Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The working life The delegation from China

So the Chinese guys came to town today. As part of the international group, I got to attend the two-hour meeting we had with them this afternoon.

Blesstheirhearts this is what happens at a meeting with the Chinese. I say this with all respect, as the only Chinese words I know are "shay shay" and "nie how." That is, "thank you" and "hello." I would not get very far in Beijing with just those two words.

Two of the three in the delegation spoke English. The third did not. The third also happened to be the Big Guy, so he could not be left out of things.

This is how it went.

Our Big Guy (OBG) talked for a few minutes. Chinese Big Guy (CBG) nodded agreeably, then turned to his #2 guy, who had been taking notes in Chinese - I know because I looked - he wrote like one character for every ten seconds of talking - the entire time, although stopping every minute or so to take a sip of his 7-Up from the straw I had found for him.

My company doesn't offer free coffee to employees but has soda straws in the executive kitchen. Go figure.

Once OBG stopped talking, #2 translated.

Then CBG talked. And talked. And talked. OBG nodded in agreement. After three minutes - maybe it was longer - it sure felt like it was longer - #2 translated again.

OBG: 30 seconds.

#2: Translation.

CBG: Three minutes.

#2: Translation.

OBG: 15 seconds.

#2: Translation.

CBG: Four minutes. Five pages of notes.

#2: Translation.

This went on for TWO HOURS. Although there was a break for the ritual gift giving. I came out of that OK - I have a very cool letter opener now. I remembered to accept my gift with both hands. I also remembered to take business cards to the meeting, even though I highly doubt any of them will ever have reason to contact me. The CBG does not have email, by the way. I guess he has People for that kind of thing.

[One guy had the title "Secretary of the Discipline Inspection Committee." Rubi thinks that title "should come with high-heeled boots, a bustier, and a riding crop" and I have to agree.]

At the very end, our guy from Distribution spoke for seven minutes in 40-second increments. At the end, he mentioned that he works with Chao Jin Hai of the Chinese Transportation Association in Beijing.

The Chinese guys nodded. Yes! The Chinese Transportation Association! They knew it well! But - Chao Jin Hai. Chao Jin Hai. That name - so familiar! Sounded like someone they knew. They looked at each other, spoke in Chinese, said, "Chao Jin Hai," looked at our guy in puzzlement.

Finally, #2 asked, "How do you spell last name of this man?"

Our guy said, "X-I-O."

"Ah!" they said with excitement as they looked at each other and nodded. "CHAO Jin Hai! CHAO! In Chinese, 'X' is pronounced" [and here they said what sounded just like "Ch" to me] "! We know CHAO Jin Hai!"

No comments: