I came to Beijing for work, and i have a few observations about how working here is different than working in the US.
First off, smoking is allowed indoors. This is not a huge problem, as it seems to be discouraged or limited to a certain area, but definitely walking around you can smell smoke. I cannot imagine what life must have been like in the 30 years ago when this was the norm. It certainly seems strange.
Most of my colleagues travel to work via the subway, and it is too expensive to live nearby, so they live far away. Commuting times range from 60-90 minutes, each way. Yikes.
Not only that, but the subways are extremely crowded. To put it in perspective, Sunday morning my host took me on the subway to go to the Forbidden City. The subway seemed crowded to me, since all the seats were filled and the aisles were full of people standing. He told me that was decidedly not crowded, because you could stand without touching someone. During his morning commute, he is pretty much constantly jostling for standing room. There are over 20 million people in Beijing.
Our company office is quite nice, residing on the 19th floor of a large office building. I have been afforded a nice window office with a grand view of downtown.
The cafeteria food here is quite good. It’s really like a food court above a mall, which is located in the lower six floors of this building. One odd thing – to get to lunch, we have to a) ride an elevator to the bottom, b) ride an elevator to the 7th floor, c) go through a corridor and down another flight of steps. I understand a & b, because the elevators are partitioned such that half the elevators go to the top half of the building and the others go to the lower half. But c?
I think i’m doing an OK job here. There are a lot of meetings to talk about their projects, and i’ve been having one-on-one meetings with all the staff here. The idea is that even though we all work together and communicate frequently in email, it is easy for this small team to feel disconnected, being so far away physically and timewise, from the majority of our group. I’m trying to do my part to help them feel valued, and getting to know everyone better in person can only improve the working relationships. I perceive my visit here is more important to them than i realized, so i am trying to play my part adequately.
I cannot give enough praise for my hosts and coworkers, who have been so very gracious in taking me around to sights, going to lunch with me, taking me to dinner, and not letting me pay for anything.