Throwback Thursday: A View from the East

It's #ThrowbackThursday. I have decided to dig up publications from when I first began writing at Rutgers-Camden School of Business's newspaper, Minding Your Busine$$.

This article was particularly special for me. I had traveled outside of the country for the first time in my life. Prior to that, my first time on a plane was to Orlando, Florida. I joked saying, "The first time I left the U.S. I went so far west, I ended up in the Far East."

Most people responded by saying, "You're supposed to go to Canada for your first time abroad!" To them I say, as long as you are ready and willing to go outside of your comfort zone, you can go anywhere.

I now present to you...


A View from the East

Everyone knows China’s economy is growing faster than any country in the world, but do you know about the region’s other rising stars? This year, over the winter break, I went abroad with the School of Business to Southeast Asia where we visited Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam.
A common theme emerged as I traveled throughout the region. Everyone is trying to sell you something — and they will not take "no" for an answer. Home to aggressive salesmanship and people looking to make a living by any means necessary, Southeast Asia was an amazing experience.

Hong Kong is best described as capitalism on overdrive. Millions of foreigners are invested in this tiny region of China. According to, Hong Kong is the 5th most expensive city for expatriates in the world. In a city where an Armani Exchange suit is standard business attire, one may wonder: ―How can I succeed in such a cutthroat environment? The answer is simple — sell, sell, sell. I witnessed this first hand as I was approached by merchants of every walk of life trying to sell me something.

The merchants were pushing everything from cheap trinkets, to suits costing upwards of $1,000 U.S. dollars. The best sales pitch I heard was from a man who wanted to sell me an apartment for the ―real cheap price of $1 million Hong Kong dollars per month (about $128,000 USD).
Chances are, that quart of rice you order with your Chinese food is from Thailand. Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of rice, and in Thailand rice is such a respected commodity that throwing rice away is treated as an insult. Thailand’s other major exports are
fishery products and rubber. The country relies heavily on its exports and there is evidence it intention-ally devalues its currency to stay competitive. In addition to its thriving export business, Thailand relies heavily on tourism. The country is the most popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, in the year 2007, the aver-age international tourist spent $4,120.95 baht ($127.39 USD) per day.

Did you know that Vietnam is the 2nd biggest exporter of coffee in the world? Vietnam is a mysterious country that has managed to fly under the global business radar. Do not let the lack of media attention fool you. Vietnam is like the rest of Asia; it is learning from the West’s wisdom and is developing rapidly. The government is consolidating its state-owned institutions through mergers, and consequently the number of state employees is being reduced from thousands to hundreds. Further-more, the Ministry of Trade recognizes that a freer market is critical to a developing nation. As such, the Ministry is looking to encourage entrepreneurship amongst the people and is instituting tax breaks to help stimulate growth.

In many ways, Vietnam is more capitalistic than the United States. Nevertheless, concepts that we take for granted here, such as minimum wage and child labor laws, do not exist in Vietnam. During our visit, I was even approached by a six year old girl selling postcards, trinkets and fruit; this is not out of the ordinary in Hanoi, the nation’s capital. The Ministry of Trade recognizes cheap labor is another incentive for promoting job growth by foreign in-vestment. Expect to see Vietnam become a more formidable force in the global marketplace within the next ten years.

As Southeast Asia continues its development, be on the lookout for international opportunities it may present in your own career. You will not be disappointed.