Finding myself in Quanzhou

My trip to Quanzhou took place in 2006. At that time I worked for the European Union for Coastal Conservation (EUCC) as a marketing communication associative and coaching was still something I did part-time. I was also responsable for selling advertisement space and finding sponsors for their magazine about Coastal conservation. Through lack of time the director sent me off to China to be present at a meeting organised by the China Ocean Press. Aside from my original function I was sent off as a representative along with a colleague and a Chinese translator whose origin is Dutch. The goal of our trip was to offer our knowledge and help in revising a book on China Ocean Culture and being present at the presentation of the book.

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This was my first work related experience abroad and there I was in the province of Quanzhou. China Ocean Press took us around the province to see it from a cultural perspective and I was really impressed. Most of all I was impressed by the enormous amount of people living in the lower class standards. For a small part of Quanzhou is equipped to make the business people feel welcome.

After the tour and having whined and dined with all the guests of China Ocean Press we were ready for work! What I especially would like to share with you is how the Chinese business setting amazed me. While the three of us were listening attentively to the different presentations I saw people yawning shamelessly and mobile phones went off and they even picked up the phones to speak a bit. Moreover they were smoking during the presentations and some of them were sleeping?? I found it pretty entertaining to the least while trying to concentrate myself to give the speakers my full atention!

What I also observed, was the fact that one of the professors demonstrated one of the cultural dimensions of Geert Hofstede, namely the high-power distance. The professor interrupted a Chinese man, who was hired to translate to English, because he found him translating too slowly. He took over the work of the translator several times. After the presentation, during dinner, I saw the translator keeping up his face towards the professor by acting in a very humble way. Though he kept his face up I sensed that he didn’t feel at ease with the professor.

This trip has been a full learning experience to me with respect to intercultural communication aspects between colleauges from Europe and China and business wise. In addition to the previous, also the mere fact of diving into my own culture and background, was a big plus of this trip. Along with diving into my Chinese background, the experience of not blending in, because of my Dutch/Chinese upbringing, gave me a shot to reality. Where do I blend in naturally and what makes me tick? Where do I want to live and settle?

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