The French of Yiwu
and Isabelle are the two French
residents of Yiwu. They settled down here in May 2004, and now
offer a wide range of services which include: products, supplier
support, the control of the quality of goods, as well as the
exporting of goods.
answered to our questions...
(Interviews on January 2005)
"a real Alibaba cavern"
Yann, how did your Chinese adventure
It was in June 2001. I passed a masters degree in
public law in Poitiers, France, but I wanted to do business. At that
time I was told about the DESS CAAE Euro-Asia (equivalent of MBA in
International business, focused on Asian economies), proposed by the
Management Institute of Poitiers (IAE). I was so convinced that it
suited me that I didn't even apply to any other school... I was
accepted and stayed five months in Poitiers, three months in
Nanchang (China Jiangxi province) at the Franco-Chinese Management
Institute (IFCM), from March to May 2002, then I went to Shanghai where
I lived seven months, of which I spent six months as a trainee in a
French law firm. When I came back to France, I couldn't help but think
about China, but it is not so easy to find a job when
you have little experience!
Nevertheless, I was offered a job as a purchaser at
the beginning of 2004, which I immediately accepted. That is how I came
back to China, in February 2004.
I discovered Yiwu in
December 2003, while I was on a business trip. I had been told that it
was a city with many wholesale markets. When I arrived, and when I
visited these markets, I really felt as if I was in the Cavern of
Alibaba! And all the products proposed in these markets were really
I came back to Yiwu markets several times as a purchaser, then, in May
2004, my girlfriend came to China to join me. I had been so pleased and
impressed by the Yiwu markets that I proposed to her that we
settle down in Yiwu.
What do you do in Yiwu?
As a purchaser, I realized that very
few services were offered to English-speaking purchasers, and even
less for French-speaking purchasers. What's more, even if you speak
quite a good English, the Yiwu sellers don't speak English for the most
part. Moreover I had been told about the disappointing experiences of
several foreign purchasers who had the unpleasant surprise to find bad
quality products when they received it, because they didn't have the
time to check it when they were in Yiwu. Finally, they were not able to
sell their goods.
That is how, with my friend, we planned a company
project that we have just registered (in
January 2005): we have now created a (French) company,
manage it from Yiwu. We propose to offer a wide range of services to
coming in from all parts of the world: translation thanks to our team
of interpreters, following up the orders, payment of the suppliers. We
check ourselves the quality of the goods,
and then we proceed to all the export-related procedures, we manage the
inland transportation and we arrange the shipping.
Henceforth, every foreign purchaser will know who to contact before
they go to Yiwu (laughs)!
areas have appeared in less than one year!"
Isabelle, what do you
think about Yiwu?
What really struck me when I arrived here in Yiwu was the number
of public gardens in the city. There are two principle parks along with
many others that are smaller in size. But what really surprised me is
shores of the rivers have been arranged, and some others on the
north-east part of Yiwu are being arranged, so that you can stroll from
one side of the city to the other while enjoying a pleasant, scenic
wander through a park!
And what do you think of the
people in Yiwu?
Most of the foreigners who live in Yiwu come from the Middle East,
India, Pakistan, or Korea. There are very few European people
here. As a result, Chinese people stare at us as if we come
from another planet! One day, we were the innocent party at the scene
of an accident between a motorbike and a tricycle with a lot of
carton boxes on it. Both riders were staring at us instead of paying
attention to what was ahead them (laughs)! At the beginning all these
glances were a little bit embarrassing, but with time passing, we
get accustomed to it! And now, in our residential area, people have got
to seeing us, and every time we go out we meet big smiles! Yiwu people
What surprises you most in Yiwu
compared with France?
Without any hesitation, I answer: the development of the city! It's
incredible! Residential areas have appeared in
less than one
year. The shops have appeared very quickly too. For instance, in our
when we arrived last May, there were only a few shops -not more than
or five. There are more than 15 today, and in the meantime a 15-storey
building has appeared!
I am also still surprised by the amazing number of two wheels and
tricycles. There are so many that the cycling tracks are as large as
Have you met any difficulties
because of the Chinese language?
It's not easy when you don't speak Chinese to arrive in a city like
Yiwu, where even people who are used to sell to international buyers
don't speak a word of English! At the beginning, I could only count on
Yann to get what I wanted, but now I am learning Chinese, and I have
to get along by myself! And hopefully, Yiwu people are very patient,
and often repeat until I can understand what they tell me!