More about my trip to Asia…
So to recap, I was sent to India and China by my company to inspect some equipment we were importing for the project I am working on – a mineral beneficiation plant in South Africa.
After a long trip between India and China, I finally reach my final destination – Luoyang. Luoyang is the oldest city in China and in recent decades has reinvented itself to be an industrial hub – home to major steel manufacturing factories. It’s really quite amazing how well it has interfaced between the old and new worlds, maintaining its charm and history whilst growing into the booming metropolis it is today.
I visited a foundry and a factory where my parts w
ere being fabricated and had a chance to witness the many stages a piece of steel has to go through (and the monstrous machinery that makes this happen) before it can be shipped off to places all over the world. It was unbelievable to see how huge some of the parts being fabricated were and the immense machinery and “ovens” it took to do it. The Chinese are also excellent fabricators and take pride in their work and abilities. I was told by my host from the Company I was visiting that in China, work is #1…and food is #2. The work ethic of the Chinese is the famous attribute that has allowed the country to grow into the production giant it is today.
Visiting the Chinese factories and experiencing how Chinese engineers operated was a great experience for me and was extremely interesting. There are many similarities between engineers in SA and China, but also vast differences – especially in the culture of doing business. What I learned is that the culture of China and its people is integral into how people behaved in a working or business environment. As “Westerners” (and due to the large European influence in SA I have to lump myself into that boat as well in terms of business etiquette), we take for granted all the small things we do which are acceptable in our cultures. It’s so easy to unknowingly say or do something rude or offensive when interacting with people of a completely different culture to your own.
For example – drinking alcohol at a business lunch would be unacceptable in Western business culture but is very important to the Chinese. In China, there is a saying that, “you must never drink alone” and I had to be quite adamant about refusing a 3rd glass of sake during lunch or would have been at risk of getting quite drunk at 2pm! This of course is normal in China and if a colleague had to slump or pass out due to inebriation, the host of the meal would be quite satisfied that he was doing a good job in taking care of his guests.
I also found that the Chinese people I met and spoke to have a great sense of humour. This is apparently also characteristic of the culture over there. And of course, they are famously excellent hosts!