Now that I am back in the good ‘ol USA after a 22 hour travel from my Shenzhen hotel back to my office, I can reflect a bit on my latest trip to the Middle Kingdom. This trip far exceeded my expectations both professionally and personally. As much as I enjoy Chinese food (and I truly to enjoy it) I have yet to satisfy my hankering for a cheeseburger. I will work on that today.
Although my first trip to China last fall was interesting and frantic (as was this one) I felt that I had more of an opportunity this time to spend time interacting with great Chinese people to a much larger degree. Here are four things I learned that I have as a quick takeaway:
1) Chinese people have more variety on their table at every meal than anyplace I’ve ever been I had a series of banquet like events some with more than a dozen courses. There were a number of times I was not sure what I was eating right away. Unusual things I ate – sharkskin soup, honeybees and yes – scorpion. All the meals had a few varieties of steamed greens (even breakfast). Meals in China are at a much slower pace than in the USA. I also will have to get used to drinking the warm water as that’s the way it’s served.
2) Chinese people will consistently go out of their way to help. This was evidenced by so many different people, from driving me around to taking me out for meals (I only paid for 1 meal in China and had to fight to do that). I will keep that in mind when my Chinese friends and associates come to the USA since I will want to pick them up, drive them around and take care of them in the same manner. Not something that is a custom in the U.S. but it really helps grow a personal and then professional relationship.
3) China is under construction and dustier and less hygienic than the USA. I did not notice the amount of construction going on last time I was in Shanghai, Beijing, and Wuxi. Shenzhen is also growing like mad and building goes on 7 days a week. Bathrooms in China are not always all that clean (that is also true in the USA) and there are seldom towels with which to try your hands.
4) If you want to do business in China you have to be there. My second trip has demonstrated that even more clearly to me. I left with a number excellent business opportunities and will be following up with some proposals but in order to have a chance to make those deals happen I will have to present in person on my next trip which I expect will be in 3-4 months. Our company can really help Chinese companies in marketing to the west and the USA in particular. I felt the many CEO’s at the companies I met understood that (for example I met with the CEO of the largest television manufacturer in China – Skyworth) but also encouraged me to come back which told me that they need to see my commitment to China by returning again soon.
There are many other observations I have on my trip and I will detail things to a larger degree once I have had a chance for the experience to settle in a bit more. I really like going to China and look forward to exploring more of its culture, its people and its history.
By the way I read an interesting book on my Kindle on the way to China – ‘Big in China’ by Wall Street Journal writer Alan Paul. He and his wife Rebecca who works for the WSJ moved their young family to Beijing in 2005 for 3 ½ years and he describes the experience. Worth reading if you want to get a sense of what it is and was like living in China for an American.