People, people everywhere! You always hear about the amount of people in China, but you truly have to experience it to appreciate it. On our first full day there, we played our role as tourists and took in the sites: Tieneanman Square, the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven. I literally have 100s of pictures from that day alone, and each one is like the attached - full of people!
Once you get over the feeling of claustrophobia, though, you have to appreciate the fact that all of these people live and work together. The sense of community is amazing. Yes, you had to watch your purse, and there were beggars asking for money (we were in a big city), but overall people were there to help, and they wanted to make sure we felt welcome. There were groups of people who wanted to take our picture, or get a picture with us, but there was also the young man who helped us find a restaurant (a McDonalds nonetheless) on our first night when we were obviously lost. There we were, six women staring at a map on the corner of the street, and he popped his head in to see what we were looking in. It didn't matter that he didn't speak English, and we didn't speak Chinese, we were able to point at the map and he was able to point us in the right direction. Maybe it isn't so bad having that many people around!
I don't think that many people would work, though, if they didn't have the sense of community that the Chinese do. They truly wanted to make sure we were comfortable while we were there. This was also obvious when we were at restaurants. The food just kept on coming, and they were all eager to tell us why the dishes were special. Although I am not the most adventurous eater, it is hard not
to at least try the fish that you were just told was specially prepared. This picture is of a birthday tradition. There are very few baked goods in China, so a birthday isn't celebrated with cake, but with this noodle dish which represents a long, prosperous life. (I celebrated my birthday while I was there, and our guide arranged me to have this dish, and sang to me in Chinese!)
So what is the business lesson here? For me, it was to remember that you are a guest when travelling to another country, whether you are bringing business there or just being a tourist. The Chinese culture is one that does not involve confrontation, so you need to be extra careful to respect their way of life and to honor their traditions. There are people everywhere, and China is a force to be reckoned with, and we cannot ignore it. Still, if we embrace the culture, and the people, it could be beneficial for everyone involved.
Overall, what an experience! There were times I wasn't comfortable, but I was also totally out of my element, so taht is expected. Travelling with awesome people to a place that I would probably not have gone to on my own, while also learning a lot, made this trip amazing. I'll never forget it - or the people!