Back From China and Happy to Be Home

Oh I cannot tell you the feeling of coming back home after a long trip. It feels great to eat my home cooked meals, to sleep in my comfortable bed, and to shower in peace and serenity.

China was such a great experience for me because I learned a lot about their everyday culture and their corporate culture. Interacting with many Chinese students and adults helped me expand my horizons and understand a new perspective of how they live their lives. One of the main concepts I struggled to understand was their conservative culture. Although I am from Saudi Arabia, I am pretty Westernized in the sense that I love to talk about contraversial topics, about current global issues, and discuss anything that has to do with political or economic conflicts.

I was hoping to get the insight of the Chinese on US- China relations, but I was fairly disappointed when I didn’t. I felt as though the conferences did not promote open and honest discussions, but rather a fake-fairytale dream relationship between US and China. The conferences we went to made it seem that the relations were overly optimistic and perfectly sound, but we all know the truth here. One thing that frustrated me most was when Americans would try to take the conversation to a deeper level and mention the issues between the two countries, the people on the panel would respond very cunningly by avoiding the topic or trying to make it seem more positive.

We all have differences, and the Chinese and US definitely does too. A suggestion to political leaders of both US and China is that they should come to reality with their struggles. They should acknowledge their problems, and their differences — and a solution, or numerous solutions can be discussed. However, if we just brush off our differences and act like they never happened, or be in denial of what is actually going on between the two countries, then no problem can ever be solved that way.

From this trip, I have learned to embrace and understand a different culture. This way, I have managed to see life through their eyes and their perspectives. Although I do have a lot of disagreements with the Chinese government principles  I have come to terms with it, and I’ve also embraced their differences because it gave me a new experience to see events, obstacles and issues in a different light.

Thank you for keeping up with my journey so far.

I hope to find time to write to you soon, as I have been very busy with my family during Ramadan. It is a religious holiday where all people of my religion fast from dawn to dusk. Pretty cool isn’t it?

I’ll keep you updated.



World Strides US & China Conference

Hey guys,

So I went to a US-China conference last night in one of Shanghai’s most prestigious universities called Fudan. It was really interesting to meet all types of Chinese students who constantly hope for bright futures and mass successes. It was also very intriguing to meet the young students and have a one on one interaction with them.

The classroom I was assigned to had a very wide and open space which allowed for a lot of interaction between both the Chinese and US students. We talked about cultural differences and our different point of views and it was very interesting to open my eyes to a whole new experience of how others perceive the world.

Whenever we did activities together, the debrief questions always got somewhat personal. The Chineese students had a very hard time opening up about their perceptions about the Chinese government whereas the Americans were very open about all the economic and political/race issues that go on in the US. When I speak my mind, I find it very easy to share my opinions with others – but I learned that other people, specifically Chinese, like to be a little more reserved with their thoughts and perceptions.

Furthermore, because I am a very direct person, I always find the need to be as straight forward as possible. This is due to the fact that I am a very low context person, I like to get straight to the point – I find it hard to resonate with people who beat around the bush. But I learned to respect their high context culture because I don’t want to have a “be like me” bias. Low context or High Context — no option is better than the other, it is just a matter of preference and culture. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in China is that people don’t always have to be open with their thoughts, opinions, perceptions, and it doesn’t make you any better than others who are more kept to themselves about their true feelings and emotions. It just depends on how a person prefers to speak to another, and if there are differences, then they must be accepted and embraced.

Speaking of cultural differences, my proctor considered the American culture as “friendly” and the Chinese culture as “Not Friendly.” Although I am not Chinese, I got personally offended by his statement. It’s not that Chinese are not friendly, they are just more reserved and kept to themselves when it comes to a first time encounter with another person. The value of this story is that one should always respect different types of cultures and understand why people act the way they do. Americans were not born and raised the same way the Chinese were: the culture is different, the environment is different, and the political “ruling” of choice is definitely unique from one another.

My final thoughts are that we should not stereotype a certain race as “not friendly”, we must understand why people perceive them that way and change our minds about them. Also, be careful of the ethnocentric bias, Americans are Americans and Chinese are Chinese – no one is better than the other, and definitely no one is more “friendly” than the other.

That is all.

My flight is tomorrow, I’ll update you as soon as possible.



Adventures at the Local Market


Hi everyone,
China has been wonderful so far and I am excited to fill you in on my whereabouts.
Today, I visited the local market in Beijing with my best friends Lateef and Jamjoom. It was an outdoor souk consisting of local cafes, cool gift shops, and delicious eateries.
I bought a few souvenirs for my family because I miss them. But I had to bargain for all my purchases. The salespeople were quite difficult to communicate with and were unwilling to give me reasonable prices. However I learned the skill of bargaining and I think it’s a valuable quality to have.
I visited Starbucks at the Market and it was incredibly different than the one in the states. It was a very high end cafe with fancy wooden chairs and antique-looking tables. Also, their flavors were very creative as they ranged from boba matcha green tea to tiramisu frappiccinos.
Needless to say, Starbucks used the localization strategy to tailor their products in order to meet local needs. I have come to the realization that Chinese people enjoy sweeter foods than those the US, and this was fairly evident when I tasted their iced mango tea. It had a lot of sugar, and it was a little too sweet for my liking.
In terms of customer service, the baristas were very calm and conservative in comparison to the upbeat and energetic servers in America. Due to apparent cultural differences and language barriers, I could not request for a smaller size because she didn’t fully understand my order – it’s all good though.
 In America, the baristas have a more aggressive sales approach with their customers – asking questions such as “would you like whipped cream with that?” “Can I get you anything else for you today?” I wonder if Baristas in China do the same with their customers since they can speak the same language. Are salespeople more aggressive in America due to their overbearing marketing strategies or are Chinese people just conservative in their daily sales practices?
I’ll let you ponder on that for while, but now I’ll be heading to Shanghai.
See you soon

What is PUDONG?


How can one possibly forget that magnificent view from 172nd floor skyscraper, knowing that they are on a semi island that is surrounded with a beautiful river? Well as I examine and enjoy the surrounding area, one cannot ignore the existence of the modernly and uniquely built and some other under construction skyscrapers with their stunning architecture. As we had the chance to catch our breathes after the breath taking view, we went to an exhibition that explained the surrounding area. A district inside the city of Shanghai, called Pudong. Pudong is a very strategic and a vital location that holds the financial, shipping and trading centers, therefore it is considered as the international business center in China.

IMG_2124The most astonishing thing about Pudong, the fact that it holds the fortune of 100 companies registered in it, meaning that they are active in the market making business and using resources in China . They managed to attract all these companies by not only establishing places and services that is suitable and beneficial for them, but also the fact that it is a free trade zone that offers low cost manufacturing and it is accessible my more than 1 billion people.

Over the period of 5 years, there was 800 billion Yuan invested in Pudong and more than twenty thousand foreign projects executed in the district. Although the Chinese market berries of entry was very high, companies still fought for it for the reason that they were acknowledged by the fact that it is worth the investment. The latest prediction states that by the end of 2015 China is expecting Pudong to have 1 to 2 percent higher GDP growth in comparison to Shanghai.

In the past, Pudong started with having a free trade zone but they have taken that to the next level, since many sources have described it as Shanghai’s economic and social development engine. Additionally, it has been awarded as the National Model District and it continues its development as it connects the gap between local companies and multinational ones. So far the results are positive, seeing that it is establishing more investments and creating more job opportunities, in which one can say that it is yielding some of the most fundamental necessities for economic growth.


Until Next Time, China

With the travel course completed and my time in China drawing to a close, I can say with confidence that both my character and skills have grown immensely from my first real experience abroad. The full immersion in another culture, from trying new and exotic foods (looking at you, chicken feet and snake), to sharing stories with the locals, gave me a new insight on the inner workings of China, and the people that drive its advancement.

The history of China is long and complicated, but seeing its great accomplishments of the past still standing and cherished as traditional and cultural relics acts as a testament to China’s respect of its storied history and its commitment to the values that dictated Chinese society centuries ago. The Temple of Heaven was an awe-inspiring sight, and people could be seen practicing Tai-Chi and meditating as locals and tourists alike marveled at the spiritual energy and dominating presence of these ancient structures. The Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai granted a similar experience, albeit a less crowded one, as I witnessed Buddhist monks in meditation and surrounded by impressive and intricate statues of all their deities. While visiting the cultural sights of Beijing and Shanghai helped me better understand the history behind China, it was the company visits and interaction with Chinese students that gave me greater insight into the culture and society that dictates Chinese life, and how this carries over into business, both domestic and international.

The Chinese are a very high-context language culture, and much of their communication is left unsaid, supplemented by tradition and gestures instead of vocalized. This was seen by the importance of providing gifts when meeting with clients and assigning high respect to your superiors. Another interesting component of their business culture is the concept of guanxi, which simply means relationships in Chinese, but encompasses a much broader spectrum of actions that define interactions between people. Under guanxi, saving face is important, and controversial or inappropriate topics are often avoided, as to not create conflict with whoever you’re talking to. This can lead to some trouble when dealing with US businesses overseas, as the US is very blunt and forward, and will approach problems head on, no matter the discomfort it may cause others.

Overall, I’ve gained new understanding on what it takes to do business internationally, and the effect that different cultures can have on consumer preferences and a company’s ability to effectively communicate and do business.

China Reflection

During my life I have never had a strong desire to visit China, however, I’m extremely grateful for the experience I had with this entire group. As my first international trip I can say that I loved every moment. We visited some of the most famous tourist destinations, while also learning about Chinese culture and their corporate business environment.

Overall, this experience has taught me that no matter what nationality or culture you belong to, we are all humans with similar desires. This seems like a simple concept, however, it is very easy to feel isolated in your own country and culture –forgetting that there are other people in different nations trying to live their lives as well. But, because we do not see these people every day or care enough to listen to the news on a regular basis we can forget about them and only think of ourselves. We may have different political views and approach situations differently, but we all want to survive, feel accepted, and live comfortably.

Throughout the entire trip, we often heard that the relationship between the United States and China is vital to the world. I understand this because things as we know it are becoming more and more global, especially when it comes to businesses. I do believe this relationship is important, however, it seems overdramatized. After observing China for the brief two weeks we visited, I noticed a lot of progress but also a lot of need for change. No doubt that their economy is one of the strongest in the world, however, they do face a lot of challenges.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was the visit to the Shanghai Stock Exchange and not only because the entire building was covered in fenestra’s but because I personally love investing in the stock market. I’ve never had a tour guide be so honest about some of the more ethically questionably aspects of their business environment. Additionally, I enjoyed the student summit because of the new friendships that I formed in the classroom activities. It was interesting to understand the Chinese students’ viewpoints and compare them to my own. Despite this, I did find most of the summit somewhat useless. It seemed like one big photo shoot.

I’m so grateful for this cultural experience and especially to have had the opportunity to travel with such a good group of students and professors from Chapman. After being home for almost a month, I’m more appreciative of the life I live in the United States and the opportunities that have been given to me. I cannot wait to travel the world more and gain a more wordily view.

Shanghai Stock Exchange


A huge building in the middle of the financial center. As we entered the main floor we see a big stage with seatings for audience then behind it is the trading floor with 100 old computers. Screens all around the room with graphs, green and red tickers showing the daily stock activity. Looking around the room I imagined 20 years ago before the internet boom this huge room would be filled with hundreds of people shouting, hearing telephones ringing in the background, and when a stock is increasing in price everyone starts to buy in it so it keeps going up I imagined it like a movie seen.IMG_2147IMG_2146IMG_2150IMG_2146

As we walked through the place there was a finance professor who was giving us a tour of the place. He explained that the place is like museum now, all of the trading now a days happen through the internet. The internet have changed how stock trading is done and made it way faster. With the internet with just pressing a button you can make a transaction, instead of going to a place and finding people who wants to sell then buy from them.

People’s culture and traditions affects business and simultaneously affect the stock market. China is a vey cultural country, they are very high context in communications, they have higher archy structure, decisions take a long time to get executed, and they do not like to report bad news. That all affects the stock market directly and indirectly.

The finance professor was frustrated as he was explaining to us about their stock market. First thing he said “it is an inefficient market”. Chinese companies do not report everything happening, as I said earlier they do not like report bad news; so they always share high profit and good news, people know it is not true so it is not reflected on the stock price. So people trade based on algorithms, or with using insider information and knowing someone who owns big chunk of the stock so they can affect the price. The professor ended with “If you do not know an insider it is very hard to make money”.

I believe with China being more globalized, their market will get efficient but it will take some time.

The Streets Of China


china cars


China the biggest car producer in the world, Automotive companies are investing billions of dollars in the Chinese economy, to get access to low cost manufacturing and an exponentially growing automotive market. As we have witnessed the heavy traffic in Beijing; they have been trying to implement rules and regulations to decrease traffic and the growth of the car population. For example to get a license plate it is a lottery process and they will issue only certain amount of plates each year, another rule; there is a certain day in the week which cars with a certain plate number is prohibited to be driven. Not only in Beijing other cities as well are increasing prices to get a license plate for new cars so less people buy cars. With that being said there is more than 200 million cars registered in China and expected to reach 300 million within the next 10 years. In 2014 there was 24 million cars produced in China which 20 Million of that is sold in China.

An impressive unique fact about China; that 90% of the cars in the streets of China are manufactured locally. Regardless of the brand almost every Automotive brand in the world manufacture in China. That is a unique fact that boost their economy. They have attracted all these companies not only because of the efficient industrial system and cheap labor they have also an entry one of the biggest markets in the world.

The streets are the most diverse place in China, I have seen all kinds of cars from British Rolls Royce and Bentleys, Italian Maserati, German Porsche BMW Audi and Mercedes, Japanese Toyota and Honda, USA Ford and Jeep, California Tesla which was not expected. Any multinational company who wants to enter the Chinese market have to form a joint venture with a local automotive company which are state owned.

Even though there is a strong presence from pioneer automotive companies; that did not stop local Chinese companies to make their own cars and compete, even though they came to the market late, they have been competing aggressively in the local and international market with their low pricing model. I find this really impressive and I believe it is one of the secrets to their tremendous economic growth; they are not satisfied with just attracting foreign companies to manufacture locally, they learn and benefit from them to make their own products and compete with them. Some of the Chinese cars that I saw not only in China internationally as well Geely, Cherry, and BYD. They are known by having high features and low prices.

I have travelled around the world and been to many different cities, I can easily say Beijing has the most diverse streets. In the same street you can see Luxury european cars, Chinese cars, and rickshaw bicycles.

Our Time at Fudan University

In all honesty, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect out of the US-China Student Summit as we got closer and closer to the actual dates of the summit. I wasn’t sure how enjoyable it would be and I had no idea what I would learn from the two days. Now that I look back on it and that the summit is all over now, I would not say it was the most insightful aspect of the trip. I can easily name four other outings we did as a group in which I learned more. That being said, going through the activities with the Chinese students and interacting with them in an extremely casual manner was an experience I will remember forever. Teaching some of the brilliant students American slang and learning Chinese slang was extremely funny. There are certain phrases we say (especially in California), that we don’t even think about twice when we say them. I know that the point I am making here but it really helped me fully understand what cultural relativism is. This, obviously, is only an extremely small example of this concept.
At the summit, we did not go as in depth into business differences in US and China as I would have liked. However, understanding how the students and how the Chinese people think is a skill I would never have learned without this trip/this summit. It is one thing to speak the language of Mandarin, but to really understand the culture and be able to connect with the people is a whole different “beast”, so to speak.
As Tala mentioned in her recent post, I also found that the students had a difficult time opening up about even the smallest topics. They were a bit scared to share the opinions about social issues, gender differences, etc. I know it sounds typical, but any government issues that the American students brought up, they did not want to discuss at all. They wanted nothing to do with those types of conversations. It really made me think about how I, personally, share my opinions in a new perspective.
In regards to the various speakers and panels at the conference, I was, the most impressed with the consulate general. The points he brought up from an American perspective were pretty interesting to me. They were pretty similar to the points we had heard for the entire 10 days were in China. However, I remember I was