We finally made it! After what seems like days of flying, Chapman finally stepped foot on China soil. Today, on our first free day, professor Wihlborg gave us an assignment at breakfast: find a company that exists in both the United States and China, then compare the differences and similarities. With that in mind, we were set loose to explore the big Beijing city on our own! We wanted to hit the ground running and started immediately. A small group of us decided to explore one of my favorite spots in Beijing, NanLuoGuXiang (Chinese: 南锣鼓巷; pinyin: nánluógǔxiàng). This spot is, for lack of a better word, a “hipster” street. NanLuoGuXiang is hidden kitty corner to HouHai (Chinese: 后海; pinyin: hòuhǎi), a destination that we briefly rickshawed yesterday. All the architecture of the buildings on this block date back hundreds of years, however, to preserve the old structures, yet keep a new innovative touch, store owners have recycled ancient architecture by renovating the indoors to create a modern yet “gŭdài”(Chinese:古代) [gŭdài meaning historical/antique-like] atmosphere. This tourist spot allows for visitors to experience China's old Hutongs (Chinese: 胡同; pinyin: hútòng), trinkets, and local foods. NanLuoGuXiang is known for its yogurt, cold noodles, and shaved ice. Perfectly placed along our hot and sunny walk was one store that sat at each corner of all the crowded streets, Starbucks.
For my assignment, I decided to review the infamous American global coffee company: Starbucks. Because we were all American, as we walked by each store, it didn’t seem so odd. However, in Chinese culture, coffee is yet another fad built through great marketing and a demand pull strategy. Chinese culture is known for its thousands of years in producing, picking, and drinking tea. They believe that tea not only tastes good, but comes with a cure for a variety of ailments. As the American culture of drinking coffee became more popular and Chinese consumers were looking for the next big thing, Starbucks rose to popularity among a few other foreign brands (including Costa Coffee, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, etc).
Starbucks changed up the menu compared to our North American stores to accommodate local Chinese taste, which is to no surprise, since China is one of Starbucks' biggest markets. As you can see in pictures below, there are menu items similar to China's famous Dragon Festival food, ZongZi [shown above] (Chinese:粽子; pinyin: zòngzi), a traditional steamed Chinese snack made from rice and an array of fillings rapped in large flat leaves.
Alongside the classic coffee brews, teas, and refreshers, Starbucks also carries many flavors that appeal to local customers, such as red bean, matcha, black sesame, and green tea frappuccinos. By having these other items, Starbucks can profit from a country that isn't accustom to the coffee drinker scene, keep loyal customers, and attract new ones.
As you can see in the pictures below, the prices in China are also 10-20 percent more than they are in the states. The relatively high pricing compared to the Unites States is due to the cost of doing business in the Chinese market. According to studies by NBC News, “the average Chinese earns $500 a month and drinks just three cups of coffee a year.” Like I said before, the Chinese don't have the same customs of drinking a “cup a joe” in the morning to get the day started; it is not part of their culture. The reason why Starbucks IS so popular is the ever growing brand conscious middle class. Starbucks is not merely a coffee store, it is a lounge for business goers, students, and the trendy youth.
Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Great Wall, Oh my!
Aside from our exciting free day, we also visited many other tourist sites with Worldstrides. During our first few days in Beijing, we toured the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and last but not least, the Great Wall. Never ever have I hit so many tourist sites in one day. It was tiring, but we definitely absorbed as much of Beijing as we possibly could in as short of an amount of time as possible. [See below gallery]
From seeing all of these sites in one day, there was one take away that I couldn't help but notice: China is truly an ancient and magnificent country filled with walls that snake for miles into the horizon, intricate temples made without nails, vast hidden cities and monuments of cultural significance that mark important events in Chinese history. I can't wait to see what's next!
Until next time…