Posted on: 4 June 2015
Who Is Your Market?
I was recently on a business trip to Qatar for the first time. I had never been to Qatar, nor did I know anything about its history. A quick ‘Trip Advisor’ search told me I needed to go to one of the many Souqs (markets) in the area and I was instantly excited. I feel I have been to markets around the world from food markets in Florianopolis to the grand bizarre in Istanbul, to Ontario farmers’ markets to the flower market in East London.
I think it is the whole experience of the age-old market tradition – ‘age-proof’ products, quality craftsmanship, local sellers, and feeling so good when you get a better deal than your friends.
So, after a long day, I ask my colleagues if they wanted to run to the Souq for a quick bite to eat, as a restaurant requires too much effort and time. I didn’t notice their expressions at the time – which will foreshadow what I will say next…
So we “roll-up” to the Souq (I wish in a Land Rover but alas), and (in the market sense) it is pristine! So, to all of you reading this that know about Qatar, and certainly my colleagues, you are giving me the facial expression of…ummm…Janet, the country gained independence just over 40 years ago. What did you expect?! Okay! I guess I thought ancient market? Street food? Good deals? The mysteries of the Middle-East? Not nice restaurants and clean sidewalks. And certainly not so many birds! (not part of this blog but please Google it!).
So, this got me thinking about expectations and experiences and I almost do a full circle reference back to a much earlier blog post in which I wrote about the film Certified Copy. Where does fake become o.k.? Most of us know that the Mona Lisa in the Louvre is not the original. Yet, we line up for ages? We certainly know that Las Vegas does not actually house Venice, Paris, Rome, etc., but we certainly love it for its extravagance. The difference between the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and Las Vegas is that the Mona Lisa does not “play up” the fakeness; whereas, Las Vegas clearly welcomes the “less is bore” principles of POMO (post-modernism).
I clearly am the consumer who appreciates full-disclosure and over-extravagance to point out the fakeness. Las Vegas owns it. But the Louvre might first require me to read a book in order to understand the difference between a ‘certified copy’ and a ‘copy’…and then perhaps I might get an explanation of why I will never see the original, even though it is physically below me? (Pardonne-moi).
So for me, seeing a market that is meant to look old annoyed me. Clearly, no one is fooled. But was that their intention? Perhaps it is because I come from Canada; a country whose independence is also still so recent that I often play a game with my friends in the UK called “What’s older than Canada?” That log? That staircase? That lamp-post? Your hand-me-down sweater (jumper)? But I might also argue you can do the same with Qatar. So is it really who we (as countries) are allowed to reference in the end? Canada is full of “British pubs”; Qatar is full of “old-looking Souqs”. Why am I complaining? I should feel more at home.
Maybe it is because I never thought that a “Canadian British pub” would ever be mistaken for a real British pub, and maybe the same is for locals in Qatar with souqs? (Side note: now I kind of wish I could create an over-exaggerated British pub in Toronto).
Is it better to over-exaggerate differences or be subtle? Each have their value.
For all of those that have eaten at a Canadian British pub, or frequented a souq in Qatar – or have a similar experience abroad – please include your experience in the comments below. Who knows, we might create a new bizarre experience (whether that is a market or something strange but intriguing).