I get lost and lose things very easily!
Imagine trying to navigate a new place without Google maps AND in a new language (not Latin base),it’s hard, but one thing that never goes out of style is a traditional map. I love maps, compasses, and use landmarks to help me navigate a new city. I’m the type of person that can easily get lost or lose things, like losing my wallet, phone, cash, and passport on the bus when I first moved to Israel (which was luckily found by the bus driver who found it and returned it with everything in it), or losing my wallet again in Tel Aviv at a meet up event (but found it the next day in the meeting room), or misplacing my wallet in a small pocket in my big backpacker bag when I left Israel on my way to Hong Kong (quite a nightmare, but luckily the airline allowed me to get my backpack to get my wallet so I could buy a visa and to explore Doha).
Okay, clearly I have a problem with losing my wallet and have a strange luck of finding it (haven’t lost it since!) So from my clumsiness over the years I’ve never depended on Google maps rather relied on other means to learned navigate a new city and get my way out of a sticky situation (like the time getting lost with a friend after what was supposed to be a nice hike before Shabbat, turned nightmare for 4 hours in a Carmel National Park in Haifa, with no buses were running,jackals roaming around, phone battery dead, and only a compass and stars to find my way out).Point is, don’t depend on Google Maps, carry a map and don’t be afraid to ask strangers for help!
As for this new move, my first request from my host family was to get an English map of Qingdao, a city that is going through a construction craze—new condos, subways, sky train, and office buildings, as I need to get a big picture of how to navigate this city. And lo and behold my map arrived this week! Now what’s great is that the sea is literally a 10 minute walk from where I live and the longest road in the city, Xingaggang Rd, is a 5 minute walk from my neighbourhood, so my first week I got a limited perspective of the city and the map gave me a new idea of how to navigate this city (via bus for now).Fortunately, my host family encourages me to explore and learn about the Chinese culture, so I had quite a fulfilling week. I won’t bore you with details but this week l took the subway, (after traveling in Tokyo I’m confident I can navigate any subway in the world!,), the bus, I went to the zoo, learned some basic calligraphy and how to play the Chinese Zither, and ate hot pot. In general, life in Qingdao has enabled me to reflect how far I have come as an entrepreneur, because I know how to adapt to new places, situations, and people (in my case people staring, asking to take a picture with me, or people generally fascinated with my hair).
You can buy anything online!
You can order anything, I mean anything online from fresh seafood, dumplings, meat, to drinks, shoes, clothes, car parts, plants, and more. Best part is that you can have it all delivered directly to your door or the nearest postal service (and there everywhere!). I learned this from my host mom who ordered soy milk (from Thailand) and cereal (Honey Bunches of Oats) online, like seriously orders milk and cereal online! Call me crazy but is this the beginning of the end of grocery stores! When I asked her why and how people have resorted to grocery shopping online (I know there are a few grocery startups like Instacart which got 400 million in VC financing with a $3.4 billion valuation, crazy!) she explained it’s just so easy to shop online since many people have smart phones, the opportunity to do business online thanks to Alibaba, WeChat, and other shopping platforms, and how it saves people time (like, why waste gas to go to the mall, when you can shop at the comfort of your home!).
One of the primary reasons I moved to China is so I can learn how to develop the logistics and packaging of my products as I hope to expand Healthy Hair Asia throughout, well, Asia. China’s size, geography, and logistics of delivering and mailing food from different provinces is quite amazing to see in person. My host mother (I will say this a lot because she studied and speaks English well, and the family owns a business) explained to me that for the last 10 years people have been shopping online and retail has slowly been dying. Even for traditional food markets vendors have adapted to the digital economy, with customers using Alipay and other digital apps to buy fresh fruits, fish and vegetables, in contrary to the markets in the US (I worked on a goat farm one summer and sold goat cheese in some farmers markets, the owner did have Square so people could pay with their debit cards, but most customers and vendors only took cash) the US is quite far behind.
Beauty business China
Skincare is big business here in China (I would argue all over Asia) youthful and clear white skin is the ultimate beauty goal for women and men to have. However, I want to make it clear that there is a big difference between skin whitening business and skin care business. The skin whitening business reflects the historic classism or caste system that embeds many Asian societies, as the elites and upper class had white skin, whereas poor farmers and workers had darker skin (an over simplification yes), and those who aspired to become part of the upper class associate wealth, success, and beauty to people with white skin. Today, this belief of success and wealth equals having white skin,still despite the rising middle class (though TV doesn’t reflect this) and growing social mobility. Also, there is a hierarchy in Asia, countries likes Japan, Korea, China (not the nouveau rich, rather “old money” who interestingly immigrated out of China decades ago throughout SE Asia and are responsible of developing banking, infrastructure, manufacturing, shipping, trade in countries like Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Thailand) as the upper class countries that sets the beauty standards and supply the best skin care products. Check out Korean beauty and Japanese brandsshops, they are the “L’Oreal” of the Asian beauty market. Now, skin care business caters to having healthy, youthful, flawless skin, though white skin is the standard, if you have white skin you still have to put time and money to maintain it’s health and youth. Having healthy, clear, and flawless skin, whether it’s white, tan, or dark, is the means of having ageless skin, i.e. looking younger. (if you disagree and want to give a more detailed explanation, please do so in the comment section).
Now where was I? Skin care is big business, hair care comes second,despite most of the hair extensions, manufacturing, and suppliers are based in Asia. Does that mean no opportunity for me? No, because the trend right now is living a healthy lifestyle.What do I mean? Allow me to paint at the big picture. With the rising middle class in Asia people have more disposable income, people are hungry for quality and luxury products and lifestyle from the “West.” From, designer clothes, kitchen appliances, cars, and sending their children to boarding school in UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and US (most of my former students are well-travelled and some spend their summers in Australia and New Zealand just to practice their English), and buying property. The value to have a western education, property, and lifestyle is changing the global economy and Asian families (not all) are the “new kids on the block” with money to spend. I won’t digress to much, but with more money, Asian consumers can spend money on quality products and services. And there is a demand for more natural, organic, and halal cosmetic products. So the timing couldn’t be more perfect for Healthy Hair Asia!
I’ve been in Qingdao for only 2 weeks, and I cannot promise every week I will have something exciting to write about, but I will say, my next post will be quite interesting.
Thank you all for reading about my adventure and journey to building Healthy Hair Asia.