I have been thinking a lot about why internationalisation means so much to me. I have realised it is because I am enamoured with other cultures. Food is an incredibly important element of this for me, as it is the ability to share culture without language. It shatters cultural barriers, as the process of eating is common to us all.
One of my favourite places in the world is Siena. For those of you who are not familiar with the Tuscan city, you may know it from the Palio. The Palio is a horse race that is run in the centre of the medieval town, shown in the James Bond movie A Quantum of Solace.
Siena was best described to me by a Canadian restaurateur, he said: “Siena is where the Italians go to dream”.
As the story goes; Romulus founded Rome, and Remus founded Siena. Siena was at its height during the Medieval period, and just after, it retains an ancient quality about it. Not in a tourist way, but in a thoroughly genuine and magical way. There are museums and art galleries, cathedrals that have stood for hundreds of years, and windy streets to lose yourself in.
Most importantly, the food is very good indeed.
I was last there a few years ago on my birthday, which happens to coincide with mushroom season. Mushroom season is a very special time in Italy, and especially in Siena. The market stalls are piled high with handpicked mushroom from the local surroundings. The thick heavy smell of the fungus clings to the inside of your nostrils. Italians shout at each other, as the air is filled with the sound of barter as people buy handfuls of chanterelles, morels and porcinis.
I realise that I am going to have to take some back to the UK. I walk over and pay an unbelievable amount of money, about 7€, for a small bag of a few mushrooms.
If we analyse my purchasing decision, it was not that I wanted to by mushrooms. Indeed, this was the most expensive and impractical way of doing it. Had I wanted mushrooms, there are a fine array of them available to me in the UK. I wanted these, Italian, handpicked mushrooms. I was willing to pay several times more than the cost of say button mushrooms in the UK. The key to why I purchased these porcinis was, that I couldn’t get these in the UK.
The single biggest reason for international ecommerce is: “I cannot get the product in my own country”. These mushrooms were different from anything I could purchase in the UK. Focus on being different and you will be successful, focus on being cheap and fitting in and you will be selling button mushrooms rather than porcinis.