Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Walk Through Wal-Mart

I now work directly across from a Wal-mart in the business district of Beijing. I've only been in one once before in China, so I decided to give it a walk-through yesterday after work.

I get such mixed impressions when I go in there. In the U.S., Wal-mart's identity is "Always low prices." And why? Because everything is manufactured in China. Now what does that mean for Wal-mart stores in China? What is their identity? Prices still seem slightly lower then other stores, but the selection remains enormous compared to the traditional tiny Chinese booth-style stores. Unlike the U.S., the produce section was amazing, filled with everything that you couldn't find in other places. Additionally, there were plenty of cashiers making it one of the only places without a line during rush hour. They also still embrace the idea of having everything including the kitchen sink in inventory, just with a Chinese flavor. Here, that "everything" includes hundreds of kinds of tofu, animal parts that you don't recognize, or even a good wine selection for the foreigners.

What are my feelings on the whole thing? I'd go again. I still don't like the enormous inconvenient size, but I love the selection, no check-out lines and the crazy culture clash feeling I get when I go through the door...and as an MBA, I will always admire the company's ability to do what they do on such a large scale. It's quite the machine.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Beijing Thanksgiving! 在北京的感恩节.

10 Things I learned celebrating Thanksgiving 2007 in Beijing:

1) Thanksgiving is a tremendous challenge without an oven.

2) Chinese produce is not what you think, and definitely not the same as the U.S. (i.e. what you think is a sweet potato is actually just another type of orange root)

3) Ordering a turkey was a great idea! May even be better than most we have eaten in the U.S.

4) Toaster ovens can hold up for 12 hours of continuous usage, we only had 1 knob fall off.

*5) The Chinese people have a hard time with "TH" so it comes out as "S." Combined with a bad vowel pronunciation, this effectively becomes "Happy Sexgiving Day" instead of "Happy Thanksgiving Day." This was a point of continuous laughter throughout the party for all cultures involved. When my best Chinese friend said it, I laughed for about five minutes, gained composure, translated what happened, and the Chinese laughed for another five minutes.

6) Wine is key. We went through about a bottle per person between 6pm and midnight.

7) Huge advantage: having your housekeeper scheduled to come the next day. Thank goodness we're in China!

8) Introducing other nationalities to the traditions is half the fun. This year we had Americans, 7 Chinese, a German, 2 French, 2 Mexican, and a Romanian.

9) It is incredibly hard to translate the story of Thanksgiving in other languages. Try saying "pilgrims" or "American Indians" or "Mayflower" in Chinese. You won't find the words!

10) There is nothing better than filling an extended table with 17 of your best friends, holding hands, saying a prayer of thanks, and then having a nice, sit-down dinner followed by talking and laughing till you can't keep your eyes open anymore.

(Notice the sign overhead that says "Happy Turkey Day")

(Only a small part of the feast)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Big City, Small World 大的城市,小的世界

Every now and then in Beijing you get the opportunity to bump into people from your school, state or hometown and talk about things like relatives you know, friends you have in common, your favorite places back home, etc.
I tracked down a group from the S.C. Chamber of Commerce that came to China to explore the export market for S.C. companies. I had the opportunity to join them for the ever-popular Beijing duck dinner with the group and their hosts from the U.S. embassy and other organizations here in Beijing. It was exciting to hear about the successful meetings and events that had gone on during their travels in China, everyone seeming optimistic about US- and SC-China relations.
It was also great to meet so many people that knew my family in Beaufort or Aiken, had graduated from my program at USC, or just had authentic Southern accents! (You don't here those in Beijing very often and start to miss them.)

This is a shot of the group crammed in around the tables. Go SC!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Halloween, Midterms, Jobs, oh my!

I don't know if I've ever gone more than two weeks without updating the blog. Just goes to show how busy it's gotten here in Beijing. In the world of study, we just finished midterms. Turns out it is incredibly hard to study just language for two semesters. We're all wearing down in our motivation.

In the world of funner things, the last two weeks have seen three birthday parties and two Halloween parties. Who would've thought you could celebrate Halloween in China. Turns out you's how the MBAs chose to live it up:

No comments about the devil horns please...I ran out of time and had to borrow them at the last minute from a roommate in order to have something to wear!

In the more serious world, it looks like I've secured not only an internship, but a full time job as a Marketing Director for a start-up internet and software firm looking to launch at the end of the year. Talk about hitting the ground running! I started the job presenting a preliminary marketing strategy to an all Chinese-speaking staff on the first day of school midterms...and it has been crazy ever since. On the good side, I'm incredibly challenged and have an enormous amount of responsibility. On the risky side, this is a new business with sound technology that has yet to go live online, so who knows what will happen. In the end, I'm thankful for the opportunity, busier than ever, and willing to take the risk.