My experience started when I applied for a job, as International Marketing Analyst, at a Chinese agrochemical company, located in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.
Roberto Ferreira Junior [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
Shortly after being accepted all started, I was in the process of going to China. Visa, documents, passport, books, maps, contacts, phone calls, everything started to happen. In a few days I would be leaving Brazil and going to Asia.
It was April 7, 2010; I embarked to France and from there I would go to Guangzhou. With only minutes to the landing, I started talking to a Frenchman who was sitting beside me, and I had said about my expectations for the next six months of living in China. I was very excited and very happy with the situation, I was realizing my biggest dream, to know the country that motivates my goals and career and life. Getting out from the plane, I stopped and said to myself aloud, "My God, I'm in China", then the Frenchman heard this and said, touching my shoulder," Yes, you are in China". This was the one of the most wonderful feeling that I had, the feeling of a dream coming true.
I joined the immigration line and then presented my passport. With it stamped, I left the airport towards the McDonalds. "Fried chicken on the menu at McDonalds?" So begins my first surprises about China.
A Chinese friend who studies at Sun Yat-sen University picked me up and left me at the hotel. I spoke no Chinese, just knew "ni hao" and "xie xie". I could not communicate with the receptionist at the hotel. With no words to say, I went to my room. Because of time zone, I stayed up all night trying to really believe that I was in China. Early morning, I went to take breakfast with some friends and know the region. Two days later, I took the train to Shenzhen. The trip was very nice. Inside the train, some Chinese guys were trying to communicate with me in English, and from there begins my admiration for this formidable people.
When I arrived at the Luohu Station, the HR manager of the company was waiting for me. She took me to know the company and then we went to dinner. The food was the first major cultural shock I had, lots of pepper, tea, hot water, fish heads, spicy noodles. I started to get surprised and have fun. I was really in love with China.
I began to share an apartment with two Chinese friends, people whom I admire and that helped a lot in my adaptation. We were playing football, taking lunch, dinner, learning words that were so important to me day to day. On April 11, 2010 I started working.
There were unforgettable moments together with my Chinese friends of the company. Everyone was always very helpful and taught me too much. I think I learned more than I could offer. I loved the nap from 13:00. Everyone takes a nap for 30 minutes after lunch. Lunch time is something that I always remember. So many people rushing to be first in line, crowded elevators and everyone smiling and talking. I miss that warmth and purity that I could live there.
Roberto Ferreira Junior pose with his Chinese friends in an undated photo. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
Lunch time was a really nice time, we talked and we approached of each other. Everyone watching and commenting "Look, a foreigner." There were several times when this happened, I was having fun. A similar situation happened in the elevator of the building where I lived. Two kids were inside the elevator, so I arrived. One in a low voice, told the other kid "he is a foreigner," so I said "wo bu shi lao wai, wo shi baxi ren" (I'm not a foreigner, I'm Brazilian). They looked at me scared and then we started laughing. Being a foreigner in China is very fun. I could feel the warmth of the Chinese people.
Talking about Chinese cities, I can say that I just have praise to do. Very clean streets, beautiful buildings, subways and well cared with a unique beauty. The decorations, red lanterns, Chinese flags, how I loved these all. There is a lot of security in China, well policed streets, many security cameras. I could walk smoothly without worrying about violence or assault.
I had many friends in China. Chinese and Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Brazilian, Mexican, Italian, French, Canadians and Americans. I miss them all. We had situations together that I will never forget. I learned a lot.
I got a Chinese name in my first days in China, the name is "Fang Xiao Long - 方小龙”. I liked it, despite being funny. The western names that Chinese people are used to have helped me a lot, it wasn't easy to learn the language, nor to remember Chinese names.
Talking about a situation involving language, there is a situation that I always tell my friends. I caught a taxi and always talking in Chinese, I said where I wanted to go. I asked why we were starting at RMB 10.00, and then the taxi driver explained to me why. I swear, I did not understand at all, my Chinese was not that good. I stopped talking. Arriving at my destination, the amount I should pay was RMB 16.00. I just had a note of RMB 100.00 and the taxi driver had no change. I said I just had a note of RMB 100.00. He started talking and I didn't understand anything. I said I did not understand and that my Chinese was not good, and he said I was lying because I had talked with him as well. I didn't know what to do. I asked to wait for a minute, because I would change the money in some store. I remember he talked a lot and I didn't understand anything. In the end, he said everything was fine and that I need not pay. It was a difficult situation.
Chinese people are very dedicated to the work. They are competent and hardworking. I had them as a mirror to my life. All of them work hard and want to win. I saw friends working overtime to realize the task of the day. This is a beautiful thing to behold. Commitment.
The Chinese way of doing business is something that I had the honor to be around. I remember when I started working, I was excited about the response of some Brazilian consumers, I didn’t understand why they were taking so long to answer me, and the manager of my department – person that I'm very thankful - told me "You should have more patience. Wait, they'll answer. This is the ways that we, Chinese people, do business." This is a very valuable learning and I decided never forget.
Today I am back to Brazil, working with international trade and still involved with China. I'm still learning Chinese and now I can communicate reasonably in Chinese language. Next year I plan to return to live in China. The experience in China has added too much knowledge to the person I became. Today I see the world in a different way, and the Chinese were my teachers.
The author lived in Shenzhen for 7 months working as International Marketing Analyst at Iprochem Co Ltd. He is majoring in International Relations and getting specialization in China studies and he also writes articles about China in a Brazilian website about International Relations.
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