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Courtesy

Courtesy – Jennifer Farb

The one thing that I keep telling people over and over about my trip is how amazed I was by the courtesy and respect of all 4 Asian cultures I visited.  In America, we have a very individualized culture, where we are very focused on ourselves, our families, and possibly our immediate company and community.  In China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand, the cultures are focused not on the individual, but the society as a whole.  The communist nature of the government of China inherently causes the people to focus on the entire community, but it is also inherent in their culture as family is the center of everything.  Our tour guide shared with us that even when they introduce themselves, they lead with their family name instead of their given name as we do in the US.  The people were also extremely welcoming and seemed extremely happy to see Americans.  In Hong Kong, I was immediately shocked by the cleanliness, especially with the stark contrast to the heavy pollution in Mainland China, and the entire 4 days we were in the city, I did not see more than a couple of pieces of litter on the ground.  I saw many people in Hong Kong drop things by accident, but each person took great care to pick it back up if they let it fall.  In the Subway system, each station had large panes of glass blocking anyone from falling onto the track, and there were not even fingerprints on the front of the glass.  Everyone was standing very peacefully in straight lines waiting to get onto the trains.

A brass band played in the Subway station in Taipei

A brass band played in the Subway station in Taipei

In Taiwan, the subway system was organized much like the one in Hong Kong and there were also beautifully cleaned bathrooms that even had potted plants and sinks on motion sensors.  Each public restroom had a picture of the employee that was servicing it, with a note stating if you needed anything to speak with them directly.  In Taiwan many people did not speak English, but everyone we encountered was happy to at least try.  Thailand though was by far the most courteous culture that I have ever encountered and was truly touched by how respectful every person we encountered was from the Marketing Executive at McDonald’s Thailand all the way to the vendor peddling the Buddha statues in her market stall.  Each person takes the time and care to Wai at the beginning and end of every encounter and it really forced you to be completely in the moment and focus on the person you are speaking with.  The children were also some of the most respectful I have ever encountered and when I heard one child speak out of turn at the Grand Palace and raise their voice, all it took was the father to give them a stern look and the child was peaceful once more.  I am much more aware of how courteous I am being to the people around me now that we have returned to the United States and realize more and more that most Americans are not.  We have developed as a country much further along than one like Thailand and China, but countries like Hong Kong and Taiwan are quickly showing us that by combining some of the assets of both cultures, there may be a better and happier way to live where we can all look out for each other just a little more.

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Street Vending: Bangkok

Rachid Labzioui – Street Vending: Bangkok

I can’t imagine myself going to Bangkok, Thailand and not trying some of the country’s delicacies. Thai cuisine in known worldwide to be rich in flavors and sometimes full of surprises.

Streets are packed with make shift food stands which are equipped with the minimum necessary equipment to make some of the most mouth watering dishes someone can ever taste. Locals are the ones usually that can be seen hovering around them but also you will also see that tourists are more and more prone to try the food.street_vending2

Cheap, clean, delicious and can be found everywhere with more than 20000 vendors in Bangkok alone. These are key reasons why business is booming with street vendors.

Another phenomenon that shocked me is the abundance of street bars. They are everywhere as well and usually start doing business later at night. You don’t need to be in an enclosed traditional bar to be able to enjoy a nice alcoholic beverage, but you can still do that while people watching on the side of the road.

A side walk bar in Bangkok

A side walk bar in Bangkok

These are usually minivans equipped with coolers, ice makers; blenders to make cocktails and even little kitchenette able to serve some amuse bouches for the patrons. Their prices are relatively cheaper than regular bars. That’s why they are jam-packed every night. At least during the time I was there.

 

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Rachid Labzioui – 7-11 in Taiwan

I was a lucky one to be part of an interesting trip to Taiwan with my EMBA cohort that was meant to visit a few companies that stand out in the Taiwanese economy. But what caught my attention the most is what we see here as a normal operation. It was 7/11 stores.

7-Eleven in Taiwan

7-Eleven in Taiwan

They are everywhere! I mean everywhere. In every corner, shopping plaza, department store, across from each other’s. They are the incarnation of CONVENIENCY by excellence.
During my short stay in Taipei, I probably ran into about a few dozens of them and of course had to be one of the customers.

Expect from gas, at least in the ones I came across, you can find an array of goods and services way beyond what we are used to here in the US.

From subway tickets to concert reservations to dry cleaning services to traffic fines and utilities bill payment to even sit down meals. They also deliver everything from household appliances to multicourse banquets with all kind of Taiwanese delicacies. Of course, in addition to most of the items we find here in the US.

I was startled by one thing. Why so successful? I learned there are more than 4800 stores in Taiwan. 6200 customers per store compared to the US with more than 47000 potential shoppers per outlet.

Talking competition, Family Mart is one of them, but as the Taiwanese people mentioned, they will go to Family Mart if they have to but when 7-11 is present, there is no contest.

So what is 7-11 has done to reach this level of popularity amongst the Taiwanese consumers? Of course having stores in the right spots, having a tightly controlled distribution chain, a one stop shop for all needs, are all the answers in regards to a traditional marketing initiative. But what makes Taiwanese people love 7-11?

Some say that it comes from a busy lifestyle, giving rise to a workaholic lonely hearts who don’t know how to cook so 7-11 is the answer.

Others say because it is clean, well lit, organized and spacious, it attracts more shoppers who are money conscious who could easily find better deals in local outlets but still choose to go to 7-11.

It seems that 7-11 has done what’s right to conquer Taiwan. It hit a nerve with the younger generations even more offering them a clean space, even temporarily, in a country where space is scarce.

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Agreements in Thailand

Alexandre Rovai – Agreements in Thailand

We live in a world that everything is based on agreements. We study about how the agreements are made in Thailand, that is by judgment, but when you are listening from a CEO, the one of the biggest companies of the world (McDonald’s) saying that he does all their agreements without lawyers, it was very strange to me.

To me, as a businessman, it is impossible to think of opening a business without lawyers and agreements. I cannot accept the idea of opening a business and not having a document that gives me the rights, if I encounter some problems in the future.business agreements_alex

This was probably the most strange and risky (cultural thing) that I’ve ever seen in my life, but I think that it should succeed because everyone does this and the market continues to grow without a problem.

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Alexandre Rovai – American Brands in Taiwan and Thailand

I was impressed about the American brands in Taiwan and Thailand. The people over there love American brands. One company specifically was Seven Eleven. I never imagined that this company could be so big over there.

It is an American brand but with a Japanese concept. The Thai and Taiwan Seven Eleven only have the same name of the American company because the stores are completely different inside.7_11

In the Thai and Taiwan stores you can buy tickets for concerts, pay your bills, eat good food and find all the convenient things. They serve one of the best coffees over there and you can see one in every city block.

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Carl Pfeiffer – “Edu-tainment” at Kidzania

When arriving on this trip I didn’t think that I would be looking at any of the business visits as anything but from an educational and business perspective. However, when we arrived at Kidzania, it took me by surprise and instantly became a starry-eyed 10 year old boy the moment we were transported to the world of Kidzania.

The first thing we did was learn the business of this franchise, and thought the strategy they use to educate and entertain kids, while keeping the adults happy, and earn profit from each of the sponsors for the different job areas. It is pure genius. It was really hard for me to sit through the presentation because my mind was going back to when I was kid wishing that there were places like this to go and learn what I wanted to be. Thinking back I could have made some important life or job decisions sooner experiencing what it is like in the “real world” in a place like Kidzania.

Cohort 11 at Kidzania, Thailand

Cohort 11 at Kidzania, Thailand

Once the initial shock subsided I was able to see what an new and interactive “edu-tainment” opportunity this is as we walked through and saw kids faces learning and playing in this little world. Living in Disney’s backyard I can honestly say this blows any of the Disney parks out of the water, strictly from interaction element and learning piece. When we were there the children seemed so engaged and passionate about the jobs they were in and I know that is hard for children to stay that focused and passionate about something. The model is absolutely brilliant, everything from the job offerings for the children, to the accommodations for the adults, to the  security features that doesn’t allow a child to leave without the parental guardian they came in with. The kids not only learn job skills, but they have to learn how to manage money and a bank account while they earn little paychecks in every job. The money they earn they can actually budget and spend it in real stores that sell merchandise and snacks.

Looking at it from a business perspective I was shocked to hear why there wasn’t one in the US already, and that is because the company wanted to build a strong global brand equity first before trying to enter the US market, but they have just broke ground on a location in Chicago expected to be finished by 2015. Another thing I thought was a brilliant business move is that fact that 25 million is the cost to build and create the shell for the business, and then they generate income from their sponsors like Coca-Cola that have to pay about $625,000 for a 5 year contract with a monthly retainer to showcase their product in Kidzania, and is a win win for the business and the sponsors. Kidzania generates revenue from the sponsors and also has a unique real world company that the kids can act like they are working for, and the sponsor is getting valuable advertising time to test new products and use as research facility with a captive target audience.

 

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Carl Pfeiffer – Medical Tourism

This Bumrumgrad hospital in Bangkok, Thailand is revolutionizing the world of medical tourism. This hospital is a for profit, “5 star hospital” that specializes in nearly every single medical and healthcare specialty. With the effects of globalization it allows patients around the world to “outsource their own healthcare”. Basically this concept means that if someone has an ailment they need worked on they have a choice to go to any medical tourism facility (like Bumrumgrad) to have world-class treatment. In order for medical tourism facilities to earn the international patient’s business they need to provide not only the best healthcare, but also treat each person with the same treatment as a 5 star hotel would do. This facility is mostly for “at will” patients who specifically seek out medical care from this facility. The depreciated Thai Baht makes medical procedures so much more affordable that people come to Bumrumgrad and pay cash to have procedures done, from plastic surgery, to orthopedic surgery, to general surgery.hospital suite_1

Part of the amazing guest service experience the hospital has, is that it provides world-class concierge services that starts by picking up the patient from the airport, and escorts them to the hospital. The concierge also waits hand and foot on the patient, catering their every need. Even things like running their prescriptions and finding activities and accommodations for friends and family that are staying with the patient.hospital_3

In the US the reason medical care is so costly is because the expenses that providers and medical companies have to pay are estimated to be $600 billion dollars a year. This cost is covered because it is passed on to the patients and insurance providers. So a standard surgical procedure like a cholecystectomy, plus a night or two in the hospital will cost between $15,000- $30,000 in the USA. Compared to Thailand where the patient can have the same procedure, and stay in one of the nice hospital suites (which looks more like a hotel room then a hospital room) for around $2,000-$3,000 US dollars.  This is also explaining that the quality of care is almost the same between Thailand and the USA.

Bumrungrad was the first Asian hospital accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), the international arm of the organization that reviews and accredits American hospitals. Their checklist includes over 350 standards, for everything from surgical hygiene and anesthesia procedures to the systems in place to credential medical staff and nurses. JCI sends a team to re-review hospitals at 3-year intervals. Bumrungrad was first accredited in 2002, re-accredited in 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014. So when I questioned the quality of care and patient outcomes I was quickly educated that the have almost the same level of quality that we do in the US. This is in part do to most of the doctors were educated and trained in the US and have come back to Thailand to give the US level of care to their patients.

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On top of the world

Nelya Khayut – On top of the world

Riding the fastest elevator… eating the best dumplings… witnessing the largest damper sphere in the world… You have to be there to believe it. One thousand and ten meters per minute! I arrived on the 89th floor in 34 seconds. Upon getting to the top, the observatory deck allowed for some great pictures.  Nelya_6

This building is an icon of this country and used to at one point be known as the tallest building in the world. Its architecture is a symbol of evolution. Symbolism and culture are a huge deal in this country and the people take it very seriously. Colors represent “connection” and “new beginnings” and the Taipei 101 building has a torch at the top of the building that glows one of seven different colors every night. The colors represent the different days of the week, so for example on Friday the torch will be blue, on Saturday it will be violet, etc.Nelya_4

I might have been oblivious to knowing what makes this type of building stay up through all of the storms that this country faces. It wasn’t until we were told we were about to go see the “pendulum” that it hit me. Typhoon winds and earthquake tremors are common in this country and so how can this building stay standing?! It never dawned on me to think about this until that very moment. Seeing this massive ball was absolutely amazing.

The best dumplings in the world are also cooked in this magnificent building. If you ever visit Taiwan, Din Tai Fung Restaurant is a must have. It is an award winning restaurant that is known for their Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings.) The thin dough, the meat inside, and the broth are a perfect balance of what a dumpling should taste like.

Din Tai Fung Restaurant, Taipei

Din Tai Fung Restaurant, Taipei

Don’t worry… if you have never had a dumpling like this… there are instructions that set you up for success! These instructions are waiting for you at your table.

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Slum Child Care Foundation

Nelya Khayut – Slum Child Care Foundation

One of our visits in Thailand was the Slum Child Care Foundation. Upon arriving in the neighborhood where this Foundation is located, I was overcome with extreme emotion. I was able to hear the child laughter, cries, and screams from the building and it did not sound like just a couple of children but quite a large amount.

Upon going inside (after taking our shoes off) and looking around, I was blown away by how well these children were taken care of. Several workers and volunteers cared for these children like they were their own. It was genuine, kind, and sincere. The staff as well as the children welcomed us with open arms and respect. The children wanted someone to return that love and kindness by hugging them back, holding them, and playing with them.   Nelya_1

Children in that care facility stay there as young as 3 months old. It was heart breaking but at the same time heart warming knowing that at least these children have someone to feed them, change them, baby them. They are off the street and have a chance at a good future. The children are taught manners, patience, thoughtfulness, and everything else that should be learned at a young age.Nelya_3

Working for The Walt Disney World Company, I am fortunate to interact with many different cultures around the world. I have been able to interact with many people of Asian decent but this trip has been a completely different experience. The level of compassion and kind-heartedness was not what I expected. This particular business truly shows the amount of hospitality that the people from Thailand are used to giving. We were complete strangers in a building… but were able to feel the level of friendliness and cordiality even from children at a young age.

 

 

 

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Delicious Food in Asia

 Tamara Clay – My most memorable moments

If you ask me, the food was one of the most memorable aspects of the trip.

We went to some very special places and tried some amazing new dishes. At various points throughout the trip I believe each of us where pushed to the edge of our culinary comfort zones. The experience was interesting, nourishing and allowed us to open our minds.1BK_Tamara

Even staples were presented in different ways based on local tastes and local culture. Take rice for example. In the rice is mainly served steamed with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a pat of butter. While in each country we visited rice could be found served steamed to accompany a meal, in Tokyo it was gently laced with vinegar and wrapped around fresh raw fish. In Bangkok it was served sweet and sticky on top of ice cream or with slices of ripe mango with fresh cream. In Taiwan it was stir-fried with egg and dried shrimp.

Fish McBites in Thailand

Fish McBites in Thailand

In Asia fish is abundant while beef is rare. Because of this food restaurants like McDonald’s have added more fish to the menu. In Thailand we learned that the McFish is the number one selling sandwich. This is why McDonald’s in Thailand recently added Fish Balls to the menu as a special item to celebrate the World Cup. (I had a chance to try them and they were pretty good.)

In each country we visited we were treated to a welcome meal, which introduced us to the local flavors, and a farewell meal. No matter where you are in the world, there is nothing better than sharing delicious food with great people.

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