2017 what a year!
It’s been an incredible year, and if you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning, THANK YOU!! I found my voice after my adventure in China, and learned really enjoy blogging about my life as an entrepreneur in BKK :) Aside from my personal journey to building Healthy Hair Asia, I’ve discovered that no one was writing about the BKK startup community events and healthy & beauty places in BKK (too much writing about food and restaurants!), so I designated myself to be the tech writer and write short fun reviews! (You’ll definitely see more content and videos in 2018)
Since this is the last day of the year, I found this interesting article in Forbes Magazine about reflecting on the year 2017, like a self-interview!
Reflect on 2017 By Asking These 20 Questions
What am I most proud of?
Finding my voice as a writer, and I found it at the most scary time in my life when I was in China, read more HERE
What do I wish I did differently?
I’ve changed a lot since I’ve lived abroad, so I cannot talk or relate to people that I grew up with, so I wish I handle some conversations a lot differently.
What or who did I learn most from?
My mentors and my partner
What new skills did I require?
Taking pictures, asking exactly for what I want, and patience
What limiting belief about myself do I no longer have?
That I’m not a good writer, I found my voice and absolutely cannot stop writing!
How have I been proved wrong and how was that liberating?
You only need money to be successful, wrong, you need a vast network and supportive partner to be successful. Money certainly helps, but in this part of the world (Asia), relationships are as important for starting/running a successful business.
Who or what am I most inspired and energised by?
My customers, friends, and even strangers that ask for hair care tips and products. All their questions inspire me to work harder and provide them with the best products and service. I’m energised by the startup community in BKK and the overall in SE Asia start up community as this is the best place and time to be an entrepreneur!
Who or what am I repelled by the most, and why?
I’m a very punctual and organised person, so I’m repelled by tardiness (ask my former students!). Why because when people are late, I see it as a lack of respect my time . But I’ve toned since I live in BKK and it’s not exactly part of the culture.
What went better/harder than I expected?
After my brief stint in China, returning back to BKK, was relatively easy to get back into the swing of things. I have my network, my partner, my community, and friends here. So when I was looking for a job, I had support and when I left my job (a very good one), I got more support for my bold step to go after my dream.
What global issue did I take personally?
The transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration, it’s hard to watch my home country get worse every, single, day :(
How did I surprise myself?
Getting exactly what I wanted this year to build Healthy Hair Asia
What did I do for others?
Teaching, co-create a community for women entrepreneurs, returning home to visit my family maintaining friendships with old and new friends by organising brunches, and social events, and Skype calls.
What am I most grateful for?
The relationships I have in my life: G-d, family, my partner, friends, business associates, as crazy as this year has been, I definitely couldn’t have made it all on my own.
What negative patterns seem to be repeating?
I spend way too much time on social media lol. It’s great for business and finding opportunities (in BKK), but I didn’t read as many books as I wanted to read this year. I do read a lot online, but nothing is better than getting lost in a good book!
What did I start and not complete?
There was one thing in particular that took me longer to complete, and I finally finished it this year. So, aside from that I’ve completed everything :)
What was something I failed at and what did I learn?
My plan to move to China, I don’t see it exactly as a failure because my Plan A, be an Au Pair, didn’t work out, and Plan B (teach English, but declined offers because China is too big and I didn’t want to start all over), were great experiences. I learned that when I’m ready to go into China, I need to learn the language, have a solid team, strategy to expand, how Chinese consumers want quality and expensive products, and so much more. I have no regrets going to China, and definitely will go back in the future!
What was the kindest thing I did for my family and friends?
Investing time in my relationships and putting effort to maintain the relationships. I get it, people are busy, so I call/text/message/Skype/Whatsapp my family and friends because no matter how busy I am, I will make time for them. Many people are selfish with their time, I’m not :)
What no longer worries me, that used to?
There’s a saying: You make a plan, and G-d laughs at your plan. So my future (I still have a great plan, but then again, 5 years ago I didn’t imagine myself living in SE Asia starting a business!) I'm not so worried about.
Where, or doing what, do I feel the most at peace?
Friday evenings, observing Shabbat and unplugging from the digital world.
Germany's Refugee Crisis
This is not a political piece, just what I saw, heard, and discussed while on holiday in Germany
Sources: Myself (a primary source), German friends that work and volunteer with the refugees, and talking with one of the refugees over the holidays over festive dinners with my host family.
For those that follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you already know that I'm traveling in Germany for the holidays. And I recently share, a brief comment about sharing my thoughts about the refugee crisis. It's very hard to ignore if not notice as a tourist. And, this is not my first time in Germany, I came in 2014 and 2015 and I'm absolutely shocked, SHOCKED, how much Frankfurt and Berlin, and the small city I'm currently staying in has...changed.
What I saw
A lot of young men (about 17-30), refugees, immigrants, students, and/or German citizens, many from North Africa, Eurasia Middle East, and Sub-Sahara Africa, as I travelled on the bus, to and from the train station in Frankfurt, fast food places, and generally hanging out in large groups in public spaces.
Women, (18-35), refugees, immigrants, students, and German citizens, appeared to also be from the Middle East, Eurasia, North Africa, and Sub-Sahara Africa, mostly with young kids pushing strollers (made for winter), with young children, or pregnant...few with their partners, friends, or by themselves.
Immigrant small businesses and restaurants: Turkish, Indian, Arab, Thai, Korean, etc.
What I heard
I heard French, German, English, Turkish, Arabic, and unfamiliar languages that I believe are from Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, and Ghana as I explored the streets and shopping area in Frankfurt
What I discussed & understand about the integration process
1. Refugees have come to Germany because while they apply and wait for the asylum status they do receive housing, food, vouchers (food and transit), health care, basic German language and culture classes. Once their application is successful they can enrol in an intensive German language courses and vocational programs to eventually work (these programs take 2-3 years).
2. Refugees from Muslim majority countries don't go to other Muslim countries, for 3 reasons: the Muslim countries don't offer a path to citizenship as they will be only guest who cannot work, integrate into the main society, attend the school, or hope to rebuild their lives in the new country as they are expected to go back. (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey have some of the largest amount of Syrian refugees). Secondly, Muslim countries don't want them for various reasons, from what I'm told they don't want to share or spend money on others, yes they are "brothers in faith," but that's all they have in common, better to go somewhere else....like Europe. Lastly, security, many of the refugees are young men, adding a surplus of uneducated (not all but most), unskilled, single males to the economy is bad for their struggling and already young workforce. Young single men without skills, education, or jobs are more prone to joining extremist groups like Isis that does create jobs for these young men.
3. Other immigrant groups that have come to Germany, such as the Turks (formerly the Ottomans, who's had relations with Germany dating back to WWI and in the 60s came to Germany as guest workers), have argued that the refugees and immigrants should have to work equally as hard to learn the language, gain skills to work, and integrate into German society.
4. German towns and cities that had accepted refugees (many without choice), have invested a lot of their taxes to house, feed, educate, and integrate the refugees. In the beginning of the crisis, many people volunteered and wanted to help (some still do), however it's not sustainable in the long term. Germans pay high taxes, and the way the social welfare works: the young and middle age work and contribute taxes into the system, and the older, retired, and unemployed population are taken care of (more complex, as my friend explained that German parents are responsible for their children are 27, and children are responsible for their parents well-being when they are old/or cannot take care of themselves). So, Germany has a low birthrate, however, allowing hundreds of thousands of refugees, some skilled and educated and most unskilled and not have sufficient education is not wise. It will take years, to integrate them because of the language, culture, and learn new skills (vocational or university education takes 2+ years) to give back (taxes).
5. Masculinity and respect for women is measured very different in Germany compared to the countries many refugees come from. So, for single, young, unskilled, and uneducated men will feel very isolated and feel loss of purpose because they don't know the language, are not working, and surprised by German women's independence (financial and economic), way of dress, and rights. Women have a much easier time integrating into a new society because they are more motivated given their new freedoms (don't have to stay at the home, child care), can work as cooks, cleaners, etc., and are not seen as a general threat.
Solutions and suggestions
Look at the Canadian refugee model, as Canada only accepts families, women, and older people.
Germany needs to clearly distinguish refugees from economic migrants (as most are) and deport them to their home countries (though most don't want them back) because most are not at war, just many don't have jobs or a future for their young people. And for refugees that are already here, make it clear their future to remain in Germany is secure if they can learn German, complete a vocational training program, not commit any crimes (like sexually abuse German or immigrant women), if not many German towns and cities will go bankrupt, AfD will get more support in the parliament, and German citizens will not be as welcoming and understanding (I learned that some wealthier Germans are planning to build gated communities).
I hope that Germany does find a more sustainable model, and wish the best for the genuine refugees and immigrants that want to make Germany their home.
Happy New Year!
Disclaimer: There are many different types of people living in Bangkok, it's a city where one can reinvent themselves and live a life that they possibly couldn't live back in their home country. So there are good and bad people here, like every city, but my focus is to highlight how Bangkok has allowed me to build my dreams :)
How your environment influences you
If you're a positive person, and you're around positive people, you will be positive. But if you're positive and around negative people, you'll eventually become negative. I'm not talking about pessimists and optimist characteristics as those have more to do with skepticism and hope. You can definitely be a optimist in a negative environment, because you have hope for something better. For me, I am a positive and optimistic person, but grew up in a negative environment. So, for the first 18 years of my life I was a negative optimist, until I left for university, and finally was able to create my own positive environment based on my friendships, social life, and classes. In university I was able to take leadership roles, engaged in hour-long conversation about life, religion, and politics, and met people from different backgrounds and cultures that I only saw on TV (I'm a small town girl). So, when I spent 5 weeks studying French abroad in Quebec, I knew I wanted to live abroad, travel the world, and settle in a place that would enabled me be positive and enthusiastic :)
Following my gut: China to Bangkok
Everyone I've met has an interesting story how they settled in Bangkok. However, my plan after I finished my studies in Israel was to teach English and build my startup in China. I only came to Thailand because I had to do some paperwork before I started teaching in Chongqing. What was supposed to be 2 weeks, filing and waiting for my visa to come through, turned into my decision that I wanted to teach and build my startup in Bangkok. Part of this abrupt decision was the fact I didn't like Chongqing when I was there for 3 days, I was not in the city centre, I was one of 4 foreign teachers so I got many stares, and I didn't speak or read any Mandarin, so my independence for travel was limited. When I arrived in Bangkok, it was so easy to travel around the city, find food and familiar restaurants, I found a yoga studio right near my hostel, and English was everywhere (well almost lol). So my 3rd week in and running low on funds, I started looking for teaching jobs. With advice from the hostel workers, I printed my resume, went directly to schools (emailing is useless), and one day walked into a Catholic school right near my hostel and bumped into one of the teachers (the Head Teacher) and asked if the school was hiring. Two weeks later, I got a job, a space on campus to live, and for the first time in my adult life lived in a city, centrally located with good food, nearby Skytrain, yoga studios, and co-working spaces.
Culture Shock: The Land of Smiles
All I knew about Thailand when I first moved here was that it was a Buddhist country, cheap place for holidays, and people loved the food. What was particularly hard in the first few months was "toning down" my straight-foward and chutzpa attitude, and understand that those characteristics only worked when I was living Israel. In Thailand, social hierarchy, non-confrontation, and soft-approach was how Thais and expats that did business with Thais operated. This took time for me to learn, and appreciate as it's good to know how to be a fox and a lion in a new environment. Doing business in Thailand (or Asia in general), I've learned the importance of building relationships, to be more patient and sympathetic, and most importantly marketing my business and personal brand on social media. In Thailand, one's personal brand and marketing is central to the success of a product, doesn't matter how good a product is, if people don't know you or like the brand, they won't buy. Hence, why I spend a lot of time and energy sharing and showing the progress of my startup on social media so customers, friends, strangers, possible investors can see what I'm doing, who I do business with, and how dedicated I am to my startup.
Bangkok Startup Community
Bangkok is the "gateway to ASEAN and the SE Asia" market because of it's strategic location, cheap cost of living, middle class status, and social mobility and business opportunities (with the right connections). Despite the English language challenges and bureaucracy/paperwork to start a business Bangkok is an excellent city for early stage entrepreneurs and startups keen to scaling and expanding to SE Asia. Yes, neighbouring startup communities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo are appealing given the proximity and support of investors and talent, but it's expensive to live in these cities and the maturity of the markets, makes creativity and innovation for change challenging because everything is built. Now, the best places to be are Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh/Hanoi, Jakarta, Phnom Penh, Yangon, and other SE Asian cities that are growing and have untapped opportunities for the most adventurous entrepreneur that are not afraid of a challenge. I like Bangkok, because it's so easy to get around, it's the biggest market for organic and natural cosmetics in SE Asia, people here are friendly and open to foreigners, and the startup community is small but very helpful if you need an introduction or resources to build your startup.
Community and Support
I devote a lot of time to building Healthy Hair Asia but I make time for friends, being active in my community and meet up groups, and have a supportive partner. It's important to have a life and meaning outside of work. So living in Bangkok, its a city you can meet great people, be part of some cool (and weird) groups, and find a partner (Thai or foreign). Bangkok has given me all: opportunity, community, a partner, and the ability to be positive and optimistic about my future.
As always, thank you for reading!