Arriving & Meeting My New Colleagues
My new colleagues, and managers of my PROtastic China office had insisted on meeting me at the airport. Although I’d text chatted on Skype daily for the last 6 months, I’d never met them before and the closest I’d been was a Skype chat I’d had in the shower where I mistakingly pressed ‘video call’ instead of ‘voice call’!
While on the flight, they asked me to take a photo of myself so they might recognise me at arrivals. I wonder if we all look the same to them? So, 33,000ft over Irkutsk I took a photo and sent it to them, technology blows my mind! “Oh wow, you are handsome” came the message a couple of minutes later… I hope they hadn’t enjoyed the shower call too much!
Shenzhen Airport had changed considerably since I was last here, and I was thankful when I heard a voice shouting my name. As promised, they were both there to meet me and they led me to their car.
The airport was about a 35 minute drive to my hotel in the heart of the electronics markets. Once checked in they insisted on accompanying me to my room and wanted to carry all my cases.
It’s customary in China to present business associates with gifts when you first meet; I’d ordered Manchester United shirts weeks ago… although I hate football its my goto gift as everyone knows the brand when I tell them where I live. Their faces were beaming and they immediately recognised the logo. They reached in their bags and presented me with a return gift. A toilet roll. It’s the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever been given in China and I’ll definitely use it!
When we first chatted my manager explained that his wife was in hospital. For 6 months we’ve chatted daily and before we spoke about business I’ve religiously asked how his wife is and if she is out of hospital. I even offered to cancel my trip once, but he insisted “I have my wife for a lifetime, but you for only a week. Please do not cancel because my wife is in hospital”.
I asked how his wife was and was saddened to hear that she was still in hospital. It was only then, after half a year, that the penny dropped… she wasn’t a patient she was a dental nurse! He failed to spot the funny side and insisted that we will visit the hospital this evening that I’d asked so much about!
I hit the markets as soon as I’d dropped my bags. Each market is huge, about the size of a large Tesco multiplied by 5 floors. And there are over a dozen markets!
Inside, each floor is split into tiny pathways between small booths. Each booth represents a factory.
Each market and floor specialises in a different product: computers, mobile phones, security and CCTV, cameras, components, audio visual etc.
You can buy single items from the booths but their real purpose is to sell you hundreds or thousands of an item, they are wholesale markets.
I had my eye on a 360 4K VR camera and had negotiated a price online with a company. They gave me their location in Chinese and booth number but it still took 2 hours to locate them, and when I did they didn’t have the product in stock as they promised. After another couple of hours browsing I found the exact camera at an even cheaper price and purchased immediately.
I spent the rest of the day browsing the markets for inspiration.
Walking round Shenzhen is like having a crystal ball, you can often see trends and new products months before they arrive in the UK stores. My prediction for 2018’s hot products are 3D printers and rubber piano keyboards.
My new manager, Sean, collected me in the evening. He told me he would drive to take photos of some things that might interest me.
The first stop was… The hospital where his wife works! You just couldn’t script it. He told me his wife was in hospital when we first met, and I’ve asked religiously daily how his wife is. Turns out she’s a dentist not a patient but he thought I might like to take a photo of the Hospital I always ask about!
The next stop was Shenzhen Bay, and we parked up and walked a couple of miles up a coastal path admiring the skyscrapers of Hong Kong on the horizon.
Restaurant Table On The Move
We drove to a restaurant for an evening meal and I reluctantly gave some shrimps who were swimming happily in a tank the death sentence when asked to choose. It was like an aquarium back home and seeing my food alive has never been a turn on!
Asked to choose a table inside or out, I chose outside… Even at 10pm it was mid 70’s and the breeze outside was refreshing.
Food arrived fast and my hosts were amazed at my chopstick skills. I was even challenged to eat peanuts with chopsticks which I did with ease. I felt like a superhero!
Part way through dinner, panic engulfed the restaurant. The police arrived. Apparently the owner hadn’t paid enough bribes to the authorities to license him for tables outside and the police arrived to take photos to prove he had no tables outside. Don’t ask, I’m still confused what happened next.
Our table and food was uplifted from the pavement and plonked in the road, taking up a lane of the busy dual carriage way. The chairs were put around. I was told to sit and continue, which I did; while the police took photos of an empty pavement and us eating a meal in the road!?
The restaurant owner wasn’t happy that his guests had been moved and I think he used every rude Chinese word possible as he squared up for a fight with the police while his chef held him back. The police ignored, got in a van and drove off; their work complete.
The waiters carried our table back to the safety of the pavement, the owner came to apologise to me, sat down and started eating our food! He said his name was Jeremy and as he tried his best to speak English to me, his temper calmed.
Jeremy actually seemed lovely and gentle, but as the night wore on got very drunk.
We made our excuses and left…