After a great idea by some of my classmates to have an international theme week I decided to sit down and hammer down a short description of my experiences so far. Not only because I want to make other fellow marketing students to take the chance to go abroad as well, but also because of some interesting marketing related experiences.
To go abroad was something I wanted to make sure that I did during my M.Sc. education. I knew I wanted to experience a new culture, to learn more about a country I found interesting personally and/or professionally and to take classes related to finance and management. Naturally, any message I write here will be filled with wonderful and (quite) distorting post-rationalization. Thereby, here is the intro of my application letter (after removing uninteresting details):
“My overall aim with my exchange studies can be divided into three parts: Firstly, I want to study courses outside my specialization in marketing, in an environment different from SSE to facilitate a different learning experience … Secondly, I want to develop my language skills since this is an incredibly important asset in an ever more international business climate … Thirdly, I want to fully experience the culture in a country I have great interest in and through that develop as a person.”
The Room, The Bidding, The Noodles
Right now it is a sunny day around 11:00 (thereby 05:00 in Sweden) and I am sitting in my dorm room at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Classes have just started and I am eagerly waiting for the results of the second bid period which will dictate if I get to take the (very) sought after International Business course. To my left is a book named “Fundamentals of Enterprise Risk Management” and a little further to the left is a pile of noodle packages and a wardrobe filled with new clothes. This is also where my story about my marketing related experiences will start.
The Subway and the Advertising
If you take the subway in Beijing you will realize three things:
- It is ridiculously clean in general.
- It is quite easy to use with both English and Chinese instructions, station names and signs.
- It has two interesting ways of doing advertising.
Firstly LCD Screens seems commonplace in the subway opening up for some interesting ways of advertising/entertaining your potential future and current customers by using anything from still/almost still adds to a short movie clip. Furthermore, you may also see multiple lit ad signs in dark tunnels that due to the speed and their number appears to be a movie outside the window.
The Two Layers of Segmentation/Price Discrimination in the Markets
Nonetheless, when you get to a market another interesting experience begins. Intensively haggling the price down! However, even though the general process always is the same, including messages such as “you will get special price” and my favorite so far “since you look like my brother…”, the details vary depending on the market due to what I can only describe as haggling segmentation. At markets that are commonly visited by tourists prices start very high and if you don’t get them down to a third, and sometimes a tenth, of the original price you are making a bad deal. In contrast, at the street market near my school’s campus you might start on what almost is the real price. Here you are lucky if you can cut the price in half. The trick is of course to know which markets that are tuned for tourists and which markets that are more tuned for for example general locals or students.
However, especially in the tourist markets, there is also a difference in price between how you look and which language you speak (Chinese vs anything else) that dictates what price you may start and end at. Thereby, you have both segmentation, affecting the type of goods and their “prices”, according to the likely customers in an area as well as price discrimination within that specific market.
The segmentation/price discrimination mentioned above has its upside however. If you are a white person and go to a club it seems highly unlikely that you will ever pay an entrance fee. The clubs seems to love to boost about the white people that have visited them and it didn’t take long until all of us had our “half drink price” cards at a popular club nearby. Nevertheless, I would prefer if there was no form of negative/positive treatment based on skin color.
Thinking back on the looong application process, visa application, juggling of e-mails and my initial goals one may wonder: Was it worth it? Firstly, I must say that I have barely started taking classes yet so any answer I give now may be radically changed by the end of the semester. Nevertheless, at the current moment I can only give a resounding yes to that question. China is an amazing country to experience and Tsinghua University seems to be (despite some gnarling Internet problems) a fantastic university. It is not better than SSE, simply different, which was exactly what I was after for my exchange period. Furthermore, the first ten or so days I had the chance to be a tourist seeing places as The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace and The Great Wall.
Naturally everything is not perfect. Firstly, the bidding period is a little complicated since I still do not know for sure all the courses I will take (even though it seems highly likely you get what you bid on). Secondly, there are some… technical difficulties with the Internet… not just the general problem of accessing Facebook… but also that fact that it keeps being under maintenance (which means it temporarily shuts down) a little too often. Finally, there are the little things such as for example the white fog over the city (pollution).
Nonetheless, in general I am so far very happy indeed with my exchange period here in China and I am eagerly awaiting to try out the rest of my classes and maybe also being able to learn some Chinese (I am working on it ^^).
The Forbidden City:
The Summer Palace:
The Great Wall: