while walking as well. If you need help getting somewhere, and they can speak to you, they will be more than willing to help.
Today we got a little lost heading back to the hotel from the subway station, and we asked for directions from an older lady. She accidentally sent us the wrong way, and actually had a young boy ride his bike to find us and correct the directions. I feel like, if this was in the US, they wouldn't have gone through the effort of sending someone to correct the directions.
We found some twins at the garden
Checking out the fish
We went shopping in another mall-like area today. This one was a bit different; there were a lot of people roaming around with pamphlets for 'cheap goods'. If you were interested, they would lead you to a shady alley and into a hidden shop. The fakes here seemed to be of pretty decent quality, and the sizes of the shops were definitely surprising. Some of the fake shops were bigger than the actual shops in the area, but only had a small front entrance. Bargaining was the big thing here, I wish that the US had some small bartering system; it makes purchases much more interesting. I didn't end up buying anything, but a few other people bought a lot of things.
Later on we went on a night boat ride. During this ride, everyone in the group that was white was asked for a picture several times by fellow boat riders, while the Asians just blended into the crowd. It's pretty interesting that this happened, you would never find this in the US, instead we kinda just get stared at.
Lastly, we went to a club to celebrate for the last big bang of the trip. Party culture is very different here than the US. In the US we will drink some at home, then head out to the bar or club to proceed to drink more, dance and sing together whenever they feel like it, but end the night at 2am because of bar close (Although, I'm not one to talk as I haven't experienced the bar scene much). In China, people will go out to eat together, then head out to do some more hanging out before heading out to the club. They normally start at the club around 10, then drink together and chat til around 12, then they head to the dance floor and will stay there til around 4am and sometimes later.
Group picture in the Pearl of the Orient
View from the Pearl
Kids playing in the Pearl
The main thing I noticed yesterday is that Shanghai looks much different during the day than at night. When we arrived on Friday, it was very dark and rainy which made it challenging to get a clear view of the city. Despite these weather conditions, I remember being impressed by the bright lights, tall buildings, and mass amounts of cars on the streets. This coupled with our trip to the fancy french concession street gave me the impression that all of Shanghai was extensively developed.
However, this is not the case. Although most parts of the city are extremely urbanized, there are other areas that remain in poor conditions. When I saw these segments of the city I was confused. We have been told on multiple occasions that Shanghai is considered a city of the future and because of this, I was expecting every part of it to be widely developed.
Our tour guide mentioned that these conditions are a common theme throughout Shanghai. He also stated that plans are in order to repair these areas, but was unsure when the projects would be finished. All of these improvements and renovations make me want to return to China a few years from now to see the finished product!
During our final morning in Hangzhou we had the opportunity to visit a popular tea house in the area. Throughout the tour, we learned that this specific region harvests the best green tea leafs in all of China. According to one of the workers, this area produces the best crops because of its optimal soil content and high humidity levels. I really enjoyed learning about the tea making process and the tea tasting portion of the visit. I ending up purchasing my very own box of the famous emperor tea!
After we finished at the tea house we hopped on the bus. After four long hours, we finally arrived in Shanghai. My first impression of the city is that it is huge! There are so many people, cars, and buildings. The large sizes of the buildings around me make me feel very small and ant-like. The city is also very modern which is completely different from the previous cities that we've visited. I hope that my camera has enough memory space to capture all of the amazing sights.
One difference that I've noticed between Shanghai and the other parts of China that we've visited has to do with the traffic laws...They actually exist here! In each of the other cities we have been to, this is not the case. The mixture of cars and pedestrians was extremely chaotic manner and laws did not seem to apply. I have to admit that I feel much safer knowing that once again red means stop and green means go!
Well, today was the final hoorah, the big finale, the end of a great thing. Or was it only just the beginning? Coming into this trip I thought that we would be learning about business and economics in China. Little did I know that it would turn into so much more than that. I learned about the history of one of the most ancient countries of the world, the way their people act and why they do, made many friends with people from here and the US, and shared lots of memories along the way. I would normally use this blog to recap the day and a lesson learned, but this time is different. I am truly going to miss this place. Every city that we visited touched me in some way or another. They are all completely different places with totally different atmospheres. I can only hope that I can come back here in the future to see what else has changed. Seeing how rapidly Shanghai changed through the photos at the pearl got me thinking about Tianjin and how they are in the process of doing the same exact thing there. Personally, I think that Beijing is perfect with its rich history and hope that it never changes. I am really excited to see what Tianjin will look like in 5 years, simply because in talking to the students, it looks nothing now like it did 5 years ago. Shanghai is sort of like all of the big US cities wrapped up into one. You have the financial scene of NYC, the wealth of Hollywood, and the fun of Miami Beach all in one. Good God am I going to miss this place like crazy. But for now, all I can say is zi gee¡¯en China. It has been real.
Today ends the remarkable trip that we have all shared in China. I am very saddened to leave, and Its been occurring to me all day that I am not ready to leave. I easily could spend all summer here. The trip has really been incredible and I have enjoyed China far more than I thought possible (and I knew going in that I would love it). But we all leave this trip with incredible memories, new friends and thousands of amazing pictures to remind us of the great times we have had. I am very excited to look through everyone's pictures and share stories with my friends and family back home. This definitely will not be that last time I visit China and I hope to continue learning Mandarin when I return to the US. Ideally I can make it back after i graduate next year :) Lastly I would like to thank everyone that came on this trip for making these 4 weeks such an incredible and memorable time. Everyone please stay in touch and I'm sure I will see many of you this summer!
How China Grows- Investment, Finance, and Reform
Investment not changes in technology is the driver of China's big economic growth. The book states however that investment cannot be relied on to sustain growth for the future because of diminishing returns to capital. If China was technologically based than it could be depend on that for the future growth.
The largest source of investment finance comes from self financing, because it was the only form allowed for private companies before the 1990s. Self financing was the only access to bank loans they had at the time. When legal status improved China set out for a law based market economy which allowed private companies to get loans and also allowed foreign investing. This helped China reach the global market as it is a great contributor to all parts of the world currently.
Household income and savings is important for any type of investment one might want to take part in. The book points out that the population shift is a reason why savings is low in China. The population shifted to urban areas which had a negative impact on savings overall, because it had been thought that rural households saved on average three times more than urban areas. Rural areas seemed to rely more on own savings and support from families. The support from families comes from the Confucian tradition to govern one's family and live on your life in younger generations.
The book concludes that: "If there were an Olympic event for long-term economic growth, China's performance over the past 25 years would make it a gold medal winner". This quote sums up many of the major points on China's economy. It had a great boom of success, but it must continue to make changes to its financial plan in order to do so. I have seen some of the great industrial changes taking place such as demonstrated on the TEDA tour.
The atmosphere of the club and the set up is very different from America. I remember the first time we went to a club in Beijing we thought the employees were trying to rip us off, because we couldn't understand the language. We were escorted to a big table at the Disco in Beijing and then were shown a menu of drinks. This all seemed pretty cool until we were told we had to buy a bottle of alcohol totaling some 300 RMB. Thinking this was a scam and just wanted to have fun anyways we all agreed to pay for a bottle. Later we went to the other side of the club where we tried to sit down at another empty table but an employee kept telling us we couldn't sit there. We really thought they were being rude and taking advantage of us since we were foreign.
It wasn't until Tianjin, when we went to a club with the Chinese students that I realized that's how the clubs operate in China. You call in a reservation for a table at the club and depending on the number of people in the group you must purchase a certain amount of alcohol. This all made sense why we couldn't sit at any random table in Beijing and had to buy an expensive bottle of booze in order to sit at a table at the beginning of the night. The clubs here are also different in the nature of dancing. People just dance and have fun; they aren't worried about showing off their moves to everyone at the club. You never see people busting into a crowd of people to dance like you might see in America.
Today, I took the subway back from the garden with Vince, Alex, Danny (the ABC's lol) and Paul and Tim. We easily managed to purchase our tickets and find the right subway and even found the right exit. However, we did eventually get a little bit lost after walking most of the way back to the hotel. When we stopped to ask a lady on the street if she knew where the hotel was, we were surprised when she responded in English and pointed us in the opposite direction we were walking. Well 20 minutes later we realized that she had sent us in the wrong direction.... but as we were sitting down and resting, waiting to turn back around; a biker appeared. The lady that had given us bad directions has realized her mistake and sent a young man on a bike to tell us so. I thought this was rather an unusual act of kindness and a strong display of integrity. This lady knew that she would likely never see an of us again, but she still felt obligated to send the biker to help us out. I really thought this a grand gesture and it was quite touching. All in all, i am glad we got lost for a while, I had fun walking around the city and taking everything in.
Alright, so today is our last day in China and it was kind of a subdue type of day. Went and did a little sightseeing this mourning after a night out in Shanghai celebrating Vince's birthday. I came back and relaxed drank some water from being dehydrated from last night. Meet up with our tour guide Joe to take us to dinner. We went back to the Yuyuan Park to pick up Dr. Li. So, while we were waiting there I ducked into a place to see if there was a bathroom nearby. When I stepped back out the group was gone and I couldn't see them. One thing nice about being 6'2" in China is that you can see for along way in a crowd since I'm about a foot taller than the population here. I figured that soon they would notice me missing specially since I'm the biggest dude in the group. Hard to miss a tall white fat guy in China. That is what I find amusing. So, after ten minutes waiting for them I figured I go look for the bus, one thing I have learned is you always return to the last spot. So, after a couple of laps looking for either the bus or Joe looking for me a return to scene of the crime. I waited for about 5 minutes and saw Joe coming my way. When I yelled at him I don't think I ever have seen a more relieved person in my life. He escorted me back to the restruant an got to enjoy our final meal together in China.
Friendship. Acceptance. Life.
These three words have been in my head during the whole trip. I believe that these words form together into what is called "China". Being in this country has taught me many little life lessons that have been told to us along the way, which has been changing me continuously as an individual. I am also happy that we have had all of us as students to partake in this wonderful experience, one that I am absolutely delighted about. Meeting everyone in this group has given me the view that everyone is unique in a good way, and I do not think negatively about anyone at all. This is one aspect that I would like to bring back, which is never to judge people until you establish a relationship with one another.
Again, thank you Dr. Li for giving us the opportunity to travel and experience the cultural and business aspect of China. As Alexander has stated, I agree with him in saying "the most important parts about this program is the ability to learn, explore, accept and be happy". Just being in China is everything I need right now.
I hope my parents will travel with me to China once my brother and I graduate from school. I have learned a little bit about my culture, the business in China, and learning to accept, appreciate, and grow as a person with everyone that is with us on this trip. Meeting new people, being honest, and teaching people about what I have learned is the best feeling I ever had while in China. I feel like I will cry so hard when I get back to the US to see my parents, brother, my friends, especially my new friends I have met on this trip. Let's all plan some special when we get back to the USA, okay everyone?
Coming from a small town in northern Minnesota I'm not used to having to be surrounded by 12 to 25 million people at a time. Even when I was in Chicago or D.C i also felt there was a place to escape to be away from people. By no means I'm a solitary person but some times I just like to get away from all the noise and lights that city life has to offer. this gets me to my boat and how I have missed being on the water. I call this my happy time I can get away and relax little bit. Get away from people and just be with alone with my thoughts. Never really felt this way until I got into Shanghai and just felt walled in by the buildings and people every where.
The service industry is different in China compared to the United States in terms of apparel. It is evident by eating at various restaurants and doing a lot of shopping that employees must all where the same clothes. In clothing stores it is often an outfit in the style or brand of the store and every member wears that same outfit down to the color and accessories. In restaurants the clothing is often matched to the theme or atmosphere of the restaurant. In some restaurants the women all wear the same fancy dress and in others it's more festive with the women wearing bright skirts and beaded tops. In America the dress code is different. If you work in a clothing store you are often suppose to wear something with the brand name or just a plain colored shirt without any writing, but in a specific color. For restaurants the code is about the same except many have custom t-shirts with the name on them that the employees wear.
I think the reason for these differences comes from Americans wanting to be individuals and unique. We like to have nice brand name items, but not the same as everyone else or at least in a different color than our friends. In China however it's important to be part of a group so wearing the same clothing as your employees' makes you part of the in group. When you walk into a store and see all the employees wearing something you might think they have that so I must have it to. This idea was also discussed in our lecture on culture in Tianjin.
This trip has taught me a lot about friendship and being open minded. If I hadn't gone on this trip, I guarantee you that the Courtney would still be known to me as the girl with a super decked out laptop that has no use for it's capacity because I'm sure she doesn't play video games. Blake would be the guy who sat between two Asians during Organizational Behavior Management. Brian would be known as the guy who plays ping pong with a tennis attitude from my freshman year. Everyone follows in the same pattern.
Being able to communicate with people from different walks of life could only have been possible through this trip. Dr. Li has really put together a life changing program. Along with the perks of the academic part, I feel that one of the most important parts about this program is the ability to learn, explore, accept and be happy. Everyone who has lead this trip in one way or another has always ensured that we (the students) have had optimal opportunities to experience and be happy.
After learning about my culture (Chinese culture) and learning about business in China, I have also learned to appreciate accept and grow with people from different walks of life. Everyone is so amazing in their work, personality and ability. I have to admit, judging is one of my protruding attributes, but this trip has allowed me to learn to accept things that I find different or strange and that people are honestly just people. There is no need to worry about a lot of things..... Just be happy, learn, be curious and play. This is the gist of what this trip has taught me aside from the academic part.
Coming here, I knew that I would be asked to take pictures with people, but today was insane! Only once in Beijing and three times in Tianjin, but today shattered those numbers. On the cruise tonight, we walked onto the boat as a group and there were people simply staring at us. We looked at them, and they simply kept on staring (not like in America where the person would generally look away as if they weren't looking at you). A couple of them came and signaled to take a picture with Blake and I, so we accepted. We had no idea what we had just begun. One person after another came and "got in line" to take a picture with us, and then they did the same with Courtney and Bailey. It was rather funny. As the cruise went on, we noticed a lot of people who were "secretly" taking pictures of us as if we were some sort of tourist attraction. I have to say that we ended up playing along though and making the most of it, giving them the peace sign, thumbs up, and other poses. It is interesting though to see how some people react when they see our group. They sometimes simply stare at us, and don't seem to stop until we figure out what they want. All in all though, it made for a very entertaining night.
Yesterday, we as a group went on a very scenic boat ride, tea ceremony, and celebrated Vincent's 21st in Shanghai!
The boat ride was very similar to one's we have ridden before, but it was much more scenic to me compared to previous rides. It was also fun to see people wave back at us, as I haven't seen this before as some of the group members previously tried beforehand to get waves back from other riders.
After the beautiful boat ride, we head to a place where tea is grown. The most amazing thing I learned from tea is how it has anti-oxidization and cleaning abilities, as it was demonstrated that it can clean white rice which was tainted with iodine (black). As of now, I have been a tea drinker and will always be a tea drinker. Stop drinking coffee everyone!!!
After the tea tour, we head off on our three hour journey to Shanghai. I have never seen a city so busy in my life. As Dr. Li said he didn't enjoy Shanghai, I would probably enjoy it if I was rolling in the money. Hopefully if we shop again, Joe and Dr. Li informed some of us that if we ask for the more inexpensive items, we will be taken to the back, where the items are of very similar quality, but for a lower price.
As we get to Shanghai, it is very pretty. The rain made the weather tolerable for me, and the buildings in this city are gigantic. The night life in Shanghai is definitely big here too, as me and Vince are trying to prepare for a night in honor of his birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY IN SHANGHAI VINCE!!!
This is the first time in my life I have really lived out of a suitcase for an extended period of time and it is pretty chaotic to say the least. The last four nights we have stayed in four different hotels and done more than 20 hours of travel whether it be by train or bus. Clothing has been running low and I'm finally getting a chance to use a washing machine here in the hotel. I tried the whole hand washing thing on a few pieces of clothing but it just wasn't working out so this will be nice to have for the last couple days. Shanghai should be really fun and we are going to get our first taste of it tomorrow when we hit the town and go hang out. Everyone says it's really busy and fast moving here and from what I have seen so far they all seem right on.
The Dragon Well tea experience was one of my favorite things we have done so far on the trip. Going to the actually location was half of the fun. The mountains and trees and everything with nature was unreal. It honestly looked straight out of the pictures you see in Chinese restaurants back home. Everything was just that beautiful. Then on top of that we had a great meal and got to sample some of the best tea they have to offer in china or the world for that matter. During this trip I think I may have actually become a tea drinker rather than a coffee drinker. It is just so much smoother than having a cup of coffee in the morning and so much better for you as well. I ended up buying some of it for my family and myself, so they better appreciate where it is coming from and how quality it really is because it was it wasn't cheap. :)
Today we left Tianjin to head to Shanghai and I'd have to say I was a little torn up inside leaving all of our new friends from the university. Everyone was so nice and showed us around the town almost every day rather than doing their homework or hanging out with their own friends. I will most definitely miss everyone that I met from the city very much. The one thing I was excited for was a little change of scenery from the usual Tianjin day. The train was actually really fun because it was my first experience on an overnight train. We were split up into groups of 4 and given a small room and our own bed to sleep on. They were surprisingly comfortable for what I thought they were going to be. The ride itself felt pretty short because we slept most of the way. I would way rather have that sort of seating for long trips rather than a plane ride because it is so much more comfortable.
Today we went on a boat ride, followed by a tea ceremony (and learning about the freshest green tea available), and traveled to shanghai.
The boat ride was similar to those we've had before, but provided a few more photo opportunities. It was refreshing to meet people willing to wave back to us, as we waved to other dragon boats with fellow tourists. This is actually much rarer than you would think, as people tend to stick to themselves here in China if they don't associate with your group.
Afterwords we learned about tea growing. We learned that green tea is best picked very young in late March. We also learned about its antioxidant effects, and cleansing abilities. We learned that green tea is best when it is picked early, and thus more pricey. We were also offered to sample some of it, and it was delicious. I think it is interesting how the world seems to be split on either tea or coffee, but generally never both. Tea seems to be getting more attention lately, because of its healthy attributes.
We made our way to Shanghai today. It is much busier than I remember. I don't think I could ever live in Shanghai, it is way too active for me. Things are also much more pricey here than they have been in other places we've visited. It seems that, like anywhere else, the heavily populated or tourist attractive places generally have higher prices than everywhere around it. Just driving around in the bus tonight, we have experienced the permanent traffic that Shanghai has to offer. We have also found that there are significantly more English speaking people.
Architecture is significantly more complex here in Shanghai, and in general around China. There seems to be more focus on curves, or more organic shapes than the typical bland blocky tall building. There also seems to be an influence on light here. At night, the bottoms of the highways light up with a cool blue light, and several buildings follow by changing their lit text to this same cool blue. I haven't come across this in the US, but it was totally beautiful.
Here are a few shots from the day:
Enjoying the boat ride
Nature in the city
Yesterday our group had the chance to visit the number one silk company in Suzhou. What a cool experience! Throughout our tour we got to see the entire silk making process from beginning to end which was very interesting. I was not aware that such tiny little worms could produce such an amazing product! After witnessing the production process, I have a new found appreciation for silk and those who harvest it. It also helped me to understand why it is priced so much higher than other commodities here in China.
Later that evening we attended an exciting show in Hangzhou. The performance was split up into different segments to show cultural aspects of the city. The main thing I noticed while watching these scenes was the elegance of the female performers. I was amazed by the gracefulness of their movements and couldn't believe how effortless they made everything look. This experience took me back to when we first entered this city and were told that the prettiest girls in China live in Hangzhou. At first, I didn't think it was possible for beauty to come from a certain area, but after watching that performance I completely agree! The term "beautiful" not only applies to the women who live here, but also to the entire city. It's a shame that we only had one day in this area. I would have loved to see more!
Today Dr. Li and I went to shop for Vince's surprise birthday party. Actually I have learned a lot about Chinese culture from Dr. Li's actions alone.
Example 1: While waiting for the train to Suzhou from Tianjin, we were upstairs with all the other people. Then suddenly Dr. Li decided that we should go to another area. I was a bit perplexed as we moved away from the terminals. We moved to another room which was basically a luxury waiting area that had sofas and air conditioning. I was wondering what was going on then saw Dr. Li at the desk talking to some lady. Dr. Li actually paid for us to wait in this luxury area. I get the notion that he took it upon himself to ensure the good mood of the group. Again, this is a collectivistic approach. (By the way, the price to wait in the luxury room was not cheap...)
Example 2: Today Dr. Li and I went shopping for Vince's surprise surprise party. Again, his goal was to figure out the best way to make this surprise party enjoyable for Vince (mainly) and also for the group. The questions he asked were basically "What does Vince like?" and "Will the group like this?". Again, I got the notion that Dr. Li is always looking out for the group's best interests in mind. It was awesome because as tall as I am, I was still struggling to keep up with Dr. Li's long and fast paced strides in his excitement to create a fun birthday party.
So the moral, doing things for the greater good of the group is an admirable quality. It is also a cultural quality I've noticed from China. This comes with group awareness, of which I talked to about with Brian today. I feel like Brian can easily grasp the culture here. He does have a 4.0 gpa so I assume he'd be able to pick up things easily.
With the large population of China I have often heard about the one child policy to help control the over population. One thing I hadn't thought about was being able to control traffic with the millions of people wanting to get to work, school, etc. Today I learned some interesting laws about the traffic and how to differentiate license plates in such a big country as China.
License plates are unlike the ones seen in the United States. On the left of the license plate is a Chinese symbol to distinguish the providence. To the right of the symbol is a letter for the city. The letter "A" represents the capital city. The next 5 places to the right can have all numbers for government owned vehicles or a combination of letters and numbers for privately owned vehicles. To control the amount of traffic with such a large population the government imposes different laws for different providence's, as some have greater populations. In Beijing, for instance, the last number on the plate is important. For odd numbers they may only be able to drive on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Other providence's may charge a great price for the license plate that can sometimes be more expensive than the car itself, so fewer people will want to drive. These stipulations play a role in the huge number of bicycles and e-bikes used as alternatives. Also the price of a bicycle is only about 200 RMB which is definitely cheaper than a car and doesn't use gasoline.
I found the traffic laws to be interesting, because it controls the amount of people on the road to avoid huge backups and also reduces the amount of pollution by forcing people to use other modes of transportation such as bicycles. The United States is currently trying to "go green" and reduce pollution by saying you should choose alternatives other than driving everywhere or car pool to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, but without a government enforced law it's hard for people to change their ways.
Hangzou by fast is the most beautiful place we have visited in China. The landscape has much more character than in the North and the foliage is so green and breathtaking. Today (6.10.2011) we had the opportunity to take a boat ride on the West lake and then walk around. Everything in this area is absolutely beautiful and everyone around seems so happy to be there. Also the food in Suzhou and Hangzou has been absolutely incredible. I think its has been the best food all trip and I feel privileged to be spoiled with such great meals. The shopping in Hangzou has also been really great, very different stuff than in the Tianjin or Beijing. Hangzou is definitely one of the areas of China that I want to come back and visit, very beautiful here and there seems to be a very leisure mentality around town and many fun things to do. Suzhou and Hangzou both have been incredible times but seems to be leading up to Shanghai. I am very excited for Shanghai, we have only been here a few hours but the city definitely has a very modern and upscale feel to it. The energy of the city feels like that of Chicago and New York, very excited to tour the city tomorrow! Good night for now! Two days left in China, gonna have some adventures!
So excited to finally be in Suzhou, I have wanted to visit this city for 3 years!!! Even more exciting is the fact that we got to spend Wednesday with Mingyi, a good friend of mine from Duluth. So cool to see him in his hometown and we had a blast with him. The city is very beautiful, so green and tropical. The humidity doesn't really bother me much. We all spend some time at a big shopping street (the names escapes me) where Mingyi told us he spend alot of time visiting. Apparently its a very popular hangout for students our age and it was really cool to see everyone there. Later that evening we all decided to go to KTV! The KTV place was the entire first floor around a soccer stadium and was one of the largest in China. When we were there, i had another great surprise when another good friend of mine from UMD, Yuantao Peng, came to sing with us. I was pleased to see him, I didn't think I would see him for a long time after we graduated. He also brought gifts for us to show off his hometown which he was very proud to have us in. I guess our time spent in Suzhou has taught me the importance of Guanxi. The Chinese culture definitely makes more of a commitment to maintaining friendships than in the US, and if there is one value I bring back to the US it will be this. Mingyi and Peng made Suzhou an incredible time and I cant wait to see them both again.
After today, I can honestly say that I am glad to be done with the lengthy bus rides. But at the same time, today's 4 and a half hour bus ride was well worth it! Shanghai is amazing. The difference between Hongzhou and this city is BEYOND dramatic. As soon as you pull off of the highway into the downtown area, you can tell right away that this is where the "high rollers" are going to be. We visited an upper end bar and restaurant area, and there were three car dealerships that stood out to me. Lamborghini, Spyker, and Rolls Royce. Absolutely incredible. Moving back in time though, going to the tea village after lunch today was quite the experience. I have never seen such a perfectly, lush, (and somewhat cliche) countryside in China until I saw the village today. They take their tea very seriously here, not only by the time that they put into picking, harvesting, and brewing, but you can also tell by the smell and taste. I purchased a few boxes of green tea today. They were initially for gifts, but I may have to keep them for myself after the sampling :). That is all for now though! Shanghai is beautiful and I can't wait to see what differences there are between the developments here and the ones that we saw in Tianjin!
Leaving Tianjin was definitely a bitter sweet affair. It was sad to leave Tianjin and the friends we have made at Nankai University but I am also very excited to visit Suzhou, Hangzou and Shanghai. I have always wanted to visit these three cities. Several students from UMD are from Suzhou and I thought it would be really cool to visit their home town. From Tianjin to Suzhou was a 14 hour train ride, and definitely the longest time I have ever spent on a train. The ride was very cool and comfortable, we all shared rooms with 4 bunks; so we slept most of the trip. It was very cool to watch how the landscape and foliage changed as we traveled further south. Everything became greener and more tropical, definitely completely different than Northern china. On the train ride, i noticed that we were very spoiled compared to how everyone else was traveling. The 14 hour ride would definitely have been a struggle sitting on small chairs and not having a bed to lay down in. Im definitely grateful we had this luxury and the train ride was a very fun experience. I will miss my friends in Tianjin but it has only been 3 days and I have talked to nearly all of them through email.
When I learned that we were taking a train from Tianjin to Suzhuo, I was beyond excited. I had never traveled by train before and I couldn't wait to see what it would be like. When we climbed into our four person rooms, I felt a little like Harry Potter heading to HogWarts. Although the rooms weren't as spacious as the ones in the movie, they did come equipped with some delicious snacks! We got the chance to eat Master Kong's noodles and dried sweet potatoes which were very tasty. Overall, my first overnight train trip was a success... Or so I thought. Unfortunately, I was attacked by some pesky bugs during the night (species unknown) and woke up with bites all over my arms. After this experience, I was pretty pumped to get off of the train.
Looking back, I think I would have stayed on the train if I knew what lied ahead of us: the trek to the bus. Who knew that power walking through the train station while hauling an over-packed suitcase, duffel bag, backpack, and purse up and down stairs would be such a struggle!
In summation, this experience taught me to pack two things while traveling in China: More bug spray and less of everything else!
I think the best word to describe our last day in Tianjin is "bittersweet". I was really excited to move on to Shanghai, but sad to leave Tianjin and all the memories we had made there. As I was packing up my things, I felt much more sadness than happiness. The Haunting Hotel had become our home away from home and I was going to miss it... warm milk and all.
Saying goodbye to the Chinese students was by far the hardest part about leaving. I never thought that in two weeks you could grow so attached to people, but boy was I wrong. These students became our close friends and the time we spent with them is something that I will always cherish.
Although our final farewells were filled with tears, I left Tianjin with a smile. For I know that I have made new friends and new memories that will last a lifetime and there is no sorrow in that!
After our only day in Suzhou, we head on our long bus ride to Wuzhen, where we visit the "Times Square" of the city. It was very interesting seeing all the tall buildings and people, which all looked like New York City the last time I visited the area. After sightseeing the area, we head to Suzhou's #1 silk factory, were we are able to see how the entire process of making silk items was shown. This process was a very precious process, from breeding the special type of caterpillars, to dividing the silk to 1/7th the thickness of hair. This process was very interesting.
After the silk factory, we head to a shopping street in Hangzhou, which was 3 hours away from Suzhou. While our stay there, I witnessed rain for the second time during our stay, which was very interesting. The rain halted all the store shopping for a brief moment, but then everyone broke out their umbrellas and started walking and continued shopping.
After the shopping center, we head to a show, filled with many colors and many different people. Before the show, we enjoyed a haunted house type of event, where you walk through dark rooms, being ready to be frightened. Although I was laughing too much during the event, Mike got the best of Courtney near the end of the entrance, where he popped out and scared her. Although I wasn't the victim, I found this to be very funny and entertaining at the same time, although I felt a little bad for Courtney.
During the show, there was a good story, although I wasn't able to understand it due to the amazing choreography and dancing that was included. All I have to say it was very beautiful, elegant, and stylish. Good evening from Hangzhou, and good morning to Shanghai tomorrow!
I have noticed throughout our trip the advertising and attention to detail in China seem to be much different than the United States. In Beijing I immediately noticed the gardens that appeared almost everywhere along sidewalks, small roads and even the expressways. There are trees, shrubs and even many flower beds which line all routes of transportation. It is very pleasing to the eye for these plants to be added as many of the large cities in China have been mostly pavement and concrete as far as the eye can see. These small details are a great step to bringing some nature and natural feel back to a modern day city.
I have also noticed the location of advertisements and banners is dramatically different than back home. Here it seems that if there is a flat surface on a building it is a prime location for an advertisement. Many billboards in the United States are out in the open in a stand-alone fashion. Here in most cities the billboards can be found on apartment complexes, shopping malls, train stations and many office buildings. Even a curved surface is acceptable for advertisements. I was surprised to see a VW advertisement on the corner of an office building that had a rounded edge which took up about a 40 x 15 m space.
The process involved in making a silk scarf, quilt, purse, etc. requires a lot of patience, in my opinion. I hadn't realized that farmer's raise cocoons, in a sense, and kill the animal by burning it before it is able to break through the silk. Once the silk is broken through it isn't useful anymore. Some animals are kept just to keep the mating going, but only a few are needed as the females can lay up to about 200 eggs.
The cocoons that are gathered are hand inspected so only the good ones are used in production. The cocoons are soaked in hot water and tied up to a machine that spins the thread. The thread is so fine that it is soaked in water again and run over a pole multiple times just to get a decent size ball of silk. The silk is then stretched out, once dry, into a very fine layer.
After taking a tour through the silk factory I found myself wondering how people do the jobs they do in China, because to me I would be bored out of my mind. For instance, in the silk factory one lady just sat and inspected the cocoons. At the Master Kong Food Company people sat and made sure each noodle package had the sauce and vegetable packets. At the Humble Administrator's Garden people used a big strainer to clear garbage from the river. I understand that these jobs must be done, but in a world that's highly dependent on technology I didn't understand why some of these jobs still exist. Our tour guide pointed out that there are so many people in China, and everyone wants a job in order to be able to afford the higher living expenses, and pay for any family they may have so they take whatever jobs they can get. The book I read prior to coming to China discussed a little bit about China not basing their economy solely on technology, and this idea definitely helps keep the labor force steady. Without these jobs whether they be boring or not China's economy wouldn't have had the great success they did as there would be much more poverty.
It was a busy day today. Starting off we went to go see the world's largest LED screen, which covers a shopping area in Wuzhen. Unfortunately, it wasn't on, because the shopping area isn't very active during the day during summer. After this, we went to a silk factory to learn how silk is collected, strung, and used. I knew that silk worms were used in the process, but I had no idea that they were baked while in their cocooning phase of life to harvest the silk. I was shocked to find out how thin a single strand of silk is, and how many cocoons go into each article of clothing or bedding (It's roughly 8 strands of silk per human hair, and hundreds if not thousands of cocoons per article).
It was about a three hour bus ride to Hangzhou, and once we got there we got straight to a shopping street. There wasn't much different here, but we were told that a storm was rolling in. When I was in Hong Kong last year, I was told that rain is generally pretty short in China, maybe 10-20 minutes when it actually does fall. I'm sure this only applies to some areas, but I wasn't too worried about the rain. About half an hour into shopping, it started raining pretty noticeably, and maybe 5-10 minutes after that it started to pour down. From here, Danny, Josh, and I took shelter in a McDonalds. Shop owners in general seemed to be very welcoming to anyone seeking shelter from the pouring rain. It seemed very foreign to me to run from the rain, normally I would just walk around outside with an umbrella if I had one. But people here almost seemed afraid of the rain, everyone ran quickly to the nearest shelter, used umbrellas, and even ponchos if they had them. The rain passed quickly, and as soon as it was over, street shops opened back up and everyone was outside wandering between the shops like nothing had happened.
Shortly after shopping, we went to dinner, to be followed by going to an amusement park. Here we went to a ' haunted house' and various rooms of mirrors or angled floors. The haunted house didn't have any live actors like it would in the US, but people who came out of it still seemed scared. Going through it though, I found that I only flinched when something fell from the ceiling and almost landed on my head. There weren't as many shocking moments as I was expecting, but it seemed to rely on an eerie feeling to scare people.
We next went to a show. The choreography was beautiful, and it used a very interesting mix of projected images, backlit screens, and dancers. It was mostly a dancing show, and not acrobatics, but it was very elegant and smooth.
We got back to the hotel at around 10, and most people turned in for bed. I had heard from a previous student that he got a massage and hot cupping therapy at this hotel to help with some back problems he had. I also have back problems, so I was eagerly waiting to get here to try it out. I will edit this post later about how it was.
[update] So first thing's first... I feel really bad about not knowing enough Chinese. My ability to communicate is very minimal, so I wasn't able to talk to the masseuse giving me my massage. The only thing I could do was offer her the remote and have her choose something she wanted to watch, to which she responded with something I couldn't understand but still chose something to watch. The massage was good, not too different than what I've had before. The thing that was really different was the hot cupping. I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew that it used heat and vacuuming to suck on where the orb is placed. It didn't hurt, it stung a little initially for a few of them. I think it's interesting that some of the orbs did more sucking than others, I don't understand why. My back does feel better, and it only cost $20 for over an hour and a half of work. In the US this would have cost well over $100.
I feel like massage is a lot more prevalent in China. There seems to be massage parlors just about everywhere we go, and a lot of people seem to get them. It's different than in the US where it is almost exclusively a luxury to get a massage or spa treatment.
Here are some photos:
Rain rain go away
Paul sharing his poncho to make a makeshift umbrella
I was amazed at the architectural design of the Administrator's Garden. The Chinese people obviously honored the emperor a great deal to put so much effort into making it an absolutely beautiful sight. As you enter your eye catches a great big stone. The stones are chosen to look like a female model; tall and slim. The rock must also have holes in it so that if you burn incense from the bottom the smoke goes out each hole to the top, also if it rains the water will come out of each hole. The huge rock was set at the entrance to block your eye from seeing the whole beauty at once. As you travel around the garden you can find sidewalks in a zig zag formation which represented male dominance. In the past as men were seen as superior figures women had to turn their whole bodies to gaze around at the garden whereas men could look around as they pleased. The zig zag formation makes you turn your body to change directions. At the center of the garden you can look out and see a tall palace-like building. The garden was structured to use other gorgeous buildings around the area to look as if they are in the garden when they are actually a great distance away.
The garden had displays showing how great the male dominance was at one point. One display in particular showed a great square table with a decorated room and beautiful scenery outside the window for males to eat. The other side was two half tables put together for female's to eat on. Females were thought to be half of males so had only half the table. The female's side of the room lacked any decorations or a view of the garden. Had I not learned any of this information I would have still enjoyed the beauty of the garden, but by understanding why it was designed the way it was makes me appreciate it a great deal more. I feel sometimes Americans don't put the thought or energy into designing things with special meaning. Some people are okay with things just being satisfactory, but the Chinese people go out of their way to make things great if it has a specific purpose.
On the train ride to Shuzhuo we watched the movie Mulan. I had only seen the movie once prior to this and couldn't believe how much more the movie meant to me the second time around. It's like watching a movie about 9/11, it will usually impact Americans more, because it took part in the United States and affected the whole country. Mulan I found to capture the Chinese culture very well from what I have learned so far.
When the family was asked to fight in the war for the emperor, the father, who was clearly injured, hobbled his way to help serve. Mulan jumped in the way saying he shouldn't go, and her father replied that she had just dishonored him. Mulan sets out to get her father's honor back and represent her ancestors faithfully. Once she captures the sword and medal from the emperor, Mulan brings it back to her father saying it was a gift to her father and China. This demonstrated the culture of China, because Mulan was sacrificing her life for the greater whole of China. The superiority of men over women was also dominant in the movie as Mulan wasn't supposed to speak out of turn or be part of the army.
In Tianjin I saw the movie Kong Fu Panda. This movie demonstrated the strong traditional lifestyle of China. Some animals were trying to defeat Kong Fu with technology, and the panda sets out to keep Kong Fu alive in China.
These movies wouldn't have quite the same impact on me had I not spent so much time in China getting to understand the culture, and becoming friends with the students. While watching Mulan it was amazing seeing the emperor's palace and knowing that I had personally seen the great structure. Movies such as those mentioned become more of a story then an entertainment activity when you can find relationships between the plot and history. Also on the train Dr. Li told us a Chinese proverb that the first bird is the first to get killed. At first I didn't quite get the meaning behind it, but then I remembered that Chinese people are humble and never boost about their talents. While playing competitive sports they won't cheer in excitement to make an opponent feel bad even if they win. It's the person that goes out first to show off that gets killed. I found that to be an interesting proverb and one that many Americans should keep in mind.
In the last three days We have done a lot of Traveling around China. Tuesday night we headed south via train. First time I have ever been on a train longer than an hour. It took us a little over 13 hours to go from Tianjin to Suzhou. We did some site seeing and took a 2 hour bus ride to Hangzhou.
What a difference north and south China are in weather. It rained twice the three weeks we were in the north end of China and now it has rained more today then all the rest of our stay. Need to shop for an umbrella for the rest of the trip.
I've been reading the Chinese/English book I received from one of the Chinese students at Nankai University. At times I read it for over and hour in attempts to beef up my Chinese as much as possible.
I realize that Chinese is such an important part of myself. After taking a boat ride with this charming young Chinese girl and her family, I realize how much I can relate to the Chinese culture just by being able to understand what she's saying. It seems like the more and more I speak in Chinese to people, I start to understand more and more of who I am. It was extremely touching for this young girl to tell me "Why are you pretending to be a foreigner? You are not a foreigner" in Chinese. That might sound strange, but it made me actually feel like I have tapped into my heritage. Being able to joke around and have a conversation with her in Chinese was fantastic, on top of being able to understand what she was saying about everyone else in the group. Although my Chinese is still in an infant stage, I'm definitely going to step it up.
That experience with the young girl was during a boat tour of Suzhou. That was interesting to see how the people of China live along the rivers edge. A slightly unromantically scene was drawn out during the boat tour. In America, living along a body of water is usually quite beautiful and pleasant, but here it kind of smelled awful and looked a bit run down. An interesting contrast between the two. This is also a horrible generalization as I have only seen river front housing in one area in China.
Our final lecture at Nankai University was on the Chinese company, Huawei. According to our professor, this company is the number one telecommunication equipment supplier in China and ranks number two in the world. The majority of the company's sales come from international markets and they have over 95,000 employees worldwide. We learned that of these employees, 46% work in the company's research and development department. This high of a percentage is very impressive and is not something you see in many American companies. By devoting large amounts of resources to research and development teams Huawei is gaining a competitive edge in the industry and experiencing great success in international markets.
Currently, the company holds 44% of the market share in the Middle East and Africa and is also the dominant leader in the Asia Pacific region. Surprisingly, this is not the case in the American telecommunications market where Huawei holds less than 1% of total sales. Despite the circumstances, Huawei is continuing its attempts to enter the U.S. market. If Huawei can overcome the hurdles of lawsuits and government regulations in the United States they have a great chance to become a driving force in America's telecommunication equipment industry.
I think there is an abrasive difference between two types of students. The students with money to do whatever they want, and the students with enough money to study. I fortunately and unfortunately reside with the students who have some money to experience many things.
After hanging out with some Chinese students from Nankai and some Chinese study abroad students from UMD, I realize that the attitudes imbibed by both are completely different. I feel as though I can relate more towards the students who do not have the money to do whatever they want. They are more level headed, realistic, approachable and modest. This is not an insult to anyone who resides in the other category of students, it is all based on circumstance and opportunity. But I have a hard time relating to expensive things such as luxury cars or impressive gadgets. One of the students who I really enjoyed talking to just recently received her first Ipod. This is pretty cool, but expensive gadgets are not the topic of conversation that I have with her. We frequently talked about life and explaining what certain aspects of our lives mean to us. That's not to say that other people do not indulge in that sort of conversation, but I find it more prevalent among these students.
In short, I realize that by having it all, you are actually missing the other half of it all. This has really made me fall in love with this country and its ethic of working as hard as possible to achieve a maximum from a minimum. This trip has definitely inspired me to work as hard as possible on my Chinese, come back and teach English and Bboying/Bgirling (break dancing) to the youth and eventually find a real job here.
Today was quite a day. We saw the most famous silk factory in all of Suzhou. It is incredible how much work goes into making just one spool of thread for silk. Extremely time consuming, but well worth it! The drive to Hangzhou wasn't all that bad. This city is beautiful! It kind of reminds me of Minneapolis in a way. When we went to the shopping streets, a few girls stopped Paul and I and had us take a survey, which seemed to just be checking whether or not their translation from Chinese to English made any sense. Some of the translations were very strange. One of them asked me what a flax file was, and I had absolutely no idea. They were very nice though, and I gave one of them, Emily, my email when she asked if she could contact me for help. The rain today was pretty refreshing. It was about 95 degrees outside, but it cooled off substantially after the heavy showers. The city show was pretty neat, also. It was strange at the end though when everyone in the audience simply got up and left, instead of applauding. I wonder if that is the norm here, or maybe if it was simply to beat the traffic out of the park. I am very excited to see what more this city has to offer, especially since we are going to the lake where a part of the city show took place tomorrow! Until then!
Yesterday, we spent the first half of the day giving a presentation to our Chinese students and professors. My group compared and contrast shopping between the two cultrues. We in America will go to big retailers and look for sale prices. As in China they tend to get thier goods from small shoppers were haggling for the best price possible is the norm. I kinda like the haggling portion of shopping over here, since sometimes you can get up to half off of certian goods.
After we had lunch it was time for us to back our bags and head towards Suzhou. I would still like to thank our Chinese hosts as they were the best a person could have to show how genuine and real people are in China. I have never seen such an emotional outpouring as we loaded our bus to head to the train station. It is something that you would not see in America after knowing a person for only two weeks. I just hope one day that they will visit us in Minnesota and we can show them the same and give them a little bit of our "MInnesota Nice". As I feel that we have made friends for life here in China.I will miss them and trying to still in touch with them as much as possible.
I slept surprisingly well last night on the train. We were warned to have our things ready to go right away, otherwise we might not be able to get off the train. It seemed like there were people trying to sell us things as soon as we got off the train. Also, that train station needs to install some ramps! I have never struggled so much with luggage in my life! When we got to the hotel, I went and had breakfast. The options here reminded me of the first hotel in Beijing. There was a lot more variety, and everything was steamed, rather than being doused in oil. This city is amazing. Definitely more of what I was expecting China to look like. According to a man that Blake and I ran into today from Georgia, this is more of a tourist city. Anyways, on the cruise tonight, there was a little girl who was singing and dancing for us. Very cute! After the cruise, her mother and grandmother had her take pictures with many of us. It is amazing how people love to take picture with tourists, or are willing to let tourists take picture of their children. The kids are very cute, but I would be a little hesitant to let a stranger take a picture of my child. Oh well. Most of the pictures and memories we got were extremely cute!
We arrived in Shanghai at around 7 in the morning, and then had a long walk with our baggage to our bus. Upon reaching the hotel, we all promptly showered to get rid of the stickiness from the train and the long walk, but it didn't do too much good considering Shanghai itself is more humid than Minnesota ever gets and going outside is like instant stickiness.
Today was pretty fun though, we got to go to another temple, eat, shop, eat some more, then go on a boat ride. The Temple itself was more interesting than previous temples in my opinion, because the temple seemed to be built around nature. There was a mountain within the temple walls, which meant a lot of stairs, trees, moss, and interesting gardening. The temple also featured a leaning tower, which actually leans more than the tower of pizza.
The boat ride was also quite interesting. We had the privilege of riding with a little girl, her mom, and her grandmother(?). She knew a little bit of English, but was also just learning Chinese as well. It was absolutely adorable to listen to her sing the ABC's up through G (she didn't know the rest) and interrogate Alex about his bloodline.
I find it interesting how much love goes into your child here. There's a lot of love elsewhere in the world, but I feel like the one child policy makes parents cherish their child more. It's also interesting how children are brought up here. I seems that they stress two languages on children more right from the start of their education. I believe that they start teaching Mandarin (speaking and characters), and English from elementary school. In the US, at least when I went through elementary school, we didn't need to learn another language. In middle school we took Spanish, but it wasn't stressed to continue learning Spanish past middle school, instead we can choose from whichever language that High School offers. But even then, we aren't forced to take a language.
A girl doing sketches in the temple
Sun setting over the boat ride
The little girl we met on the boat ride
It is really unfortunate that we can't stay longer, but it's okay because our time here has been great. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we've all learned a lot in our two weeks here in Tianjin. I would like to thank all of the Chinese students for helping us out while we were here. Showing us around, helping us shop, and just welcoming us was a wonderful gift on its own. I will miss everyone in Tianjin, and I regret not talking as much as I should have, I need to get over being the shy guy that I am.
To get to Shanghai we rode a train for something like 14 hours. We got to experience the push n' shove of traveling again. It seems to be the only time where people aren't terribly courteous to you in China... when people need to get somewhere people will try to push their way into line, probably because they aren't part of your group.
The train ride was something else. Each compartment was pretty small, there were four half twin beds, bunk style and a tiny space in the middle for leg/bag room. All of us seemed to have way too much baggage for the compartment; we filled the storage space above the door, had a few bags in the leg area, and even had some bags on our beds. I'm sure this isn't normal for most travelers, but we are staying here in China for close to a month and needed to pack accordingly.
I think it's pretty different to use trains as a main function of transport from city to city. In America we do have trains, but they seem to mostly be used to transport raw materials or other goods. I've only rode a train once to go to another city, and that was for a field trip. I'm surprised that they aren't being used more often considering the rising cost of gas (road trips) and plane tickets.
Pictures from the day:
Going to the train station
Today was a sad day. We gave our final presentations and had to give our gifts to the students. Many of us got a little bit emotional, and so did many of the students. Thankfully, we were able to have one final lunch together. It was interesting saying our final goodbyes because some of the students were not sure if they were supposed to give us a hug or to shake our hands. I am not positive if this is a culture difference, but some of the goodbyes were, for the lack of a better term, a "struggle" haha. Anyway, the train ride so far is alright. I am surprised at how comfortable the beds are and at the fact that the air conditioning is actually fully functional. The bathrooms are one thing that I am going to do my very best to avoid. I had to use it once and once is plenty for this guy. I noticed when were in line to enter the station, people were just cutting into the front of the line. Although we were warned about this, I had never seen it to the extent at which I did today. Culture differences are big. If somebody did that in the US, they may or may not get punched in the face. Can't wait for Shanghai!
Tuesday afternoon we had to say our goodbyes to our new friends from Nankai University. It was a very bittersweet moment as we have exciting new experiences ahead of us from Suzhou to Shanghai. At the same time I was sad to leave Tianjin where we had been welcomed and treated so well by the students. We left Tianjin at 4:30pm and have arrived in Suzhou 14 hours later.
The train brought fresh observations of the limited space and large number of people who travel across the country. We were lucky to have a first class sleeping car for the journey which was about 10ft by 8ft and had 2 sets of bunked beds (4 total). We were very fortunate, as most individuals traveling on this particular train had to sleep 3 high, 6 total beds in the same amount of space as us. This was another reminder of the close spatial boundaries that Chinese people have simply gotten used to. In general I feel that most Americans would find the limited space quite uncomfortable and would be willing to pay much, much more money for the luxury and convenience of having their own "bubble" of space. It was interesting how people have adapted to this limited space in all aspects of daily life and just realized and accepted that with 1.3 billion people, "It is how it is."
After we all said our farewells to all of the students that joined us from Nankai University, it was time to board the train and head to Suzhou. Some may have had a miserable trip, while others may have had a decent trip. I was glad Vince brought some entertainment on his laptop, such as that 70's Show, The Office, etc. After the full 13ish hours of train riding, we finally arrive at the Holiday Inn in Suzhou.
Right when I arrive, I had to take a shower. After that, I head up to the dining center to get some breakfast. As soon as I take a seat, I am greeted by Ellen Zhang, the reservation supervisor of this hotel. In our discussion, she asked where I was from in Chinese, but I immediatedely said "whoa boo shwow zhongwen", which means I don't speak Chinese. She then felt bad at talking to me in Chinese first, but I kept telling her it is completely okay. This shows how hospitable the Chinese are anywhere, trying to take care of guests before themselves in this type of work environment. I will edit this post later as our room's ethernet cord isn't working and my battery is dying. Good morning from Suzhou!
Last day in Tianjin and it was absolutely awful.... to leave. It's gut wrenching to leave such a fantastic place with so much to learn from. I'm very grateful to Xiao Bei and Sherri... They have been so fantastic in helping me understand a cultural aspect of myself that I so blindly thought I already had on lock down. One of lessons I've learned from them... Be happy and always optimistic.
The train ride was great. Initially, after hearing that our train ride would be really nice, I was expecting a lot (like a spoiled brat). When we got to the train and to our accommodations, I was surprised that these small rooms were nice. Thinking back on what I've learned from both Xiao Bei and Sherri, I realize how spoiled I've been. Always be grateful and optimistic. I think this trip has definitely helped me to realize when I'm being a brat and when I'm being realistic.
The trip so far has made me want to stay. Like I've said, there's always something to learn every day. My recommendations... If you've stayed in your room, been home sick, had a poor attitude or flaked out on experiences, stop. I am by far the biggest hypocrite I know, but that kind of approach to this privilege is flat out dumb.
Today I won't talk about Huawei... Actually I want to talk about what I have learned from the perspective of an American born Chinese (and Japanese).
It's strangely amazing to walk the streets here and no one looks at me like I'm some sort of novelty. I'm basically treated and looked at like I'm nobody! Which is AMAZING! That might sound strange, happy to be treated like one of the masses, but honestly I enjoy it. Back in the states, I walk around and people will look at me and sometimes they will stare at me in stores or something like I'm going to rob them... Well here in China, I'm treated as though I have an as equal likeliness of robbing anyone!!
Anyone reading this might be kind of weirded out, and even though you get stares in China, you still won't understand it. Here you may get stared at as a novelty or out of curiosity in the willingness to get to know you. That's not the case in the states. This is not meant to be a remark about race or heritage, but just something I've noted. No one stares at me when I hang out in a group of people with the same race as I. When I visited the Nankai cafeteria with two students, I walked in and NO ONE looked up! Having them ignore me was strangely a form of acceptance to me.
The time in Tianjin has come to an end, and yesterday most of the students enjoyed our last feast together, which was a hot-pot style. Although some students enjoyed hot-pots in a big pot previously, everyone had an individual hotpot, where you could grab whatever was need to cook.
The group mentality for dinner was very nice and warm-hearted, something I need to bring to the USA. I now notice a big difference in group culture, me taking an online course called Group Dynamics. In China, everyone is concerned not about themselves, but about others well-beings. Everyone around us makes sure to become their friends and being able to enjoy life every moment possible.
It is very sad to say I am leaving Tianjin for maybe the last time for a long time, but I will try to keep in contact with everyone that I have met and created a relationship with. I will miss you all!
Our time in Tianjin is coming to an end, today we had our last lecture of our stay here and had a great dinner with the Chinese students. Our dinner was hot-pot style, however it was all individual soups. This was very interesting to me because, even though it was all individual, people still behaved as though it was a group dinner. Everyone suggested something to those around them to eat because they liked the taste, or helped people get food from the other end of the table into their soup.
The power of the group dynamic is very strong. It is also very welcoming and warm; I wish that the US were more like this. In the US people always seem to be very concentrated on their own life and are very caught up in what they have to do or what is coming up next. It seems like, here in China, people are always concerned about other people's well-being. People seem to always want to make sure that their friends or even acquaintances are having a good time and are feeling well.
It's a shame we can't spend more time here, Tianjin has been a blast. Here are a couple of photos from the day:
Business Education in China, 2011
Today was sort of the final hoorah for Tianjin. Although most of my day was spent in the hotel room working on the presentation, I took some time to reflect on all the things we have done thus far on our expedition in China. I still can't believe how much we have actually done and learned. Dinner tonight was also very fun. I actually got some more information from the Chinese students for the presentation and learned that a few of them plan to study in the United States in the future. This morning on the way to class, a group of us saw a very young puppy with its owner outside of a barbershop. We stopped, took pictures, and even pet the dog, but when I looked at the owner, he looked sort of displeased. I politely backed away. I wasn't sure if he was upset by our actions, but I figured it was our last day here so there was no point in potentially upsetting someone. The puppy was very cute though. I have noticed that the dogs over here are much more well behaved than those in America, for the most part. I haven't heard a single bark, and they never really chase after anything or anyone. I am not sure if it is the fact that there seem to be less, or if the Chinese people are simply better at training, but it is very interesting to me how well behaved they are.
Yesterday when Bailey and I were walking to the ATM, we noticed many people setting something up on the sidewalk. As we got closer to the crowd, we realized they were putting together a fireworks display for the public. I have to admit, getting to witness a fireworks show in the streets of Tianjin was a pretty cool experience. However, while watching the colorful sparks fly into the air, I couldn't help but think about the safety hazards associated with the situation. Not only were the fireworks being lit in the middle of the sidewalk, but there were also no cones or caution tape to block the area off. Many pedestrians were walking around nearby and if something went wrong someone could have gotten seriously injured. In the United States, setting off fireworks is illegal unless you have a permit, but this is clearly not the case in China.
I have come to realize that for the saying "anything goes" is the norm in China. Thankfully, no one was hurt during yesterday's fireworks show, so I can just add it to the list of new experiences while studying abroad!
In lecture today I got on the topic of symbolism in China with a Chinese student. She was showing me her earrings and told me the meaning behind them was good luck and the color red represented China. I admire pieces of apparel that have specific meaning to the tradition of China, because it demonstrates their pride in history. It was stated in our lecture about Chinese culture that the Chinese use history to understand the present, because a lot can be learned from the past. Americans however look at history as a means to estimate future happenings. She went on to talk about a very dynamic woman in China called Sun Shang Xiang. She told me that she wasn't like most women of China, that's why she's so famous. I wanted to learn more about this powerful woman so I can understand more about the history surrounding China; which is important since tradition plays a big role in their culture.
According to cultural China: she stuck out during the Three Kingdoms era because of her tomboy appearance. She gathered this image by taking martial arts training and using weapons which was odd for the time. I can see how this woman became so famous, because boys have always been thought to be superior in Chinese culture so a woman taking on the manly trait of martial arts and using weapons was unique. This historical piece of information could have placed the idea that men aren't as superior to women, because a woman such as Sun Shang Xiang can participate in the same activities. If the image of superiority between males and females had been acknowledged in the past the currently high ratio of males to females may not exist. Every day here is a learning experience and I love being able to connect lectures to different conversations with Chinese students; it makes me appreciate the way things are here.
When we had a break from class last Friday, Bailey and I decided to visit the Tianjin Zoo. We had read about the Zoo in our tourism guide and it seemed like it would be a really fun experience for animal lovers such as ourselves. According to the guide, the Tianjin Zoo is one of the top seven Zoos in China. It is home to over 3,000 animals and 200 different species. The book also mentioned that the Zoo holds many rare species of national first and second class protected animals, Giant Pandas, Red Pandas, African Lions, and a Polar Bear. After reading this summary, Bailey and I were extremely excited and couldn't wait to see what the Zoo had to offer.
Unfortunately, our experience at the Zoo did not measure up to our expectations. We weren't able to find many of the animals listed in the guide and we were displeased with the conditions that some of them were living in. These poor conditions were most apparent in the area that housed the hippos. When walking into the building, we saw two tanks of water that were extremely small and dirty. Each of these tiny tanks held two giant hippos struggling to share the space. From only a few brief moments in the building, you could tell that these animals were unhappy and uncomfortable. Although it was fun to see animals like the hippos, I wish that they would have been better taken care of.
Many lectures have discussed the recent trend in China to do online shopping. The Chinese students say they frequently use this method, because it is cheaper and easier than going to the store. Today people are able to access the internet via mobile phones so the online shopping process is even easier than ever before. In lecture by Professor Lin Runhui, it was stated that upon getting online 25% of people in China do online shopping.
Last night I was able to take part in the group buying method of shopping online. Some Chinese students wanted to take us to a club called Scarlet. We had heard this place was expensive, even by American terms, compared to other clubs/bars. One of the Chinese students said she got a discount by ordering a table online for us. Originally it would cost 400 RMB to go to the club and purchase a table, by purchasing online however it only cost 69 RMB. I was absolutely stunned at the price difference. In lecture we saw the different prices for washing machines. I would normally assume a washing machine is an item that would vary greatly across web pages, because of the frequency of buying household appliances. What I couldn't believe was that an entertainment activity would offer such a discount. The only downside to ordering online is that you aren't guaranteed a table for the specific night you purchase it. You must call the manager or go to the club and see if tables are still open then use your receipt number to confirm your purchase. If tables aren't available for the specific night you want then you are allowed a window of about a month to use the purchase for another night. The only online buying for entertainment purposes I have used in America was purchasing Twin's tickets. I was charged a fee for using the online method instead of buying tickets at the game. I found the different methods of transactions interesting and would like to explore websites in America that may implement the same extreme discounts that the sites in China allow.
Today for our lecture, we talked about Huawei and their practices. First of all, I learned how transitioning from a Chinese market and entering has its differences, so it is not easy to transition for some of the international businesses. Although I have recognized Huawei in the past from various blogs about mobile devices, I am surprised that they haven't been able to market their products more in the US, since their products are comparable hardware-wise and less expensive. Professor Bing Ren did a great job talking about what practices this company can make to go competitive, such as going public with an IPO, marketing their products more to cater to consumers, and showing what kind of power this company actually has internationally.
Relating to this topic, I've learned more about practices in marketing to consumers in China to the US, and how some differences, even small, can make you go huge in any market. I wish I could work for a company such as Huawei to help them market their product in order to gain a substantial market in the US, as mobile devices are somewhat sub par compared to high tech areas such as Japan, etc.
Today was a relaxing day of watching movies and market shopping. We went to the Korean BBQ connected to our hotel and got to try some authentic Korean dishes. We had a bunch of cuts of meat with potatoes and onions grilled on a coal fire that was attached to our table.
Later on I sat around and watched some Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera is a news station that covers world current events. I know that news is naturally kind of boring but this station is far better than any news station I have seen in America. Fox, CNN, and MSNBC don't even come close to Al Jazeera. Even their "fluff" pieces are really interesting. The majority of the U.S. is missing out on some excellent reporting and coverage especially if you are a news lover. BTW, Al Jazeera is one of the three stations we get in English. The other two, Lotus and Hollywood are basically movie channels.
Today we learned how transitioning from China to the United States market can be challenging aside from the differences in culture and language. Huawei is a telecommunications firm based out of China that is in many developing international markets (India, Russia, South America, Africa and the Middle East) as well as a few developed markets (European Union and the United States). Although the company is the number one telecommunications supplier in China it earns about 75% of its revenue outside of China in other countries. Professor Bing Ren did a very good job of explaining the challenges that Huawei has experienced entering the U.S. market which Cisco and Juniper currently have somewhat of a duopoly. The major challenge in the United States has been avoiding patent lawsuits from Cisco and the blocking of business deals by the United States government.
The class engaged in a short discussion of possible strategies that Huawei could implement in order to enter the United States market as a competitive force. Brian suggested that they go public with an IPO for a number of reasons. First to show the U.S. government that they can adhere to international accounting practices and becomes transparent and trustworthy for operations in the U.S. Another reason to for an IPO is to have the company publicly traded and get their name out and advertised better to create a positive public image with American companies and consumers that fosters trust. We later learned that many Chinese firms that IPO often have problems due to this choice. I suspect this has a lot to do with the culture in which a Chinese firm operates, with power usually centralized and a few top leaders making the right choices for the firm's success. When an IPO occurs you now shake up this structure with individual stockholders having ownership rights. This change in corporate structure and power has often led to problems for newly IPOed Chinese firms.
Today is our last full day in Tianjin. I honestly can say I'm ready to move on. I'm going to miss our host students as they have let us in and befriended all of us and shown us a good time for the last two weeks. I really hope someday I can return the favor and show them the America I know. I would even come back to China to visit just to see them.
On to the meat and potatoes of today's blog post. Yesterday while doing some research for our presentation tomorrow. I noticed that June 4th was the 21st anniversary of the Tienanmen Square protests in China. All I can remember was the video and images of the guy that stood in front of the column of tanks that were heading to the square. I also remember the politics that we in America thought. Since, at the very same time the former Soviet Union and East Germany was collapsing along with a lot other communist regimes at the time. During the Tienanmen Square protest we thought China was another country that was going to go back to a democracy maybe the exiled leadership in Twain would return.
This got me thinking about that time period. So, I tried to do a search about it in China and I could see links to the news articles but as soon as I clicked the link I would get server errors on the articles. Which I find kind of dishearten since China makes all this effort to seem free but at the same time will not allow people access to the new stories about their own history. I'm sure it probably a time that the Chinese government wishes that would not happen, and is just trying to make sure people don't think about or try and do it again. Especially right now with all the protesting that is going on in the Middle East and don't want it to come back. It's one of those things that just made me think and about some of the things that we take for granted in the US.
So we have hit up the mickey d's a couple times since being here in Tianjin and Dr. Li had warned us before that the food is actually much better here than it is back in the states. To my surprise, he was telling the truth. I don't know what they do to it here, but their big macs just had a different taste to it that I really enjoyed. It could be that I was getting sick of the chinese food (which I don't really think I am because I still really like all the different market food and restaurant food we have been going to) but like I said it just seemed different and better. I hope eating this stuff over here doesn't make me crave it when I get home because that will just be torture.
I was amazed to find earlier in our visit to Tianjin that the hotel has two movie channels that are in english. Both of these tend to play older movies, 5-15 years old, but there are a lot of memorable films they play. Over the last very days I saw all or parts of: Ronin, Heat, Air Force One, The Lost World, Click, The Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Dracula and AI, just to name a few. For dinner Mike, Joe and I went next door to a very elegant korean BBQ restaurant. The food was excellent even though we really didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. For the most part the language barrier is becoming less and less of an issue as we have learned to point and use body language to navigate daily tasks.
Saturday morning brought new experiences as I went to the movie theater before noon for the first time in my life. We saw Kung Fu Panda 2 at 10am in 3D and english. It was surprising to find a theater that played a movie in english with Chinese subtitles. Later on Saturday afternoon we went to Karaoke at a large building with hallway after hallway of private rooms. Karaoke is much different here in China than the United States. It was fun to sing and then laugh about our lack of singing ability as everyone traded off songs. In the United States you often don't see the Karaoke getting brought out until later at night when most people are liquored up and less embarrassed about their singing skills. Another difference with Karaoke in the U.S. is that there are multiple mics and people singing each song. In the U.S. there tends to be just one person belting out the song on one microphone.
Today a few of us headed downtown to check out what was going on. We ended up spending some time in what we considered an amusement park that had a bunch of rides and different games for people of all ages. We watched some small "carnie" games going on where small kids had to carry object from one side to the other while racing against other kids. Or another one was they had to kick soccer balls into a goal faster than two others. They all looked like they were having a great time and reminded me of myself every time the carnival came to town each year. I used to try and win at every game they had, never realizing that most, if not all, are rigged so you really can't. They also had a few different types of rides down there such as a Ferris Wheel, roller coaster and a some sort of water ride. I ended up trying out one where it spun you around and flipped you over multiple times and it was actually really fun. It was also only 25 yuan, which is a much better deal than you will find anywhere in the US. All in all it was a pretty good day.
Today was a pretty chill day. A small group of us went around looking for places to shop today. The first stop was a place near the Hip-Hop studio where Alex and I went to dance. There weren't really any shops open here, so we ended up wandering around and we found our way to what we assumed was an amusement park. This place wasn't all that different from the parks in the US. There are some rides, some games, places to get food, and places for kids to run around and have fun. The thing that really seemed to stick out as different was it was free admission; you just needed to pay if you wanted to play a game or to do a ride.
You could tell that the park really wanted to cater to kids, there was a whole section for kids about the age 5-10 to play mini games. The rides seemed to be more for kids than adults, with the exception of 2-4 rides. The rides also weren't meant for bigger people to ride, which is definitely different from the US where adult rides are meant for everyone.
Afterwards, a few of us went to another electronics market. This was a bit further away than EGO, and seemed to be a bit fancier. This showed in the price of the goods offered. While they sold the same stuff as ego, they offered a much higher starting price. I guess that shows that location matters wherever you go.
Here are some pictures of the day:
Market behind the Hotel
This is how they roll
Tian Ta TV tower
Just got back from another fantastic night of China's party and social mingling culture!!
OK! To start it off, this entire experience of partying and social mingling has given me the idea (well actually a while ago) to do my presentation on partying and social mingling in China. Actually, you learn a lot about a culture from this. You might think "there's nothing but drunk people when you party" or "social mingling is just flirting and is totally up for grabs in context". Well let me tell you... After people watching a TON and partying it up, there's actually a lot to learn and more to the eye than you would expect. There's so much to learn from partying and social mingling in a foreign culture. Definitely one of the most obvious is the drinking culture! Example: "I do not drink, unless you drink with me!" hahaha well, in China, drinking is actually looked upon as a social norm, especially with men. Many business deals are actually done over drinking. It is a sign that you are a respectable man and that you can hold your own. Fantastic!
Now, the best part that I have noticed is the actual group dynamic! If you want to have fun, others want to have fun with you. It's a COLLECTIVE mentality of partying. There isn't just 1 idiot who runs the entire thing, it's the group effort (hardly effort actually) that propels the entire party! Everyone wants to get in on what's going and and will definitely join if you want to have fun! I enjoy this so much. In the US, I'm so used to girls who follow Ke$has theory of "The party don't start till I walk in".... Let me tell you Ke$ha, the party in China will start with or without you, it doesn't matter, because it's about the group, not just you.
There is so much more I have learned from this social practice! I guess I have to leave it till the presentation on Tuesday. Simply awesome....!!!!!
Well today was definitely the warmest day I can remember here. It is supposed to hit 105 on Wednesday, but thankfully we will be in Shanghai. Anyway, today, Alex, Vince, Danny, Paul, Blake, and I went to the TV tower. It was interesting, to say the least. We ended up in an amusement park. I hadn't had people stop me to take a picture with them until today. It was as though every person there was staring at Blake and I. We both had sunglasses on and there were a few times that I was looking one way and watching the people who were literally walking one way with their heads turned the other. It was almost like they had never seen a white person before. I don't mean for this to sound close-minded, but it was very interesting to me. Later on, Vince, Danny, and I went and bargained for some electronics. I think we could have done maybe 5 yuan better, but we got our speakers for about 1/3 the price they would cost us anywhere else. And they are fully functional, I might add. That is all for now. Off to the bar with the Chinese students to hang out for a while! Only 2 days until Shanghai!
Yesterday I witnessed firsthand some differences between American and Chinese businesses. I went to the cinema to watch Kung Fu Panda 2 and the movie ticket system was different than in America. They had assigned seating in which you could see the screen of open seats and select one. I thought this idea was pretty neat, because you didn't have to worry about rushing into the theater when they open the doors to get the perfect spot to see the movie; instead you were assured to get the specific seat you selected.
Later in the afternoon, we went to karaoke, and it was an awesome experience. The 4 hours we were there flew by; I wish we could have stayed longer. In China I found that karaoke is more of an entertainment and socializing activity. Whereas, in America it usually only occurs at the bars only after having multiple drinks. In China they also book rooms in which groups of people can enjoy each other's company and sing their favorite songs. I thought this idea was interesting, because it allowed me to see what style of music the Chinese students liked and they got to experience some American songs. Had this been a bar scene like in America we wouldn't have even sang until late in the evening when the whole bar was drunk. In China the atmosphere is so much different and I don't feel that people are judging my lack of singing talent; rather they just enjoy my company and my willingness to try. I'm not sure the karaoke system in China would work in America, because we don't like to be embarrassed by lack of singing ability so we participate in the activity at the bar. We like to view ourselves in a positive image, but in China people view themselves according to the groups they are in so having friends who like to sing karaoke allows the business to operate how it does here.
Today the students took us to a nice Karaoke place in Tianjin. It had a theatre feel to it. There were ushers, popcorn, snacks, beer, and all of the rooms had big sectionals where your party could sit. Then a computer, flat screen, and two microphones were in the room where everyone could get there singing and dancing done. They definitely love their karaoke in China. If you ever go to China you need to rent out a room for a couple hours and give a try it's something you won't see too often in the U.S.
Being in China for almost three weeks, I have realized something. I miss my refrigerator and hence when I get home I'm going to make some sweet love to my fridge upstairs and the beer fridge in the basement. One thing that I truly miss is the ability to go and hit the ice button and get all the ice coldness that ice provides my drinks and second the other button that gives me an unlimited supply of drinking water. China purifies their water but not to point to what we have grown accustomed too in the USA. A person would have to boil or purify to be able to drink the water here in China. I think they are missing the chlorine portion of the purification process. And I'm not sure on the water distribution system if they have leaks from storm or sewer lines that get into potable water lines.
I just know we are kind of spoiled in America with our drinking water. But, I like it that way, were i have about a 99% chance that I know I won't get sick from drinking the water out of the tap anywhere in the states.
So, on this when I get back home on the 13th me and my fridge will have a little cuddle time. Maybe I'll take it out for a drink or a dozen or so and then it's time to turn down the lights and it will be just me and my fridge giving me ice for my cocktails and keeping that ribeye that will soon be on the grill nice and cool. I love you Kenmore Refrigerator. P/S wear something sexy and white for me on the 13th.
Tonight, we definitely had to relax from all of the lectures and tours we have attended so far in Tianjin. It was time to go to Helen's Bar to relax and have a couple drinks.
One thing I learned was to accept a cigarette out of courtesy, as I forgot that denying a cigarette may make you lose face. I told the man that I am quitting for my own self, but the face he showed me was very disgruntled and shaken up. I just end up taking the cigarette, telling him thanks, and walked away. Forgetting some of the simple things in China can be very rude or offensive, but I will learn after my own mistakes.
It was a good thing not to get hammered like some people would do in a USA bar. It was definitely a good time, as I have enjoyed the social drinking, whereas some in the USA drink to get drunk, so there is sometimes no interaction after a person has changed their state of mind. I enjoyed the conversations we had at Helen's, some were funny, some were grotesque, etc... This will be the one thing I miss when going back home to the USA, although I will try and bring the style of drinking back home so everyone can enjoy a conversation. Thank you China for giving me the best trip of my life. Also big ups for Blake, Courtney, and Bailey for the enjoyable evening!
Our lecture on Friday by Professor Yang Kun was a very informative perspective on service economies. I did not know before the lecture that only 43% of China's GDP is engaged in the service economy. Most western nations have at least 60% GDP from services and the United States is at about 77% of the GDP is from the service sector. China's agricultural sector and industrial sectors account for about 10% and 47% respectively. We learned that a values-based service is key to being successful in China. In addition, price is very important to the Chinese consumer.
Interestingly enough there are a few successful American service companies in China, including: McDonalds, KFC and Starbucks. Companies that have not done so well include Walmart and Best Buy. McDonalds is heavily involved in social responsibility and positive public relations in China. They help teach english, sponsor sporting events and work to protect the environment. McDonalds has adapted their store design in China to support the local culture. In the United States there is usually not a lot of seats in the McDonalds, the interior is not very impressive and they are mainly designed to walk in and take out or just drive-through.
The Chinese market however is designed with different cultural values in mind. Many Chinese enjoy sitting and talking at a restaurant, enjoying time together and not rushing through meals. The McDonalds in China are spacious, elegant and designed to be a comfortable environment to stay and relax, talk and eat for longer periods of time than just eating.
Huangzhong and I had a conversation on the way to dinner on Thursday evening about the structure of high school in China vs. the United States. In the United States we have districts set up for high schools and you usually go to a school that is nearby (private or charter high school's may be an exception). Often times, parents will move to an area with a good education system if they are planning to have children. The kids go to the local school by bus and stay at school for the day, including lunch which is eaten at school. After the day the kids head home for the night and catch the bus the following morning.
I learned that in China is it often common for kids to travel a fair distance from their hometown to attend high school. This is due to the large population of individuals who want to go to high school and the limited number of high quality schools. Thus, and individual may have to move a large distance to attend a quality institution. Because of the distance from home the students live on campus (much like our college setting) in dorms and stay there for the school year. Another difference from the United States is that students will leave school for the lunch period as they do not always have a school cafeteria in their high schools.
This morning, Paul, Bailey, Josh, and I went to see Kung Fu Panda 2. The movie going experience in China is different than the United States. When we got to the theater and ordered our tickets, they had us choose our seats and "assigned" them to us on the ticket. When we got into the actual theater, there were no advertisements. I never liked advertisements back in the United States, but the 10 minutes we sat waiting for the movie to start definitely seemed longer than the actual 10 minutes. The nice thing though was that the movie actually started ON TIME! 10 am means 10 am here. There were no trailers for other movies, and the movie was in English with Chinese subtitles. Very nice. The 3d glasses were also a step up from the generic "Real 3d" ones back in the states. And they do not charge you for them here. They provided us with high quality 3d glasses at no extra charge, but we could not keep them. It was quite the experience and the movie was very good!
This morning, Danny and I went to EGO to do some Electronics shopping. Shopping here in China can be very different from the US. The culture is very market based; anyone can set up shop and sell their wares. There are often areas for various merchants to gather to set up their shops, and often times these places arrange the merchants in 'genre's of goods. EGO is an Electronics shopping marketplace. We went to a place similar to this in Beijing, but this place felt much more legitimate. There are four floors, and each floor has a theme. The basement floor was writable media and printers, ground floor was laptops and home appliances, second floor was peripherals and phone gadgets, and third floor was desktops and computer parts. In each floor, merchants set up in small cubical like areas, and above these areas they have signs for what brand they are selling for.
This creates a unique environment where you can go from merchant to merchant asking for price, then telling merchants that another seller was offering a lower price. This is very different than the US where one store will sort the items by function of the item, not by brand. Because of this, you can also bargain for the goods you are looking for. I personally preferred this shopping compared to the shopping in the US where you are stuck looking for the lowest price.
After lunch the group went to Karaoke with a few of the Chinese students. It was really fun to be able to experience since I hadn't gone to karaoke before. Apparently it isn't done in the afternoon in the US, as I quickly noticed after a few comments from my fellow group mates. After about an hour, the differences in culture started to show as we ended up splitting up between the two rooms (not a bad thing, we all had fun). I think that the language barrier got in the way of being able to intermingle much, as no one wants to sit in a room where you don't totally understand what is being said or is going on.
Here are the pictures for the day:
Piggy back ride!
Starting off the Karaoke
Sing and DANCE!
Today I had an elongated conversation with some of the students at Nankai University. During our conversation, the topic of hobbies and things we like to do during free time came up. Personally, I had a lot of things to share, as my mother had me enrolled in all sorts of activities and I had a lot of free time. I shared my views on dancing, photography, table tennis, sewing and others. On the other side of the table, things were reciprocated as I thought they would have been. Both students replied with what I found was a bit saddening? In order for both students to get into high school and then to college, they said they studied until 11pm every night during middle school and high school. 11pm you say? Well I pulled all nighters in high school. Well try studying until 11pm every day from 2pm... On top of that I always had an array of other activities to keep me busy and entertained, they on the other hand didn't. So really, is our education system that much of a joke? I feel as though in America, we are extremely privileged to have so many opportunities. We complain about the smallest things, about how other people bother you, common phrases such as "That girl is so ugly" or "That guy is gay" have flown past my ears countless times. I don't think students here even have time to judge others... So in America, common things such as judging others is actually a privilege to Chinese students.
This brings me to my final point. Instead of being such a dick and worrying about what other people think, spend that time in better ways and more efficient ways. Think of ways to better yourself, go for a run (that might even be a privilege to Chinese students), read a newspaper, grow a plant, clean your room... do something. After my conversation, I honestly felt spoiled, extremely privileged and many of my problems seemed weightless in comparison to the work Chinese students do.
Eight of us just got back from eating at the Cat's Eye right across the street from the hotel. This particular restaurant serves several types of American food, including pizza and pasta. I thought the food was very good, yet definitely slight variations from the typical American representations of the dishes. It got me wondering how Chinese students feel about America's "Chinese Food." I have asked that question to several of the Chinese students at UMD and all of them had the same response, its not as good as back home. Its hard to understand the differences until you actually go to China and eat lots of the food here. And its definitely very different in America, its still good, but the food here has definitely been great. I also wonder if Chinese people make the debate of whether to go out for Korean or American food. You can however see that American food has taken a strong foothold here in China through McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut. These restaurants are all over the city and are usually very busy with people. Although I believe that those restaurants have been successful because they have been willing to tailor their menus and ingredients to the local tastes.
Today was really fun because the chinese students took us out to a karaoke bar to do a little afternoon singing. This was very different compared to any karaoke I have done back in the the states. Instead of being all by yourself up on stage and singing to the entire bar, you rent out a private room for you and your friends and just embarrass yourself in front of a select few people rather than hundreds. I've never really done anything like this, that early in the day. If I ever have the urge to get up and sing in front of people, it is usually towards the end of a long night of heavy drinking with all my friends and I don't really mind making a fool of myself anymore. But this was really different in a good way. It was just a nice relaxing day hanging out with everyone and just having a good time. Sure it was a little awkward at the beginning when no one really wanted to sing but everyone loosened up and we actually stuck around and sang for a solid 4 hours. Definitely one of the more fun things we have done in Tianjin so far.
Thursday night most of us went to the Scarlet night club in Tianjin. Here we had a private booth and bottle service. The two biggest contrasts between clubs in the US and China is that in China you can smoke and the dance floor is really small. They also had dancers on the bar here. I am definitely not a fan of the smoking, everyone leaves stinking of smoke and the air is really thick. When we are at the clubs, i feel like we get mixed reactions from the locals...some of them just glare at us and watch us while others are excited to come dance with us. Scarlet was definitely a very fun experience and it was fun to dance with everyone. The dancing style is definitely very different here but you do here some of the same music which is really cool. The students our age definitely still like to go out and drink and have a good time just like we do in the states. We also met some people from the US and from Germany; its always fun to run into some other Americans and see why they are in China.
Coming to China I had an impression of cops being on every street corner to make sure there is no dissent in the population or speaking about the government. Specially, since this is a communist country. Little to my surprise that I really don't feel a major police presence in the cities I've visited in China. You see them around here and there but that is all. Even driving around I have yet seen a cop have someone stop along the side of the road to issue a driving ticket. I think I have seen the Two Harbors police force more than I have over here and its rare occasion that I see the THPD unless it's breakfast time and all the cops and deputies are parked at Blackwood's eating.
For a city of 12 million Tianjin i would say has less cops than New York, or any city of the same size in the states. I know that some might be undercover or something else. I think it's about the Chinese personality about keeping in harmony.
Yesterday's lecture on the service industry in China was one of my favorite topics that we've discussed thus far. Throughout the class, we had the chance to look at many different companies that have entered the Chinese market and analyzed the reasons for their success or failure. As we examined these cases, I was shocked to see the amount of failed business attempts by American companies. We learned that big names like BestBuy, Barbie, and Home Depot all had to withdraw from the Chinese market due to unsatisfactory sales. These companies are so popular back in the United States so it was interesting to learn why they weren't equally as successful in China.
Our instructor informed us that there are actually many different reasons for these failed business ventures. The main reason he cited for unsuccessful outcomes in China is failure to adapt to differences in consumer's tastes and preferences. We learned that many companies attempting to enter the Chinese market do not conduct a sufficient amount of market research. Also, they use standardized business models instead of localization. I think that by using these types of methods, companies are creating a gap between the products and services that they offer and what consumers actually want. With this being said, it's no wonder why these companies fail!
I think that in order to excel in China, companies must realize that success in one country does not necessarily mean success in another. Also, they must understand that cultural differences should be carefully considered when making business decisions.
I'm starting to hear a familiar greeting at a lot of places I go to in China. Whether its the hotel or the convience store across the street I hear "Good Morning!". I hear it in the morning and at 10 o clock at night. They say it all day. They don't just say it to foreigners either. They say it to eachother. I think mainly young people. I haven't looked into it but since Chinese tend to look up to America I think its just some kind of new thing to say to eachother. Obviously the meaning doesn't exactly translate as it does back in the U.S.
In Friday's lecture I learned that certian colors have certain meanings in China. Red for example means "trust".
Today we had a lecture about various international businesses and how they adapt to their local market. It was interesting to learn about how some fast food restaurants develop new menu items depending on the location of their restaurant (McDonalds offers Taco like food in Mexico, and offers chicken wings in China.)
Later, we had sports day again. This was just as, if not more fun than last week's sport time.
I think what I learned from most was having a conversation with Josh. We talked about how it is very culturally different where people go to shop here compared to the US. In America, we tend to only shop from big well known stores, whereas in China people seem to shop wherever they want because people seem to trust everyone else.
You can often find a better deal buying things at smaller shops or markets compared to the established shopping areas or supermarkets. I think this is great because it encourages business for the smaller businesses, over the already established companies who are already making a steady income.
Unfortunately, I took no pictures today, sorry =(
Learning in previous classes from UMD, I still don't understand why American businesses fail so bad, even though it is emphasized that you must do your homework before entering a foreign market. Here is where Professor Yang Kun talked about during our lecture today.
First of all, United States is a based on a service economy, a terminology I have not heard of until now. To explain this topic, take McDonald's for an instance. In the USA, McDonald's is considered a fast food restaurant, where you pay and go for you food items in most situations. In China on the other hand, McDonald's is considered a sit-in restaurant, where customers like to talk and mingle while they eat in. I saw this as a big difference, as the first time I walked in to McDonald's was very much like the description that Professor Yang Kun explained. You can even plan a wedding in McDonald's in China! Something that someone would never do in the United States.
Now back to failing and surviving businesses. A failing business example is Best Buy, where they provide more information and services in the United States. China's Best Buy didn't focus on one thing, price. People in China are more price conscious, and therefore led to the downturn of Best Buy in China. For a surviving business, IKEA did their homework and adapted to the Chinese culture. By implementing the Chinese culture in a US branded company, you should not be going into a downfall like other failing businesses have done. I wish I could have even known and helped big corporations do their homework, as it seems that little of the American companies even attempt to do a little bit of research...
Yesterday, we also visited another city planning area of Tianjin, which was not part of TEDA. The area looks very beautiful, but in reality it is still in development. What I took from this day was the self-sustainment that the Chinese economy is trying to reach, as everyone and everything is becoming newer everyday, as everyone is trying to have a continuous better life every day. I definitely want to bring back this mentality back to the United States.
After the city planning tour, we talk about Competitive Intelligence, sort of related to competitive information, which relates to seeking information about competitors that are similar to your in a certain industry. The teacher definitely was happy to speak English to us, as she was explaining that she loved when Americans asked questions when she was teacher's assistant during her stay in the US. This professor definitely catered to the US style, being more interactive with the students in the classroom.
Someone already blogged about the story some of us may have seen at lunch yesterday, but here I must use my terrible story telling skills. Here it is.
Alex, Vince, I, and the rest of the crew head down to get some food at the hotel market. As we got there, I see an heated argument between a customer and one of the owners at the shop, although I could not understand a world between them. During the argument, the customer lifts some big plates of potstickers/dumplings and throws then on the ground... I was like WTF?!?!?!? After the argument, I noticed how different people handle situations like this in China. The difference in arguments vs. the USA is that there is no physical contact during the argument. Handling these situations is total different in China, as people like myself would probably kick the donkey in the butt if you know what I mean. But what is done, and when the police arrive, it seems like they were just telling the suspect not to do it again, or something like that. All I know is that I hope justice will be served somehow against the man who did this do the market worker/owners at this scene of the crime... I will upload some photos later, I will still need to edit/chose what will be best for your blog readers. Good morning from Tianjin.
Note to Dr. Li and Vince: apparently I accidentally wrote over Vince's blog post? I was wondering why I didn't have a post for Thursday.
Yesterday our group had the chance to hear from Dr. Yeulin Li about competitive intelligence in China. Until now, each lecture had been given by a male professor so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that Dr. Li was a female! I thought it was very refreshing to get a woman's perspective on doing business in China.
The main thing I noticed throughout Dr. Li's lecture was her teaching style. Unlike most of the professors that we have heard from at Nankai, it was very interactive and laid back. She made sure that each of us had a chance to state our opinions and even had a group activity planned for us! I really enjoyed how she got everyone involved and the fun and open learning environment that she created for us.
I also enjoyed hearing about Dr. Li's career as professor in the United States. After hearing her story my eyes were opened to the possibilities that exist in the educational world. As I continue on my journey to become a professor I will now consider what it would be like to teach abroad!
Well guys, only 9 more days left in this beautiful place. Today's lecture was definitely the most interesting one to me thus far. According to the professor, McDonald's revolutionized the idea of restaurant management in China. The idea of simplicity to the Chinese people in the menu size is apparently a good thing. Also, KFC is very successful here (unlike America, in my opinion). They have truly adapted their menu to fit the Chinese culture, and there is even a very successful restaurant chain that copied KFC's business strategy. Surprisingly, industry leaders such as Wal Mart, Best Buy, and Home Depot, have had little success in China. Ikea, on the other hand, is BOOMING. They have done many things right. The most interesting thing I found that they did was have promotions, not only on their country's holidays, but Chinese national holidays. When we learned about Starbucks, I found it very interesting that people go there as part of a statement of status, not necessarily because they enjoy the coffee. The professor joked that if you call a friend and they aren't at home, work, or at starbucks, then they are on their way to starbucks. Anyways, learning about how companies are either thriving or failing in China was very cool. All of it has to do with how they present themselves and adapt to the culture. The successful ones have obviously achieved this goal quite well.
So last night we went to the club here named Scarlett and it was really fun. Maybe a little bit too much but that's beyond the point. Every bar we have visited so far on this trip has been completely different which is really interesting. The two "foreigner" bars have been very laid back and just seem to be a place for people that do not speak chinese to go and hang out for the night. But the two clubs we have been to have been crazy. There are always a ton of people crammed into each one and its about 99% locals. The few times you run into people that can speak english is really exciting because you can actually hold a conversation with the person and hang out. You get to meet people from all over the world which is really cool. So far I've had beers with people from Scotland, Germany, Russia and of course the good ol US (Chicago). What I like about the clubs also is that they always have a dance floor for everyone to let loose on. Its always packed with people and about 200 degrees but still a very good time. Last night, most of us were up on stage dancing and all the locals seemed to love it as well. One problem about the clubs though is the outrageous prices of all the drinks. Buying a bottle of booze will run you around 300 yuan for a 750 ML. Or if you want a case of beer it's upwards of 500 yuan. The same bottle of beer that you can find on the street for 8-10 yuan is anywhere from 25-35 at any of the clubs we have been to. A good old fashion "pregame" is a must over here in China it seems like....
Today after lecture, I stayed to talk to Professer Yang about, well a lot of things. One of the main topics that stood out was how China's government affects and essentially controls what people think and then their economy. It's really fascinating to see how it's all interrelated.
So China's projected time to catch up with other western countries in terms of grasping and forming a quality understanding of the goals of service quality is about 50. Why 50 years? That's a pretty long time. Well it is intertwined with the government system here in China. The problem is that the officials here are all concerned about other things aside from daily activities. These officials are not elected by the people, but by a higher "power". There are also 1.4 billion people to govern and this goes along to say that having a social reform would probably ruin the country if it happened immediately. So the problem here is that law isn't really a priority here, which would be made a priority if officials were representing the people. Without law, services industries are left without rules and regulations that create a positive service performance. Instead there is a sort of "guide line" which as we have all seen from the traffic, horrible queues (train station) etc. 50 years was projected because given a new and younger generation of leaders who may have been able to study abroad and have a wider range of views would probably lead to more informed decision making. At the moment, China observes the two best Chinese examples of economics (Hong Kong) and government (Taiwan). Maybe in time, maybe not in my lifetime, China will be able to adapt both these prime examples.
Professor Yang Kun's lecture on service economy was very interesting. I found it odd that the United States is based on a service economy, but doesn't seem to adapt culturally as much as the Chinese do with international businesses. For example the McDonalds restaurant in China is considered a sit down restaurant and not the fast food chain as thought in America. I found it interesting that McDonalds could effectively market in China based on the color scheme. Red represents trust and yellow represents hunger so McDonalds is sending the message that people can eat at a highly trustworthy restaurant and satisfy their hunger. President Obama follows this idea of color scheme by wearing a red tie with his suit when delivering speeches to ensure that Americans can trust him. The popular KFC in China adapts to the exotic taste and flavor appeal of the Chinese by offering such items like the dragon twister and different egg/vegetable soups.
It was interesting to find out how some American ideas and businesses could survive in China while others were a failure. The Barbie doll for example was very popular in America, but once proposed in the Chinese market it was a fail. The Chinese culture didn't like the Barbie doll representation of a sexy female, because being sexy is thought to be private. To the Chinese the hello kitty doll was more fitting and also marketed at a lower cost. Starbucks tried to propose opening a store in the Forbidden City which came to be a major cultural fail. By placing a Starbucks store inside the Forbidden City it would essentially ruin the face of it, by demeaning the sacredness. IKEA is a success story in China by being interested in the Chinese culture and adapting its mission. IKEA uses values-based service by respecting the Chinese culture and society. These characteristics allow IKEA to be successful. Learning about the successes and failures of different American companies made me realize how important culture is in any business whether it be a well established business or a small family owned shop. Becoming familiar with different cultures is the key to success in running international business.
Today we went to the Tianjin High Tech District. Although it is a work in progress, the future looks extremely promising. There is already an extremely successful windmill production firm operating there. Throughout the last couple of days, it has become more and more apparent to me that Tianjin is setting itself up for a BOOMING economic future. The developments that are being started or in progress are getting finished up at a pace beyond my belief. The people here literally work non stop to get things done (from what I have seen). There are a lot of potential investment possibilities in Tianjin, even several that have jumped out at me the last couple of days. I am extremely excited to see what this area will end up looking like 5 years from now, especially because it looks nothing like it did 5 years ago today.
Today we went to another City planning area. This place was about making a city within a city. Building in China seems to be much faster than it is in the US. This city area is big and they plan to finish building in less than 5 years, which makes the project less than 10 years total.
Our lecture today was about Competitive Intelligence. Here we learned about how to keep an edge on your competitors using data collection and analysis. We also learned that teaching styles in the US differ greatly from China. In China the teaching style is very much a professor just lecturing a class with little involvement. Our teacher today learned how to teach while she was in the US and took the influence from US professors, she was definitely way more interactive.
The thing that struck me as most interesting today would probably have happened around lunch time. As usual, a few of us went to the market behind our hotel to get some food. As we got there, there was an argument going on right at the entrance of the market at the dumpling shop. Arguments, despite the population of the city, seem to be very rare here. While being in China, I have only witnessed about three arguments. All of these are handled very differently than they would be in the US. Arguments I've seen in the US are very 'in your face' and borderline, if not, physical. The arguments I've seen here have been relatively calm in comparison. While voices might be raised, they aren't raised to the point of screaming out their lungs like might happen in the US. Generally it is rather one sided, and the person being shouted at is very very calm. The argument we saw today was probably the most heated I've seen. A customer was upset about something, and while he wasn't shouting he had certainly raised his voice. After a while, he took two or three trays of dumplings and dumped them on the floor. From what I saw he just turned the trays over, but didn't really throw the trays at all. While it is extreme to throw their food on the ground, if this had happened in the US the customer would likely have thrown the tray with the food on the ground, or even at the shop owner. After the argument, the customer even stayed at the scene, instead of 'hitting and running'. The police came afterward, but I didn't see what happened after that.
Here are the pictures for the day:
Presentation of the city planning model
Converter for the wind turbine as presented by Alex
Workers doing their stuff
Angry dumpling guy
First impressions of the book...its outdated. I did not check the copyright of the book before I checked it out and I likely would not have if I noticed it was written in 2003. The authors main discussion in the book is whether the rapid growth that China has experienced since that late 1990's is sustainable. During this time they have experience tremendous economic growth including a rapid expansion in their industrial and financial industries. This boom has lead to incredible growth in the real income of Chinese citizens and a flourishing middle class has driven the consumer spending. In recent years China's GDP has been growing between 8 and 10% annually, and this far outpaces any of the established Western nations. The author questioned whether this growth would be sustainable under global competitive pressures, but i argue that the growth in China is far from done. They have a tremendous and cost effective labor force that allows them to expand their infrastructure incredibly fast, and the country is still very self sufficient and thus less reliant on external factors. I am very unsure how their political environment will support or limit their long term sustainable growth, but so far it seems that the state has been a primary driver in the recent expansion and economic build out. Clearly China has already become a dominant player in the global market and the US has become extremely reliant on the Chinese economy. China has purchased hundred of billions of dollars in US t-bills and with the vast trade network between the two countries, we are indeed very closely linked. Thus it will be crucial for both economies to work as partners and I believe this will further help China to compete in the global economy. Although it appeared the author of this book questioned the sustainability of China's growth, it is hard to question it when you see the developments being constructed over here....the build out has been so rapid and more and more frequently you see foreign direct investments flooding into China.
Today was an awesome lecture. Professor Li Yuelin was by far my favorite. Her style of teaching did resemble that of an American professor. Little did I know, she taught in the US for 5 years or so. That was pretty refreshing, although I have to say I've seen teaching styles mirrored here in that of teaching styles in the US. That was one thing that I was actually wondering about. There isn't really a distinct difference in teaching styles from here and the US. My theory was then reinforced when Professor Li Yuelin said she didn't notice the difference either. For some reason I felt like coming half way across the world would make a 100% difference in everything. The truth of the matter is that people in China do many things that we do in the US. We may do it with our own different quirks and nits, but all in all, we do the same things. We study, we party, we laugh, we sleep, we create and destroy. That's something everyone can learn from this trip. We may be half way around the world, but at the root of everything, we're all still human and do essentially the same thing.
The lecture today by Professor Li Yuelin related to competitive intelligence. As we discussed the methods of web browser research along with surveys and interviews to gain insights to competitor's companies, one company stuck out in my mind as having successfully implemented competitive intelligence that which is Wal-Mart. While researching the home page of Wal-Mart I found their mission statement to be, "We save people money so they can live better". Given the current economy I don't think there is a better statement in which to hit the market.
Wal-Mart not only operates in all states of America but also in other countries, such as China using this same mission. With the economy in a slump, people still want to maintain their current living conditions, but would like lower prices. Wal-Mart offers just that with quality products at low prices. They even offer a match guarantee by allowing customers to shop around and if they find another store that offers a lower price it will match it as long as the products are the same. Professor Liu Jianhua's lecture stated that the Chinese look for a cheaper price hence the bartering system offered here. Wal-Mart fits into the Chinese lifestyle along with American's lifestyle by adapting to lower prices without having customers suffer quality of the products. We also discussed companies gaining competitive advantages by proposing more than their competitors. Wal-Mart does this by offering extra services other than just a supermarket, such as banking and pharmaceutical services. The idea of adapting to cultures in international business was demonstrated by the Tasly Company as well by saying they must market their products differently in diverse countries. By studying the Chinese culture I feel I'm gaining a personal competitive advantage by being able to conduct business effectively with the Chinese. Hopefully I will be able to devise a statement someday for my company that will be adaptable internationally like Wal-Mart has.
If you have been reading this blog, you know of all the honking going on in the streets. Only place you would hear this much honking is in NYC or Chicago. But I think I finally figured out the honking system here in China. The majority of the time it's not out of angry, but for a cautionary honk. Drivers honk when they over take a car to warn the other driver "Hey I'm over here" or making a turn " I'm turning and you better watch yourself". Their our some other honks but this the majority of the honks are for. Just glad we don't have this in the states other wise I probably be pretty busy taking horns out of the cars in the middle of the night so didn't have to hear people honk all the time.
At Master Kong's yesterday I got so close to drive the train and then I got turned down at the last minute. So, far I've been struck down from driving three buses and a train on this trip.
This morning we went to the Bidhai-Tianjin High Tech Area. It is huge development of land that will be home to many high technology firms. One company we visited focused on the production of Windmills. In the past year they had orders for more than 1500 windmills. Up close they are very big.
At lunch I tried the McDonalds in China for the first time. To me I cannot taste any difference. There are some different things on the menu like fried chicken wings and a McFlurry that had oreos and butterscotch sauce. They also give you a coke with every meal instead of choosing what you want. Everything else looked the same. There was no squid or fish balls or anything like that. McDonalds in China is the place to go for young people in China. At night I heard you can find many students studying their since its open 24 hours.
While getting back to the hotel today, some of us went and got some food from the market and ran into a heated argument between some guy and the fried dumpling stand. None of us knew what the whole deal was about but I'm assuming he did not like the quality of the food or something around that nature because after all the yelling back and forth he took about three pans of dumplings and threw them on the ground. He even hit an older lady standing behind him with some hot oil. After he did this it was unusually/awkwardly calm for something that extreme. Everyone kind of moved away and the shop owners didn't even really say anything to the guy, rather just came out to the front and looked at what he did. One of them actually just stood there and lit up a cigarette and chilled. If this sort of thing ever happened in the US there would be some serious repercussions like: 1. Being arrested 2. Having to pay for all the damages 3. At the very least getting jacked in the face by the shop owners. I was really pissed that he did that also because I was planning on going to that shop and getting my lunch fix also...
When some of us witnessed an argument in the market today when we were buying lunch. There was a lot of yelling my my favorite fried dumpling place and then a man grabbed some of the trays of food and threw them on the ground. I had no idea what the argument was about but it drew a little crowd and there was some yelling back and forth between the man and the owners of the shop. I felt that his response was completely unnecessary and I was surprised a fight did not break out....this sort of ruckus would definitely have caused a fist fight in the US. I was even more surprised though that there seemed to be no consequences for his actions...he just remained at the shop and waited for them to bring him his food. It was a really odd event and I am very curious as to what caused the fight. Either way his response was inappropriate and he should have been slapped across the face.
Today our group went on a TEDA tour. This showed us where the city of Tianjin is at in development and where it wants to be in the future. We then went to the Master Kong Food Corporation to see how their noodles are made.
During this part of the trip, we got to see a movie about the Master Kong Food Corp. Part's of these videos included little clips from their commercials. These clips had people in excited moods with outrageous concepts. It seems that a lot of themes in Chinese commercials are about people enjoying their products and having fun with them. In America, the commercials seem to be more serious and focused on drama and sex appeal. Thought it was a cool thing I noticed.
For our trip yesterday, our first stop was visiting TEDA, which is the Tianjin Economic Development Area. I found this trip to be one of the most very interesting trips that we have had, while seeing why Tianjin has been split into certain districts, and how Tianjin is planning to grow in the future. The planning for the city of Tianjin has a good reason about it, as I finally learned that Tianjin was noted as the 6th biggest port in the world (correct me please). After learning about how Tianjin has grown rapidly, we now visit the best dumping place in Tianjin, where Laura Bush once visited, as told by a colleague of Monica. (betty or betsy)?
After the lunch break, we visit Master Kong's Food Co. It was very interesting to learn that the ingredients that are found in your food are actually real, and seeing how the noodles are produced made my mind go in awe. The units per minute reach a mind blowing 500 units per minute, which is no wonder why production is up 24/7 to meet the demand of their consumers.
What I took from both of these events is that it seems like everything in China seems to try and be self-improving, to planning a city's growth, to making productivity seamlessly easier. I hope we can carry these methods of ideas in the USA, as there are definitely some people who are stuck in a world that is the same every single day. Time to have a field trip, and then classes.
We went on two tours today. The first was of the city planning area. This was interesting because they talked about how Tianjin has been split into districts for specific reasons and how they intend to continue to build Tianjin to expand and grow.
The next was the Master Kong food company. Here they crank out cup noodles like it's no one's business. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in the factory area, but it was definitely mind boggling to see. I can understand why instant noodles can be so 'cheap' now. I'm surprised as to how much quality control goes into the product, though... but I suppose it is required for something that gets so massively produced for ingestion.
It occurred to me today that through everyone's different cultural backgrounds, foods can seem exotic or natural to them. Having grown up in a Chinese household, most of the foods we have eaten here are commonplace for me. While I am still able to try new things, I am finding that I have already tasted most of the things that are 'out of the ordinary' for the other students. I find it interesting that, despite being raised in America, I still can find my roots on the other side of the world.
Every culture also seems to put emphasis on different kinds of food. In America, there are countless types of burgers (among other foods). From the type of meat used in the burger, to its preparation, to the way it is cooked. Here in China, that can also be said about noodles. While at Master Kong's, we saw the different product innovations developed for just instant noodles. There are different flavors, packaging styles, and cooking methods for pretty much the same product. You can cook it in a pot, the microwave, or even just put boiling water in a pre-prepared cup. The noodles may also be served in a soup, or some packaging allows you to cook it then easily poor out the liquid for the noodles to be served 'dry'. Each culture seems to emphasize specific foods that they prefer, and innovate various different ways to cook those foods.
Here are the highlight pictures of the day:
Mini city scape
Group picture at the city planning place
Monica in front of Master Kong
Group waiting in the food testing area
Today we had the opportunity to visit Master Kong, a subsidiary of Tingyi (Cayman Islands) Holding Corporation. Tingyi is famous for its Master Kong brand name which makes instant noodles, however they also produce baked goods and beverages in China. The nature of the products they produce and the industry they are in reminded me of PepsiCo. After learning about the products they produce I learned that the green tea beverage that I have enjoyed many times since arriving in China is in fact produced by one of Master Kong's facilities.
Before our Master Kong visit we stopped by the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA). Throughout the trip I have noticed the constant state of construction that Tianjin seems to be undergoing. This is a booming area with projects that are quite rapidly restructuring the city's landscape. TEDA is an extremely modern looking area with plans to rapidly develop into one of the top five shipping ports in the world. This expansion has been carefully planned by authorities in Tianjin in connection with those in the capital of Beijing. Below are some of the images of the massive projects in the works to develop the area.
What is there to say about taking the taxi's around this city other than it is nothing short of an adventure/anxiety attack each time. Each one darts in and out of traffic, through intersections and within feet of pedestrians and bikers. Half the time it doesn't even seem like they are even paying attention to the road while my knuckles are turning white from grabbing the "oh shit" handle above my head the whole time. It is really entertain trying to carry on conversations with each on though. Today we went down to a shopping street and one driving knew ZERO English except the words: China, Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, Obama and long live Hu Jintao. But we still managed to play a serious game of charades and have a full conversation where we each knew exactly what the other was saying. Getting around in one is also a lot easier than you would think for someone that doesn't know a word of Chinese. You just get a picture or few word description of the place and hand it to the driver and 90% of the time they will know exactly where you want/need to go. And the price is even better. you can get to the other side of town, if you have 4 people in the car, for around 5 yuan a person. Which you most defiantly will not find back in the States. It maybe a little short of a panic attack at some points of the trip but for sure worth the risk/experience of seeing the city in a new way.
it seems at every lecture, the professor talks about the word face and what it means to the Chinese people. It means being conscious to how other people view you and what they think of you. A good example that a teacher used was that he lives about a 5 minute walk from school but instead of walking each day, he bought a car. He said he really didn't need the car or want it for that matter but all of his colleagues and people of his "status" had one so he also had to get one. I don't really think that this type of mentality carries over to this extreme in the US because I know quite a few people that are "well off" and you would never guess it based on their type of lifestyle. Ever since hearing about all of this I have noticed it all over China. Every business we go into is very well put together and fancy towards the people that are visiting. They have huge halls for meetings, art up on the walls, flat screen TV's everywhere and the architecture is very modern. It is all different forms of face for the customer to see how well the company is really doing and that they should invest their time or money into what they are doing. This does have some correlation to the US because all of the big companies back home have very nice facilities that are geared toward making it look like they know what they are doing and are doing it well.
The TEDA planning exhibit today was very cool. It was awesome to see how much work they are putting into everything over here..even the scale models. Driving through the area, I did notice how much more developed it is than the area that we are staying in. I saw golf courses surrounded by modern style housing, many manufacturing plants (including master kong noodles; which we saw today first hand), large buildings, city parks, and much more. I cannot get over how large Tianjin truly is. That area is definitely one that I could see myself living in. Just seeing the names of some of the companies that have set up shop over there; John Deere, Toyota, Honeywell, just to name a few, makes the dream of the TEDA become more of a reality. It is truly incredible to see. I wonder what the area will look like 10 years from now?
Throughout our time in Tianjin our group has had the opportunity to tour many different businesses. These tours have been a great learning experience that have pointed out many differences that exist between the United States and China. For example, after today's visits I noticed that companies in China define corporate social responsibility differently than in the United States.
In the U.S., corporate social responsibility means that a company must assume responsibility for its actions while also making a positive impact on things like the environment, community, consumers, and stakeholders. Our visits to local companies in Tianjin have taught me that corporate social responsibility is defined differently here in China. For example, when touring Tasly Co. on Tuesday, one of our group members asked a manager what they do to give back to their community. In response, the manager stated that they provide a 24 hour customer service hotline that individuals can call if a problem arises. A similar answer was given when we toured Master Kong Food Co. earlier today. Their informational video stated that they give back to the public by building facilities that individuals can tour to learn more about their company.
I found it interesting that neither of the companies mentioned improving the environment or educating individuals as a way to give back to their communities. It made me wonder whether a different term is used in China to account for these kinds of acts or if things like this just don't occur in the Chinese business world.
Today was toured TEDA and got to see a 1/750 scale model of the entire city. It was really really cool that they went through the effort to put this visual together when most modern city planning is done through computer programs. The model was very detailed and really highlighted the size of Tianjin and the numerous developments being constructed. The growth that the city and surrounding areas is experiencing is truly tremendous and the city appears to be laid out very well. Tianjin still remains primarily a port city where manufacturing and shipping are the dominant driving forces behind its economic growth. Thus they have paid great attention to the logistics of the city, creating super highways to connect Tianjin with the surrounding cities and ports. One of the things I have noticed here in China is that although their infrastructure is till behind most Western civilized nations, the speed at which they can replicate Western planning is astounding. With such a tremendous labor force, the Chinese are significantly faster at building our their infrastructure and adopting to their changing needs. It would be interesting to see some of the economic growth forecast for Tianjin and see what sort of anticipated growth they expect to see from the local businesses.
I took a semester of Mandarin Chinese last year to fulfill a category for school, and to satisfy my curiosity for the language. I found the course to be one of my favorite that semester, and devoted a lot of time to learning the basics. When I heard about the opportunity to study abroad in China I thought it was a chance to use my knowledge about the language in a setting that would hopefully expand my skills. Having spent two weeks in China, I wish I would have continued to study Mandarin.
Tonight for instance, Courtney, Blake, and I traveled around Tianjin exploring different shops and taking multiple cabs. It is very rare to find cab drivers, who speak English, and some won't even bother to try working with us because of the language barrier, but we found a driver that put in a ton of effort to communicate with us. I used what little Mandarin I could remember to speak with him, and he kept saying how great my speech was. This wasn't the first time someone has told me that my Mandarin is very fluent. Every time I get this comment I wish I would have continued my education in the language. I love when people who clearly don't know English still try to communicate with us, and I try my best to use what little I know to reciprocate the effort. While in the cab tonight the driver said he wanted me to switch to sitting in the passenger seat just to talk with him while he drove. Life is all about the experiences we invest in, and this trip could lead me to further my study of the language and eventually come back to China with the hope of holding a conversation by immersing myself in the culture.
Today Vince, Danny and I were walking to the Carre Four to buy some supplies. On our way back, we were discussing the cost of living here in Tianjin vs the cost of living in Duluth. I guess we assumed that living in this hotel was about 100 RMB a day. That all pans out to be about $430 USD a month including utilities, breakfast and your sheets cleaned every now and then. I guess it's not so bad considering that the cost of living in Duluth is about $400-$600 a month give or take utilities. Now consider this, your cost for food is roughly around $100-$150 for food give or take $50 for eating out. Now in Tianjin, it's only about a fraction of that. A meal in Tianjin can cost you anywhere between a couple of cents, to a $1. I'm pretty psyched that eating a full meal here is about $1.
So all in all, even living at a hotel in Tianjin, your basic needs are pretty much covered for a little less than living in Duluth. That's pretty interesting? If my calculations are off, let me know!
On another note, we visited Master Kong today and it's pretty awesome how they make their noodles. Vince, Danny and I were so impressed by the taste during our visit, that we decided to buy some from the grocery store. Delicious. The food in China has been more than palatable. I wish food in America were as inexpensive and easily accessible as in China. I hope someone from the food industry in the US reads this blog.
Tuesday morning we learned about the online retail environment in China from Professor Zheng Qi. The number of people with access and ability to get online in 2010 in China was nearly 450 million people. This is greater than the entire population of the United States, however the total online retail sales in 2010 were only around $7.69 billion (USD). This shows the great market potential that still exists in China and will continue to rise, if not explode, in the next decade. At the end of 2010 there were just over 300 million mobile internet users in China which was up almost 70 million people since the end of 2009. The amount of people gaining access to the internet through computers and mobile devices is simple staggering.
An interesting detail in the data reveals that 35.7% of netizens in China have an education level of high school while those with a college degree only make up 11.8% of the netizens. When asked why this has occurred Professor Zheng Qi hypothesized that this was due to the fact that college is very expensive and difficult to get into for many citizens. The small number of college educated netizens is simply a reflection of the very limited number of people with the opportunity to pursue higher education after high school.
Monday morning we had a lecture given my Professor Liu Jianhua which mainly covered how the culture of the Chinese people affects marketing products to consumers. I learned that there are three things that are very important in the Chinese culture: an agricultural economy, centralization and Confucianism. An agricultural economy is important so that the people may remain self supported. Centralization is key for a number of reasons, which include: for stability of the country, for balance and harmony among its citizens and for interdependence. The last aspect of the Chinese culture is Confucianism which provides the structure for many beliefs, morals and ethical rules followed by the Chinese people.
We also learned how important "face" is in the Chinese culture and thus how important it is to those marketing products to consumers. There is a group psychology in Chinese consumerism that is much different from that of the United States. For instance, when purchasing clothing in the United States many individuals strive to be unique in their material purchases. This uniqueness may give an individual more status or heighten a peer's opinion of that individual because they have left "the bandwagon" and are celebrated for their differences in taste. In China however the culture is geared towards respecting those who fit in with the group and consumerism here is driven by "they have that car, or shirt, or product, so I must have that too." When marketing to the Chinese people companies have to be aware of this desire for people to match what those in their group have purchased, and not as much focus needs to be put on uniqueness or products that differentiate people from the group.
On Saturday we went shopping in Tianjin at an extremely large shopping street. It was striking to see how many western brands are sold in China. The first thing I observed while in a li-ning store was how the customer service differs from the United States. In the United States a store employee will often only assist you in your shopping if you look like you need help or if you specifically ask for help. In China, we have been helped on an almost one-to-one basis when in department stores. The employees will follow when you enter the store and offer to help assist you in your shopping experience. This feels very awkward at first, but after a while you begin to realize that it is very convenient to not have to go looking for a salesperson to ask if they have a shirt in the size you are looking for.
This sales atmosphere seems to be part of the more general culture of building a relationship between the company and the customer in a more meaningful way than just a cash transaction. I have seen this custom of enhanced customer relations throughout our stay in Beijing and Tianjin thus far.
Went for a 4 hour round trip out to the TEDA zone in Tianjin today. We took the freeway and about half way through the trip and we had to move over to the other side of the highway. Which is not really a big deal. But what the shocker is that they just close off that whole sections of traffic to the other side. So if your going the other way tough luck you need to find a different route. That there is no warning signs stating road construction ahead. Just wham there it is. I saw this the other day we went down a road to get to our next destination and when we hit the end end they had it all tore up and the only thing you could do was to turn around and drive back the way you came from. Luckily our bus drive paid a guy that was from the area and drove us around the road construction so we didn't have to go all the way back.
Here's the guy giving directions to our bus driver.
Today we went to the TEDA Tianjin Economic Technological Development Area. While there we visited the planning exhibits. There was a massive 3D model of the whole Tianjin area in an atrium style shape. It must have been around at least 1000 square feet of miniature buildings, bridges, shipyards, houses, and apartment complexes that lit up exactly as it would at night. Later on, we went to the Master Kong Food Co. where they made what I call Ramen noodles. We got to see the whole process start to finish. After we got home I visited the local market. I saw a small shop sewing quilts. I grabbed one I liked and didn't even bargain with her. It was worth more than full asking price.
Sunday afternoon brought another fun morning at the market near our hotel. It is very enjoyable to walk around the local market and look at the great variety of fruits and some completely unknown items. The experience of buying food in the market is also an interesting one with my inability to speak in the native language at all. I have begun to catch on to what foods are popular among the locals by observing what they purchase and following their lead. Although there is a language barrier I have found that you can get around and order food with a little bit of pertinence and skillful pointing. I tried a noodle bowl with veggies, spices, a peanut butter type sauce and a vinegar sauce included. The cost of food is quite staggering and you can often eat lunch for less than one USD.
Later on Sunday we went with the Nankai students to a traditional Chinese BBQ. This experience was once again a new dining activity to myself. The process starts with an individual filling their basket with the foods that they would like to have grilled. You then sit down and wait for the food to be brought to the table that you are sitting at. I noticed that in the busy and chaotic atmosphere that it would be quite simple to get up and walk away after your meal without paying for the food. I asked one of the students if there is ever a problem with "dining-and-ditching" as we often pay for meals after we eat and no one shoves a bill in your face. I was told that there is not a problem with people leaving without paying. I assume this has to do with the collectivist culture and preserving harmony within the society. These values or morals are quite strong from my observations and more important than an individual's desires.
Today we went to Tasly Pharmaceutical company. After that, we had free time. During that free time, I got hungry. While everyone went way (still don't really know where everyone went), I went to the noodle place right across from Carrefour. I still don't know what the place was, but it had this guy's face on it. He reminded me of Col. Sanders from KFC, only without glasses... or a beard... or a mustache... pretty much he was an older gentleman. Anyways, I went in and decided that it would be a good idea to order a meal from a menu that was in all Cantonese. Bad idea. Luckily, there was a man nearby who could speak English. He helped me out, and I had noodles.
Now you may be thinking, "Paul, what's the point of telling some story about how you suck at ordering noodles in China?" Well, you see; while all of this was happening, there was this waitress. And even though she looked calm, I could tell that she was slowly losing patience with me. Now if you think that only American's think that people visiting a the US should know our language before come, you're wrong. Not knowing any of the Chinese language can be so frustrating. It leaves this invisible barrier between you (the tourist) and the Chinese people that keeps each of us from learning more from one another's culture. Instead of finding out more about this waitress and how the restaurant works, I spent most of my time trying to order about bowl of noodles with toppings that I ended up not liking in the first place. That meal (as well as throughout the trip) I learned the importance of language in a new culture and how much it affects the way others see you and how you see them.
Yesterday, Dr. Li gave us the opportunity to visit one of the premier pharmaceuticals, Tasly. One of the main things I got from the pharmaceutical company is how some products are grown from plants, instead of being synthetically made, instead how the United States produces their products. If I'm correct though, this is what I have seen from Tasly. I feel my familiarity with TCM products are just effective as some products from the United States to treat a symptom. One thing I remember was that I had to go in to the doctor for some stomach pain, and the doctor prescribed some anti-biotic for me. My mother then refused the prescription and just went home to give me some TCM pills that helped with whatever problem I had with my stomach.
I feel that TCM is just effective as pharmaceutical products from the U.S., although the U.S. has very strict standards on what type of products can be used for the public. Although I'm not a doctor, I will stick with my parents traditional methods whenever I need help with a symptom or illness.