Doing business in Asia

Mentality in Asia is so different. First of all you are a woman, why are you here? Why do you leave behind your husband and children. Does your husband not make enough money? (by the second trip husband was history anyway). They ask you all kinds of personal questions out of curiosity. Doing business in Asia, men usually get some entertainment. Going to gogo clubs, karaoke, massage parlours. Mr C once told me if I were a man, he would take me to a massage parlour now. I said: no, thank you! He also offered me to come and stay at his house. A Belgian friend living in Jakarta said this was an exceptional invitation and I should accept it. But I felt uneasy about this. And indeed, when he picked me up at the airport, he offered again to stay at his house. I told him I’d rather stay at a hotel. No problem, he said, my wife and kis are on holiday in Korea! No problem at all!! Yeah…

Business wise you always have to stay positive. Never get angry. They never want to admit they have done something wrong, they can’t do something or don’t know how to do it,  because then they loose face. So it’s a lot of guessing work. And being extremely diplomatic. Which at times can be difficult because there is often a communication problem. Their English language skills are not very brilliant. So the important words are: modesty, harmony, saving face and patience. Lots of patience when you have to explain over and over again, with a big smile on your face, in a 100 different wordings, what exactly you expect from them.  I’ve learned a lot here!

Symbols are different in the East and the West. When I first talked about a snake design to Mr C, he said it was bad luck. A snake is not good, and no one would buy this. So I emailed my friends and told them about this idea. They all loved it! And to this day, it is the best selling design. With my Chinese horoscope being the Wood Snake, I would not expect anything less!

Of course being a conscientious designer , you also worry about local work ethics. Do the employees get decent pay? What are their working conditions like? And no child labour please!

As you can clearly see: mask and protective gloves!

My friend Bambang Wijaya, who has an arts & crafts business in Yogyakarta is quite busy with fair trade products. This is the way to go. And we, the Western customer, still are not aware enough of what is really happening: how employees are treated, who makes the money? After all, don’t you like to know that the hard working artisan can afford a decent life for his family, and offer a better future to his children? Or do you like the idea of Chinese slavery? Are we selling our soul for a cheap deal? This is something to write more about in the future. But first I will continue my story. Next: a trade show in Paris.



About Claire

As an eternal traveler and restless soul, I am always searching for ways to design my life. I have lived and worked in 7 different countries, and traveled to many more. Discovering new places, new people is what I love. My favourite thing is checking out local supermarkets for food products, have a taste of the local cuisine, and look at the arts & crafts shops. Of course a bit of sightseeing (historical, cultural, pure design, artistic,...) is a must too. Inspired to work with semi-precious metals, wood and other recycled materials, I have turned my creative energies towards craft based design, setting up a home and workshop in the countryside. Appropriately, My name means Hope. "Hope is the dream of a soul awake" is the personal statement. With Eternal Traveler - Design your life! I aspire to create a creative environment for functional art and life design. And with this reach out to like minded people.
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3 Responses to Doing business in Asia

  1. Susievintage says:

    Hello Claire
    You are absolutely right about things being so different in Asia! I was brought up in Singapore, and have many local friends. And they are SO much more open and curious about money – it is quite normal to be asked what your salary is, or how much your house or car or outfit cost, and for people then to comment on whether you got a bargain or were ripped off because they know a better deal! When it comes to bargaining, my school-friends and I had t-shirts printed that said: “Best price, lah – I live here!” – to warn shopkeepers that we would be holding out for the local price and not the tourist one. Living as I now do in an English city that attracts a lot of Chinese tourists, I enjoy watching them trying to bargain in the shops – who knows, maybe we will adapt to their ways!
    Best wishes from Susievintage

  2. Great! Thanks for the share!

  3. Claire Claire says:

    That would certainly give a new twist to the economy here, bargaining in the shops! A wonderful book that talks about the world globalization in Asia in a spiritual way is: “A fortune teller told me” by Tiziano Terzani. There are definitely changes to be expected everywhere, as to how we interact with each other. I love your t-shirts!

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