I’m going to take a break from the economy this evening, and move to a slightly more personal topic. Though not the one that kept me from posting this week. Last January my business partner and I went to Beijing. We’d been invited by two people that we’d been doing some work with to promote a potential new brand in the Chinese market.
It looked pretty good from a distance, the plan was to visit the city and spend a few days in the office and then if we were happy, they’d offer us a job with their new company. So we found ourselves on relatively warm Shenzhen day, heading off to the somewhat colder wastes of the North. It’s worth noting that that description is only half joking, thanks to the pollution and erosion of the terrain – the Gobi Desert has marched half way across China right up to the doors of Beijing.
My business partner (who shall remain anonymous – not because he’s going to be in for a tough time on here, but because it’s just polite) is also a very close friend, but it’s not until you share a flight with another chap that you realize something very personal about them. That’s how loud they snore. I’m proud to report that he makes me sound like a purring cat, and the buzz saw drone from his schnozz would have scared Giant Redwoods a thousand miles away.
Despite this the trip was affable enough even if the stingy airline only had 4 cans of lager on board. Beijing airport like all airports in major cities is nice enough but having seen more airports than I count we didn’t linger to check out the “buy tourist crap” stores.
We were met at the airport by the company investor’s chauffeur in a brand new top of the range Land Rover, which like every bloody vehicle in China had no leg room in the back and despite my friend enjoying the experience very much (he and I are in the car industry after all) it wasn’t a particularly comfortable trip to the office.
We headed into the heart of the central business district passing what can only be charitably described as unattractive housing, so it’s not just the UK that’s “grim up’t North”. Beijing may be famous for its cyclists, but there aren’t very many of them anymore and the traffic is something to behold. In fact it’s gotten so bad that the local government has had to put a restriction on vehicle registrations in the city (you can’t drive in Beijing without a Beijing number plate).
The one cyclist I did see was wearing a face mask to protect herself from the smog, which isn’t actually all that bad in Winter where it’s cold enough for the particles to fall out of the air (and on to everything in the city), but in Summer is possibly fatal (particularly if you have asthma or other respiratory disorder).
The CBD itself isn’t that bad, it’s a modern looking city center complex with a scattering of half empty shopping malls and towering office buildings. Our office building was nice, and better still there was a Subway underneath so we’d be spared the horrors of Chinese food every day at lunch. We dragged our suitcases into the lift and headed into the office itself. One of the things about all Chinese work environments is that they’re always open plan cubicle style places with cubicles so small that they remind you of a dwarven telephone box. Sadly this was true for this company’s HQ too, but on the bright side we’d be working in the board room and wouldn’t need to master the art of sitting sideways at a desk.
And tomorrow we’ll head back to Beijing and our first day at work, but for now have a great Sunday.