Your Questions – Part 1

I get a lot of great emails from you guys and i really appreciate you taking the time to get in touch with me. Here is a small selection of some questions i have been asked that i think will appeal to other readers of my blog. I am in a very fortunate position here and i want to help others i meet on this journey with any knowledge I can share. Please do get in touch, it would be great to connect with you, share stories and maybe do some business along the way.

How long are you planning to stay there?

Question Asked By: Adam Stephenson

How Do you know Daniel: I came across YMC online and have been buying some products from him to sell on eBay in Australia.

This is a question I get asked a lot and one that is perhaps the most difficult to answer. Like most of you reading this I’m passionate about business and I love working for myself. I don’t know why this is but for me, being creative and being involved in business just gives me something I have never found anywhere else.

I really feel like a lot of things that have happened in my life, both good and bad, have lead me to this position. Its like no matter what I did before or how I did it I was always going to end up here. I’m really grateful that things panned out for me like this and I know I have to make it count.

I have been involved in business seriously since I was about 22 and during this time I have had some extreme highs and also some extreme lows. For me this was always just part of the journey but for those close to me it was a difficult ride to be apart of. I think sometimes as entrepreneurs we are blinded by our own foresight and can sometimes come across a little selfish to those around us. We mean nothing by this, we are just very focused but it leaves those close to us wondering how long we will be like this for and ultimately what do we want from life. I feel that as big a question as this is it is this question which really is the emphasis of what we as entrepreneurs are about.

So its not really as simple as how long will I be in China it is more a self realisation that perhaps this circumstance is what will really test, educate and hopefully make me as a human being. It is perhaps what will give me what it is I want from life.

Many a time my mother would ask me what I wanted from life, she is a very strong and insightful woman who has herself been on a difficult journey, moving from Malaysia to the UK some 40 years ago and making a lot of sacrifices along the way. Ultimately she wants me to be happy but she also knows that for an emotionally complex person like me that won’t just be as straight forward as a Lamborghini on the driveway – not that I would say no.

I think I will speak for a lot of us here when I say that we want a deep feeling of self fulfilment, the kind that you only ever feel after an intense 15km fell run as you reach the peak of the climb at 5am or out surfing – catching the last wave in a set just as the sun sets over the Cornish coastline. I have felt this feeling before in instances like these, such pure and beautiful circumstances but the type of circumstance that you don’t just find yourself in, you have to put yourself there.

I guess without quite realising how and most definitely not on purpose I have put myself in this situation and part of me knows that really this is what I always wanted from life. A chance, a real chance to prove myself to myself on my own from scratch. To gain that kind of self fulfilment and feeling of self worth that you can really only every appreciate on your own after an epic achievement sitting drinking a cool beer in a quiet beer garden. A very emotional experience and one that makes you feel so alive. I am by no means where I want to be in life but as i sit here on this beach taking my first day off for 3 weeks I have never felt so certain that I am on the way there.

So maybe this is what I want from life. To be able to sit and look at myself and the life I live and feel content in the knowledge that I’m moving towards my potential as a person. Who knows where this next chapter will take me but I feel that it will take me exactly where I need to be. I guess this means I don’t really know definitively how long I will be here but I know what I want to achieve here, perhaps after these goals have been reached I will move onto the next chapter.

I feel that we all have the potential for self fulfilment, never stop believing it is possible.

How cheap is it living in china?

Question Asked By: Sophie Phillips

How Do you know Daniel: I am an avid follower of this blog and get excited when an alert lands in my mailbox about a new post. I would love to visit China one day and find the stories on this website truly fascinating.

This question is something I wanted to know before I came here and I was given a lot of very mixed information. I don’t know why people on the Internet just try to confuse everyone with misguided facts but everything I read on my Googling expeditions was conflicting. This is a complicated topic as yes you can live here very cheaply but obviously that depends on your standard of living.

To simplify this I can say that branded goods are more expensive here, some up to 3 times more expensive. As an example a Nike basketball trainer here that my brother regularly buys in the UK for about £70 is £130 here – Just remember that when an agent in china is offering you genuine trainers for 25 USD a pair. Good quality food in a decent restaurant is perhaps 25% more expensive here. A steak that I would expect to buy in the UK for £14 is getting on for £20 here. Milk is perhaps £1.20 a pint. Services here tend to be cheaper. ie Taxi’s are cheap here – perhaps £2 for a journey that would be £5 in the UK. A haircut here is about £2. The best way to think is that there are 3 price brackets.

1. A standard of product, food and accommodation that would be “unacceptable” for most Westerners is very cheap here, remember that the average wage here is below £200 a month.

2. A somewhat higher end working class standard of living that is perfectly fine here is perhaps achievable on £1000-1400 a month but you would be limited to unbranded goods, local style restaurants and could not have the kind of social life you have at my age here within this price bracket as that carries a premium price tag in China.

3. A middle class to upperclass lifestyle here is very expensive, much more so than in the UK. An apartment that would cost £200k in England is about £600k here and a Mercedes s class is about £400k. A guy who lives in my apartment block just bought this awesome Mercedes SLS AMG which is around £480k here. Makes me cry inside everytime i see it.

I can only talk from my own experience and that has not been a typical “moving to a developing country with a backpack” type affair as I have had a lot of expense to get the ball rolling with my business. Everything associated with this has carried a price tag. Again the “tools” I require could well have been cheaper but if there was ever a time when my uncle Sunnys phrase “Buy cheap pay twice” was relevant then it’s here.

You certainly get what you pay for in terms of staff as well as product. You can get an assistant here for £300 a month but she will likely take a hidden commission on everything you purchase* not speak fluently enough for you to be able to get your point across to whomever your dealing with and not know where to find the array of products your looking for. Same goes for drivers, £250 a month will get you lost, a lot of times, perhaps with broken air conditioning?

(NOTE*not many people realise that when hiring an interpreter, assistant or agent when visiting china on business you will usually find that they will take you to preferred factories of theirs where the factory will pay them for doing so. They are thinking of lining there own pockets here rather than providing you with the best supplier possible. They also often make agreements with suppliers to take a hidden commission within the price you pay. This is discussed when they arrive there with you, obviously you will be unaware of this when a discussion goes on in Chinese as the factory agrees to give them 5/10% commission hidden within your purchase price, sneaky little devils!)

Property here is insanely expensive. Commercial property even more so. An office here that would be £300 a month in the UK is more like £1000 here. Same for warehousing, it’s about 4 times more expensive. This is why companies here often have factories and warehouses several floors up and offices within residential buildings.

Lets talk about food. Food here is on the whole quite poor quality. The main problem I have found is that the meat tends to be very fatty with cartilage and bone. Chinese food here is very different from Chinese food in the UK, I think this is mainly down to the quality of ingredients and the Chinese pallet preferring a different kind of flavour.

Some of the food i have come across has had some pretty dodgy translations, perhaps this one below being one of the worst.

To eat out in a local type Chinese restaurant is very cheap, I guess you can eat your fill and drink all the green tea you like for maybe £2. I will be honest here, I can’t really eat at this type of restaurant and I think that most of you would probably feel the same. Then you have western style restaurants owned by Chinese. These also use pretty poor quality ingredients, the steak for instance is local water buffalo and is mainly fat. Then you have the western restaurants owned by westerners here. These are people who came here on business and realised the opportunity to provide good quality catering for other business men and women here. They are decent and where I mainly eat. They are also very expensive and unfortunately if you like good food you don’t really have a choice.

Supermarkets here are hard work and really difficult to find things that we commonly eat at home. In time you can become familiar with places that sell the kind of things you want to eat but anything imported or brand name is expensive, sometimes 3 times as much.

There are a lot of things that are very hard to buy in china but this is a big topic. I will write a blog post at a later date detailing products I feel would be lucrative to import to china. For now let’s talk about more simple things that are hard to find here. Western medication is pretty much impossible to find such as paracetamol, cold and flu capsules etc. If your sick then you have got Chinese medicine at your disposal, best bring some supplies with you if your planning a trip. Milk here is hard to find, there are some 7/11 shops that sell it in little cartons but it’s often out of date. Deodorant again is not easy to find, no idea why. I can literally walk into a local supermarket and no recognise anything at all so cooking anything at home that I would usually eat is pretty much a no go.

I have found a supplier in China online on Alibaba, how do I know if I can trust them?

Question Asked By: Chris Jones

How Do you know Daniel: I have been looking to import from China for the past 12 months and have yet to take the plunge, the advice i have read here has been great and is helping me move forwards with my dream to import from abroad.

This is a question I wanted to know the answer for so badly when I lived in England, so many times I saw a great product online that I wanted to import but just didn’t have the confidence to do so because I could not make my mind up about the credibility of the supplier. The problem here is that you can easily make yourself look like something you are not online. I learnt this lesson only too well from my experience with dating websites……….. Joking…

Remember that if you make an order online for £10,000 worth of product and it lands in an agents bank account here in China that is almost like a lottery win for them. What would you do if someone sent you 5 years worth of your salary in cash in one go? I guess this is why a lot of people get “scammed” as once that money has been sent it is too easy for them to disappear.

Everyone that’s selling online here says they are the factory, says they can produce to your desired quality and says that they can provide the most competitive price. So many times I have turned up to a “factory” to check a supplier out and it’s just all been a lie. God knows what would have happened if I had ordered from behind my PC. This apartment was listed as the factory for what looked like a big global fitness brand online. They built treadmills and high end gym equipment apparently. When i arrived without an appointment it was clear to see this was just a guy at home.

Sometimes though of course the supplier has been honest and when I have turned up all was in place but rather than taking a gamble I suggest visiting your factory in person or pay an agent to visit. Remember to be aware of the hidden commission as I mentioned above.

You must always use your gut feeling here, and to be honest spend as much time as possible researching the person you are dealing with.

How is your sleep pattern there? I notice your always online 24/7

Question Asked By: Jamie Sinclair

How Do you know Daniel: I bug him most days on MSN with my product requests and general ramblings. He never seems to mind….. Yet…. ha ha.

So on a lifestyle level this has perhaps been one of the most difficult things I have had to sort out while I have been here.

Typically my problem is that I deal with customers in the west and east, thus I have to work in several time zones at once. At 7pm here I might have to arrange a last minute shipment to my customer in Sydney before he goes to bed. Then at 11pm here I might have to talk with a customer in New York at 11am his time. This means I could be up till 2am my time helping him with his order. The bottom line is I have not really got a choice and I have been through a lot of different sleeping routines to try and accommodate my customers needs. Pretty much all of them resulting in me feeling, and looking like death all the time.

For the first month or so I woke at 8am and went to bed around 5.30am. This was a combination of jetlag and enthusiasm to fit in as much as possible each day. On Sundays I slept about 12 hours to catch up on the sleep I was missing during the week days. After 4 weeks of doing this I got very ill and had to spend 4 days in bed as I was simply exhausted.

I then tried my worst ever sleep regime. Waking at 9am, going to the gym and having a run before heading out to visit the suppliers at 10am. Back to the office to catch up on emails for around 2pm before going to bed for 2 hours, up at 5pm to ship out orders and do banking before then speaking to customers till midnight. Then going for dinner (often my only meal of the day) before going back to the emails, international phone calls, online chat to customers and product sourcing online until about 7am. Then another 2 hours sleep before doing it all again. I did that for about 7 weeks and had never felt so bad in my whole life – I actually looked like I was ill all of the time and fell asleep whenever i sat down, a bit like this security guard that works at my local shopping mall.

I needed to restructure things and try to be more efficient with my time so I tried to break down my routine and see where I could save time. My Gym was about 20 mins walk from where I live and because I go each day this was eating up a lot of time. I did move into a new apartment with a gym in the building but the opening hours did not fit in within my schedule as it was only open when I was out at work. I was looking to export some gym equipment so I visited a factory and took some samples to set up in my apartment, this saves me about 1.5 hours each day as I can use it as soon as I get up.

I also moved to an apartment right next to the main markets and suppliers I buy from. This again saves me about 2 hours a day commuting time and means I can quickly nip out to get a sample for a customer if I don’t have one in my office. I actually now take a boat to work each day which is really cool and no traffic jams!

I have always been terrible at delegating tasks to others, I think it’s because I’m a freak for doing things right and really don’t trust anyone else to do something. I guess though this is an unrealistic way to operate as you simply cannot do everything yourself. I have now passed on some of the more simple tasks to my assistant such as heading out to collect samples and doing the banking. This has freed up a lot more time for me to spend building relationships with factories and helping give my customers more of my time.

Technology such as Whatsapp messenger on my iPhone and MSN messenger on my iPad allow me to communicate with my customers wherever I am at whatever time. If its 1am and I’m out for dinner I am also speaking to Mike in Toronto about the LED torch samples I sent him last week.

Although I moved here to work it is also important for me to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I am beginning to get there but really without the technology mentioned above this would be difficult, I think sometimes we forget how lucky we are. I take my hats off to those pioneers who did this 10/15 years ago with none of the great devices we have at our disposal today.

Thanks for your questions, I am happy to share my experiences here and i will add up some more questions and answers like these every month.

18 thoughts on “Your Questions – Part 1

  1. The black license plate of the Mercedes SLS AMG is a special permit, the car can freely travel through Hong kong and China, itself worthing like £40K,

    • You have to love how China is really a great place to live if your rich.

      I can think of places i would rather live if i was in his shoes, somewhere with sand and cocktails i think.

      Ha Ha.

  2. Hello,

    I don’t mean to be blunt but I would like to offer some constructive criticism. I would like to know what does branded goods have to do with living expenses? Buying brand is a lifestyle choice and not a living expense. I don’t care for a pair of nikes, I want to know what is the actual living cost and not lifestyle cost.

    Rental, lights, water, council tax, transport on a daily basis. What is the cost of a furnished apartment or unfurnished? I’m certain you must have researched these things when looking for a place to live. You mentioned quite a bit about restaurants but not everyone eats in a restaurant everyday.

    Your post about living expenses is so long but you failed to answer the question.

    Thank you

    • Hi,

      Thanks for the question. I am happy to answer.

      I can only talk about my personal experience with regards to living expenses. As i work long hours i do eat at a restaurant every day, not exactly through choice but i cannot cook and i don’t have the time at the moment. I would say most the foreign guys working in export here do the same as i see them in the same places as me every day.

      You can rent an apartment here for anything from 200 pounds upwards but again i can only speak from my experience. I would choose not to live there as i need security and a standard o living i am comfortable with. If you want to live in a 200 pound apartment thats obviously completely up to you.

      My electricity gas and water is about 220 pounds a month, i have the aircon on a lot as its very hot here. You might not use so much air con? I have 2 computers on at all times for MSN and skype.

      I would say that an average westerner would need to have about 1000-1500 a month for the most basic lifestyle that would be acceptable by western standards. You could of course live for less, many local people here live on 200 pounds a month after all.


  3. Loving the blog. I always fancied a spell in Asia myself, but the other half was not keen.

    I can relate to your stories about back handers and commissions, it sounds just like India where you can’t do anything without someone wanted to get ‘a piece of the action’ whether it be a simple kick back from a restaurant or a large back hander on a business deal. It can get really frustrating, that’s why it’s so important to have trusted contacts on the ground, so I am sure you are going to do well.

    • Hi, Asia is a great place and a real eye opener. I myself fancy a look to India as i have heard of a couple of product areas which look good to source from there. I think i will go over in a month or so. I have just got back from Thailand which again is another great place to buy from, different market all together.

      Yes i hope being on the ground here pays off as i think it is a real advantage in resolving any issues quickly and finding the newest products quickly but boy is it hard work sometimes.

      Keep in touch.


  4. Hi Dan

    Terrific articles!I can feel you really enjoy the business what you’re doing.
    I feel terrible now.I am passionate about business,and i want to work for myself.
    But i always can’t coordinate the relationship between suppliers and customers.
    Actually,I am working on an foreign enterprise service company,and I do my business in my spare-time.And i’m exhausted now.Could you help me?

    • Hi Maggie,

      Thanks for the message, glad you enjoy reading my blog.

      Yes it can be difficult at times but then a challenge is exciting right?

      Get in touch and i will see if i can help;



  5. Hi Daniel,

    Hope you are enjoying your adventure in china. I sent an email to your hotmail email address. Do check and let me know your thoughts.

  6. Great read yet again Daniel, look forward to part 2.

    Its surprising to hear the costs of everything, its dearer than expected. Just because you can pick up cheap goods in china obviously doesnt mean its cheap to live in china !

    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for dropping by, nice to hear from you.

      Yes i was as surprised as you, living in this country really turns my head every day.

      And just like the products here – you really get what you pay for with everything. Buy cheap pay twice.


Any comments or questions? I'd love to hear them.