May 6th

By: Jennifer, Chantelle, and Colin

We had a full day in Beijing today. The day started, as usual, with an excellent breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast we jumped on the bus to head to our first tour of the morning: Tiananmen Square. We arrived pretty quickly, the square is only about 6km from our hotel and the traffic wasn’t too bad. Lisa (our awesome tour guide) explained the layout of the square and the significance of the buildings. Upon walking into the square, you feel the importance of the area. It was quite clear that Tiananmen Square is an important area for the Chinese people. The buildings and the square itself are massive. We were told that the square could hold around a million people! Military soldiers were in different parts of the square standing at attention. There was a monument in the center of the square and at its base, there were a few people wearing traditional red and white robes standing very still. Lisa explained that these individuals were selected from various schools and that it was a very prestigious honor to be able to stand where they were standing.

After some time at Tiananmen Square, we passed through the Tiananmen Gate into the Forbidden City. Passing from Tiananmen Square to the Forbidden City was almost like stepping further into the past: much of Tiananmen Square’s historical significance is rooted in the era of Chairman Mao Zedong while the Forbidden CIty played a significant role in the feudal era of China. It’s hard to believe that the Forbidden City was built almost 600 years ago. Once again, Lisa had lots of information for our group on the buildings in the city and the history.

A couple of funny things happened at the Forbidden City. A local came up to Brent trying to sell something; a souvenir book. No one could understand what he was saying, but we were able to make out one thing: he referred to Brent as Happy Buddha. We all had a pretty good laugh at that. Later, in the Imperial Garden, Colin was mobbed by a group of Chinese girls for pictures. We’re not sure why they wanted pictures with him but they seemed pretty excited.

After the Forbidden City we went to an Acrobat Show. It was both awe inspiring and terrifying for us. The awe stemmed from the feats of strength and flexibility displayed that, in our opinions, were even more challenging than those in Cirque de Soleil. And the terror came from some of the stunts being quite dangerous and lacking in apparent safety equipment. For instance, surely we’re all familiar with the motorcycle in the metal ball shaped cage. Ya, they did that with eight bikes in there! One of us was nervous because of the photos she’s seen from motorcycle accidents of broken bones and scrapped metal. However, everyone make it out safely and we were very relieved. The show was decidedly entertaining: we were all mentally and emotionally invested in the different acts and the safety of the performers. It was beautiful.

After a fun filled day, many of us spent the evening practicing our negotiation skills at a nearby market. You would think that MBA skills would come in handy in this environment, but we soon found out that most of us were out of our element. The knock-off watches, purses and array of silk products, among many other things, varied significantly in price point throughout the negotiating process. Members of our group lucky enough to shop with the Bartering Ninja (a.k.a Professor Wong) secured several good deals. Those of us shopping solo however, quickly discovered that we overpaid for our purchases. Cultural lesson learned – if unable to access the Bartering Ninja’s expertise going forward, keep the following 5 points in mind:

1) Your Canadian purchasing knowledge is useless in this environment. Clean your slate and start from scratch.
2) In addition to negotiator, you are the quality control specialist. Get a good look at the product.
3) Perceived disinterest is necessary. Put your game face on and prepare to walk away.
4) Don’t be distracted by short term wins. 75% off the ticket price may not be a steal.
5) If you think you paid too much, you DEFINITELY paid too much! Dust yourself off and go back to point number 1.

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