Top Twelve Tips for China – from my business trip to Beijing

July 28, 2016

I have just returned from a five day trip to Beijing, China, where we were delivering a two day Digital transformation programme for a global brand.

I have had many business trips to Europe and India this year, but flying this far east and into a very exciting new world, was my first time.

Before I left, I was told many ‘facts and myths’ most of which were not correct.  Here I want to share with you the facts of what I could and couldn’t do in Beijing, China:

1) You can use social media

Despite everything I read and was told, you can use social media on your western phone using the mobile network.  I used all my social channels with little issue.  The main point is not to logon to WiFi and use them – this automatically stops them.

2) Taxis are difficult

This was annoying more than anything.  Taxi drivers like to go longer distances as the cost is quite low, so you will find it difficult to get a taxi for a 15 minutes ride – not normally an issue for me, but the pollution is bad and you may prefer to get places quickly.  Also, print the hotel address in Chinese and print in big letters – it helps you get back

3) The food options are mind blowing

Retail - Omnichannel, Multichannel and Ecommerce expert
What can I say – the options are endless and the prices vary from very low to very high.  We ate at some great places and different cuisines.  All I can say is look around and try some things you have never had before…I had Sea Cucumber!

4) The scale of China is mind blowing

Retail - Omnichannel, Multichannel and Ecommerce expertWe all know there are over one billion people in China, but the scale only hits you when you drive from the airport, with row after row of high rise apartments  housing thousands of people. There are over 25m people in Greater Beijing and there are 4 tier one cities, you then look at tiers 2,3 and 4 (see research above). The potential in China is a immense and this massive market is growing very quickly.

The best discussion I had to show the scale went like this:
Antony: “Are you from Beijing?”
Local Senior manager: “No, I am from a small city 400km south”
Antony: “How many people live in your city?”
Local Senior manager: “It’s small and only 8 or 9 Million”
Antony: “That is more than London and we are Europe’s biggest city!”

5) Mobile is fast and common

From the moment I turned on my phone, as we taxied to the airport gate, I was connected to 4G and I never lost the connection for more than a few minutes.  In most of the city, the connection is fast and reliable.  It does seem to drop off quite often, but only for a few seconds.

6) QR codes are everywhere
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Well I never…..In Europe and the USA, we have generally ignored the QR code as consumers.  In China this is 100% the opposite, everything has a QR code and it is used for everything; You can scan for payments, to friend people on social media, to order items, to order taxis, to order food and (most excitingly for us) for the feedback survey at the end of the two day programme!

7) WeChat is amazing 
Retail - Omnichannel, Multichannel and Ecommerce expertDownload WeChat and you will find a new world.  In the western world, people suggest it is just like WhatsApp and it is….but it does much more… is a lifestyle app.

In China, WeChat is the only app you really need as you can pay for your goods in a shop, pay for goods online, send money to your friends, order a taxi, find friends, text chat, video chat, make calls, complete surveys, complete government forms and lots more!

Retail - Omnichannel, Multichannel and Ecommerce expertFor retailers, and consumer brands, you much has a WeChat channel to look after customer support, a WeChat shop and a forum – at the minimum.  The image above is of the HP weChat channel which I follow and shows the weekly offers. The bottom three menus allow lots of interaction including; the shop, support, forums, offers and to check my order status

8) Culture in different

A pretty obvious one here, but something to think about and prepare for.  China is growing quickly, and eduction is getting better, but there are still over one billion people and they have their own very different culture. From spacial awareness to spitting, to pushing to walking in the road, to ignoring traffic rules.  The country is growing and their culture is changing – embrace it and enjoy the differences

9) The sights are vast – try and fit a visit into your agenda
Retail - Omnichannel, Multichannel and Ecommerce expert
There are a lot of people in China, and in Beijing there are a lot of tourists. You will get used to queues at the main sights, but they are worth it and most of the ones I visited, the queues moved fairly quickly.  Take your time and enjoy – the architecture is obviously very different, so take time to enjoy it

10) Queuing is……random

There are lots of queues…everywhere and for strange reasons.  You have to queue at the subway to go through security screening, you queue for buses and taxis, you queue for restaurants.  But, this is not queuing in a British way, this is random and crazy queuing.  I found the best solution was to just get in the flow and push through it!

11) Air quality is a challenge
Retail - Omnichannel, Multichannel and Ecommerce expert
Admittedly, I was in Beijing during July and it was very hot and humid and the air quality was no better than unhealthy the entire time.  Make sure you prepare for this, you will no doubt be in air conditioned rooms and hotels most of the time, but when you venture out take loads of water and an inhaler if you have one


12) Security checks adds time to your journey

My last point is more of an observation of just the way it is.  There are different levels of security at different places.  The main being the subway, where every bag and person is searched….add in time for this at peak times. The airport had three sets of security…I am sure one is enough, but that’s their system so make sure you leave extra time.


I have to say that I was concerned before the flight that there would be lots of challenges, but there were not many.  The cultural differences are obvious and for an international business man, this is what I love and embrace.

The mobile communication methods are good and work well, so no need to worry about keeping in contact with the office and loved ones!

If you get the chance to visit China, please do, it is an amazing place and I am looking forward to another trip and growing the business in Asia

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