Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How is this ad appropriate?

Evisu is a Japanese clothing brand, so maaaaaybe they're not aware of the controversy. Which I might believe, except for the internet, and that fact that you can just google the man.

Legally, no, there's nothing wrong here, since Richardson was never charged.  However, the practice of settling sexual harassment claims out of court screams "slime" to me, so I'm not sure that the image of him pulling at models' swimsuits is entirely the best image.

So the question then becomes one of good taste.  The imagery here is very reminiscent of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines", and further adds to the question of how far is too far in advertising.  Are we desensitised to this?  Or do we just not care anymore?  Research has shown differences in how models of different races are depicted in advertising in Asia.  I wonder if people would then be more bothered if the model here was an Asian woman.

Not entirely procrastinating here...I am actually writing a paper about advertising, though I'm really focusing on some research I'd like to do about the acceptance of retouching in advertising in Asia.  So 50% procrastination at worst!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to travel in China

When I first came back from China in 2006 everyone had questions.  Fair enough, I'd been away for a year, and there was lots to catch up on.  One of the questions I heard the most, or variations on it, was, "Weren't you scared?"

Yes.  Yes I was.  But that's not really the point, because while I was terrified going there, once I got there and settled in (which took a few weeks), I was fine.  Where I lived wasn't precisely a bustling metropolis either (still isn't). Now, I'm an extremely stubborn person, and I do like to stick to things once I've started them, so giving up on China was never an option for me.  But I have come across a lot of people who put visiting China under the heading of "too hard", so I got thinking about tips, ideas and thoughts about travelling there that might answer some questions.

  • You don't need to speak the language.
In hotels and hostels, the staff will speak enough English to meet your needs.  Many restaurants have picture menus, so pointing can do a lot.  Hotel/hostel staff are also really helpful with writing down places and directions for you to give taxi drivers.  Most market  stall operators in the touristy markets will speak English as well, and you can use a calculator to bargain.  A small attempt at the basics of the language will be very much appreciated by locals though, even if it's just being able to say "Hello", "Thank you", "Sorry" and "One more beer, please".  I survived my first few months in China with basic counting skills, the names of a few dishes, and pleasantries. 
  • There is no shame in doing a tour
Tours are a great way to see a large country if you've got limits on your time.  They're also a good way of managing if you feel like the language barrier will be too much, particularly if you want to visit somewhere a little off the beaten track.  There's also any number of day tour operators, and private guides that operate in cities that are popular with tourists.  When we went to Beijing and Xi'an in 2012, we took two day tours.  For visiting the Great Wall and the Ming tombs in Beijing we booked onto a group tour, and in Xi'an we have booked a private guide and driver to visit the Terracotta Warriors, Gao family house, and Banpo Neolithic Village.  For a site like the Terracotta Warriors, we felt that the expense was worth it to get the most out of that day.  The tour in Beijing was perfect for the first day we were there.  We were able to see two of the main sights, and having a driver is always nice.  The private tour in Xi'an was the best thing ever.  Our guide was delightful, and it was really great to have someone to ourselves to show us around that day.  Highly recommended.
  • The food is good
And nothing like Chinese food outside of China.  Each region has it's own specialities, with distinct tastes and dishes.  Rat is a delicacy, and not something you'll be fed because the restauranteurs couldn't be bothered to kill a chicken, the Chinese don't really eat those scorpions on sticks either, and if you want General Tso's chicken, you may be disappointed.  Good Chinese food should be simple, fresh and tasty.   A packed hole in the wall restaurant staffed by a harassed grandma and her family will always be better than an ostentatious be-chandeliered restaurant staffed by bored hostesses in evening gowns with no patrons.  Street food is something that shouldn't be missed either.  If it's served to you hot out off a wok, pan, steamer or grill it's probably going to be ok. Pointing and miming usually works at these places fine, and you may find yourself with a piping hot noodle soup with your choice of add-ins, Chinese barbecued lamb, fresh chive dumplings, or a piping hot egg custard bun, or any variety of tasty snacks.  Leave the stinky tofu though.
  • Use your resources
Aside from the obvious advice to do a lot of research before you go, using what's available to you once you're in China is a really good way to make your trip go a little smoother.  Most hostels and hotels will be able to help with anything from booking trains and flights, to helping decide activities, and writing down directions for taxi drivers.  In general, service in China is quite good and people are quite friendly and willing to help.  I actually think that the level of friendliness towards foreigners has risen since 2005, and this can only be a good thing.
  • You will get stared at
People will stare at you.  If you're really pale, blond, red haired, left handed or particularly tall (or if you and your friends are a combination thereof), you will really get stared at.  However, the staring is rarely meant in a bad way, and it's usually just simple curiousity.  A big smile and a "nihao" (hello) will get you a long way.  I think that in some areas of China westerners are common enough that the amount of staring has gone down, but it's still there in some areas.  Break the ice, give them a smile and say hello, you never know what might happen!
  • Be aware
This really goes without saying for any sort of travel, but always be aware of what's going on around you.  As with any major tourist destination with big crowds, pick pockets are a problem, but so long as you're aware of what's going on around you, and where your bag is, you should be ok.
  • Keep an open mind
Again, this goes for all travel really, but China (and anywhere else you might go with a different culture) can really screw with your mind if you keep thinking, "this isn't like it is at home".  Embrace the weirdness, and revel in the new experiences!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I have a complicated relationship with the word "gweilo"

Obviously, given that I've used it in my blog name.

 For some background information for the non-Cantonese speakers out there, gweilo is a word used in Cantonese to refer to foreigners. Gwei (鬼) means ghost, and there's a bunch of stuff tied into white skin. Commonly, gweilo is translated as "foreign devil". It is under fairly common usage in the Cantonese speaking parts of China and Hong Kong, and while I don't think it is always supposed to be pejorative, it is not the most polite term to refer to foreigners. Other areas with Chinese cultural history, like Singapore, have their own words as well, like Ang mo.

 Having spent one year in Southern China, and now nearly three years in Hong Kong, I have heard gweilo used often. In China, it was most often heard coming off the back of a passing motorcycle: "Hellloooooo gweilooooo". People would not often use it to my face, and my colleagues in China certainly never used it in my hearing, preferring the much more politically correct ”外国人“ or “外国朋友” (foreigner, or foreign friend). Most conversations I've had with people in China since then have used those terms.

 In Hong Kong I hear gweilo quite often, and often rudely. I use it myself, but I do so with some sense of irony. I know very well what it means, and its connotations. Some people are shocked that I would use it, but my thinking is, if you are going to use it to describe me and others like me, then I should be able to use it too. And maybe they can think about it for themselves, whether they want to continue using it too.

 All that being said, there are settings where it is absolutely inappropriate to use language like that. I would never refer to myself as gweilo in a class, or in a similar professional setting, nor do I plan to use it when I teach later on in my PhD (unless language use in Marketing comes up, but that's different again).

 What brought all this on? Last night, as part of one of my Customer Relationship Management classes at CityU, we had a guest speaker. I won't name him, because I suspect he's the sort of fellow who has a google tracker on his name, but suffice to say, he used to be reasonably well known in Hong Kong, and is now a DBA student at CityU.

 During Mr Guest Speaker's lecture, he kept slipping bits of Cantonese into his talk. While I have some basic Cantonese, enough to get by in the market, quickly spoken asides in a lecture are not something that I will be able to catch. But then he started using "gweilo". The first time, I wasn't sure I'd heard it right, because I thought, "This guy's a professional, surely he would know better than that!"

But no, it continued. I began to wonder if he was just assuming I didn't know what it means, or if he just didn't care. Either way, it felt very much like he was addressing the entire class except me, and there was really a point when I just wanted to say "I'm RIGHT HERE". His whole talk was about staying on top of change, and making sure that communication, and presentation moves with it too, and so many of his points were somewhat ruined for me by his presentation of himself. He talks about keeping up with change. Well, guess what, Chinese are not just learning English, but foreigners are learning Chinese. He talks about presenting things in the right way. Well, I change my language use depending on where I am and who I'm talking to, and above all I try to know my audience.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I joined instagram last night

And I'm not sure yet how I feel about it.  I wouldn't call myself social media resistant, but I have been hesitant about signing up to every new thing.  Besides, instagram was, for so long, only an iphone thing.  When I finally got a smart phone (after moving to HK), I went the android route.  At that point, instagram for android was still a new thing.  But now, nearly three years, I'm there.

I went to a talk at my university last night about hashtag marketing, and I did find it interesting.  I would like to know more about the numbers behind hashtag marketing though.  Given that I'm more interested in the research side of things, it makes sense that I want to know the numbers.  The guy giving the talk did say that hashtags haven't really taken off here yet, but companies are just now beginning to push it.

Since hashtags have a bad rep for being obnoxious, we'll see how it goes here.  Will we get some hilarious Chinglish or otherwise badly thought out hashtags?  I hope so, because it's all a learning process for local companies.  It's not like the west does it perfectly either.  Google will give you all sorts of amusing articles about how not to hashtag.

For me, maybe instagram will get me to start capturing the weird and wonderful again.  Living in Hong Kong has normalised.  Time to start finding the wonder again, I think!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Okay okay...

Nearly two years have passed, I know.  But I do want to get back to writing more.

The last 18 months have been fairly eventful, but I think the last 6 months were the most...impacting?  I'm not sure if that's the right word.

Last time I wrote in June, I hadn't finished up at my job yet.  Well, I did that, and that was good.  Then Craig and I went on our summer adventure to Beijing and Xi'an, which was excellent.  Well, Beijing was a bit average, but Xi'an was amazing and I would happily go back there.

I ended up taking a full year off, and spent a lot of that time applying for universities and trying to work out what I wanted to do.  In the end I was accepted to join the MSc in Marketing at City University of Hong Kong.  I'm about half way through my second semester now, and I will finish up in August this year.

Last summer Craig and I went off to Canada for a month, spending one week in Vancouver and 3 ish weeks in Calgary.  I wish we could have spent more time in Vancouver, because I really love it there.  Visiting Canada again was nice, and it was certainly a nice break to get away from the Hong Kong heat for a bit.  I got to catch up with a few of my friends, and Craig and I also did a few day trips to the mountains which was great.

So I started my masters in September and it is going quite well.  It is a coursework masters, with a greater focus on going into the industry, which is not really my plan, but it is good to keep learning (or relearn as the case may be) some of the stuff. At the end of the first semester I applied to enter the PhD program at CityU and also applied for the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship scheme.

This bit is harder to write.  In August last year my mum's health started declining.  She had two surgeries while we were in Canada, and the doctors found more cancer in her bones.  Craig and I flew to Australia for a long weekend in October to see her so that we could have memories of her while she was still her, so to speak.  From there things declined further, and a few days before Christmas my sister called to tell me we needed to get to Australia asap.  Flying out of HK at Christmas is very busy, but we got the earliest flights we could to try and get there to say goodbye.  Sadly, we couldn't get there in time, and Mum passed away in hospital on the 21st of December, the night before we flew out of here.  So Craig and I spent Christmas, unexpectedly in Australia.  Being able to be with my whole family at that time was invaluable to me.  I do so wish Mum could have known the news that was coming up though.

School started again in January.  My classes aren't bad, and I actually really like some of them.  The second week of semester came with some surprising news.  I got accepted into the PhD program at CityU!  I wasn't expecting to hear anything at all on that until March, so to get the news so early was quite nice.  The university also has recommended me for one of the fellowships.  That I definitely won't find out about until March or April.  But either way, I'm in, and I know what I'm going to be doing for the next four years!

Chinese New Year has come and gone.  I'm hoping for a wonderful year of the Horse.  Craig's parents were here, and I think they had a good time.  I was quite busy with assignments and such, but Craig did tons of touristing with them.  Apparently an accidental trip to Peng Chau is quite the thing!

And so here I am.  What am I doing today?  Reading up on the cleaning service industry in Hong Kong.  This is not for fun, but for a consulting project which will wrap up in the next 6 weeks or so.  At least I've got some winter Olympics to keep me company.  The view out the window certainly isn't inspiring me.  I will try to keep up more with this.  I do need to keep my writing up to scratch, and I should try and document more of the stuff I see.  We'll see, I guess!