Christoph Hauser shares his experiences as a KEBA expatriate in China:
If you don't go to the tiger's cage, how can you get the tiger's baby
11.11.2019Christoph was living in China for more than 5 years as an expatriate working for the Keba subsidiary in Ningbo. He always liked traveling, so when he was offered the opportunity to work as Head of the KePlast application team in China, he decided to face the challenge.
不入虎穴，焉得虎子 - bu ru hu xue，yan de hu zi -
"If you don't go to the tiger's cage, how can you get the tiger's baby" is a chinese expression which means, if you do not face the challenge, you will not broaden your horizon and grow your personality.
Chinese like to use expressions and phrases for certain situations. I think this one fits quite well to my experiences I made in China with all the ups and downs.
In 2014 my new home became the city Ningbo, which is ~200km (by car) south of Shanghai. I guess most of the people who read this article never heard of this city before. But Ningbo is not a small city, it has roughly 8 million people! (incl. the outside areas). Almost as much as Austria! This is where the dimension of China becomes visible.
The area around Ningbo is one of the two hotspots in China for the injection molding machine industry and therefore also the area for our potential customers. Keba has a small office there with now roughly 20 people.
Luckily I was not the first expatriate for Keba in China, therefore my colleague (and now also a very good friend of mine) helped me a lot to set up my new life. The biggest challenge in the very beginning was definitely the chinese language which was completely different. If you want to survive in China you have to learn at least some basics to be able to order food in the restaurant or grab a cab on the street. I really do not have a talent in learning languages but in those 5 years I also took several Chinese language classes so that I am able to have a very basic conversation now.
The time in China (especially in the big cities) seems to run twice as fast as in Europe. This has a positive side as well as a negative side. I give you one example: It is possible to order almost everything online super cheap and incredibly fast. Once I ordered a baby powder on Friday night 11:30pm. It arrived before midnight and the total price was 3€! That's crazy but very convenient... At work our customers are expecting the same kind of speed from KEBA as a supplier. For support, deliveries or technical developments their expected timelines are always tough! This was sometimes very challenging but this challenge at work was mastered every day together with the great colleagues from KEBA China.
"From the first day when I arrived my chinese colleagues warmly welcomed me to the KEBA China family and many of them became close friends."
Over the years not only the relationship with my colleagues at KEBA China became close, also the relationship to some employees of our customers did. The relationships are often built while having dinner. In China, having dinner together is very important, also for business. A typical dinner is very different to the western style. It usually lasts for several hours with a lot of eating, drinking and smoking. Besides normal conversations about any kind of topic, from private to business issues, it is also the right time to discuss sensitive topics or topics which should be a little bit "off-the-record".
One thing I like very much about Chinese dinners is sharing the food. Usually the dishes are ordered by one person and then they are placed at the center of the round table. In that way you have the chance to try many different kind of dishes on the one hand and on the other hand you can also skip a dish in case you don't like it.
Chinese food is not equal to Chinese food because the variety of dishes and flavors are very diverse in the different regions of China.
"All in all I can say:
I love Chinese food!"
Most people know that China has a very long history. There are a lot of temples and other very interesting historical scenic spots which can be visited to get some idea about the history and culture of China. A trip to Beijing to see the Great wall or the forbidden city is definitely worth it.
What most people probably don't know is that, in some ways, China really seems much more modern than Europe. The best example is mobile payment: Chinese people hardly need cash anymore in everyday life. Everything is paid via mobile payment. From the biggest shops to the smallest single-man food stalls on the street, mobile payment is really accepted everywhere. When I came back from China it was a reverse culture shock when I suddenly needed a physical wallet again where each coin in it feels like an ancient gold piece from former times.
The modern high-speed train system, bike sharing, the "Uber"-like taxi service App,... are just some more examples where China gave me the impression of the really modern digital infrastructure.
As if moving to another country wasn't challenging enough, there was an even more life-changing event for me in China. I met my wife! - Lucky me! A special experience was the Chinese wedding, which gave me another completely different insight to the Chinese culture. Me and my chinese wife already moved back to Austria!
"As if moving to another country wasn't challenging enough, there was an even more life-changing event for me in China. I met my wife! - Lucky me!"
bu ru hu xue，yan de hu zi - if you don't go to the tiger's cage, how can you get the tiger's baby.
When I look back, going to China was definitely an experience which extended my personal horizon and even with all the hardships I met, for sure I would make the same decision to go abroad again. And the best thing is: with my Chinese wife I will have many reasons to still visit China many times in the future.
Technical Expert Plastics
Exploring Shanghai - Christoph enjoys the view of one of the most famous skylines in the world.