How Americans and Chinese view time: What to take away

Ian SoderUncategorized0 Comments

American and Chinese people have historically viewed time in very different ways. These different ideologies greatly affect today’s relations between the two countries.

Time may not be as we know it. Different cultures can have different mindsets of how they view time. This is greatly true when addressing the relationship between China and the United States. China and the United States have very different histories; they perceive the present moment differently, and even how they view progress is not the same. This can have major implications on business deals, as well as understanding how a given society and its people operate in general.

Examining Differing views of time: Why Bother?

Directly believing and referring back to the fact that the world works around the American clock is quite incorrect. Yes, it is quite easy to believe so- the USD is the global currency, English is the main means of communication, and the U.S. is an economic powerhouse. If one wants to become more immersed in all things China, they will never reach their full potential without understanding how China’s perception of time truly shapes all present-day interaction.

Understanding these differences of how China views time differently than the U.S. can allow one to become more aware of particular details when analyzing everything around us- from business meetings to natural events to life and death itself. One can start to become more culturally sensitive and understanding, and envision the big picture rather than what is right in front of them. This will also prepare people if they ever get in a situation with Chinese, the decision-marking of their counterpart will make much more sense.

China has a different way of perceiving time in comparison to many other cultures. Due to their cyclical view of history, they can handle certain ups and downs with a sense of calm that other cultures such as America may lack. China places more importance on the long term versus what happens in the short term.

photo from endlessround.wordpress.com

China’s Ancient Civilization and how they view history as time

China’s history is SO much longer than the United States ( 5,000+ years to 250 years). Because of such an elongated history, Chinese have been more able to notice the patterns, consistencies, and repetitions in anything ranging from societal life to natural phenomena.

They have been thinking and observing the world in this way for thousands of years. For example, as early as 1000 BC in the Zhou Dynasty, the Mandate of Heaven established the natural order of ruling emperors, and a cycle of new emperors replacing old ones when it was time to do so. Natural disasters and famines indicated Heaven’s displeasure with a particular ruler. Essentially, the Mandate of Heaven gave a particular emperor permission to rule, and would also terminate their privilege to rule when the time came.

Shanghai’s circular traffic- photo from shutterstock.com

An elongated history led to Chinese viewing time as being cyclical rather than linear. Chinese take more into account the broad ideas of how the sun rises and sets each day; how the seasons transition into one another; how people are born and eventually die with offspring continuing the process. The general public has received more exposure to the values instilled by leaders for a much longer time period. Values have become greatly embedded within society. For example, Confucian values of filial piety and respect to one’s leader have existed for centuries but are still incredibly prominent today, and enter both business and personal relationships.

America’s New Civilization and how they view modernity as time

photo from businessinsider.com

In contrast to China, the United States has a much shorter history than China. Thus, the very basis of the two countries is drastically different. While China is structured on several thousands of years of traditional values, America’s foundation is based off of breaking away from colonization by separating from Britain. Also, immigrants from other countries are the core of the American population. This, along with America’s rebellious (and divided) attitude towards the government, greatly differ from China’s greatly homogenous, law-abiding population. Both countries, however, believe that they are equally prosperous.

Taking no for an answer proves to be very difficult for Americans, since the beginning. Native Americans, Hawaiians, Filipinos, and any others in the way received little sympathy. Since gaining independence, there has always been a rush to expand. Americans thought they were truly destined to expand across the Americas and beyond into the Pacific Ocean. This mindset, in combination with a relatively short history and an incredibly diverse population with differing views, has certainly contributed to America’s view of time as being linear rather than cyclical.

The only direction that Americans can move in is forward, and if moving in another direction, then something is wrong. And, while moving forward, one shall not waste time. According to linguist Richard Lewis, one must move fast with time, or else they will miss out. Focusing on accomplishing individual tasks leading to a larger goal is normal; zooming out and examining the overall picture is not as common.

Implications

Handling the fluctuation of ups and downs

In America, if we experience a drastic crash in the economy or a crazy natural disaster, we are more likely to consider it as “the end of the world”. We often feel distraught in terms of what to do next. Chinese realize, however, that these negatives are simply one piece of the overall spectrum. Negatives will eventually be replaced with positives, such as a company receiving huge profit gains for the quarter, or even sitting outside and enjoying a perfectly sunny, cloudless day. The fact that Chinese historically are used to living through negatives and because of their long view of time, it enables them to be even more prepared and optimistic when handling them.

photo from worldatlas.com

Government versus Civilization

Unlike the Chinese, Americans care more about their rights within the democratic system rather than the longevity of the American civilization. Because America is a democratic nation, there is a lot more room for publicly expressing one’s own opinion. Therefore, the possibility of rebellion, instability, and arguing among the people is much more likely. This is especially true to addressing a leader like Donald Trump, which has divided the nation more than ever. Americans cannot fathom the idea of having Donald Trump as president, as he degrades people’s freedoms, especially those of color.

However, this is different when coming from the Chinese mentality. The Trump presidency would be viewed more as just one negative period of time in the overall American presidential cycle. The Chinese would not worry as much. They know that because time operates in a cycle, there will be another Barack Obama in the future. It is not the prosperity of individual leader that is the focus; rather it is the prominence of the civilization that gathers more importance.

photo from alternet.org

Different Business Etiquettes

For Americans, meetings always start and finish at a specific time. Everything planned for the discussion needs to be addressed within the time frame of the meeting. However, in Chinese culture, it is not uncommon for people to meet before a meeting for discussion, or for a meeting to start a few minutes late. Also, the Chinese often can spend a lot of time talking about a particular business deal, to the fact that it goes over the scheduled ending time.

As Lewis notes, the Chinese often criticize Americans of leaving too early in a meeting, without the main points being fully discussed. Also, he notes that Americans can expect the Chinese to make a quick decision based on the present. This in reality is very hard for the Chinese to do. They have to take more of an account of the past, as the past is an essential background for the present.

Business meetings are very social, and the business matters can be secondary to two opposing parties to get to know each other better. Business meetings often entail a crazy night of dinner, KTV (karaoke), and drinking.

tutorming.com

 

Time is money

In America, the only way to move is forward. There is a frequent race towards progress and development. Within this process, money definitely is to be made. And, in the words of Richard Lewis, you have to make money, unless you are nobody. In order to organize how much money the make, Americans often talk about their time exactly like their money: by wasting, spending, budgeting, and saving it. Wasting time is very frowned upon by Americans, because time is an expensive commodity.

In China, the process of making money is also very important. The Chinese however do not necessarily equate their spending of money with their spending of time. According to Lewis, the Chinese do not see time as being wasted per say, but again see time as coming back around in a circle, as the same opportunities will recur again when people are days, weeks, or months wiser or more ready. In America, fulfilling the goals of the next quarter and increasing profits is a major focus. However, the Chinese will even accept a loss for a given quarter given that it will positively keep the long term goals in balance.

photo from the americanconservative.com

Conclusion

China perceiving time in a much different way than Americans do. Their cyclical view of history allows them to handle both negative and positive events with a sense of calm that America and other Western cultures may struggle with. China places more importance on the long term versus what happens in the short term.

America on the other hand views time as being linear, in pursuit of profit, progress, and development. Time is literally money, and one has to prioritize their time to make the most money possible. An unproductive meeting is seen as waste of time rather than being viewed positively. The reason for this is largely due to China’s extremely long history in comparison to America’s. Other large contributing factors include China’s Confucian values and Communist Government. Instead, America’s democratic system creates space for more individual success. However, it also leads to a more divided nation as well.

Americans and Chinese certainly have differing views of time. In order to build understanding and respect for both nations, acknowledging how they perceive and deal with time is essential. If you would like to learn more, please reach out to us. Or, simply implement more of the Chinese circular way of envisioning time into your daily life!

China’s Secret Traders: Dominating the Grey Market through Daigou

Ian SoderEcommerce0 Comments

Chinese consumption has been flourishing over the last decade. As we can see from our previous blog post, an up-and-coming, ambitious generation of Chinese consumers are striving for top quality goods, often from luxury brands. Historically, however, purchasing luxury goods inside of China are much more expensive in comparison to purchasing them outside of China.

So…how does a typical Chinese consumer shop to avoid high amounts of spending for the goods that they so heavily desire? One of the main practices is known as Daigou (代购), literally translating to “buying on one’s behalf”. The practice has been going on for several years especially as markets digitalize. Now, the legitimacy of daigou as a practice is being put in question by the Chinese government.

photo from cengage.com

What is Daigou?

Daigou is a method that Chinese consumers use to attain unique and luxury goods. It also helps them attain goods that are difficult to have access to in China, for a much cheaper price. Essentially, goods are bought abroad in America and Europe and brought back to China through daigou. Goods sold via the daigou channel evade the many taxes that are placed on the same goods sold through traditional channels in China.

Origins

Chinese people throwing out contaminated milk powder- photo from ibtimes.com

As a business, Daigou started as early as 2008, when the infamous Chinese milk scandal made local consumers start to distrust local brands, especially those related to health and wellness. In 2008, A Chinese company, called the Sanlu Group, produced baby powder tainted with melamine, a toxic chemical. As a result, hundreds of thousands of infants and young children became sick, and a few even died.

This event, and other domestic scares, led to a huge boom in health and wellness product purchases from abroad. Toothpaste, cosmetics, medicine, and other products became huge for daigou and for the increasingly health and quality-conscious consumers that they served.

Progress

By 2011, e-commerce platforms such JD.com and Taobao gave daigou a whole new market. According to Charlie Gu, director of China luxury advisors, this allowed daigou more easily reach consumers other than just their family and friends.

Chinese consumers now became conscious of how to access higher-quality goods. Instead of buying locally, consumers increasing their purchases from daigou suppliers based in Europe, the United States, South Korea, Australia, and other areas.

Who is involved?

The structure of daigou trade consists of several “doctors”, or daifu (大夫), each individually monitoring a specified amount of “nurses”, or hushi (护士). The nurses consist of normal, everyday people that are making a living of going to the United States or other countries, buying goods in bulk, and individually shipping these goods back to China for consumers.

Personal shoppers associated with Daigou can be located in multiple locations. Some include people located in the United States who are working or traveling. Daigou shoppers are often young to middle aged women who are highly educated on Western brands and trends. For example, it is quite common for students to be involved with daigou. Take 18-year-old college student Uki Shao studies in Melbourne, Australia, who sells lotions, accessories, lotions, and other products to Chinese consumers.

daigou student shopper- photo by newsapi.com.au

Those involved with daigou take advantage of specials at specific stores, outlet stores, and even Western Ecommerce sites such as Amazon. Others people involved with daigou are located back in China and manage the shipment of product to consumer in the Chinese mainland and report to the “doctor”. All who are involved with Daigou make it possible for Chinese consumers to purchase higher quality, foreign goods for lower prices, rather than lower-quality, domestic goods for sometimes even higher prices.

Operations/logistics

Digital Ecommerce is the very basis of Daigou trade. Daigou nurses and doctors set up their individual stores on Ecommerce sites such as TaoBao or Tmall to avoid tariffs. Customers can also conveniently see what kinds of goods they can shop for online. Communication between a consumer and their Daigou representative is done through Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and WeChat, China’s number one communication app. Consumers can even pull up and review specific stores on WeChat itself.

Meeting and connection with daigou traders often comes through word of mouth through friends, family, or one’s community. Chinese consumers are usually only a few degrees of separation away from knowing someone involved with Daigou. In order to gain trust from consumers to ensure the high quality of goods, daigou often take pictures of receipts, bills, and barcodes of specific products.

How large is the daigou trade market?

The daigou market accounts for a large chunk of the overall purchase of luxury brands. According to the consultancy Bain & Company, approximately 55-75 billion RMB (8-11 billion USD) is spent every year on daigou sales in China.

photo from businessinsider.com

This market is a subset of the total Chinese cross-border, e-commerce market. In 2018, the cross-border trade market size is predicted to reach 758 billion RMB (USD $116.2 million) according to McKinsey and iResearch. This is a crucial portion of China’s anticipated 6.5 trillion RMB (USD $1 trillion) total e-commerce market.

Differences in Prices Abroad vs. China

The main motivation for Daigou is the fact that luxury items are cheaper when purchased from abroad in comparison to being purchased in China.

Luxury

A luxury item in China can cost as much as 80 percent of what the same exact item would cost in Europe, says the New York Times. Here are some examples of specific items with varying prices by country, according to Deliotte (prices in USD):

  • Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Bag: China ($1,115), U.S.A. ($970), U.K. ($802)
  • Brunello Cucinelli cashmere sweater: China ($1,287), U.S.A. ($995), U.K. ($808)
  • Balenciaga Foulard Fringe dress: China ($1,665), U.K. ($1,312)

While prices can fluctuate and sometimes one can find a decent deal, luxury brands in China are just generally more expensive. In China, Burberry is 37 percent more expensive than their average global price, and Louis Vuitton is 25 percent more. With these higher prices in their home country, no wonder why Chinese consumers are looking abroad to purchase luxury goods.

Other Goods Popular With Daigou Trade

Besides luxury brands, daigou greatly flourishes around other types of goods. These items are especially those that simply cannot easily be found within stores in Mainland China, including baby formula, cosmetics, and food products such as acai or chia seeds.

Chinese consumers definitely favor purchasing health and wellness products abroad. China’s milk scare and other instances have exhibited China’s lack of quality for health and wellness products. Thus, the Chinese commonly look elsewhere for these types of products. For example in Australia, the breakfast-staple food Weet-Bix receives huge praise from Chinese consumers, as well as hair products from a brand called Alchemy, and products from the health brand Bioisland.

Model Alyssa Chia promoting an Australian brand Weet-Bix, sold as Nutri-Brex in China- photo by news.com.au

Daigou: Negative Impacts on China

Less Production for local companies

Although the daigou business is booming, Chinese government officials have noticed that the consumption via daigou channel has created favoritism toward foriegn brands. This has taken away from the local economy and domestic consumption.

Mintel International Group, Ltd. director Matthew Crabbe notes that the Chinese government fears the “unfair competition” that is created for local Chinese companies. Zhou Ting of Shanghai’s Fortune Character Institute also notes that daigou have made the Chinese government lose tax revenue, and also cause disorder for “luxury brands supply and pricing systems”.

Foriegn Duty-Free Stores Flourishing

As a result of taking advantage of deals and cheaper prices abroad, duty-free stores at airports, malls, and other areas have received great increases in revenue. This has been the case in South Korea, as the South Korea Duty-Free Association stated that July 2017’s duty free sales reached $637 million, which is an 8.8 percent increase from the year before. Large sales to daigou shoppers is quite beneficial for duty free stores. This is especially true when these stores are having a difficult time of gaining revenue.

Legal Issues

Since the beginning of daigou trade, the Chinese government has been trying to track down daigou shoppers who have been involved with suspicious activity. Some examples include:

photo by wvmetronews.com

  • In 2013, a flight attendant was convicted for buying cosmetic products from duty free stores in South Korea and selling them to consumers in mainland China. She had gone through customs numerous times and had claimed the products to be merely for her “personal use.
  • In June 2015, a daigou trader from Ningbo was sentenced to 18 months in prison for bringing in over $193,500 USD worth of handbags from abroad and evading the associated taxes.
  • In 2016, the Australian Agricultural Department started cracking down on daigou shoppers shipping baby formula back to China. Before bringing products back to China, Australian export requirements, as well as Chinese import requirements must be met. For baby formula in particular, shipments over 10 kilograms require the use of a proper export company with health certificates.

New Government Regulations

In order to crack down on daigou, the Chinese government has introduced some new measures. Their newest revision came in April 2016, with three main changes:

  • Marginal tax increases
  • Limits on value of purchases to show that purchases are for “personal use only”
  • A list of “permissible” foreign products that are allowed to be bought online

Despite these regulations, daigou still remains quiet prevalent, as experienced shoppers know the keys of manipulating the system.

Alternatives To Daigou

Besides restrictions from the Chinese government, there are other channels that restrict the operations of daigou. And, these channels still allow Chinese consumers to access foreign goods from home.

Opening up Shop on Chinese Platforms

Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao dominate the Chinese online shopping market. As early as 2014, international companies have opened up stores on these Chinese platforms, to allow Chinese consumers to have cheaper purchases of luxury goods. Companies who have opened up stores on Tmall and Taobao include:

Walmart’s Store on Tmall

  • Burberry
  • Tesla
  • Calvin Klein
  • Chanel
  • Estée Lauder, and more

Although many international brands have had success on Taobao and Tmall, there is still the concern of authenticity. Luxury brands really worry about the lack of the same in-store experience that consumers receive through the platforms. Also, foriegn companies fear that their goods will be sold next to counterfeit or fake items on the platform, which remains a difficult problem.

More Duty Free Stores in China

In February 2016 the Chinese ministry of finance announced the opening of 19 inbound duty-free shops in China’s airports. This is part of a movement to help make buying luxury goods within more attractive to Chinese consumers.

Amazon Prime

In October of 2016, Amazon brought its Prime membership to consumers in China, opening up another cross-border E-commerce channel. However, Amazon is in the midst of great competition with Chinese platforms like Taobao and Tmall. Therefore, they only account for about one percent of the market in China. Amazon even attempted to open up their own store on Taobao before to attract more consumers.

Future

Despite the governmental restrictions and emergence of other channels, the future of daigou still remains to appear quite steady. With a booming upper-middle class and a rise of youthful consumers, there will definitely continue to be daigou who manage to get product to consumers as cheaply and quickly as possible.

photo by pammarketingnut.com

In order to combat trade through daigou, different companies- both domestically in China and those internationally- should pay more attention to increasing their brand awareness, and not just the price of a good. Bruno Lannes, a partner at Bain & Co consulting, states that companies need to make sure consumers buy their product “for the right reasons”, which can include “the heritage, the craftsmanship, and the experience.”

Relating to the Value/Purpose of GoldenElms

An undoubtably huge factor to consider when addressing Chinese consumers is trust. One of the most valuable assets of the daigou is that they are trustworthy. They take pride in having a personal connection with their shoppers.

This same trust associated with daigou can now be found under the services offered by GoldenElms and The China Incubator. This new platform brings the same authenticity of American products to Chinese consumers through the platform “wolegang.com”. GoldenElms offers a nice niche in between the daigou going directly to a company for purchase of cheaper goods, and the large company that opens up a store on Tmall or Taobao. The same in-store experience will now be brought to Chinese consumers online, as they will have direct access to authentic companies throughout the U.S.

For more information regarding the services of GoldenElms, please join our community to find out more!

Internet of Things: A Key to Strengthening U.S.-China Relations

Jacko WalzIoT, US-China Relations0 Comments

Guest Post by Jacko Walz (NYU Shanghai Graduate, Incoming Schwarzman Scholar)

Arguably the most disruptive force entering the industrial sphere is the emergence of the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things refers to vast, interconnected networks of “smart objects,” which can collect and push actionable data. This transformation of the industrial sector is driven by the proliferation of smaller, cheaper, and more effective sensors. Robust software platforms also increasingly underpin the technology.

Predictions from Mario Morales of the International Data Corporation

IoT is a remarkably impactful development. It enables firms to enhance their efficiency by granting them access to vast quantities of data, allowing them to make informed business decisions. China and the U.S. stand uniquely positioned to take full advantage of the Internet of Things. They can forge a partnership that could revolutionize industry around the world, change the way factories operate, and provide consumers globally with cheaper goods.

IoT- China and America

China’s Advantage

photo from techcrunch.com

China maintains a distinct and globally dominant competitive advantage on the production of high quality sensor technology. Factories in China produce a mind boggling array of sensors including accelerometers, temperature sensors, and air quality sensors, sometimes for as little as mere pennies.

As China grows ever more efficient in its production of sensors, a vast amount of opportunities begin to emerge. The dramatic shift in the price of sensors, steered by Chinese ingenuity, has ignited an explosion in their use and capability. This is because the fixed cost of attaching a sensor to an object now approaches zero in some cases.

America’s Response

On the other side of the coin, the U.S. proves a fierce force in the development of cutting edge software, middleware, and cloud technologies. Juggernauts like Qualcomm and GE have put forth expansive IoT platforms that provide rich software solutions facilitating the utilization of collected data. This software is incredibly complex and demands an enormous investment in R&D; only the world’s leading technology providers – U.S. tech conglomerates like GE – are capable of developing such intricate platforms.

Problem-solving between the two nations

photo from imperialenterpriselab.com

China provides the world’s best and cheapest hardware, and the U.S. is unmatched in software. Clearly, the synergy between the two is obvious. However, as of now there has been significant friction between the two sides, putting the breaks on a widespread adoption of the Internet of Things.

U.S. platform providers are hesitant to adopt Chinese sensors, and Chinese sensor producers prefer to utilize domestically developed software. There is a considerable opportunity to be found within the cracks. Firstly, each country must leverage the advantage of the other and consequently accelerate the Internet of Things. This can drive what could be considered the next industrial revolution.

IoT- What is the true purpose?

Extensive adoption of the Internet of Things enables firms to unlock nearly infinite quantities of data. With this ability, they can make informed business decisions, pushing down costs and allowing them to identify new revenue generating opportunities.

The result of this will be a significant decline in the price of many goods, subsequently granting the average consumer increased control of their own economic situation. Lower prices of consumer goods due to IoT adoption could be the jolt needed to revitalize China’s flagging consumption levels.

Benefits of cooperation between U.S. and China

A formal partnership between the United States and China, with the defined mission of promoting and facilitating the adoption of the Internet of Things, would have a profound effect on global welfare and economic development.

Resurgence of the USCREP

Photo from thediplomat.com

This partnership would not be without precedent; policymakers on both sides could look to the existing U.S.-China Renewable Energy Partnership for inspiration. The USCREP was organized with the hope of driving breakthroughs in renewable energy technology, thus minimizing the countries’ impact on global warming, improving the quality of the environment, and ultimately promoting a safer and healthier world for everyone.

The U.S.-China Renewable Energy Partnership demands equal monetary contribution by both sides. The partnership also endorses the affiliation of related organizations in many sectors, ranging from governmental, to educational, to private businesses.

Capitalization of each nation’s competitive advantages

Likewise, a formal partnership between the United States and China can capitalize on their unique competitive advantages and accelerate the widespread adoption of the Internet of Things. This agreement could sponsor businesses relationships between software and hardware developers, research agreements between leading institutions, and increase funding bilaterally in an effort to promulgate the development and implementation of IoT technologies.

By leveraging the core competencies of the other, the two superpowers could accelerate adoption of IoT, improving productivity, driving down prices of consumer goods, and bringing opportunity to the world’s poor by providing them with heightened economic freedom.

A positive bridge to the long-term future

Photo from v.china.com.cn

The immediate benefits of a formal partnership will have great impacts on both Chinese and American businesses, as well as on the world’s poor. The partnership would also promote further cooperation between the two superpowers.

The first step towards facilitating collaboration between China and the U.S in the long term is to work together on projects where the two share a central goal. In this case, both parties would be able to reap the benefits of a business opportunity with globally advantageous externalities. These would concurrently bolster a precedent for cooperation across the Atlantic.

This relationship between China and the U.S. would stimulate further partnerships between the two countries. This includes the evolution of a powerful alliance capable of resolving many of the world’s most complex issues.

Thoughts?

What do you think about the Internet of Things? What are some other ways that can possibly strengthen U.S.-Chinese relations? We would love to hear your thoughts! Please leave your comments below.

Little Emperors, Big Consumers

Ian SoderChinese Culture, Ecommerce1 Comment

Chinese Youth Consumer Habits Stemming From the One-Child Policy

Chinese consumers are liberal, open-minded, and willing to spend. With a middle class that is larger than the entire U.S. population, the opportunity is vast. How was it, though, that China transformed in to having such an expansive consumer culture? The answer is largely due to a generation of millennials born during the One-Child policy.

This post will dive into the dynamics of why Chinese consumers are catching the attention of so many economies worldwide. To get a better understanding, we will examine:

  • China before the economic reform in 1978
  • How the different waves of the one-child policy shaped consumer characteristcs
  • How and what exactly do Chinese consumers shop for?

The opening up of China greatly changed the mindsets of Chinese policymakers, businessmen, entrepreneurs, and individual families. By examining the one child policy, we can better understand how the consumer habits of Chinese people have changed throughout the reform period and beyond. More importantly, we can acknowledge the significance of the Chinese consumer today.

Generations Before the Chinese Economic Reform

Photo from The Economist

China pre-1978 was an agrarian society (agriculturally-focused economy). After the Unification of China in 1949, the First Five-Year Plan, the Great Leap Forward, and Agricultural First initiatives focused on collective farm units and an increase in agricultural products. The subsequent call for people to move to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution called for a nationwide strengthening of Communist ideals.

During the cultural revolution, the same characteristics we attribute to today’s China were nonexistent. People born before the 1960s lacked an education, were politically conservative, and were greatly distant from the outside world. Communist ideals flourished under chairman Mao. Parents merely focused on how they could make a better life for their children; China certainly did not manifest consumer culture.

Economic Reform: Immediate Impact

One Child Policy: Overview

In 1978, after Mao’s death, the takeover of Deng Xiaoping completely reinvented China’s image as a consumer nation in the global marketplace and economy. However, Deng noticed that China’s population was growing too quickly, as population growth outpaced economic growth. He therefore called for a one-child policy relating to a great portion of China’s population, to give greater importance to economic growth. There were however exemptions for rural families and ethnic minorities.

People born in this generation were part of a great transition: China’s economy gradually opened up to the western world; education was revived through the reemergence of the Gaokao entrance exam; and Chinese values changed from being more traditional to modern.

Photo from sbs.com.au

1st wave

Moving into the 1980s, China really started to enter a completely new phase. The characteristics of the one child policy became much more solidified. For many families, the 4-2-1 pyramid structure became established; the individual child became the main focus of two parents along with four grandparents. As a result, children born after 1980, known as the balinghou, became autonomous and were heavily nourished. They also acquired more wealth. Although at times they started to become more selfish and entitled, they turned into quite experienced consumers.

This first wave of the one child policy period still remained quite “Chinese” before exhibiting more of the Westernized characteristics of today. Cross cultural consultant Barry Spalding states that families remained protective. Older generations who had distinct memories of the Cultural Revolution still continued to foster strict Confucian values within their family. Regardless, the 1980s was truly the origin where the Chinese youth began to develop into the consumers they are today.

2nd Wave and Beyond

Children born in the 1990s, known as the jiulinghou, became immersed in a much more advanced society and economy compared to the decade before. According to author Eric Fish, a child in 1995 was exposed to an economy that was twice as large as the economy in 1985. Likewise, the likelihood of having internet access was much higher for a person born in the 90s versus the 80s.

With the influx of technology, young people born in the 90s acquired an entirely new outlook on life compared to their predecessors. David Lung, a manager at Deloitte China, notes that the Chinese youth have become more open-minded, entrepreneurial, and willing to spend money. Also, their exposure to the outside world, including an increase in Chinese students studying, living, and traveling abroad, has contributed to this mindset.

How do Millennials Consume?

Ecommerce

Photo from mckinsey.com

Parallel to the burgeoning Chinese economy, digital and online consumption platforms have become increasingly important and necessary. Online platforms such as Alibaba, JD.com, and Tmall control the market in China. Shopping, consumption, communication, and purchasing is now all possible online.

One great advantages of Ecommerce is its convenience. Goods can be delivered to your door, even on the same day that you order the product. This has contributed to a rise of people staying in their houses rather than going out, otherwise known as “zhai” culture. For example, according to Analysys International, China’s online food delivery market will reach US$37.5 billion dollars by 2018. However, frequent time spent online has given Chinese youth exposure to Western influences, and increased their interest of life outside of China.

Photo from marketingtochina.com

Mobile

Besides consumption via a computer, the Chinese are incredibly mobile. Deloitte states that about 97 percent of Chinese people between the ages 14 and 47 own smartphones. And, more than half of this amount access the internet through their phone over 25 times per day. 

This is almost impossible without the functions of WeChat. On WeChat, China’s number one do-it-all smartphone app, you can do anything from chat with your friends to order a taxi. Even more importantly in terms of commerce, you can shop for goods on Wechat; individual companies can post what they are selling and people can browse and shop through WeChat. 

What do they Consume?

The products that younger Chinese generations have been consuming have become incredibly diversified. Youth stemming from being the only child of upper-middle class families have a large array of tastes. This can range from spending great amounts of money on traveling to vast places, or paying for an expensive pastry at a cafe.

Traditionally, both household goods and electronics have accounted for a large portion of China’s retail market. However, the arrival of youthful, open-minded, and liberal consumers have caused other sectors to recently flourish. Education, fashion, beauty products, cosmetics, tourism, luxury shopping, and other sectors have been gaining popularity.

Photo from webshopinchina.com

The Future Relies on the Youth

Although the one child policy has formally stopped in 2015, the consumerism is greater than ever. The Boston Consulting Group states that the Chinese consumer economy will rise by a whopping US $2.3 trillion during the next five years. Despite the large growth, there is another demographic that needs greater attention- the youth from the rural areas. As they continue to relocate and resettle in urban areas, they will gradually receive more exposure to the modern, consumer lifestyle. However, their transition will not be easy, and will take time.

As we move into the future, the remnants of an enclosed, exclusive, pre-1978 China move farther into the past. Older generations and older mindsets with gradually have less of an impact on offspring. The discontinuance of the one-child policy will lead to an ever-increasing youthful population.

Diverse consumption has become the new norm, and it is a wave that is led by the youth. Those born post-1980 have contributed to a fresher, more worldly China. In order to meet this unique, modern type of demand, companies will need to exhibit the best goods with the highest quality if they want to keep up.

 

Shanghai’s Cutting Edge Food Delivery Services

Ian SoderExpat Lifestyle, Food2 Comments

The Secrets to Food Delivery in Shanghai

Sometimes after a long day of work or sightseeing, there is nothing better than having good food conveniently brought to your job, hotel or residence. During the last couple decades of Shanghai’s modernization, delivery food has easily become reality, as long as you know where to look.

In this post, we will examine some of the best ways to order some quality Western food in Shanghai delivered right to your door, so you do not have to eat overpriced, low quality room service or spend a long time outside of where you live searching for something decent.

photo from cityweekend.com.cn

IMPORTANT IMPORTANT IMPORTANT

In order to use any of the delivery options below, you will need a local Chinese phone number.

Pro tip: If you do not have one, you can just use the phone number of the concierge at your hotel. You can even use the Chinese phone number of a friend, and they can let you know when your food has arrived. You can always change the account phone number on your profile page.

Sherpa’s

Background Info

Like any major city, Shanghai has its own major online food delivery services. Even better, they have a service catering to Westerners (i.e. non-Chinese speakers). Sherpa’s has been in Shanghai since 1999, and was founded by an American entrepreneur. The service also operates in Beijing and Suzhou. With it’s English-speaking service, daily deals, and wide array of options, Sherpas is great for anyone looking for convenient way to get Western Food in Shanghai.

Most restaurants open up around 10:30 or 11 a.m., and are open until 9 or 10 p.m. There is a normal delivery fee of 15 RMB for each order. There is a happy hour from 4:30 to 5:30pm Monday through Friday, where Sherpa’s does not charge you for a delivery fee. And, after 6pm, you need to have a minimum order charge of 100 RMB. Therefore, placing a Sherpa’s order with a friend or in a groups is a good call.

Setting up an Account

To set up an account, simply log onto http://sherpa.com.cn and enter your email address or phone number as well as a password on the top right of the page. You can then type in the address of where you are located, and all of the different restaurants located around you will show up.

Types of Restaurants

A wide array of different restaurant options will show up depending on where you are located. Especially if you are in prime spots around Puxi (The part of Shanghai located East of Huangpu River), you will be able to find anything, for example American and Italian to Indian and Thai food. On the right side of each restaurant you can also see what deals are available, which is a great way for you to save some money.

Examples:

How to Complete Your Order

Example of choosing your food items for specific restaurant. Your shopping cart is on your right; click “view order” when you are done- via sherpa.com.cn

After you decide on a restaurant, you can select the specific dishes that you want and they will show up in your shopping cart on the right. The individual price of each dish and the total cost of your order will also be calculated. Once you press “view order”, another screen will come up confirming the details of your name, location, email, your phone number, and what you ordered. You will then have a receipt sent to your email and an estimated time of delivery

Over the Phone

Instead of ordering online, you can also call Sherpa’s directly, with the number 6209-6209, extension 0 for the English option. This process may be a little more difficult, because conveying the exact restaurant and order may be difficult for even the English-speaking customer service agent to fully understand. By ordering over the phone, however, you can avoid going on the computer entirely and can be more time efficient.

Payment

If ordering online, you will see an option that asks if you want to pay in cash on arrival, or in WeChat pay. Both work just fine, but be advised for WeChat pay you will need a Chinese bank account to top up money into your WeChat wallet. If you want to learn more about the functions of WeChat, check out our post Wechat for Beginners: Introduction.

 

Picking up your Food

from thebeijinger.com

When your food arrives, you will receive a phone call, as well as an email if you ordered online. At hotels, often times you will have to go down to the lobby to pick up the food. If you ordered to your apartment or business, the courier should be able to come directly to your location in the building if they do not need any special access to enter.

Sometimes your caller will be someone from the Sherpa’s office notifying you in English that your order has arrived. However, other times the courier will call you directly, and they will most likely not speak English.

If you answer and do not understand them, all you really need to ask is:

  • nǐ dào le ma? (have you arrived?) In response, if the courier responds with
  • duì, or duì duì duì (yes yes yes), that means they have arrived.

If you hear something along the lines of…

  • bù shì (not to be) or wǒ hái méi dào le (I still have not arrived)

You will at least know that they are not there yet. For further information regarding your order you can hand your phone to a Chinese speaking friend or coworker if available.

Live Chat

Sherpa’s also has a live chat option where you can talk with a customer service agent regarding any questions or concerns about your order. You can find the live chat option on the front of the main page or on your confirmation order. Using the live chat is great for checking if your order is close to arriving, or to see if your order is possibly delayed. The response from customer service is usually very timely and they do a great job getting back to you with helpful information.

Reimbursement/Delay

If you order is delayed or there is a mistake, Sherpa’s also reimburses. For example, if your order was more than 15-20 minutes late, they will take ~30-40 RMB off. During lunch, happy hour, and dinner times this is quite common; sometimes orders can take around one hour to finally arrive. Yay for discounts!

24 hour delivery Options

Once in a while you encounter a full day, a very long night, or are fighting jet lag and are in need of a snack. Shanghai, the city that never sleeps, has a solution. Although the following are definitely not the healthiest options out there, they operate 24 hours and can help satisfy any late night craving aka (4/5th meal).

Mcdonald’s

McDonald’s Courier in China- photo from janchipchase.com

Yes, it is the future, and McDonald’s does actually deliver. The idea of ordering is quite similar to Sherpa’s, you can place your order either online by creating an account at https://www.4008-517-517.cn/cn/ or simply by calling over the phone. In Shanghai, the phone number is 4008-517-517 (like the website url) and there also is even an English telephone extension if calling over the phone.

To create an account online, you simply put in your email or phone number along with a password. The plus side of ordering online is that you can see the options in front of you, as the menu is different from what you would find in the United States or elsewhere.

McDonald’s is not as developed as Sherpa’s, however, as they lack live support chat and there is no reimbursement if there are problems. In order to reach out regarding a delayed order, you will have to call the number again. Late at night, sometimes you will notice that the phone may ring several times before finally receiving an answer.

Melrose Pizza

Another option for 24 delivery in Shanghai is Melrose Pizza. To place an order, you can call +86 400-887-4992. To see the options of different pizzas, sandwiches, and sides, you can simply go to their website http://order-melrosepizza.com and then give them a call. The person answering the phone also automatically answers in English; you simply tell him your address and he will tell you how long the order will take to arrive. In terms of quality, the food is by no means the best pizza you will ever have (think Little Caesars) but it gets the job done and is a solid Western food option, especially that it operates 24 hours.

Best Deal

The best attribute of Melrose Pizza is that you can order 2 pizzas for 100 RMB including free delivery and 2 sodas, at any time of the day. Therefore, using this deal is great when ordering with a friend or group.

Eleme

Eleme (literally, are you hungry?) is a delivery service that is extremely popular in China. It accounts for both western and local restaurants, and you can find food items for extremely low prices. You can also order food besides a full meal, such as snacks, juice, or desserts. Instead of ordering over the phone, you can place orders online through either www.ele.me or via their smartphone app.

Online main menu- translated into English. Often times the English translations can be off, leaving us expats with a good laugh-www.ele.me

Online

For both the online and the app versions, you will need to create an account, by putting in your Chinese phone number, confirmation with a verification code via text, and a password. After you setup your account, on the main page you can explore the different restaurant options and choose one that you like. You can also change your location on the top left, and can translate the page into English via your computer settings.

After clicking a restaurant, you can see the dishes with accompanying pictures. Some restaurants may have a small delivery fee, for example 6 RMB, and a minimum order charge, such as 40 RMB. When you click on item, it will show up in the shopping cart on your right. After your order is completed, the next screen will confirm your items. You can pay in cash upon arrival or you can pay through WeChat pay or Alipay. When your food arrives, you will receive a phone call from a Chinese speaking courier. This is a very similar process to picking up food from Sherpa’s.

App

Unlike ordering online, using the app really helps if you are able to read some of Chinese. However, the app is still possible to navigate even without understanding Chinese.

The main ordering page, with the four different sections on the bottom row, and address selection in top left corner. You can also see how to scroll through food/snack/beverage options- GIF from itdadao.com

Layout

On the main page, you will see a bottom row with four different symbols. From left to right, the eleme logo is the main food ordering page. Next, the compass is the section where you can discover more deals. Third, the piece of paper is where you can view your recent orders, and finally the person-looking symbol is where you can see your profile.

On your profile page, you can upload different addresses by clicking the option with the blue marker. Then, when you go back to the main page, on the top left you can choose which address you are located at. Like Sherpa’s, different restaurants will be available depending where you are. On the main ordering page you can click on the pictures to indicate what you want to order. For example, you can click on a hamburger option and places like Burger King will show up; an orange and places that sell fruit-related items will show up, or a cupcake and dessert related cafes will show up. All of these options can be delivered right to your door!

Placing the Order

Once you click on a category, you click on whatever restaurant you like, and subsequently what specific menu item. The best thing about Eleme is the pictures; if you click on a restaurant, although you may have no idea what the dish is called, you can see what the dish looks like. Just like being online, your shopping cart is on the bottom, and a screen will come up confirming your order, the price, and the location.

You will even sometimes see promotions that automatically reduce the price of your order. Once you confirm the order, the following screen will confirm your payment method. On the app, you can use Alipay and Wechat pay. After the order is sent and accepted, you can see approximately what time it will arrive. You will also receive a phone call upon arrival if the courier does not directly knock on your door.

When a you choose a restaurant, this the the page that comes up. On the left hand side you have categories such as main dishes, side dishes, etc. Once you click on an item, it will show up in your shopping cart. Press the green button when you are finished choosing what you want- photo from dribble.com

You can also track your order, and see where your courier is in their delivery journey. To see this, on the main ordering page, you will see a pop-up on the right hand side with an image of a courier on their scooter. Click on this and you can see where they are on a map and the estimated time of arrival.

Confirmation Page with your name, address, your specific food items, promotions (if any), and estimated delivery time.

Payment page- Wechat, Alipay, etc. You have 15 minutes to confirm the payment, or the order is canceled.

Summary

China, and especially Shanghai, is truly at the cutting edge of delivery service. Without leaving the comfort of your hotel, you can have anything delivered to you. There are not only western food options, but different international cuisines are available as well. If you are craving food late at night or early in the morning, there are 24 hour options that you can also choose from as well. Shanghai’s delivery food options truly portray how humungous, diverse, and accessible the city is to live in, even for expats.

Besides the services listed above, other popular food delivery services include ElementFresh, Mealbay, and Pizzahut.

Our personal favorite is La Cayota Mexican Grill, but we’d like to hear your favorites in the comments! What’s your experience like?

Learn What to Expect Flying into Shanghai Pudong Airport

Ian SoderTransportation0 Comments

Arriving at Pudong can seem quite daunting and stressful, especially without an arranged pick- up. The airport can be very busy and filled with random locals yelling “hello, excuse me sir” or “where are you going” trying to sell you their transportation methods. The signage can also be confusing when you enter the arrivals gate.

Below we’ll explain some important factors to consider for an easy transition from the airplane to Shanghai city.

  • Pudong Information
  • Arrival and Customs
  • Baggage Claim
  • Arrival Hall
  • Travel from Airport to City Center

We’ll walk through each in detail so you can be confident on arrival.

General Info 

Shanghai-Pudong Airport- photo via Shanghai Daily

Pudong is located 19 miles/30 kilometers from the city center. Although the airport’s first terminal was completed in 1999, the second terminal did not open until 2008. Therefore, the Pudong airport of today is quite young. Shanghai’s other airport, Hongqiao, is located on the opposite side of the city and deals with Chinese domestic flights and international flights in Asia.

Arrival and Customs

Immediate Arrival

Upon landing in Shanghai you will arrive at either of Shanghai’s two terminals, depending on your airline and what city you departed from. Depending on the terminal or airline, you will either disembark the plane via a jetway, or you will have to walk down some stairs and enter a bus that will take you into the terminal.

Regardless, when you arrive in the terminal, the walk from your gate to customs can be quite long. Do not worry if you need to take a break from walking, especially if you have a lot of luggage. If you need to check the internet, Pudong airport also has wifi and it should work for international numbers, but it may be spotty. After you go through customs and get to the baggage claim, the wifi will be more reliable. Keep in mind that you also need a VPN to access Google, Facebook, and other western sites. When continuing to customs, you will notice that there are English translations on all of the signs; otherwise, you can likely just follow the other passengers.

Customs Line

Before you actually reach the customs line, you may briefly walk underneath a metal detector or in a single-file line. Don’t worry, just walk along with the other passengers and proceed to the “foreigner” section customs. There should be an attendant directing people where to go. If you see that you are around other foreigners, you know you are in the right line.

Be sure to have your arrival card filled out to give to the customs officer. You should have received both an arrival and departure card on the plane if not, you can pick them up at a kiosk around the beginning of the line. KEEP YOUR DEPARTURE CARD for when you leave China- a lot of travelers forget this and it can create an unnecessary hassle for departure because when leaving China, you have to go through customs again as well.

Arrival and Departure cards. They are originally connected, and you can break them apart on the dotted line. Give the arrival card to the customs officer when you arrive, keep your departure card for when you leave China- photo via whyvisitchina.com

The length of the customs lines can vary depending on the time of day or time of the year. Waiting times can range from 5 minutes to 45 minutes. When you finally get to the officer, be prepared to have your photo taken. Some customs officials may speak English, but most of the time you have to be patient if a problem arises.

Baggage Claim 

After customs, you will enter the baggage claim. Depending on the terminal you may have to take an escalator to get down there.

On the way to the baggage claim, though, you will see a place where you can get a Chinese SIM card for your phone. You can get one, but you can also wait until you get into the city and go into a proper store. We’d suggest you purchase one elsewhere (we will write another blog post dedicated to this).

You can read the monitors to find where to pick up your luggage. When you finally have your luggage, proceed forward where there is a sign indicating the exit, where you will enter into the main arrivals hall.

Arrivals Hall

Entering the arrivals hall can be quite overwhelming at a busy time of day. Here, you will see the hoards of people waiting for passengers behind some railings in the international arrivals gate. Just walk through designated path until you are away from the gate.

While you are walking, you will likely have random people trying to offer you a ride, shuttle or a hotel. Never give in to these people; they are trying to scam you. At this moment in the journey out of the airport, knowing and looking like you what to do makes the process is much easier and stress-free.

International Arrivals- Terminal 2. For the taxis and buses, you need to go down one floor. You will see escalators and an elevator- photo via shanghaibeauty.wordpress.com

Best Ways to Get out of the airport into the City Center: 

Arranged Pick Up

The easiest way to maneuver exiting the airport is to have an arranged pick up from your hotel, a business associate, a driver etc. For example, you can likely arrange a pick-up from Western hotel chains such as Marriott or Hyatt beforehand. They will likely be right behind the railing waiting for you right after you leave the baggage claim, holding a sign with your name on it. Then, you can walk out with ease to the parking lot.

Taxi

COST : 180-300 RMB          

DURATION: 40 min (no traffic) 1.5-2hr (with traffic)

Without an arranged pick up, a taxi is probably the next best choice, especially if you have a lot of luggage. Knowing where to find the taxi line is very important to avoid the haggling salespeople. The taxi stand is also the only option that operates 24 hours per day.

Location of Taxi Stand in Pudong Airport

In terminal 1, the taxi line is actually right outside on the same floor as the international arrivals gate. You just walk straight outside and turn right, and you eventually see the line of people.

In terminal 2, you need to find the escalator and go down one floor. Then walk outside and walk to the right to find the taxi line. Outside of the crowded international arrivals gate you will find also find signs pointing to the taxi, but it can still be confusing. Just remember to go down one floor.

When you reach the front of the taxi line, there will be someone directing you which taxi to enter. If you do not speak Mandarin, you can just show them, as well as your driver, the Chinese characters of your final destination.

Maglev

COST: 50 RMB one-way, 80 RMB round-trip  

DURATION: 8 min (to Longyang Road, transfer to lines 2, 7, 16)

If you do not have an unbearable amount of luggage or you want to save some money, the Maglev train is the next best option. The Maglev train is open from about 6am until 9:30pm.

The Maglev is a short ride, and reaches speeds of up to 300 km/hour. However, it only takes you to Longyang Road Station, which transfers you to metro lines 2, 7, and 16. From here, you can either take a taxi from another taxi stand, or take metro line 2 into the city. You can purchase your ticket at the ticket booth, enter the security, and wait for the next train. You can also put the fare of the Maglev on your metro card if you have already have one.

Getting a taxi, however, can be kind of a hassle, even with the use of the taxi stand. Sometimes, especially during rush hour, the taxis will not turn on their meter, and will charge you a flat fare of, say, 100 RMB. This is still cheaper than the distance all the way from the airport, but the fare should still be cheaper than this. Therefore, the best way to get to the city from the Maglev is to hop on the metro, which is one floor down from where you get off the Maglev. You will see a lot of fast food restaurants near the metro entrance.

The whole point of the Maglev, really, is to save time from taking the metro from the airport, and save money from taking a taxi. If money is not an issue and you do not want to deal with transfers, then using taxi is probably the best option. The Maglev would be much more efficient if it extended all the way into the city center.

 

Shanghai Metro Line 2-Pudong

Metro    

COST: ~5 RMB    

DURATION: 45 min-1hr (to East Nanjing Road)

Pudong airport is the last stop on line 2, Shanghai’s longest metro line. Most foreigners do not often choose this method of getting into the city, but if you have some extra time and not too much luggage, it is a great way to experience the local atmosphere. You should definitely know which metro stop in the is closest to your destination. The metro is open from about 5:30am until 11pm.

The metro is located right across from the Maglev train. You can buy single tickets in the machines, and there also is an English option for choosing your destination. If you have a metro card, you can top up your card in the allocated machines as well. The machines are different, however, for buying single tickets and topping up your card, but they are right in the same area.

Mandatory Transfer

Once you get on the metro, the line from the airport only goes so far. You have to get out of the metro at most likely Guanglan Road, or sometimes Tangzhen or Jinke Road. The transfer is easy, you simply get off the the metro and walk across the same platform and wait for the train that takes you in the city. This is all part of line 2, so you do not need to walk up any steps. From there, line 2 will take you into the city center.

If you need to make a transfer when you get into the city center to get to your final destination, you will most likely do so at stops such as Century Avenue (transfer to lines 4, 6, and 9), East Nanjing Road (transfer to line 10), People’s Square (transfer to line 8), or West Nanjing Road (transfer to lines 12 and 13).

Location of Maglev/Metro in Pudong Airport

The Maglev, as well as the Shanghai metro, are located between terminals 1 and 2. There is a long corridor that connects terminals 1 and 2. When you exit the baggage claim, you are already facing the other terminal. There are signs pointing to the Maglev and metro when you exit the arrivals gate where you can enter the long corridor.

From Terminal 1, you will need to take the escalator up one floor to get to the corridor. You can also follow the signs pointing you in the right direction.

From Terminal 2, you walk to the right and on the same level you will see signs pointing to the corridor.

In the middle of the corridor you will see the entrance to the Maglev on one side, and the normal metro on the other.

Summary

Pudong airport is quite a large airport, and arriving there can be quite stressful, especially if its your first time. The airport is certainly different from other airports around the world, in part due to its distance from Shanghai city, the confusion when entering the arrivals hall, and the multiple methods you can take to get into the city. By being aware of all these factors, from exiting the airplane to entering your final destination into the city center, your journey much smoother.

Please let us know if you have any comments or questions. We would love to hear from you.

Guide to WeChat (微信) Messaging + Chat

Charlie CampbellMarketing, Social Media, WeChat1 Comment

WeChat Messages = The Bridge to Chinese Business

WeChat was born to instant message via mobile (get the name…’We’ ‘+ ‘Chat’?). All design decisions have focused on improving the native messaging user experience and as you’ll soon learn, has worked magically.

By the end of the article, you’ll be a WeChat machine and ready to make the leap, if you haven’t already, into the world of business with China.

Here are a few reasons why WeChat is critical to operating in China:
  • Texting/email is dead: WeChat won out as China’s primary mode of communication, from government officials to students.
  • Humanize communication: Email comes across as a detached form of communication, while WeChat humanizes messaging. Don’t hold back 😄😄😄
  • Multimedia files: Send any and all forms of media. Company introductions, decks, products, are all shared via WeChat.
  • News spreads fast: Information moves at lightning speed and is a must for business to understand.
Below is an outline of features you’ll learn, and I’ve bolded topics you should pay particular attention.
  1. Home Screen
  2. Chat
    1. Messaging
    2. Voice Recordings
    3. Emojis + Stickers
    4. Recall Messages
    5. Autotranslate
  3. Features
    1. Photos/Videos/Sights
    2. Phone Calls
    3. Video Calls
    4. Location Sharing
    5. Money Transfers
  4. Tips & Tricks
 Feel free to leave questions in the comments, and I’ll write back as best I can.

Home Screen

WeChat’s home screen is the chat/messaging feature and speaks volumes to fundamental nature of the app.

Homepage, or “Chats.”

The Home Screen shows your contacts chat history in one place. Chats is an infinite scroll, where you can find dialogues you’ve had with people from forever ago.

Pro tip: you can swipe left to mark messages at “unread.” With the volume of messaging coming at you, it’s helpful to mark them as unread as a todo list.

Search Bar

At the top of the Home Screen, you can search the entire app, which includes contacts, chat history, groups, content etc. Search has greatly improved with time and I imagine will only continue to do so.

“+” in Upper Right

Click the “+” in the upper right, and you can create a new chat (individual or group), add new contacts, scan QR code, or can transfer money (pay vendors or receive money).

To create a Group Chat, click the “+,” then “New Chat,” and you can select people to pull into a group. They do not need to accept, but can opt-out to leave. Ideal for teams.

Feel free to add me! Search “bampbell” and write “Made In Charlie” in the subject line, so I know where you came from. I’d be honored to be your first friend.

Chat

To message a friend, navigate to the “Chat” page and click on a friend to enter their chat. Welcome to the core interface!
Messaging Screen
 
From this screen, you’re able to send text, voice recordings, emojis, GIFs, photos, videos, “sights,” make phone calls, video calls, your location, red envelopes, and even transfer money.

Messaging

Messaging Interface

Text Box

Sending text is just like iMessage or other text messages services.

Voice Recordings

Click the button on the left, and it will take you to the voice recording. See the screenshot below for what it looks like.

Each voice recording can be a maximum of 60 seconds. Trust me…once you get used to leaving voice messages, you’ll never go back! It’s a great way to communicate, especially because there are no voice mails in China.

Fun fact: Voice recordings solved a unique Chinese language problem. There are common two ways to “type” Chinese: (i) writing the character with your finger on the phone; (ii) using pinyin – a letter version of Chinese used by language learners and the younger generation. Both work, but aren’t efficient. Walkie-talkieing directly into a phone is far easier and became one of the most liked features in WeChat overnight.

Emojis+ GIFs + Stickers

Emotions, GIFs, and Stickers are used heavily in China. Almost every message I receive comes along with some form of emoji.

You can go to the sticker market to download the latest greatest stickers. Almost all of them are free.

Custom made GIFs are hilarious…and sometimes quite dirty. If there are ones you particularly like, press and hold to save GIF to your phone.

Press and Hold

Press and holding on messages gives you more flexibility in engaging / relating content.

Press and Hold Message

Forward

You can forward articles, photos, videos, text, really anything. If you want to forward more than one message as once, click “More.”

You can either send “One by One” or “Combine and Forward” which bulks them together and sends all at once.

Favorite

If you favorite a message, it saves it to your profile for you to go back and look at it later. Users can’t see what you favorite or don’t favorite.

Delete

Delete only deletes the message, photo, video, etc. from your WeChat, not the person you’re chatting with. Like any content nowadays, be careful what you send out :).

Recall

Have you ever sent an email you regret or wanted to take back? I know I have. Well…WeChat gives you an option to do just that – they call it “recall.”

You have 2 minutes to recall a message once after sent. Yay! But, what’s funny, is you can see that the sender recalled the message.

Sometimes “recall” invites more questions than sending your original message :). Please do share stories in the comments.

AutoTranslate

Here’s a juicy feature….autotranslation. WeChat has a built-in feature to auto translate Chinese <> English.

Press and hold a Chinese message, click “more,” and then translate. I can’t stress enough how helpful this when trying to communicate with native Chinese speakers. All of your messages are translated into English and allows for broken, albeit effective communication.

If your phone is in English, WeChat will translate into Chinese. If your phone is in Chinese (not likely 😃), it will translate into English.

Features

Great job! We’ve covered the core features of WeChat messaging…yet there is so much more.

Click the “+” sign on the right side of the screen, and an additional feature menu will pop up.
This menu allows you to send photos/videos, take photos/sights, make video calls, voice calls, send your location, gift red envelopes, transfer money, and share contact cards.

Photos/Videos/Sights

Sending photos/videos is a great way to communicate. A lot of time can avoid a ton of translation error. I’ve personally found I send a ton of screenshots.

Existing Photos/Videos

WeChat sends photos/videos incredibly fast by automatically compressing them load/send faster.

You can send up to 9 at a time directly from your image library or take them live. You select photos by checking photos.

When friends show you photos, you can press and hold pictures and save them directly to your phone. Never lose a photo again!

 New Photos

You can take new photos, or what WeChat calls “sights” directly in the chat screen. Once you click “camera,” here is the interface you’ll see.

You can press the middle which will take a photo. Or hold down the button and it will record a sight. New photos automatically save to your phone.

Sights

Sights are short, 9 sec videos inside of WeChat. They are an excellent way to send clips of your day to friends and clients.

“Sights” humanizes you and adds a new dimension to messaging.

Phone Calls

One of the challenges with international business are clear, affordable phone calls. Phone to phone connection is reliable but can become incredibly expensive. Skype numbers are inexpensive, but you’ll show up as an “unknown caller” on the China side, and the connection is spotty at best.

Concerning connectivity, quality, and price – WeChat is the best and is what I use. It just works….and is free. You can hold group calls with up to 9 people.

The only downside is if you receive a regular phone call while on a Skype call, it will cut you off. In the Tips & Tricks section, I’ve included a workaround.

Video Calls

Video calls are just like FaceTime…it just works better on Chinese bandwidth. Over the past few years, I have felt/seen a decline in Skypes connectivity in China, and WeChat reigns supreme.

Video calls only work one on one (for now), there are no group video calls.

Location

Sending a location is a surprisingly helpful feature, especially when you’re in a foreign country. There are two ways to do it.

When you click “Send Location,” you’ll be able to type in an address and send a pin.

 

I use it to record places I’ve been, or if I want to remember a good restaurant. Or, if you’re looking for a factory, your contact can send you the pin, and it will be easy to fin.

Real-time Location

Another spinoff of the location is to share your “real-time” location.

Real-time location sharing comes in handy if you’re close by, or wanting to follow somebody that lost you on the road. I’ve found it’s more accurate than dropping a pin. While sharing, you can walkie-talkie to your friend.

Red Envelope

Previously I wrote about Red Envelope giving.

It’s incredibly fun when you’re in a large group to send red envelopes. You specify the total money, the number of people to split, and it becomes a lottery for money. Users click the red envelope and receive some percentage of the total proceeds.

Red envelopes offer an excellent opportunity for team building, especially in/around holidays.

Money Transfer

One of WeChat’s most impressive features is the ease at which you can transfer money. Cash will be nonexistent in China before we know it.

 

Easy as pie..for starters, why don’t you wire me 1 RMB. In a later post, I’ll explain how best to turn USD into RMB.

Now that you’re a WeChat pro, I’d like to share some Tips and Tricks.

Tips and Tricks

If I missed any….let me know!

Airplane Mode for Phone Calls

The biggest downside to WeChat phone calls is they drop if another call comes in. Solution? Airplane mode.

Since you can make the calls via Wifi, it’s easy to turn off cell data and operate over Wifi only. This guarantees you won’t drop the call. I highly encourage you to have the China side do the same.

Special Events

One of the cool, unknown features of messaging is when you say keywords like “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Christmas” on a holiday. Try it out and let me know what you see.

Send screenshots to other people

An easy way to report conversations, or to keep your team updated, is just to screenshot dialogues and forward to your team.

PS: One of the bonuses of sending voice recordings is there is no “screenshot” paper trail.


I’m 100% confident you are well on your way to becoming fluent in WeChat…your business with thank you.

Leave your comments/questions below and I”ll answer them to the best of my ability. Look forward to more WeChat guides soon!

Thank you so much for reading.

WeChat (微信) for Beginners: Introduction

Charlie CampbellMarketing, Social Media, WeChat5 Comments

WeChat is the window into China everything. It’s a way for you to connect with friends, do business, and reach millions and millions of people. In a few short years, WeChat has grown from nothing into a messaging and marketing giant. Mobile China = WeChat.

WeChat is owned by Tencent (founders of QQ, another popular messaging app) and by the numbers, is one of the largest social networking apps in the world. As of August 12, 2015 WeChat has 600 million monthly active users (MAUs). Twice the population of the United States.

WeChat is a messaging service with an explosion of features on it’s mobile-only platform. Connie Chan from Andreessen Horowitz wrote an amazing deep dive summary into WeChat’s history and future. Highly suggested for an in-depth review of WeChat’s business fundamentals.

I want to introduce WeChat basics so marketers and normal people like you and I can better operate in China. I’ll cover:

  • Why WeChat is important
  • How to set up the English version
  • Find and add friends
  • Feature introduction

In the meantime, I encourage everybody to download the app and I can be your first friend (id: bampbell).

WeChat can be downloaded from the app store either in English or Chinese depending on your phones default language. It’s best if you use a Chinese cell phone number to register, it will open up a lot of features but a US number works as well.

Why it’s important you start using WeChat

China is a massive market everybody is trying to figure out and get a piece of (myself included). WeChat is a perfect gateway drug to getting your feet wet with a built-in translate feature for non-mandarin speakers so you can begin to build a network.

WeChat serves a lot of different purposes for different people. Personally I have two accounts: one for business and one for pleasure. Here is some areas of your life it will improve.

Social Life

You’re entire social life will be run through WeChat. Guaranteed. People prefer to use WeChat over phone calls…yikes.

Business

Business executives, managers, employees, and businesses themselves all have WeChat accounts and use them daily. China never caught the email bug and have always preferred instant messaging. We now are seeing a transition from QQ (basically IM) to mobile messaging aka WeChat.

WeChat makes it easy to set up call times in different timezones and stay in touch with what’s happening in your business on the ground through images/videos. It has been the silver bullet on our nursery business.

Marketing

WeChat uses the ‘app within an app’ model and already hosts millions of mini apps on its platform (See Connie Chan’s article above). Marketers can target ming boggling numbers of active Chinese users through ‘official accounts’. This is important because Chinese consumers are notoriously difficult to reach and WeChat is a perfect platform to reach your target.

How to find/invite friends

There are a lot of different ways to add people on WeChat. Below are the most common. WeChat follows the Facebook model of adding/accepting friends rather than an open platform like Twitter.

User ID (usually their Chinese cell) — most common unless you’re standing next to them

wechat-add-friends-id

QR code — fastest and most used method of adding people on WeChat, especially face to face

wechat-qr

-wechat-qr-code

wechat-scan-qr

 

 

Other — there are other ways like shake or recommended friends but these are the ones you’ll use most

Accepting friend requests — Once somebody has added you, it will pop up under recommended friends

wechat-add-friends

Features

WeChat is loaded with features and continues to expand their offerings focused on utility rather than fluff. I still remember when it was an ugly black/white screen you could send messages over wifi.

Messaging

Messaging is the core of WeChat and it’s main interface. You can send text, images, videos, files of all formats (.pdf, word, excel), voice recordings, stickers, and short 5 second videos.

wechat-messaging

You communicate directly with friends, not with strangers. It’s similar to Facebook but focused on the messaging rather than the ‘wall post’ model.  Facebook went from wall -> messages, WeChat has grew from messenger -> wall (aka moments). Far more utilitarian.

Voice messages

Users are able to walkie talkie into WeChat and leave a voice message (max 60 seconds). What’s culturally interesting about voice recordings are they avoid one of the most anoyying parts of Mandarin Chinese: typing characters. Unbelievably more efficient.

wechat-voice recordings

Autotranslate (yay!)

WeChat translates messages directly in app by pressing and holding messages. If your default language is English, it will automatically translate into Chinese and vice versa for Chinese <> English. Amazing feature for people living in China that don’t speak Mandarin.

wechat-translate

Send images/video

WeChat automatically compresses images/videos and you can send up to 9 images at a time – either by taking them new or selecting them from an album.

1445518306_thumb.png

Sights

Record and send 6 second clips either directly to other users via messenger or in the moments feature. Think Vine but built in.

wechat-sight

Voice/video calls

Voice and video calls are embedded into the messaging feature. Voice/video calls are made natively through WeChat and can only be made through the platform (for now) and seems to be faster than Skype.

wechat-voice-video

Group messaging

Pretty self explanatory. You can create a group and take advantage of all messaging features.

wechat-groups

wechat-group-image.png

 

Group messaging alone is a gigantic time saver. One message can prevent an entire 30 minute meeting with our staff.

Moments:

Moments deserves it’s own post. Imagine Facebook as a mobile only version of News Feed. You post articles, pictures, sights, or just their thoughts.

wechat-moments

For each post you can either ‘like’ it or ‘leave a comment’. If I comment on a post, if we’re not mutual friends, the third party won’t see my post. This is another level of privacy for users posting personal content to their WeChat.

Another useful feature is you can highly target your readers by selecting who to send content to. This is awesome for marketers who want to send more directed adds at their audiences.

Can’t tell you how many people use this. Everywhere you look, they are spending the majority of their time on moments. I’ll be experimenting with ways to better target readers.

Payments

One of the strongest features of WeChat is it’s payment system. It allows payments to be paid directly through the platform itself and businesses can accept payment instantaneously. Through the payments platform you can: book a hotel, taxi, doctors appointment etc.

Payments bring the most important factors to business natively inside of the app: money. Through official accounts, businesses can reach users directly and in a more intimate way.

Note: this requires that you have Chinese cell phone number to sign up. I’ll think of a workaround method to hacking this so people can gain access to this feature.

I owe my social life and business to WeChat while living in China. It has served as an invaluable tool and I’m sure will continue to only get better. Moving forward, I can’t wait to see just how deep it can infiltrate everybodys lives.

How have you used WeChat? Leave any comments of your own experiences with WeChat!

Chinese Phone Habits: Anywhere, Anytime

Charlie CampbellChinese Culture0 Comments

Understand Phone Habits in China

Cell phones are an integral part of Chinese society. If you’ve been, or plan to go to China, you’re going to experience the difference in our cultures when it comes to habits talking on the phone.

Below I’ll explain some dos, don’ts, and context as to how these practices came about

To summarize, you’re going to learn how to properly communicate over the phone and the habits involved.

Get off the phone and lets rock and roll!

Industry Background

Modern cell phone towers/service providers as we know started in 1987. From 1987 to 1994, all telecom services were provided through a state-run China Telecom.

In 1994, China started restructuring the industry continued to do so until in 2002 – basically turning a monopoly into an oligopoly. Restructuring leads to more competition, which meant better service (aka better reception) and the industry exploded. Flash forward to 2008 and the industry as a whole is a state-run oligopoly.

As of 2017, there are three dominant telecom service providers domestically in China, all state-run.

  • China Mobile
  • China Unicom
  • China Telecom

If you’d like to take a deeper dive into the industry background, Wikipedia does a nice job: Telecommunications Industry in China. Or to learn more about the mobile history, here’s a link to wikipedia as well: Mobile Phone Industry in China.

Market dynamics caused to spotty cell service (at best) for the longest time, and created interesting phone habits we don’t have the United States, which we’ll cover in a minute.

But this article isn’t about the telecom industry, it’s about you learning how to wade through the phone day to day.

On the phone

Answering

In the US, it’s pretty simple. Phone rings, “Hello?”. Done.

China is different. Chinese has a word only for picking up the phone – phonetically it sounds like “wei”.

wei= hello on the phone

I’m not old enough to know when this phenomenon started happening but it did.

Here are a few of my own renditions of the “wei”.

It’s a way to let the other side know that you’ve answered and acknowledged they are there.

Try it out yourself!

During

During a phone call in China, they have a habit of saying “mm” or “hm” every 5 seconds or so. Without recording an entire dialog, it sounds something like this.

As we noted above, cell reception/service used to be incredibly spotty, and calls dropped all the time. Thus, it is courteous to let the other party know that you are on the other line with them. A great way of going…mm or hm.

Don’t be alarmed or surprised if they are doing this, even in English. It can also be seen as a sign of respect for listening.

Closing

I’ve got to admit, this has been some of the most entertaining experiences with Chinese culture. To understand, you’ll need a quick Mandarin lesson.

好的 “hao de” = ok, or good, or yes.

It’s one of the most commonly used words in the Chinese language.

We all know there are ebbs and flows to phone calls, and you know you’re coming up to the end on one in Chinese when people are saying…

“hao hao hao hao hao hao hao hao” or “hao de hao de hao de”

Sounds like this:

All of this sounds funny at first but legitimately is a way to wind down phone calls. You can also get fancy and do it to let the person on the other line know “this phone call is coming to an end”.

End

When the phone call is coming to an end, they all speak English. “Bye bye” is the go to. I don’t know when this caught on but is widespread, amongst old and young. After moving back to the states, I realized I now even end phone calls with “bye bye”.

Fun fact: In written form, it’s 88. Did you know that?

In summary – pick up the phone with “wei”, give a lot of “mm”s during the conversation, and end with saying “hao hao hao hao” –  bye bye.

Phone Habits

Understanding their habits is more about you accepting their cultural differences when it comes to telephone communication. Below I’ll explain some of the differences you’ll experience.

Location

People take phone calls everywhere. Even while you’re in meetings, big or small, people will pick up their mobiles. Every time the phone rings, it’s like the rest of the world must stop. It doesn’t matter if it’s the President or a number they don’t recognize, it’s a fire drill.

Culturally this is not a sign of disrespect, it’s just how their society works.

Time of Day

Phone calls happen all the time. 24×7. When we were building out our first nursery in Haining, I’d be getting phone calls at 1am from suppliers with updates. No joke.

Don’t be surprised to get phone calls on weekends/evenings either, the country is in go mode.

Voicemails

A big reason why they pick up the phone like it’s their last is that China doesn’t have voice mails. At the end of the call, if the other side doesn’t pick up or denies it, it just stops ringing.

Think about how much data that would be with 1.3 billion people. With a near 100% mobile penetration (29.6% on 4G as of 2016), it’s would be a TON of bandwidth.

Thank goodness for WeChat voice messages (see my previous post on WeChat messaging). Voice messages filled the gap of voice mails. If you don’t get ahold of somebody, it’s normal to leave them a voice message on WeChat. Before WeChat, I don’t know what they did…

Voice Volume

People generally talk LOUD on the phone. Not just sorta loud, LOUD Explained in the industry background, I think it’s due to the historical bad reception, as well as China being a noisy place.

When I set up our first office, it was one big room in a farmers house with horrible acoustics – it was a cement room with no rugs. Mr. Gu, our HR manager at the time, had a booming voice and when he was on the telephone, the whole world knew.  I had to coach him to be more respectful with his voice to manage the noise pollution.

So….don’t be surprised or upset if people are talking loudly.

Unknown Numbers

You’ll get plenty of spammy calls, similar to the states.  Be prepared for them.

My favorite trick is to speak English only. Most of the time, they don’t understand English and is an easy way to end the call. But be nice and be thankful that it’s not your job…it’d be a tough one.

Summary

To summarize:

  • Learn how to handle yourself on phone calls listening to the audio files above
  • Prepare yourself for the unique phone habits when you go over there, or are dealing customers/clients in the states
  • Practice understanding where they are coming from and why they do what they do.

Doing business with China, you’re going to learn/experience so much, and my hope is to make the transition as easy as possible for you.

I invite you to leave stories, comments, or questions below of what you’ve experienced. And if you like the content, please subscribe to my email list to be updated when new posts come out.

….hao de hao de hao hao hao, bye bye.

Red Envelopes: Create a Culture of Private Giving

Charlie CampbellHR, Management1 Comment

The infamous ‘红包 hong bao’

red envelopes hong bao

Handing out red envelopes (“红包” or pronounced “hong bao” ) is a custom that dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Before and during Spring Festival, companies, families, and friends dish out large amounts of cash all tucked into a red envelopes.

Red envelope giving is a society wide method of appreciation for family, friends, and employees. This act is shrouded in privacy and laced with tons of incentives which used properly can be an incredibly powerful tool. Private giving is infinitely better than public giving and drives why red envelopes are so effective. 

Below I’ll explain why private giving is so important, what red envelopes are, the ideas driving incentives, how our company handled it this year, and I added a bonus section on WeChat.

  • Private giving leads to private contribution
  • What is a red envelope?
  • Ideas driving incentives behind red envelopes
  • How we personally distributed them and why
  • BONUS – fun game of WeChat + red envelopes

My hope is this serves as a thought guide for you and your company around Spring Festival or if you have Chinese friends. It’s a huge advantage if done correctly.

Private giving leads to private contribution

We’re taught from a young age true giving should happen silently and privately. Those who publicly announce their giving, the reward ends at the announcement. When you give in private, will be rewarded in more ways than you know, especially in the context of an employer-employee relationship.

Think about it this way. If everything you do to acknowledge employees is public (which should happen from time to time), they will want all of their good deeds/accomplishments public as well. Creating a perverse internal political culture that leads to brown nosing rather than driving value to the bottom line.

On the other hand, a private reward system encourages employees to privately add value to your company without needing to be publicly acknowledged for it.  If you reward in private, the rewards (or value) they offer back to the company will also be private.  Without you having know about it, the employee will drive value in the dark which is where real value is created.

Red envelopes are a method of private giving and I highly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to build private giving into your culture. Here’s how.

What the heck is a ‘red envelope’?

Red envelopes are just what they sound like, red envelopes. In Mandarin we call them “hong bao” which translates into “red bag”. In Chinese culture there are two major times when red envelopes are handed out: Spring Festival and weddings. In this post I focus on the Spring Festival, mostly because I’m not married (yet).

At the end of the year, companies pull out a lot of cash – which happens to be red too, stuffs them into red envelopes, and hands them out as a form of bonus for a job well done and/or appreciation for all their hard work for the year.

Traditionally, the rule of thumb is the ’13th month rule’. Which translates to each employee receiving an extra months wage at Spring Festival. This works from a budgeting/planning perspective, but doesn’t leverage the entire effectiveness / meaning of the red envelope.

Chinese companies on the other hand, view red envelopes a lot differently. It’s not only a way to pay less income tax but also lift up the spirit of the entire company. Throughout the year, it’s anticipation of the unknown that drives employees to work harder and longer for a big hong bao  (大红包).

Historically red envelopes are filled with cash, but in tight times like this year, companies get creative in their giving. One of my favorites were condoms and tree seedlings.

Ideas driving incentives behind red envelopes

Red envelopes offer employers the opportunity to appreciate their employees for a year well done. You can pull your relationship (关系) closer and make them more committed to you and the vision.

As an employer, it’s not our responsibility to make employees happy. Ultimately it’s up to each person to make that happen for him/herself. We do however, play a significant role in whether or not our employees feel appreciated. This is a critical distinction in the importance of hong baos.

Think about it, how often do we genuinely thank our employees for all the hard work they do on our behalf? People bleed to be acknowledged and appreciated and red envelopes are an incredible opportunity to do just that. Even if your company is not profitable or having an off year, it’s the thought that counts. Big or small the red envelope is painting a picture for a better future and one that makes them happy.

You might be thinking: physical gifts can accomplish the same thing. On the surface they absolutely can. Gifts allow employees to feel appreciated, but runs counter to the idea that private giving is better than public giving. Red envelopes (other than the thickness of course) don’t allow anybody else to know how much money is inside. They are hidden from view and can be put in employees, friends, or family members’ pockets. Much easier than carrying a ribbon wrapped red box out the front door of the office.

Lastly, since the entire country goes home for Spring Festival, handing out red envelopes right before puts a great taste in their mouths to talk with their family about. It builds positive word-of-mouth for the company amongst family members, which is critical to their support system and leads to a lower turnover rate in the long-term.

How our company distributed them and why.

Distribution, both the actual delivery and total amount of red envelopes is crucial to maximizing effectiveness. You have to think through each individual person, their job responsibilities, key metrics that define their role, and how they will feel compared to others. It’s important to spend time and get it all right. Employees sure pay attention.

Obviously it would destroy the point of my whole theory of ‘giving in privacy’ if I published what we gave on my blog. That being said we handed out nothing substantial except to a few key employees and used it was more a token of appreciation for the people that have committed their lives to our cause.

Red envelopes were broken down into two handouts: company and manager.

Company

Goal

The company (or General Manager) portion of the annual red envelope was meant to be appreciation on behalf of the company. We moved at a break neck pace this year and wanted to acknowledge that.  This is not to be confused with something we should or have to hand out, it’s purely out of thanks for the employee.

In our case,  this portion was significantly larger than the managers (see below).

Distribution

I invited each employee into my office one-on-one to give them a personalized thank you on behalf of the company. This isn’t a time for a full on performance review, but to acknowledge what they had done throughout the year, ram home our company vision for a better future, and encourage them to truly enjoy the time with their families.

At the end, I’d open a drawer of my desk, pull out the red envelope, hand it over, and wish them a happy Spring Festival. Jaws dropped and some even teared up. It was completely unexpected (good job team!) and they had no idea it was coming. Mission accomplished.

Manager(s)

Goal

We had three new managers this year and the goal was to improve their relationships with all the people under them, build loyalty, and respect for the upcoming year. Ideally employees felt these were handed on independent of the company and was the managers giving out of their own kindness of their heart.

Since it was meant to be felt as an in-kind give, the total amount were proportionally smaller than the company’s.

Distribution

We had them write down a unique message for each person and hand them out on their own time. Made it more personal that way. I had teams at each location on the last Friday before Spring Festival have a meal together and assume they handed them out at this time. Didn’t get into the weeds of their distribution but know they handled it well.

Results

Nobody in the company knew red envelopes were coming until the last three days before Spring festival. Everyone thought, “oh well, foreign invested companies don’t get it”. They were wrong.

The entire staff went into the Spring Festival ecstatic and ready to talk about the meaningful work they are doing at HONT. We accomplished our goal but on a completely different level, it felt amazing from an employers perspective to acknowledge all the hard work they put in for us all year.

We all know size (of red envelope) matters on some level, but it’s not the most important thing. The most important aspect of giving, is the act of doing it. We could have publicly announced red envelopes at our company retreat and made a big brouhaha about it but the fact we did it in private goes a long way.

BONUS: WeChat + red envelopes

To keep the buzz going into the Spring Festival while they are home with their families, we used WeChat to pull the team together once again. You hop over to my in-depth introduction of WeChat to learn more about the app itself.

Spring Festival eve, I decided to make giving a game and refocus everybody back on HONT on the most important night of the year.

How it worked, is you set a total amount you want to give, say 100 RMB, and then people click to open and see how much they win. See below for step-by-step instructions.

 

red envelope hong bao

Choose total people and total amount you want to send.

red envelope hong bao

Sends ‘envelope’ into group channel

red envelope hong bao

As people click, app populates who received how much.

It’s a way for people to get excited about the New Year and to play along – generating buzz around the culture of giving. Our WeChat channels were all dead until I opened up the firehose of red envelopes and everybody started to get involved. People were giving, playing, and having a blast. This runs counter to the idea of private giving but serves more as a function of creating a giving culture, and for 热闹 or activity as they say in Chinese.

What you should do about it.

Red envelope giving is a practice deeply embedded in Chinese culture. My hope is this can serve as a guide for you and your company when you’re considering handing them out, it’s a huge opportunity to leave a lasting impact on the people that work for you.  And more importantly, to build in the culture of giving.

Shoot, who says this should wait until the end of the year. Think of somebody you want to appreciate and go do it now.

I’d love to know about your own experiences handing out red envelopes.