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Learning Chinese…

Tanya Goodin
Tanya Goodin
CEO
14 November 2007

I’m picking up some great tips from the Chinese on how to do business. One of the ones I’ve come across several times today is what they do if they don’t know the answer to your question, can’t help you or want to say ‘no’. They give you a great big smile and simply walk away. Works like a treat. After the first incident I genuinely didn’t know where the guy I was speaking to had gone to, the second time I was starting to feel a bit paranoid but the third time….

It got Neil and I thinking – how would that work with our UK clients? You can imagine the scenario: tense meeting with client X "why have my rankings dropped and what are you going to do about it?" Big beams cover our faces and we simply walk way. Hmmm, maybe this is one cross-cultural learning that simply isn’t going to translate.

Today was an excellent day in Shanghai. Great meeting with the lawyers and we’ve made all the legal decisions that we’ve needed to make for some time. The communication via email and phone has been great up till now but there’s simply nothing better than all sitting round a table thrashing it out together. Still, I was a bit miffed that after diligently practising my two-handed business card delivery they all clearly decided we were ignorant foreigners and handed theirs out with one hand. Maybe they’d all been practising their Western-style delivery equally hard?

Neil & I visited the Urban Planning Exhibition to get better bearings on the topography of Shanghai and work out where our two offices are in relation to the key landmarks.

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Scale model of Shanghai @ the Urban Planning Exhibition

What strikes you when you see the exhibition and the plans for the future (the urban plan goes up to 2010) is the huge ambition of the Chinese. You can see it in the building going on everywhere across the city (Neil counted 120 cranes today from the hotel window and then gave up). Just one example of the ambition and determination – Shanghai built a new deepwater container port to better compete as an international shipping centre. It had to be quite a way offshore to accommodate the tankers and so in order to move the freight ashore they had to construct a bridge over 32km long. The longest sea bridge in the world. Simply staggering.

Back in the Planning Exhibition, we read lots of references under the ‘Shanghai timeline’ section to the ‘invidious’ attempts by the British to enslave the Chinese people to drug addiction during the Opium Wars. Oh dear, one of the problems of being British and travelling the world is you do get to spend rather a lot of time wincing…

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