Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Market research over dinner

Not your average bibimbap lunch

Last night I went out for dinner with the Korean family whose daughter I have been tutoring since I moved to Suzhou. Nowadays her English is so good that she doesn’t really need a tutor anymore, but over the years I have become good friends with her family (mom and 2 daughters. The dad is always away working), and since I discovered my love for Korean food I’ve enjoyed numerous dinners together with this family.

Every time we are out somewhere we attract curious stares from other people. I guess they don’t really get our connection. I don’t speak any Korean, the mom doesn’t speak any English, the youngest daughter is 5 and rarely speaks at all and the other daughter is 10 and speaks fluent English, Chinese and Korean. Yep. Bit of an odd bunch.

Yesterday the family took me to a (to me) new Korean restaurant where we ate everything from cold, spicy soup to BBQ and bibimbap. Delicious. I simply cannot get enough of kimchi!

I noticed that the waiters were watching us with curiosity mirrored in their eyes, and in the middle of our dinner the Korean manager suddenly came over and introduced himself. He spoke in Korean to the mom of the family, telling her that I was the first ‘western laowai’ to visit their restaurant and that they wanted ‘more people like me’ to come in the future, however, that they didn’t know how to ‘attract westerners.’

He then turned to me, and asked me everything from what Korean food I like to what Suzhou expat magazines I read (all in Korean of course, the daughter translated). Then it turned into asking me for personal advices of how he could market his restaurant. I was just sitting there, listening, nodding, and answering his questions with whatever came into my mind. When he was finally done he thanked us about 35 times and then sent in free dessert as a thank you!

When I rode my bike home later I couldn’t help but thinking “what on earth just happened?! Since when do I become an expat expert just because I have blonde hair?!” And since when do restaurants perform live market research at the dinner table with their restaurant guests?!

Got to say that people never stop to surprise me over here. And no day (or restaurant visit) is like the one before.


Emmy said...

Awesome! Now you will have to go back in a few months and see if they made some changes because of you :)

Najwa Pervin said...

Atleast you got a free dessert ! :)

Carl said...

Hi Jonna! How if you can figure a way to get paid for your expat advice, you have yourself a way of making an income! haha. Unless you like desserts as payment... then you already have it figured out I guess. :D

Jonna Wibelius said...

Emmy -I doubts so.. I loved the place like it was :)

Najwa -exactly! Made my day :)

Carl -expert advices?! hahaha... Yeah, I'd never call myself an expert in any aspect! Being 'paid' with a free dessert suits me perfectly!

Jonna Wibelius said...

or wait... "Expert at finding excuses for having chocolate every day of the week..." yeah. There I am!

Brad Farless said...

Funny you should mention this. My wife and I went out with our landlord's 10 y/o son in tow this past weekend. I'm American. My wife's Filipina. The boy is Singaporean. We were getting some odd stares to say the least. Then to make it more interesting we met up with friends... a Malaysian guy and his Indonesian girlfriend. Ha ha ha!

The Malaysian guy wanted to ask me a bunch of questions about how to market a product he's selling in the US. We didn't have time to discuss it, but I was thinking to myself how I could answer questions like that. I didn't take marketing in college! I don't even have a business related degree.

It's interesting how people assume a person is an expert on their home country, or in your case expats in general.

Josie said...

Ahh I love the Korean language and especially food :D
I'm sure you gave them some excellent advice in return for free dessert ;)

Funny how many foreigners think we know every last detail about our own culture... hmm..

Plumflower said...

Haha! Vilken story! Det får mig att tänka på avsnitt 24 av Seinfeld, "The Café", där Jerry ger en del tips till den pakistanske resturangägaren, som lyder hans råd, och sedan står där med en folktom restaurang.

Hoppas att dina tips lyckas bättre. :D

-k. king said...

Im pretty sure after a conversation like that HE should have tipped

Allen said...

I share the same views. Liked your blog very much.