Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Office Pictures

Well I finally got some pictures posted. The first picture is of me at my desk. There are no cubicles with high sides here, you can hear people's phone conversations from all over but the workers don't seem to mind.

The other pictures are around the office in different areas. It was designed to have a very traditional Chinese style with a carp pond and fancy paintings. It is really a treat to be able to work in such a unique place. The ponds have a small waterfall into them and fish swimming around.

In the second and third pictures you can see the tea drinking area. I have been told that this is where they can take important clients to talk business but I haven't seen it used yet. I want to try it before I go! The very small tea cups are on the table and the pads around the table are where you sit. Also notice the stepping stones to get out to the deck.

The last picture is of the top of the stairs, there are two huge fake trees that act as pillars. They are pretty lifelike so it feels like you are working outside!

Home Decorating Fair

So why do you come to the Guangdong province? All of the great manufacturers! Before coming to China I had hoped that I could have some interaction with the companies to learn about the different products they make and strategies they use to provide competitive products.

My friend from Kimward (a partner with the logistics company I am working for) invited me to go along thinking that I could make some contacts with foreign importers and could offer them our logistics services. We took the subway to the large complex located near the Pearl River. We got to the entrance and found out that the tickets were 20 Yuan (not quite 3 dollars). However in China there is always a second way to do things, so one of our collogues bought 3 second hand passes from people next to the subway exit! They were only 4 Yuan a piece (less than a dollar), and you could sell them when you were done with them for 2 Yuan!

Inside were hundreds and hundreds of manufacturers selling things like sinks, faucets, flooring, hinges, doors, locks, etc. My friend from the export office was going to find new products to export to different countries. I was going just to learn and observe what it was like but I got far more attention! Since I do not look Chinese they frequently came up to me to hand me their contact information and brochures.

I was surprised at how few foreigners were actually there, it seemed like most of them were domestic buyers. I have heard that during the main Canton Fair the place is filled with buyers from all over the world.

Even though I am not a buyer I think I might contact some companies to see if I can get a tour of their facility.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Pleas revert to me ASAP, Tks&B. Rgds.

Are you a little confused what that sentence means? It is a good example of what I have seen in e-mails from people who don’t speak English as their first language (this example for the record did not come from a Chinese person) Many of the e-mails that we get have very bad grammar and you have to just guess what the meaning is. I am very poor at spelling so I can relate to the difficulties people have. Most of the time you can understand what they are trying to say, but they just used an incorrect word. Many people also use abbreviations in their letters (our business writing professors would have something to say about this!). Like Pls for “please” or tks for “thanks.”

I have sent e-mails to contacts in Africa, South America, Asia, and Europe. I even got to call someone on the phone in Belgium. International communication isn’t as difficult as I thought; you just have to keep your English simple.

You also have to be aware of the time difference when sending e-mails and calling people. The workers always make sure to answer every e-mail each day because if they don’t it may be 2 days before someone hears from them. I have also heard of some workers waking up early to send a few e-mails in hopes of catching people in western continents before they leave work.

Working in a country that has a different government, and therefore different allies than us is quite interesting. H&T is the agent and good partner with IRISL- which is an Iranian shipping company. I find it quite interesting that if I was in America I would never have shipments coming from Iran to a port near me! I think it would be interesting if I were at H&T if things got worse with America and Iran. How would you like it if one of your partners was suddenly not able to get shipments to you because their country was in a war?

You mean I get to sleep and watch TV at work?

Many people say that Americans are overworked in their lives and jobs. This internship in China has me thinking that this is true! I though that working in China would be filled with long stressful days and demanding schedules. This has been the exact opposite!
People without and education in China may have long hours but so far the office workers I talk to have about the same schedule.

People at my office work 9 am to 6 pm with a 1.5 hour lunch break! They also don’t show up early for work. I have come to work at 8:30-8:45 because of the bus schedule and often I am the first one to show up in my department. People say “Oh you are so early!”

One cool thing about H&T’s office is that they play a short song to begin work, end work, and for your lunch break times. The song in the morning almost motivates you to work and the song at the end of the day sounds light and joyous because you are done with work! There however is no music that is playing throughout the day like in some offices in America.

At noon all of the workers start their lunch breaks. They commonly bring noodles and rice from home and eat it at their desks. Then nap time comes! From about 12:45 to 1:30 almost all of the workers take out a small pillow and put their head on their desks! They even turn off the lights! This nap is part of Chinese culture and you can see people everywhere taking naps. I have seen people in clothing stores, restaurants, and on the street getting a nice afternoon nap. One day the guy next to me was in such a deep sleep that he didn’t wake up to the music so one of the supervisors had to come and tap him on the shoulder!

When 1:30 rolls around the “lunch is over” song plays over the speakers and it is back to work! The Chinese respect their break times more that Americans do also. I think if Americans are really busy they would work right through lunch, but I don’t think this is true here. My manager says that she is really busy but I still see her watching videos online during her break. She is not lazy it is just the culture here that you get a definite break/nap time that is not to be interfered with.

Many of the workers who speak English will watch American TV shows on their break. My department, which is all female, likes Desperate Housewives and I Prison Break.


I am convinced that Asians handle distractions better that Americans. I think that they are used to constant annoyances because they live in such crowded cities and in small spaces.

In my office because you have no dividers or cubicles you can hear the phone conversations and chatting of others from many desks away. I am lucky because they are speaking in a dialect of Chinese that I do not understand so I can just ignore it as if it were other noise. However I have noticed that there can be a very loud phone call behind someone and they continue with their task as if nothing was happening.

If you look at magazines or advertisements in China you will almost have a hard time deciding what to look at because they cram so many pictures and information on one page.

I have plenty of fish and pig legs; all I need is more tea!

I have been very lucky so far in my stay here. I have been invited out to eat on many occasions with co-workers and friends here at Jinan University where I live. Going out to eat at a nice restaurant is a very important experience in Chinese culture and basic understanding of the procedures will allow you to fit in and impress your friends. There are many aspects to a meal so this will be a long post!

Some of the restaurants I have been to have private rooms for the groups but most just have large tables in one lively and noisy common room. Once again the respect for your leader comes into play when ordering. The most important person at the table will order many dishes for the whole group, usually without much input from others.

In China you do not wait for all the dishes to be done before you bring them out; when one dish is ready it is immediately brought to the table. In Guangzhou the first dish is usually a chicken broth that you pour into a bowl (In other parts of China this is the last dish). Then one-by-one all of the other food that your host ordered comes to the table.

I have the mentality that I will eat absolutely anything put in front of me and so far I have been very pleased with the outcome. I have had more traditional dishes like chicken, duck, rice, and egg dishes but I have also had some more exotic things. The first time I saw a whole fish (and by whole I mean scales, head, fins and all!) I was a little intimidated but I was surprised that I really liked it! You just take your chopsticks and grab pieces off the belly and put them on your plate. I have also had pigs legs (mostly skin), chicken feet, and countless other things that I have not idea what they were. Many people ask me “How do you call this dish in English?” and my most common reply is “I don’t know I have never seen it before!”

Another important aspect of the meal is the tea. You will be given a tea cup (awkwardly small- about 2-3 ounces by my guesses). Naturally you will need to fill up your cup many times throughout the meal. You always pour tea for others at your table, standing up and walking around if necessary. You will top off others cups even if it looks full and never pour tea for yourself first! When someone else pours tea for you to say “thank you” you tap your fingers on the table next to your cup. Tap one finger if you are single and two if you have a girlfriend or wife.

In special occasions you will also drink alcohol. You don’t drink it on your own but rather toast something or someone. These cups are also extremely small so you don’t have to worry about having too much, even if your meal last two hours.

The hosts always order way too much food so you will never clean your plate. I hate wasting food so it is hard for me to walk away at the end of a meal! When your mother told you to finish your plate because there are hungry children in China she may have been right about some areas but the well to do in China have food to spare!

When you are finally done with your meal a few hours later the host get the bill. Paying is only done by the host, so if someone invites you out for dinner you are guaranteed a free meal! It is not expected that the guests will try to offer money to be polite. After the bill is paid you commonly get a plate of fruit for desert. Treating others to meals is done with the expectation that you will return the favor later, but I have found that it isn’t so easy. I have tried to invite my friends out for a meal but they told me since I am a guest in China I will never be able to pay! They always tell me “next time” which never happens! There is also no tipping in China.