When in China…
November 5, 2021

As I was heading from the hotel to the airport for my return flight home, I found myself mulling over several observations from my enlightening trip to China. Throughout my time in Beijing, there were many instances where I felt as if I could have been in the States. This despite the apparent boom in construction as evidenced by cranes everywhere, the food trucks selling exotic fare such as scorpion and centipede, and the always gridlocked highways with drivers treating the shoulders as a passing lane. Even while separated by more then 7,000 miles, the morning papers’ content was centered on the same issues I would have been reading in the WSJ back home. Everywhere I looked, all I saw were heads buried in iPhones and Samsungs. At times I forgot I was even in China.

But despite how connected our countries are and the increasing appetite for a western style of living , it is still a country with a very special character of its own. Nowhere was this more apparent than in conducting business. No matter how similar our countries appear to be, business in China is deeply rooted in tradition and habits. In fact, I’ve noticed that the biggest difference in our business cultures lies in our respective decision-making processes.

In the U.S., we often approach business decisions very objectively and analytically. It’s the “show me the numbers and I’ll make the decision” mentality. In China, businessmen tend to look at the bigger picture first and use more subjective observations, such as the relationship dynamic, to make the decision. Neither way is correct nor incorrect – they’re just different styles. But if you want to successfully do business with a Chinese partner, you need to understand and appreciate their business etiquette.

So as our cultures converge and at times seem indistinguishable, it’s important to understand that we still have fundamental differences in how we approach business. Traveling provides us all with an opportunity to learn and grow both personally and professionally. It helps open our minds to new approaches to work and life. Among the cultural differences I’ve yet to fully adjust to, though, is China’s Airport Customs and Security, which involved much stricter measures when exiting their country than ours. I never thought I would actually long for the process the TSA has in place in the U.S. Once again, it’s an example of how countries can have different approaches to reach the same end goal.

But I’m happy to be back home with my family now, even with the renewed jetlag I had just overcome.

Thanks for stopping by.


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