Thursday, January 8, 2009

Expat Culture: Jumping to false conclusions II

Among us expats it was very easy to get confused by cultural differences and jump to false conclusions.
I think i was guilty of this one.

My student Sara Liu had a successful toy business.

I guessed it was successful because she had three houses, a couple of BMWs in the drive and, six hours a week, she could also afford to pay me 1000NT an hour to check her faxes.

“Who does your designs?" I asked her while checking through the catalogue for her toy business. She used these designs to attract worldwide business, but all I saw was a bunch of items with diverse colours that didn’t match; dark blues, greys and whites instead of oranges, yellows and light blues; colours that didn’t shine; block like shapes instead of innovative curves; blunt corners instead of smoothed circular ones. In short, toys you would find in the markets, and pound shops.

“We do,” she replied.

“And the brochure? Your logo?” I asked. They were called ‘Cute Love Toys’ and their logo was a kid with the head of a teddy bear; it wasn’t centered, and the company name was in black Times New Roman, size 14 font. Finally, the cover paper was at least half the thickness it should be, and there was no plastic layer to add gloss. The whole thing looked like it had been done in Word.

“I do,” she replied.

“Why don’t you improve the designs and the brochure? You could hire a designer...Get new customers. Increase your prices by adding value.” I think I remembered reading that in some promotional literature for one of companies he had applied to before coming to Taiwan.

“I know, but everything is cost-down in Taiwan.”

“But you will get more customers.”

She shrugged her shoulders. “I need to ask my father. I think there is no chance.”

I continued,“I’m sorry. Doesn’t he know you can’t be successful without a successful marketing strategy?”

“Hmm...I know in the West you respect the marketing. I always want to study the marketing when I was young, but mei-you ban fa (no chance). I have to help the family business - Here no need,” she replied. “My father like to make the decision. He think his way is successful.”

She handed me a fax with an order for about half a million US dollars. On seeing it the frustration levels went up; frustration for all the money she could be giving me in gratitude for taking my advice.

“You have to challenge him. Make things happen for yourself. Create your own rules, that what we are taught to do in the West.”

“I know, but this is Taiwan...So why did you come to Taiwan?” she asked changing the subject.

“Too difficult to get a job in England. Too much competition.”

“I see,” she replied.

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