In the year of the monkey … I was there 

by Jürgen Roithmeier, Chief Operation Officer

According to the Chinese horoscope, the year of the monkey took place from the 8th February 2016 to 27th January 2017. This year is considered to be in the element of fire. Such a combination happened last in 1956. The year of the monkey is the year of the brave. Hesitating doesn’t make any sense. It is a year, in which a lot can happen, a very fast-pacing period of time, which demands a lot of self-initiative and focuses on personal progress.

This is an introduction to this topic on one of the uncountable websites. It fits quite well, I think. When I started my journey from Austria to China in April 2016, I had no idea about its meaning, yet I felt it very soon.

It is as though the introductory sentences were written for TGW, hasn’t it always been our motto? Don’t hesitate, a lot can happen and fast pacing! Yes, it is! I know, as I have been accompanying TGW since 1995. A long time, a lot of things changed. And now we are in China, the US and in Europe, ... we are acting globally. You could also say that the sun does not set in the world of TGW. As soon as people leave the office in China, the colleagues in the US start their day.

 

Each unit has a different history and still, so much connects us. This is exactly the spirit I tried to bring to China during the past months. And thanks to the openness of the colleagues and the associates here in China, much has succeeded. It wouldn’t have been possible to build bridges, if there was one unwilling side. Therefore, I am very thankful to everybody in Wels, China and the other units for their willingness to learn from each other, to share knowledge and to understand by listening.

The unit in Shanghai is still small and young within the TGW Group, however, it has everything to grow quickly. Currently, there are about 60 associates, around 40 of them work in the office in Shanghai. The market is starting to recognise us and we have great chances to reap what we sow in a couple of years. The sow needs care and we do this by sharing experiences, challenging and encouraging at the same time. Respect is probably the most important basis, and it is – not only, but especially here – one of the greatest assets. I have also witnessed, how serious my team is dealing with the TGW core values. There are no empty words, they are filled with life. This way, the culture of China is melting with the values of TGW.

Honestly, I didn’t know exactly what I should expect, when I accepted to assume this task as Chief Operation Officer (COO) in China. However, I can only encourage you not to wait until you know everything. Many beauties are only seen when you are already on your way. Luckily, you won’t see the obstacles and potholes immediately either :-)
Personally, I am of the opinion that the differences of various cultures come along with equally great challenges and potentials. A longer stay abroad literally tears you out of your comfort zone, new processes, new people, cultures and habits will be there. You will get new impressions you have to cope with, some of them will be expected, others will appear surprisingly. I confess that I didn’t do well every day, but I never lost trust. Trust in a common goal. Being successful and at the same time appreciate the colleagues, associates, customers and suppliers.

 

Let me share a few impressions about my life in Shanghai.

When you decide not to take the taxi into the city, but public transport, you will enjoy the train (MAGLEV) with more than 430 kilometres per hour – floating into the city. And let me tell you– it’s just like flying, yet completely different.

The first weekend in Shanghai already was a little highlight, as the Formula 1 was there and I decided to take a look at it before long. It was even reachable via subway, which I happily found out. I will be there in no time, was my false assumption. It took me a whopping 1.5 hours on the train until I arrived at the Shanghai circuit. It was then, when I realised the dimensions of the city of Shanghai.

Shanghai is big, and of course, I didn’t see everything, but a lot of impressive things. More than 24 million people live in this metropolis. There are buildings which house more people than some Austrian cities.
When I mingled with the people, I was impressed by the variety of the country, the city and the people. There was not even one second in which I was afraid about myself or my belongings – can you say this about a lot of big cities? Whether the people understood what I wanted to say or not, they always tried to help. Even if I did not end up where I wanted. You have to know, if you ask a question here, you will get an answer, and people are always polite and try to help. But not everyone knows the right answer to your question. If you ask for directions, for example, you might start running into the wrong direction in a quite convinced manner. It only helps partly that the map on your mobile phone shows your position with an accuracy of a couple of hundred metres. At least the English version of the map . Shanghai is a mega metropolis and thus, interesting and attractive for everybody who wants to gain experiences abroad. People speak English – contrasting the more rural areas – and often you see things published bilingually including street names, metro signs, etc. The metro takes you everywhere and you will never be alone in there, I promise :-) At rush-hour it sometimes occurs that you have to squeeze yourself into the second or third train.

I had the chance to experience the opposite as well. During Chinese New Year, I was more or less on my own in the subway for two days. It seemed like literally everybody travelled outside Shanghai or stayed in the apartment to share time with the family. When you really prefer to take a taxi, this might be the only really cheap comparison to Europe. You can have a one hour taxi ride for less than 10 €.

But do not expect a shopping Eldorado, prices are about the level you know from home. The advantage however is that you won’t have to get a lot of things for the people at home as soon as they hear about the prices. They will want to do their shopping at home.
Food, good food, is a special highlight in China. Hot Pot, Korean BBQ, Teppanyaki and so much more – our Chinese colleagues will not get tired to introduce you to new and interesting places. After a few months you will be a food expert yourself, like I learned from the more experienced foreigners. A very good example for that is Michael, you can ask him and his Austrian girlfriend about a hint for nearly every restaurant style.

My adventure here in Shanghai will be over soon, for one of you it might start shortly. The current TGW expats in Shanghai will not be the last ones. Just be brave and grasp the opportunity that our company offers you due to our international strategy.
I also found out that it is never too late for new habits. In China I discovered a new passion – swimming. In more than 80 hours I covered over 200 kilometres in the water. You probably don’t get such crazy ideas at home.

Finally back to the meaningful symbols of the zodiac signs in China and the current Lunar Year. At the end of January 2017 we started the year of the rooster, or better to say, the fire rooster.

Make it your year, make your way …