by Lisa Sisley on November 12, 2010

First, the background: In May, I met K-State’s Dr. Jishu Shi at an international biotech conference, when we were both members of K-State’s booth-staffing team. Dr. Shi is a faculty member in the College of Veterinary Medicine and is an international expert on porcine diseases and vaccines.

We got to talking during the down times (yes, those of you who know me are SHOCKED, SHOCKED, I SAY, that I would be talking), and he suggested that I attend the First Annual Chinese Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Technology and Instrument Expo in Beijing, October 28 and 29. Dr. Shi, along with other CVM and K-State contributors, is establishing the U.S.-China Center for Animal Health, so it was under these auspices that he was helping to organize the conference. He thought it would be a good opportunity for me to tout NBCG’s expertise in technical editing for those in the animal health and bioscience arenas.

Anyway, I’ve never been out of the country, Ken and I didn’t do much to celebrate our 25th anniversary a couple years ago, and I thought: hey, I’m not getting any younger (shut up, Susan), so let’s go to China! The Kansas Department of Commerce sponsored the trip, and some Kansas City-based animal health and bioscience companies also attended. New Boston had a booth with the Kansas delegation, we were treated to two wonderful banquets, and I made some interesting contacts. I’m hopeful the trip will lead to new business.

Observations:

  • No one, in the 10 days we were there, blew us off when we needed help. Granted, most of our interactions were with cabbies, doormen, hostesses and other folks whose jobs involve serving the public. But still…when we couldn’t make ourselves understood to one person, that person went and found somebody else. And if that person couldn’t figure it out, he or she got somebody else involved. Nobody threw up their hands, copped attitude, rolled their eyes or steered us wrong.
  • I’m a good haggler.
  • There was so much English-language and pinyin (Chinese phonetic language system) signage and so many Western companies operating in Beijing, it was quite easy to maneuver in the major shopping and tourist areas.
  • However, the Chinese don’t believe in much signage at tourist destinations. You better know something about what you’re looking at before you get there, because there aren’t going to be any signs once you get started. I kind of liked that…no clutter and you got a better sense of the original state of things.
  • The Great Wall is the most amazing place I’ve ever been. A German couple walked by us there and he said to her (in English, which seems weird in retrospect), “All the other things we’ve seen are blending together, but we will never forget this.” Amen, brother.
  • The Chinese aren’t big on standing in line. Cutting in is the norm. However, if you call somebody on it, they get behind you again. At least they did for me. I can be quite intimidating.
  • A friend told me to always keep power bars in my purse, in case I was someplace where I couldn’t eat the food. Good advice.
  • However, most of the food was great, if (of course) unfamiliar. The best thing was when we were eating with Chinese people who could discuss the dishes knowledgeably. And I figured out chopsticks when I stopped looking at my fingers and started looking at the food. Motivation is key.
  • My husband is good help. Thanks, honey, for helping in the booth and delivering my spiel when I got pulled away!
  • The cabs in Beijing are a world-class bargain. It seemed like it cost $2 (about 14 yuan) to go anywhere. They are regulated so you don’t get ripped off, the drivers are FAST, and they make absolutely sure they know where you want to go before you start the trip. We got a terrific map from our hotel with all the hot spots highlighted, in both English and Chinese. Pointing, nodding and saying “thank you” in either language worked really well. (The drivers were also recklessly fearless, so if you’re a timid sort, Beijing probably isn’t for you…bus drivers were crazy, too.)
  • Believe people when they tell you that jet lag coming home is far, far worse than going over. But the 14-hour flights were not nearly as bad as we thought they would be. Movies, a neck pillow, and free booze were pretty much all it took to keep us happy. Go figure.

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