March 2017 - People Work

In China, everything is different

Architect Niels Kranenburg and business developer Shuying Lin travel back and forth between the Netherlands and China. We asked them what it's like to work there, and what the differences are with the Netherlands. What it really comes down to: everything is different.

Niels says: "One major difference is the continuity of work. Where in the Netherlands everything is going in order, in China it all runs rather ad hoc. It therefore is very chaotic. Or so it seems, as we by now recognize the patterns." Clients behave very hierarchical in China. Shuying: "You give presentations to intermediaries, who then tell your story to their boss. While obviously you rather want to tell your story directly to the decision maker, to the 'big boss'. You should as it were work up to meet the boss. In China one way to do that is by having food and drinks with your customers.” Niels adds: "The social part in the business relationship is much larger than what we are used to in the Netherlands."

If you want to be successful in China physical presence is essential. The time difference with the Netherlands in combination with ad hoc running processes, makes it almost impossible if you really want to be successful. Niels continues: "Working in China feels like playing in the Champions League; it requires flexibility and does not suit everyone. Now that we understand the game and get real interesting assignments, we really get a kick out of it. For example the SOHO project in Guangzhou which we are working on now. The challenge was to optimally organize more than 1.000 residential units within a strict spatial framework and to create a distinctive look. The scale and scope of such plans in combination with the high speed and ad hoc processes are very challenging. And that's very nice." And much more rewarding is if the same client comes to you again for its next job.

Shuying: "In China you have to get your satisfaction from other things than you would get it from in the Netherlands. For example from the bizarre context in which you live and work over there, and from the very fact that you are working on projects with an unprecedented scale compared to the Netherlands. We are now working on the chance to make a 200 meters high tower. That really makes worth all the traveling."