Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Archive for December 3rd, 2009

Beijing Sunset

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 3, 2009

View looking out towards Guo mao.

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It all Belongs to the Emperor

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 3, 2009

I was just shutting down the pc and feeling sorry for, uh, those people who must use proxies etc. to access sites that some governments decided to block…

I wondered just how many spy bots my pc may contain ( many articles on this one here, or here), the government has supposedly backed of on many mandates, but who knows.

As I pondered it, it struck me. Historically in China, EVERYTHING belonged to the emperor. Thousands of years ago, you may say. Well, not really, actually China operated as a feudal society until 1911, so we are talking thousands of years. In modern times, the situation doesnt look better. Under the formation of the PRC, all private property was taken away. Actually this was a concept philosophically similar to her history. Over the past 3 millenia, the people had around 44 years to get things, then had it stripped away.

That right was not given back until 2004…Yeah, which means that basically if you are over the age of 5, you lived a life where you literally had NOTHING of your own, it all belonged to the emperor or party. (Actually the law was really finalized in 2007, so I could have modified the previous statement to read 2 years old.  article here, or here, and here).

Then it became clear, historically everything belonged to some leader who was not me, to this era of people, I really have few rights, my pc should be open to the use of the state as they wish. It is odd to live here and witness this strange dichotomy of fierce capitalism from the west and some of  the strong handed policies. I guess it is probably more difficult for me as I dont want rights taken away, but would be relatively easy to accept if the whole notion of private property took so long to develop.

Beijing is a great place, irrespective of the details…

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Every day, 7 days per week…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 3, 2009

Yeah, all those people…this is subway line 1 at the Guo mao station.

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2 U, Too Bad…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 3, 2009

Here is a post from my sister site mychinabizblog.com

Was in the process of setting up another company, did all the research, looked viable. All we needed was a name. I being a “skilled” marketeer quickly realized that the idea of 2U would go over well. Just think about it, 2U pizza, 2U consulting, whatever, it sounds great. You could, for example say 2U pizza, bringing the best to you…

After deciding upon the name, the group then began to market test it. Funny thing was that some of the Beijing locals got a confused look in their eyes. We thought it just the normal process of breaking down the notion of “2” as in “to” etc. But then a bad thing happened, the look in their eyes was not only confusion but also frustration. 2U, due to phonetics, is not a good idea in China.

In Chinese the sound of their numbers is as follows:

1= eeee

2= are

3= sun

4= se

5= woooo

Looking at this list, as my colleagues and I did, it would seem that we were safe. Phonetically it sounds like 2 or “ARE U English”. That is if you are thinking in English, Are you English, is not that bad, maybe confusing, but it could create awareness which is good.

The problem is that in Chinese letters mean a lot, as in good and bad, the taboos are enormous. I knew that 4 pronounced like se, is bad as it has the same sound as death. So, 4U in a name would be a disaster. What I didnt know however was that 250 means ignorant or foolish in Chinese. Teh way they pronounce it is:

ARE BI Woo Shi

This does not present a problem yet. But, they typically cut the words down or shorten them. Thus, to pronounce 250 they actually say:

Are Bi Wo or

Are or

Are Wo

Basically, the name I had created had the same sound of a word that means ignorant person.

In B school we have read about many companies and their faux pas while doing business internationally. This is just another dramatic example of how important it is to get locals of all ages and from diverse backgrounds involved, especially in an area such as naming. None of the team had spotted the error, but those in our focus did right away.

Needless to say we quickly rectified the situation, decided on something more International and easily digested such as American Pie. The lesson is that there are many cultural taboos that only natives will ever understand. It is imperative to test, re-test and re-check all marketing material before moving forward. I have been in business here for a few years and have plenty of local resources from which to draw upon, but there will always be something that you as a foreigner miss. Get the locals involved as much as possible and as early as possible, save yourself some trouble down the road.

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Office Buildings by the CBD

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 3, 2009

Here is a beautiful view of office buildings by the Central Business District (CDB). Another reason to fall in love with Beijing.

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Shanghai’ed in Beijing

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 3, 2009

Interesting thing happened yesterday at a restaurant. A friend had placed an order for food and I went to pick it up. The funny thing was that the order was wrong and the price was too high. Not having enough money to pay, I said that I wanted to cancel the order. Easy enough right? Not in a little ma and pa type store here. The problem is that they have tons of workers, but few professionals to staff a restaurant so they are left with uneducated migrant workers to deal with these situations.

The little woman who was helping me, in essence said that she couldnt cancel the order as the bill was already made. Not having the horsepower to realize she could cancel it and keep the food to show the owner it was an honest mistake, she panicked. She didnt know what to do, called over the more senior little sprite who possessed a teeny bit more snap, and between the two of them they fought, argued and discussed the problem.

Fearing that I would have to dial the Chinese equivalent of 911 to extricate myself from the situation (remember the food sat on the table uneaten, it was a to-go order, so still boxed).  I called a work mate. Being an expert in the Chinese culture, she quickly let them know who is the boss, how to treat customers, and that this was unacceptable. Within seconds I was showered with apologies and given the appropriate order.

China is like a pizza, each subcomponent entirely divisible from the whole, but when taken alone, just not China.

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