One year in Zhong Guo: what a year!

What a year has flown by since the official start of my contract in China on March 1st, 2012!

Over 25 business trips, 100+ customer visits, building my team and gaining trust, getting used to the Chinese and vice versa, bicycling in Beijing, drinking with customers till you drop to the floor, negotiating with Chinese companies (like six-year old children), SAP management churn, lying and deceiving, firing team members, learning survival Chinese, quarter end stress in China (making 40 percent of the year’s revenue in the last 36 hours), hosting industry events with over 500 people, customer dinners with 300+ people, singing Karaoke and listening to dreadful speeches, drinking Baijui (Chinese liquor), waging power battles with our local partners, welcoming a new government and increased security, assessing the quality of people I have to wage war against, witnessing the luxurious live of my colleagues in global roles and the utter ignorance of these corporate seagulls, achieving my EUR 20 mio target, the hong bao’s (envelopes with money), the obligatory presents, Guanxi (every person has a network), er nai’s (second wives), the art of spitting, the many dinners and all the interesting stuff I ate, snake, scorpion, maggots, tripe, donkey, yak, century eggs, birds nests, fish eyes, sea cucumber, great trips to Shanghai, Xi’an, Harbin, Vietnam, bicycle rides every weekend in Beijing, Tao and Confucian temples, the hard struggle of the locals for survival, dealing with censorship, getting used to slow internet or living without streaming internet, the warm blanket provided by the expat community,  attending the network events of the Dutch chamber of Commerce, the drink parties with my boss and team, the new friendships of my three kids, the lack of trust among the Chinese, the air quality, hitting on my team members to achieve goals, looking for my comfort zone: where is it?, the language, the extreme wealth of some Chinese, the small dresses in summer time, the disinterest in political change, my ayi and Lu shifu, the great evenings with my wife in the Beijing hutongs (alley) restaurants and theaters, wo ai Pauke, Chinese speed trains and their accuracy, the many delays at airfields, the lack of speed and number of stamps for everything like water, electricity phone etc.., the way my team reimburses expenses, collecting fapios (receipts), my translator Zhang Yu, GWM, Suning, COFCO, CNTC, BAT, my GAD friends the few brothers in arms, Nanchan 南山ski, 24 7 traffic jams…., fireworks, Chinese new year, Chungjie Kuaile (Happy New Year).

When was the last day without something happening?

All of the above are practices I now accept as normal and the daily happiness with my family is the only real thing that gives me energy to cope with the situation.

I dare to say I have just landed and am ready to start the Year of the Snake!

By Max Lamberts


SBE alumnus Max Lamberts has been living for a year now in Beijing, China. He works for the German company SAP, where he is responsible for the consumer product and retail industry. He manages a team of 21 Chinese employees and has daily contacts with Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and Private Enterprises (PEs). Lamberts writes a blog on private and business matters at

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