Welcome Chinaful’s New Contributor, Will Solomon
Solomon taking a nap in the subway like a local Beijinger.
I’m excited to announce Will Solomon will be joining Chinaful as a contributor, bringing fresh content from the front lines of Beijing. (Look for an insider guide to Beijing from coming soon!) From Solomon’s first post about China’s changing spending habits, you can see that he has a keen eye for spotting differences in the US and Chinese cultures and economies. I am certain Chinaful readers will find Solomon’s blogs full of unique insights—and a little adventure—as he reports on living and working in China.
Chinaful: Tell us, what attracted you to China originally?
Will Solomon: My interest in Asia originated with Japan as I was an avid Nintendo video game player growing up. However, not too interestingly, I picked Chinese as the language I wanted to study when entering university mainly for pragmatic reasons. I thought Chinese and Economics sounded like a pretty strong duo. While it certainly helped that Chinese grammar is relatively simple compared with English – most notably not having to conjugate verbs – what I mainly fell in love with was the tonal aspect of the language that allowed me to utilize my musical side. After one year studying the language I was hooked and moved to Beijing for 6 months of intensive Mandarin study.
Chinaful: After living in China for so many years, what do you think people would find most surprising about life in China?
Solomon: China is largely a cash economy yet their largest bill is only equivalent to about USD $15. With that said, rent, utilities, even cars are often paid for in cold-hard cash. It is not rare that I find myself with a massive pile of 100 RMB notes come rent time, which makes me feel a bit like a gangster and is quite scary when you think about just how much money you are carrying around with you. Even after three years in Beijing, RMB still feels like monopoly money to me, which is certainly not a good attitude because it is easy to forget how much you are actually spending. It is also crazy when you have to start avoiding certain ATMs in the popular bar areas because you just assume they will be out of cash.
Chinaful: Where is the favorite place you’ve visited in China?
Solomon: Lhasa, Tibet, which I was fortunate enough to experience with none other than Courtney Gould Miller herself! Coming straight off a harrowing experience hiking one of China’s holy mountains, Mount E’Mei, Courtney and I flew into Lhasa the next morning and could barely move our legs. However, we did not let complete muscle fatigue and oxygen depletion (from Lhasa’s impressively high elevation), stand in our way of having an incredibly stimulating experience. I found the mixture of modern Chinese and traditional Buddhist cultures fascinating. But, my favorite aspect of Lhasa had to be the vibrantly colored yet weathered prayer flags strewn everywhere against an absolutely stunning 360 degree backdrop of mountains and crystal blue skies. It was almost hard to put your camera down and take everything in.
A snapshot from the trip: Prayer flags hanging in Lhasa
Chinaful: Tibet was incredible, but I’m not sure anywhere can replace Beijing as my favorite. Since you call it home, give us an idea of your daily life in Beijing
Solomon: Beijing is an incredibly scheduled city. I would wager that 95% of those who work in traditional offices arrive at work at 9a.m., take lunch from 12-1p.m., and then leave work at promptly 6p.m., which makes traffic and getting a spot on the elevator a challenge around any of those times slots. My life revolves around this basic schedule. My daily goals for what I would like to accomplish in China are similar to what they would be in America, i.e. attend a networking event, visit with potential vendors and suppliers, arrange calls with potential clients, etc. However, traffic, the difficulty of find cabs during rush hour, and being scared to ride a bicycle after crashing and breaking my elbow in Beijing a year ago, makes getting around the city a lot more inefficient. Subways and buses are always a good option, but during peak hours they are jam packed. Therefore, many times I feel pretty good if I can accomplish even one or two of my daily out of the office goals. The fact that every day in China is different and challenging is largely what attracts me and keeps me here.
Chinaful: What types of articles can we expect to see from you on Chinaful?
Solomon: I expect to write on a range of topics from more fun to more serious, with a large focus on conducting business in China and Chinese consumer behavior. I also have a passion for food and travel so expect to see some restaurant and attraction reviews peppered in there.
Chinaful: Lastly, what is “Chinaful” to you?
Solomon: Chinaful to me is grabbing a cold beer from a street vendor and allowing myself to get lost strolling down roads untraveled on my walk home from the office. It is absolutely incredible what lies beneath the surface of this city that you would never experience if you stuck to the main roads and routes that you know. I cannot count the number of times I have stumbled across a bustling market just minutes from my house. On these walks I also love watching the way Chinese people interact with each other and even more so with their animals, who often are dressed up in some cute outfit. The people watching here is endless.