Feed on

Archive for June, 2006

Business Card Etiquette

Business Card Exchange

Since being in China I’ve learned the following about business card etiquette.

  • When giving a business card it must be presented with both hands to the recipient.
  • Upon receiving a business card you must take a few moments to read the card, look back at the giver to acknowledge their card and then put the card in your pocket.
  • Choose your pocket carefully! The pocket you choose indicates your relationship with the giver of the card. To put the pocket in your left shirt pocket indicates that you value the other person as you are putting their business card close to your heart. Putting their business card in your back pocket is obviously a bad idea!
  • If you initiate the exchange of business cards it is important to start with the most important person there and work down to the least.
  • Don’t bow, that’s a Japanese thing and the Chinese don’t think too much of the Japanese.

Team Building

On the Beach

I’ve just returned from 1 1/2 days of team building - China Style. 78 of us set out on a team building exercise. I would just like to say that I have never sweated so much for so long in my entire life! With days of 28 - 30 degrees and 90%+ humidity the conditions were swealtering to say the least. Within 1 hour on Saturday morning my shirt was so wet with sweat that I could squeeze it practically anywhere and make water drip to the ground.

The weekend started off with us all standing on the beach and getting shouted at for 30 minutes, Red Army style. We were then broken up into 6 teams and we selected a leader, drew a logo on our team flag, created a team slogan and a team song. Our slogan apparently said something like “Rocky, Rocky, flies all the way to the moon” or something like that.

First challenge was to pick up a bucket of water that was in the centre of a 6m diameter rope circle on the beach, using only 2 sticks and 2 long lengths of rope, and transfer the water to a bucket outside the circle. Easy enough in principle - just wrap the rope around the bucket by walking around the circle - however a lack of coordination equated to a deficiency in the execution on our team’s part. We got there in the end.

Team Circle

While waiting for the other activities to become available we did a couple of thinking games. The first exercise involved standing in a circle, grabbing other people’s hands (under certain rules) and then untangling ourselves. The second game involved the group standing in a line, 1 person space in the middle, those to the left of the space facing right and vice versa for those on the left. The task was to get both groups of people to the far ends of the line using only the single space to move people around. The rules were that you could move forward 1 space or jump over someone into the space. After a few pro-active team members had given up after about 10 minutes of trying I sat down with some water bottles, 1/2 filled with tea and 1/2 filled with water and figured it out after about a minute of study. Matchsticks would have worked just as well.

The Climbing Structure Climbing Structure

There was a structure about 10m high laced with various kinds of balance beams, jumping poles, ropes and the like. Our next challenge was to move along a rope in pairs, hanging onto a dangling rope for balance, and reach the far end. The trick was that the dangling ropes were further apart than a single person could reach. This promoted the teamwork idea. Pity that those on the safety lines had them so tight that balance was easy.

Dinner that night was outside, chinese buffet style. I have no idea what about 1/3 of what I was eating actually was, although I know that what looked like was potato was actually pig fat. You’d be fooled for thinking that the Chinese had never seen food before! The quantity that they ate! Even those petite little women were eating servings that would have kept me going all day. Lounging around outside, shirt almost dripping with sweat, eating a mountain of food and drinking a warm beer…yep, this is the tropics!

Brekky on day 2 was again an outside buffet affair. I was sweating before I got there. It was going to be another 30 degree and 90% humidity day. The morning was spent in an old factory building with a sand floor. After some morning exercises we had to, as a team, cross a “river” using only 3 44-galon drums and 2 planks of wood. We had a slow start as everyone argued about how to do it but once we committed we overtook one of the other teams for a well-earned 2nd place. This was followed by the team walking on 2 long planks, easy in principle…

Team Plank Walking Swinging Rope

The next activity was to move the entire 14-man team from 2 palletes to 1 pallette using only a swinging rope. First we had to get the rope using only what things that were on our person. The successful solution used shoelaces and a shoe as a lassoo. The heat of the day was taking it’s toll as the initially strong enthusiasm started to wane. Being huddled together on a pallet in this weather will do that.

Go Team!

After another veritable Mount-Everest-Sized lunch, including a cold beer this time, we headed for the balance beam. This looked OK - a wooden beam suspended about 8m up. Once up there I discovered that the whole structure was swaying back and forth about 3cm. As I ventured out to the middle of the beam it must have been swaying back and forth a good 15cm. This was enough to shake loose the beads of sweat from my hands. Balance was undoubtedly hindered by the 20cm wide beam being only effectively 15cm as the edges were smoothly rounded by use and age. I did not fall, but some did and others simply couldn’t bring themselves to do it. To prove that the Chinese have a sense of humour, as one of the guys who opted out was being lowered, one of the guys suggested that he looked like a piece of meat being hung in a butcher shop window!

A task our team did not do, but I would have dearly loved to, was a jump from a single upright pole across to a hanging bar. This pole, at about 8m, wobbles back and forth about 20cm. The requirement is to clim the pole then jump and hopefully grab this steel bar. It became a sign of macho-ism for one team for the successful jumpers to do a chin-up or two on the bar. Most slipped off due to sweaty hands and smooth steel.

Got it!

The final task was an all-team affair. Scale a 4.5m high wall with no external assistance, or padding for that matter, and only the surrounding concrete and team members to break any fall, which I nearly did after over-balancing on the bottom guy’s shoulders. After allocating appropriate leaders the technique was 4 guys on the bottom and 2 at the next level. They would then assist a guy to the top who would start hauling the others up. After getting someone to the top, reorganise the bottom guys to 2 groups of a kneeling step-ladder person and a standing person whose shoulders would be stood on. Once the person was on the shoulders they would step onto surrounding hands and be pushed up to the top-haulers. The last guys were light and hauled up in a chain. We got the entire 75 person team (minus the injured, recently operated or pregnant) up in 22 minutes. Quite satisfying for a bunch of office workers, especially when the record is 12 minutes for 100 people.

Success Wall Group

So much of this stuff just simply wouldn’t be allowed in Australia. Whilst the ropes were good they were being used by amateurs after only 10 seconds of instruction from the team coach. Those jumping from the pole were only prevented from swining back into the pole they jumped from by 2 team members hanging onto a rope on their chest and 2 side-ropes with their other team members hanging onto them with their bare hands (rope guided by eyelets). The latter was the same for the balance beam. The final wall exercise had no padding or protection around it, just the concrete ground to fall on, or your team members. Depending upon the circumstances and activity, I was both nervous about the consequences of something going wrong and yet thankful for the freedom it afforded.

Our Team

On the return journey back to Shenzhen one of the team leaders started things off by singing a song. From that point onwards various people took turns in singing various Chinese songs. I was not looking forward to the proposition of singing so I decided that if I was asked I would sing the Australian national anthem. I tried to rest a little while until 1/2 the bus started chanting “Ao Da Li Ya”, pinyin for Australia. I rose to the front of the bus, took the mic and then belted out my best possible rendition of Advance Australia Fair as the entire bus-load of Chinese clapped along and applauded my effort. It sounded starkly different to the pentatonic scale they’d been previously singing in. It was a big hit.


The time has come to talk about ceiling wax and cabbages, and other things… including how I have decided that yeast is a wonderful substance, for want of a better word, and it has been quite fun re-discovering it over here. Of course, yeast packets are few and far between, but at least you can get it China (and Hong Kong). The steamed buns that are part of a Chinese breakfast use it, so a packet of yeast can usually be found around the top third of a bag of flour that has been purchased from the supermarket.

I have been making current buns (well, sultana buns anyway, but ‘current buns’ sounds better), packed full of fruity goodness and - ok, a few bits of fruity goodness that’re probably quite good nonetheless, and at least they taste all right, are a staplesome bread product that is not sweet and also go really well with butter and golden syrup. They take a few hours to make from go to woe, but the majority of it is just waiting for them to rise. Our kitchen is to one side of the apartment, and contains the washing machine, so it is the perfect hot, humid place for happy dough.

My yeast buns have always been a bit on the dense side, but I’ve recently discovered that the way to avoid this is, before the second rising, to put them on the tray that you’re going to stick in the oven. That way they don’t deflate while you’re prising them loose from the kitchen bench.

sultana rolls.jpg

DVD Busting

There was a news article on TV the other day about how the Chinese goverrment was serious about cracking down on illegal DVD copying. Only recently they had busted a DVD copying facility that was producing 30,000 copy DVD’s per day. Assuming a 24 hour working day that’s a DVD every 2.88 seconds! Footage was shown of the inside of the facility which was quite impressive. The news article talked about how the security was so tight that employees were not allowed to leave except for special circumstances and had to be blind-folded when leaving and entering. We were told that the Chinese government was so clever and cunning in how it determined the location of the facility. In the past month the government has closed down 5 illegal DVD copying facilities to show it was very “serious” about the crack-down.

Truth be told they probably warned them ahead of time so that they could gear up a new facility. And what about the thousands of other copy facilities that are around? It’s the equivalent of the SA government making a commitment to clean up the Murray River by giving someone a bucket and telling them to start scooping out the dirty water. Honestly.


We’ve recently had a visit by our friendly window cleaners! These guys absail down the buildings cleaning the windows as they go. Given that our building is 32 storeys tall, this is no mean feat.

Cleaning the windows by hand

We waved to them as they came past our windows and most of them waved back. One of them in particular seemed very friendly, posing for our camera. The Chinese in general seem very fond of the ‘peace’ symbol when in front of any kind of camera. Personally I blame the Americans.

Window Cleaners 003.jpg

Gail ran to the kitchen and back and gave them each an individually packaged biscuit, handed through the small narrow window openings we have. They really seemed to appreciate it. The friendly one responded with a “xie xie xie xie xie xie”, pronounced ’shie’ which means thanks. )

Check out the little seat

About 2 minutes after they passed our floor it started raining. Only 23 floors to go…

A Night at the Orchestra

Last weekend we did something a little out of the ordinary - we went and saw the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’s opening concert! We were invited along by one of the guys we met at the Australian Embassy a few weeks ago, who remembered that I am a music teacher, and he had some likewise interested friends who were keen for a night out of quality music.

Expat group at the orchestra

As it was a pre-season concert, the orchestra played many popular Classical favourites, to be heard later in a complete series. We were treated to Edo de Waart conducting favourites including the Chinese dance of Tchaikowsky’s Nutcracker Suite (with really nice big flute and piccolo solo), Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries (during which the tuba player became very red in the face), the first and second movements of Elgar’s Cello Concerto (the first movement has the really famous heart-wrenching 1st Subject/ theme) with soloist Richard Bamping, a bit of Berlioz’ The Ball from Symphony Fantastique, heard R Struass’ opening to Also sprach Zarathustra (the theme from 2001 A Space Oddessy), Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 - adagietto, Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 - 1st mvt (opening of Amadeus), Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 Pastorale - 1st mvt. We also heard one of Adams‘ Nixon in China: the Chairman Dances, which was interesting, as I’d never come across them before. They, for obvious reasons, sounded very Chinese, and were quite easy to listen to.

The sound of the orchestra was hard to place; the concert hall they were playing in contained a lot of wood, and the orchestra produced a very natural, raw sound. They seem to favour flute players with a very bright, light and clear sound, as opposed to a mellow, richer tone. I guess that’s understandable given the Chinese language is very high, spoken from the throat, and different to the English we speak from the stomach. The flute player was very capable, and had first class projection during the solos.

The only downside was that since the concert was a preview and they have to play the works later in the year, so it felt more like a very polished rehearsal than a concert with a lot of passion. We still had a great night.

Next »