China – the country of a thousand car brands

One highlight of my trip to the purchasing departments of automobile companies all around the world was China. I spent one hot and humid summer and an extremely cold autumn there to train managers for purchasing.

The trip there was already outstanding in every aspect! The Lufthansa ground staff commanded the Chinese travellers around in a military-like tone – at first a veritable puzzle for me, but after a few days in the country, it was put in perspective. After a short stop in Beijing (Peking), I regretted having put my hand baggage on the floor. The realization that spitting on the floor (even on the plane) is not at all against Chinese (business) rules of behaviour came too late. Communication in general seems to be much harsher than in Europe. But still, China is one of the friendliest and most polite countries that I have ever experienced.

Chinese streets were somewhat of a surprise for me, the automobile expert! There are around 279 million vehicles in China, but I never expected that I wouldn’t know most of the car makes that I saw! During every taxi or bus ride in the provincial capital of Shenyang, I noticed new makes and no one could tell me exactly how many different brands exist. All those who have come into wealth prefer German cars. BMW and Daimler are popular symbols of status, which is why it didn’t come as a surprise to me that all the purchasers I met wanted to know as much as possible about German standards.

The purpose of my stay in Shenyang was to train purchasers from various Asian countries, i.e. China, Thailand, India and Malaysia. Discipline, hierarchies and high working ethics force all those who want to be taken seriously to be extremely strict. Remembering the commanding flight attendant, I realized that I had to adapt my style of training to Chinese customs. Cooperative methods which are appropriate in Europe and the USA would not have hit the target there. But at the end of the day, where else than in China will all the participants rise from their chairs to bow in front of the trainer? I also noticed a strong team spirit among the Chinese participants. Agreements are achieved democratically with enough time for everyone to have his or her say. Perhaps the contrast of kindness and harshness we Europeans observe at first glance reflects the principles of Ying and Yang deriving from old Chinese philosophy. But no matter what, I would sincerely love to return to China one day. A warm welcome and a smile are sure to accompany you from day one, and the urge to bow comes almost naturally!