I arrived without incident in Shanghai Tuesday afternoon after a 14 ½ hour flight from Newark. The flight was just the way I like them – nice and boring. Before leaving I had decided to take the train to my hotel since daytime traffic in Shanghai can make the trip more than an hour by taxi. When I mentioned taking the train to both Americans and Chinese people I was met with mostly surprised reactions. It seems there are still a fair amount of successful New Yorkers and Shanghainese that do not take the subway.
As it turns out I took a Maglev train (8 minutes from point to point to go 30KM or about 18 miles), then connected to the subway line and took the subway to a stop near my hotel. The entire trip took about 40 minutes and was one-fifth of the cost compared to taking a taxi. I was impressed at how easy it was. The one moment I had when I was a bit confused as to which subway stop I should take was met with a Chinese person ready to help and in broken English (and my basic Mandarin) I was able to buy my 4 RMB (U.S. $ .70) ticket to the right station. From there I was able to easily walk to my hotel – one that I stayed in on my last trip to Shanghai (love the Marriott Executive Suites near People’s Park).
So far even thought I speak at least a little Mandarin now, I have noticed that English is prevalent and widely spoken here in the PRC. Street signs are in both English and Mandarin. It is remarkably easy to get around. Today after meetings I will head to the Hongqiao train station by subway to catch a fast train to Hangzhou – a city renowned for its physical beauty, the wealth of its denizens, and also the home of many successful companies.
Spending the next ten days here in China I am very focused on making this a successful business trip. This is my fifth trip to China (ok 4th as the first trip was to Hong Kong) in a little over 18 months. As yet I have not been able to generate a substantial engagement with a Chinese company looking for marketing expertise and campaign executions in the U.S. The phrase ‘That’s China’ is for some responsible for my slow progress. While I am well aware of cultural differences in doing business in China versus the U.S., I will not use that as an excuse. Nor should the Chinese use that excuse either. It’s too easy to hide the real reasons for not engaging with a western company behind a westerner’s inexperience.
To some degree the whole idea of marketing and branding is partially responsible for the problem. The Chinese are cautious in general and particularly so when dealing with foreigners. While that caution is understandable using a cultural barrier as a reason for not doing business is a bad policy and something the United States and other western countries have come to avoid.
Things are ever-changing in China – and that’s China.