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Zhu Hai & Pan Yu: What You Won’t Learn About China in Business School

Update (Apr 9, 2012): I found a relatable article this morning. See Recruiting and Retaining Young Talent in China. It gives a great HR perspective on Chinese female professionals.

To quickly recap my trip to China last week…(I’ve been saving drafts when I can, so the tenses may differ a little here and there. Here’s my disclaimer for my posts while I’m in Asia. Also, I apologize for the grammatical errors! It bothers me every time I read them, but it’s too much of a hassle to change published posts here. I’ll make a better effort to proofread, despite being rushed.)

For the past 3 days, I have been in China. We took the ferry (1.25 hrs) there from the dock in Tsim Sha Tsui (Hong Kong), and was greeted by my Uncle Don.

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Day 1: In Zhu Hai…

The weather in Zhu Hai was quite humid and going through immigration was fairly easy. I just used my HK Citizenship Card. The process was nice and smooth. Pity for being Canadian, as I had to get a visa… With my mother’s “special card,” she can go to/from China-Hong Kong as much as she wants. I, on the  other hand, am limited to obtaining a visa each time.

Nevertheless, I found the city extremely dark and, overall, a tad dirty. Traffic is MAD. Cars stop when they want, drive where they want, and park wherever they want. Essentially, if you have a car, you can do whatever you want. The reinforcement is terrible, so… you get where I’m going with this. Pedestrian — what pedestrian? You would think they were all color blind too! Red means SPEED, green means watch out. Unlike Canada, if it’s red and the pedestrian says “walk” — to hell with it, if you decide to walk and don’t look both ways.

Most of the restaurants have squat toilets… if you’ve never used one before, it’ll be a real treat… There are at least 2 hostesses to greet you and then a hierarchy of waitresses waiting to serve you: 1 for tea+serving+cleaning, 1 for bringing food, 1 to take your order, etc. (They make less than $300 CAD/month.) They charge tea by the person, so see it as a cover charge for going to a restaurant. If you want a napkin, they’ll give you a tiny pack for 2 RMB. When in China, keep in mind that you will be charged for every litte thing. If you don’t need it, don’t accept it. When you can, bring your own. Our hotel guestbook had a list of fees they charged for “items taken” from your hotel room. Listed were things such as pillow cases, soap dish, tissue box, etc. Apparently people even steal the toilet paper after their stay… no wonder their rolls were designed to be so tiny. Nevertheless, our hotel room was quite cheap. For under $80 CAD, we had a hotel room with: 2 bedrooms, 1 kitchen, 1 balcony, plus Wi-Fi…that didn’t work – haha!

In Zhu Hai (literal translation: pearl river), we spent a lot of time walking. We walked 20RMB worth of a taxi ride. That’s a lot, considering the meter starts at 10RMB. Half way, we stopped at the “Feeling’s Cafe,” which was attached to a fitness resort and residential building. Apparently, this is owned by the government and a lot of expats stay here. (There’s a Canon factory in Zhu Hai, so their managers from Japan stay here.) The River is, indeed, quite beautiful and there were people using these really intriguing nets fishing. There is a street called “Pub Plaza” and it’s like Lan Kwai Fong (in HK) or Whyte Ave (in Edmonton). That’s literally what it is. A street lined with taxi’s and bars. I think the one we went to was called Coheba, but I can’t remember. There was a series of singers/performers throughout the evening and I learned that you can request a song (that they may/may not sing) for 100RMB. The experience itself was epic, and I met with businessmen from all over. Think of it this way, VIP bottle service, but in China. An important lesson: To do business in China, learn their ways and their culture, and adapt. (Even if just for that little while.) One evening of drinking amd singing karaoke, and you could land yourself a multi-million dollar contract the next day. No joke.

The highways in China are comparable to those in Canada. As we were driving from Zhu Hai to Pan Yu, they were building more roads. This is great for the economy and I am starting to see how China is rising faster than ever. (Tech companies, you really want to target the Chinese. More on that in another post perhaps…) One thing I noticed is the excessive number of tolls. Apparently there’s almost one at each change of direction.

Day 2: In Pan Yu…

I met my extended family (on my father’s side) for the very first time. In what was just 2 short days, I could already feel the sense of “family” by spending time with them. That said, it was just 2 days… so I really appreciated the time everyone took to take us around.

Hear this… I met:

  • biu yee – grandmother’s sister
  • biu gu jie – grandmother’s sister’s daughter
  • biu sook – grandmother’s sister’s son
  • biu sum – grandmother’s sister’s son’s wife (i.e. Biu yee’s daughter-in-law)
  • yee sook – grandmother’s sister’s son’s wife’s father (i.e. biu yee’s in-laws)

Isn’t that crazy?! Now I know what it means to live in a communal household. Back in the day when everyone lived in the same house… this is what it was like… intense. Nevertheless, we drove 2 cars everywhere we went. Obviously, to eat, but we also went to the International Chimelong Circus together! Since it was (coincidentally) International Women’s Day, there was 10% off male admission, 50% of female admission, and 50% off seniors.

The next day, they drove me to see the Guangzhou (GZ) Education Mega Center. It is literally on an island and there are 10 different universities there; the most famous, being Zhong San University. Other schools included: GZ school of Chinese Medicine, Pharmacy, Fine Arts, etc. It was beautiful and the Lingnan Expression is also located on the island. What’s unique is that this land used to be filled with 13-14 different villages. My grandmother’s, Lam Tin, being one of the largest, is also one of the only 4 villages remaining on the island. The rest have been purchased by the government and used to build the university.

Visiting the village was an extremely unique experience for me. (Have no fear, for I recorded the entire walk to our place on my tablet.) The houses were very tiny and the walkways were narrow. Construction is in full effective, as everyone is tearing down their single-level homes and buildling 3-4 storey buildlings that are more modern. With the influx of students, it makes for a great way to earn extra income. People in the village all know each other and as foreigners, I received a couple of stares of my own… Regardless, standing inside my grandmother’s home (the one that’s still standing) send chills up my spine. It was a really weird feeling, but I was fascinated all at the same time. We paid our respects to my ancestors (my grandmother’s father and her grandfather + their wives + uncles), then departed.

This is a surface level sharing and a quick recap. In two days, I transported back in time, developed many insights based on a glimpse into China (which I’d say was pretty well-rounded), and learned a lot about family/friendships/relationships.

Until next time, zai jian! (I’m off to the airport in 2 hours and it’s still dark outside at 630am.)

Let my vacation to Singapore……BEGIN!

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