Discovering a far-away culture

Last month, I spent two weeks of “business holidays” in China and Seoul. I had a wonderful time, even if it was everything but relaxing, and must admit that I fell in love with China. I think part of the feeling was due to the fact that I realized how uninformed we are when it comes to this fascinating country. Just two examples of what I wasn’t expecting at all: Chinese people are  welcoming once you take the time and heartfelt effort to engage with them; and the country is particularly clean – after the third picture of blue sky, I stopped… as it actually was “normal”.

I also fell in love with the complexity of the country: after these two weeks I have never been more convinced that life is never black or white – but rather made up of billions of shades of uniqueness (or blue, if you look at the sky)!

These considerations set apart, here are the main highlights of my trip there:

  • It is a far-away country, not only due to the kilometers which separate us. First of all, 99% of the people I met during my business meetings don’t speak English; communication, which is the basis of engaging in a trustful relationship, is truly challenging. Then, our culture and traditions are estranged, which makes for awkward moments, but good stories to tell!
  • Dimension is totally dissimilar: when I met one of my business contacts, she wanted to show me some of her franchises. Only two shops, yet seven hours later (more or less a full tour of Switzerland; here though we never left Beijing!), made me realize how dissimilar our sense of distance is. Another stunning example is that in my country and industry, we talk of a “chain” when we have 2-3 clinics and are considered as a major player when we generate over 4 million revenues; every place I visited in China or Seoul had 25 to 40 different locations, each generating tens of million in revenues. It is more than attracting, I must admit; but back home, I doubt that we, Europeans, have what it takes to conquer Chinese clients in their homeland!

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  • Time is money: in their view, it is ridiculous that a Doctor does the consult; they have “beauty consultants” trained for that, leaving the Doctors time to perform the acts and the trainings – where their real added value lies. We don’t work like this in Switzerland; yet I was intrigued by the concept and I am relentlessly thinking of how I could implement this here, without being untrue to our own culture and mentality.

I came home with many business ideas and meetings to talk about, as well as a multitude of personal memories. On this more personal note, my main highlight was seeing the astonishment in my daughter’s eyes. And discovering the card she bought and then wrote, telling me how proud she is to see me work hard for our family business. sasha-et-moi.jpg


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