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.

7-11 in Taiwan: How Convenient

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.

American Brands in Taiwan and Thailand

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.

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.

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.

The Practice of Business

Tamara Clay -The Practice of Business

I have been a working professional in the United States for the past 18 years. I’ve learned the rules of business etiquette and I know my way around corporate politics. As a business attorney, I now rely on that experience to assist my clients with legal strategy as they grow their own companies.

However, there was one thing I was not familiar with…International business. As the world becomes smaller and companies become more global, I knew that this was something with which I needed to familiarize myself. I falsely presumed that business practices were fairly similar around the world.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although globalization and technology have made it easier than ever before to expand a company beyond the borders of the US, there remains the barrier of culture. A company cannot be successful if the corporate leadership is not well versed in how business is practiced in the foreign country it hopes to conduct business within. Even multi-million dollar companies have learned this lesson the hard way.

It was for this reason that I was so excited about the Stetson Executive MBA International Study Program. The International Field Experience took us to Taiwan, Taipei and Bangkok,Thailand. I extended my trip with some Cohort 11 members and spent a few days in Tokyo, Japan. Through our multiple company visits I was able to witness first-hand, how different business practices in Asia are from business practices in the United States. thai-lawI was able to ask questions of senior level executives of major major corporations regarding the practice of business and law in their respective industries. I received valuable key information which I plan to integrate into my legal practice immediately. Thanks to this program I am a better lawyer.

Who We Are is About Who We Were

Arden Tilghman – Who We Are is About Who We Were

While driving into Taipei, we had the opportunity to see several sections of
the city. We drove through the outskirts of the city with more
rural/manufacturing districts, by apartments and housing for those who commute
into Taipei but live outside the city limits, near the River parks where biking
and other outdoor recreation is centered, and finally into the heart of the city
where commerce and daily life buzz 24/7. Through this transition from one
district to the next, the most noticeable difference to my American eyes, was
the extensive farming and gardening everywhere, in every district. From plots of
land the high rise balconies overflowing with greenery, farming and gardening
was clearly a large part of daily life for most Taiwanese.

Agriculture in Taiwaan

Agriculture in Taiwaan

The significance of farming arose for the developing nation of Taiwan after World War Two.
Through the turmoil and lack of consistency in prior years, Taiwan was able to bounce back as a
stable nation, and global player, because of its strong agricultural capabilities. Now, in the
center of one of the most technologically innovative nations in the world,
everyone gardens and grows some of their own food. Fresh food is bought daily
from a local market, or collected from ones own garden. The values, daily
activities, health of diet, and eating habits are highly influenced by the roots
of this agriculturally based country.
How the Taiwanese live, eat, and interact was developed, in part, by their survival as a
nation and their reliance on agriculture ventures of the past. It makes me
wonder what other aspects of their daily life are driven so strongly by who they
were? What other insights can be gained by studying their history. The
realization of the importance of truly studying and understanding a cultures’
past and present in order to truly understand their culture, or do business
with, was evident when looking at the farms and gardens of this highly developed
and sophisticated society.

Experiencing New Cultures

Cinthia Douglas – Experiencing New Cultures

Our international trip was actually an EMBA course that included a pretty extensive amount of work, including preparation of cultural nuances prior to our travels.  It is one thing to study a subject, but it’s quite incredible to actually live it.  Here are a few of my most fun and memorable moments that really showed me the cultural nuances of SE Asia:

1. Our first night in Taipei, Taiwan, we had a big welcome dinner at a traditional Chinese restaurant in Taipei.  Chinese culture teaches people to “save face” where face is described as your reputation, your honor, and people aim to behave in ways that build up their reputation and honor.  During our lovely dinner, we had a nice server that accidentally overfilled a glass of beer, and the foam spilled over.  Several folks on our table clapped, well clapping was not enough for me – you see, being a native Brazilian, beer rules and messing up of any kind is reason to celebrate, so I shouted out a big “Woo Hoo!”  Our waitress bowed her head, apologized and right away left our table – off-course probably feeling very badly, having not “saved face” with our table.  When she returned, she apologized and bowed again, and our table quickly recovered by assuring her it was ok.

Having dumplings in Taiwan

Having dumplings in Taiwan

2. Pork, pork plus more pork!  As it turns out, Taiwan imports very little beef and chicken is also not a common protein so pork is everywhere.  We learned from the American Institute there is a strong push from the pork business in Taiwan with strong political influence affecting the importation of beef.  Almost every single one of our meals involved pork – chopped pork over rice, pork dumplings, pork soup – an endless supply of all types of cooked pork.  Having a lack of variety was an interesting cultural change.

3. Thailand showed me gentleness and kindness at its deepest level.  In all they do, from raising children to having a disagreement on the street, being gentle and kind is an integral part of the Thai culture and it is evident among all social economic levels.   As I compare with the US culture and how deeply we value competition – we play to win, second place is the first looser, and so on… sure, there are benefits to having a strong drive but I realized how meaningful it is to hold gentleness and kindness as core values.

4. Doing business in Thailand, even for big brands such as McDonalds, means using very little legal advice and services.  The power of building and fostering a relationship with your business partner is the most important.  Even if contracts are written up, they have little repercussions with the actual government.  Culturally, this is drastically different than doing business in the US and probably would make business investors very uncomfortable.

In all, there are many cultural nuances I experienced during our trip to trip to SE Asia , from funny faux-pas to lack of legal involvement, there is no comparison to the power of learning from a real experience.

Taiwan – So Different Than What I Expected

Cinthia Douglas: Taiwan – So Different Than What I Expected

Prior to our trip to Asia, I associated Taiwan with the “made in Taiwan” I often noticed in the products I purchased here in the US.  I imagined an extension of industrial China, where pollution was a problem for place full of factories.

Once I arrived in Taiwan, I was impressed at how organized the road system was and just how easily we commuted for an hour as we made our way to Taipei over an elevated highway.  Arriving in Taipei was pretty amazing.  Right away I noticed how modern and incredibly clean the city was.  As we checked into the Conrad Hotel, I started to feel at ease and very comfortable with our surroundings.  A few of the top things that stood out for me include the metro system (incredibly clean and efficient), the large number of scooters that moved about (including carrying children as passengers), the easy access to American brands and how kind everyone around me was.

Taipei at night

Taipei at night

During our days in Taipei, we visited the American Institute, Shangri-La Hotel, toured the Ford factory and visited the Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies all with the core purpose of learning how to do business in Taiwan.  We discussed all the advantages Taiwan is experiencing as it’s separated from China with the ability to thrive on a democratic economy.

One of my favorite cultural visits was the Taipei 101, the 5th tallest building in the world.  Taipei 101 gave us a panoramic view of Taipei with a wonderful restaurant at its base offering the most delicious dumplings I have ever eaten – the Din Tai Fung.

Needless to say, Taiwan was much more than I ever expected.  By the time we were leaving, I could easily see myself living there temporarily.

If your business fails here, it does not mean it will fail everywhere

7-Eleven in Taiwan

7-Eleven in Taiwan

Kobina Amoo: 7-Eleven and Krispy Kreme in Taiwan

While on this international trip I found it so interesting that businesses that I thought were going out of business or only holding on with a few locations are thriving in Taiwan and Thailand. How can this be? Do Americans support businesses until we get enough or until we find something new? Or maybe the people in Taiwan and Thailand appreciate when a business comes from the states and that’s why they support them?  I’m not sure of the answer and maybe you have more insight on it than I do but to see 7eleven and Krispy Cream Donuts in business in a foreign land but in business with lines out the door.

After long flights and one layover, our first business visit was to The American Institute in Taiwan.  After a very informative meeting with Ms. Youqing Ma, Commercial Officer, she began by to telling us about a one stop shop store where you can do everything.  7eleven, I could not believe what I was hearing. “7evlevn the corner store from the states?” is what I said to myself.  Ms. Ma just raved about how you can get great coffee that’s better than Starbucks from 7eleven.  In addition to coffee you can pay your electric bill and get concert tickets all from the great 7eleven.  I could not believe what I was hearing, I can’t remember the last time I was in a 7eleven but I know it had to be sometime in the 90’s.

Krispy Cream Donuts, the donut company that took America by storm had some great years then in a blink of an eye; they were closing stores left and right. I remember when I first moved to Tampa, FL and saw a Krispy Cream open for business I could not believe it.  Now to see this donut shop that I thought failed; having lines out the door on the other side of the world is mind blowing to me.  When I say lines out the door I mean literally out the door.

Line up at a Krispy Kreme in Taipei, Taiwan

Line up at a Krispy Kreme in Taipei, Taiwan

I know many companies take their businesses internationally.  The businesses that we perceive to be doing well we expect those companies to have a presence in land other than the United States.  To me this is a great example of trying an idea or the one thing you have been sitting on for years, because you never know where it may take you.  If Americans can’t see your vision maybe another culture will.