23.03.2010 0 °C
Well, at the request of my boss I "popped over to China for a week on my way back to India" as he said I was already half the way there.
I have been there a few times but it never feels as comfortable as India. It just feels more foreign. I guess it is the language difference as most people in India can speak at least a sprinkling of English.
There are other aspects of China that I find very diffcult:
1) spitting. What is it with Chinese poeple and spitting? They seem to do it all of the time. You can't put a bag on the floor without it landing in a puddle. I know the air is poluted but it isn't that bad.
2) slurping. Having had a number of meals with Chinese suppliers I am amazed at how well they slurp. Everything!
3) Food. I am veggi. Now I can get a plate of mushrooms and mustard greens with no probs but from the taste they have been cooked in chicken stock. They just do not get the idea of being veggi.
4) personal space. As this is the most populous place on earth I have got used to the idea that all lifts etc are crammed full of poeple but I do find that this has led to a total disregard for personal body space. I have had people pushing so closely behind me we were almost intimate.
5) Alcohol. The British have a reputation for hard drinking but at an evening meal we do not hold a candle up to the chinese. Most nights, as I have been visiting new suppliers, they take you for a meal then break out this bottle of white "wine". It is a form of saki. I believe it is called Moutai. It is as powerful as neat vodka and it is served in tiny glasses (usually, sometimes in small tumblers). Then there is a shout of Gambai (down in one) and it becomes a competition to see who can survive longest. The last meal I had with a group of Chinese men saw them taking it in turns to go to the en suite loo to vomit!
Now don't let this put you off going. It is a fabulous country to see. The culture is so different. The people are very friendly and want to make you feel welcome. I have seen some amazing places (Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Tianenman Square) and have seen things I would never have believed.
But if you are going for business travel remember, present your business card with 2 hands, receive other cards the same way, do not write on them, pout them away safely and respectfully. And get practicing the chopsticks. They will being you a knife and fork if you really need it but I have found my hosts appreciate the fact that I am almost as dextrous as a local!
So go for it!