Getting Real With My Colleagues in Wuzhen

Another Sunday, another blog post. As mentioned in my previous entry, I was planning to travel for business with Pico to a part of southern China called Wuzhen sometime this week. Comically, I was not informed we were leaving on Wednesday morning until Tuesday afternoon. After a comfortable 6-hour train ride and a 45-minute drive to our accommodation, I realized immediately how different southern China is than Beijing. To start, the air is humid and it rains all the time. There are far less people on the streets and I’ve only seen ten other foreigners, tops. It is a beautiful historic site with a 1000-year-old water town resembling the canals from Europe, but with a Chinese tone. There is very little English or pinyin, so I am reminded again the importance of Chinese characters—and Maria.

Today is Day 5 in Wuzhen and I realized that this trip is being used as a team building activity; there is a lot more play than work. The show is next Friday but I have only seen the construction site once. Of the eight people on my team, Maria has informed me that only three of the people on this trip have actual responsibilities. When I asked Maria when we will go on site, she said maybe sometime next week but that a lot of the work is dealing with communication, things that can be managed remotely with apps like WeChat. There is one member of our team, I call him Sunshine, that is on site everyday—he is the main point of contact for Pico and Audi for this event.

Right now, I am sharing an apartment that we rented out for the week with five other women coworkers. I feel like I’m back in my sorority house as I share a room, bathroom, and all meals with these women. This has allowed me more than enough time to get to know my colleagues and observe the Chinese way of life. Without getting too specific, this is a tight knit group. They have nicknames for each other, joke around, and stay up all night playing card games and talking. If trying to find a spot in this type of group wasn’t hard enough, I understand very little of the conversations. I find it hard to believe this type of relationship would happen in Western firms. The nonessentials just picked up and moved south for a week and a half to spend all their time with each other.

I have to be honest, I miss speaking in English. I spend most of my time listening and struggling to piece together the conversations. This is the most challenging part of my internship. Maria likes helping me with understanding the language and culture and I enjoy learning from her. Her strengths are her ability to explain things until I understand them completely. She is patient and doesn’t become annoyed when I ask, “Wait what’s happening now?” My strengths are my commitment to learning and having an open mind when it comes to new food and Chinese games. I am becoming more flexible as I never know what tomorrow will bring until the morning of. This is the most immersive cultural experiences that I could have and it would have to be the highlight of my internship. I am not getting as much business skill practice as I would’ve hoped, but I believe I am learning more than I could by making spreadsheets and doing budgets. I will be in Wuzhen until next Saturday and I can’t wait to see the Audi A5 event all come together!

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