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A Chinese Businesswoman In Chile: Travails Of Trans-Pacific Prosperity

For Lijuan Wang, starting a business in Chile was rewarding but also challenging, for being Asian, female, and 'working at all hours.'

Chinese restaurant in Santiago, Chile
Chinese restaurant in Santiago, Chile
Lijuan Wang and Lorena Marchant


SANTIAGO — Figures for 2016 from Chile's National Institute of Statistics show that 38% of our country's entrepreneurs are women, which is almost 800,000 people. The Global Entrepreneur Monitor found in turn that of these female entrepreneurs, only 7.2% have consolidated their businesses, with more than 42 months in operation.

The figures indicate that a small portion of less than half of all entrepreneurs in Chile are women with established businesses, which suggests that women in the business world face a range of challenges and difficulties and need considerable courage, effort and constancy, and great tolerance for frustration.

In my case as a Chinese woman, I have had to overcome more barriers due to my cultural background.

Being a "bicultural" citizen eventually worked in my favor.

My first challenges had to do with language, adapting to the surroundings and a cultural shock. Paradoxically I learned to manage a business faster than to speak Spanish, because as soon as I arrived in Chile my family and I opened a Chinese restaurant in Antofagasta, northern Chile. I gradually learned about running a business there.

Even though my lack of knowledge of cultural codes and local customs worked against me at times, and sometimes people looked at me suspiciously because of my traits or people's ignorance vis-a-vis my roots, being a "bicultural" citizen eventually worked in my favor. It allowed me to move easily between China and Chile, making my business profitable and beneficial, especially when it comes to imports

In spite of Chile's increasingly business-friendly environment and its recognition of the positive contribution women make to the job market — and female business owners to job creation — there is still concern regarding different female roles.

In Santiago de Chile — Photo: Dimitry B.

After all do we not face bigger obstacles and challenges when it comes to starting a business? I think that as a society we have not advanced enough here. Personally, economic and business success created problems in my family life, and I went through some complicated times trying to push on without family backing or social understanding.

In China, money is the symbol of success. There is generalized awareness that to get it, you must work hard. Success is the fruit of daily work, effort, perseverance and constant sacrifice, and I am certain my Chinese cultural heritage was a key factor in my progress. Yet my rhythm of work, or the way I "work like a Chinaman" as they typically say in Chile of those who work a lot, created some problems in managing those working with me. I realized I was not sufficiently prepared and lacked all the tools needed to handle that challenge.

In China, money is the symbol of success.

My response to most of the challenges I had to meet on this business path came with my decision to return to university and study law. I realized that the big problems facing a Chinese entrepreneur here were lack of professional training, but also the absence of support networks and my poor understanding of the social and national environments.

I think it essential to be able to count on networks of trust that speak my language and share my cultural codes. That is why I decided to create a blog giving free legal advice and guidance so other compatriots of mine can settle and work better in Chile.

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What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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