“You’re uncle will travel to Poland next week for three days.” Immediately all my ‘experiment alarms’ go off in my head. Poland? I haven’t been there yet. And it’s for his work.
I look up from my coffee, and ask my grandma if she thinks I can join him. Her reply is golden: “Sure. But why don’t you send him a WhatsApp to ask him yourself?” I have a very clever grandma.
‘How do you find your experiments?’ is probably one of the most frequently asked questions. Most of the time they literally just happen to me. Like this one, while drinking coffee with my grandmother..
Ten minutes later everything is sorted: I’m leaving for Poland in four days.
I grew up next to the most famous flower garden —Keukenhof— in the world. My whole life I didn’t do a single thing with flowers. My uncle works for a major (flower) trading company. The opportunity to get a view in this world, sparked my curiosity.
That’s why I’m in for a 917KM ride to Poznan, Poland. Enough time to pick up on some Polish words. Just before the Polish border, I open Duolingo on my iPhone and start with lesson one. I learn Jabłko, Kobieta and Mężczyzna. Apple, woman and man. No clue if it will help me, but I’m proud!
We arrive in Poznan by the end of the day, and lucky for us, the weather is amazing. We crash down on one of the many terraces at the Old Square. We order two piwo and say ‘na zdrowie’.
When it’s time for dinner — read: It gets shady— we meet up with one of my uncle’s colleagues and let him order food. And look at what’s on my plate: A Jabłko!! An apple!! And as stupid as it sounds, I feel excitement, and decide I want to do something with different languages in one of my next experiments.
But drinking beers and eating duck is not what we drove to Poland for. We came here because it’s Polish Mothers Day. A big flower day. My job is to be the one with the outsiders perspective: Look around and ask questions.
My uncle’s company — GASA GROUP— sells flowers to Polish supermarkets. He wants to see how they expose the flowers in their stores. As this has a big influence on how many flowers the supermarkets sell, which triggers more demand for my uncle’s company.
The first thing I need to tackle, is this whole trading thing. It’s something, for some reason, I couldn’t get a grasp on high school. Now I feel I do:
As a trading company you’re squeezed in between supply and demand on two sides. The side you’re buying from. And the side your selling to. You make your profit by making sure you buy cheaper than you sell, without having your own process costs ruin your margins. Margins that can be as small as 0,5 cents a flower.
What’s important to keep in mind, is that flowers flourish. Put another way, they will run out. So if you buy 100,000 flowers, they are worth money today. But if you don’t get to sell them. They are worth nothing in a few days..
My first conclusion: This can be a stressful business.
After visiting four supermarkets, it dazzles me. By this time flowers are just flowers. Bouquets are just bouquets. In all sorts and shapes. Organized or not.
What I do notice, is that for my unlce it’s completely different. He looks at the same flowers, but sees completely different things. He sees if the quality is good, if they are packed properly, if the height of the flowers are the same, if the buckets have the right amount of water, if the stickers are put on correctly, and on and on and on…
My second conclusion: There is a big difference between looking and seeing.
When exiting the last supermarket, I notice something else. The Polish language. Wyjście isn’t Polish for my surname Weijers, but it means exit. But look at the letters they use. And I wonder: Will the points per letter for scrabble be different…?
On our third day, we made the 917KM drive back to Holland. It was an interesting experience. Looking back, I don’t feel like I added a lot of value, but I learned a ton. I got to experience what my uncle does for a living. and I spend time with family. Which can maybe be goals of an experiment as well.
Oh, and before driving back, we got very lucky. If you don’t know already what happened, you can check it on my #photooftheday on Instagram.
Next Monday I’ll fly to Stockholm in Sweden for a tour through Scandinavia. If you might know people you think I should meet up with or are maybe interested to have me over for an experiment, please let me know.