Why sightseeing with your China vendor is good for your business.

What people are saying Mulberry Fields
“Your blog speaks to the many issues I have experience with when doing business in China:” – a company in California

The other day I wrote the final blog post in my series “The best way to find a reliable supplier in China” and I mentioned that when you travel to China you should build a day or a half a day into your schedule for sightseeing. One of my former clients emailed me and said she was surprised by this because she had never considered it. Thus this blog post.

In fact, when you go to China, it is very normal for vendors to invite you to do some local sightseeing, especially if you are near a city with an important tourist attraction. If you don’t take them up on the offer they will probably be offended.

I speak from experience. I have accompanied many overseas buyers to China and have seen the palpable looks of disappointment on vendor faces when the senior person in our party would decline invitations to visit local places of interest, saying we were just too busy or we would rather spend time at the factory. The attitude, obviously misplaced, was that nothing in China was worth seeing at the expense of business. Make no mistake about it: This is the message your are sending to your vendor.

When your vendor invites you to see some of the local sites, he/she does this for a couple of reasons:

1.) They are simply showing you some hospitality which you should accept even if your schedule is tight and you feel your time would be better spent at the factory. The analogy I would use is that if you are a guest at someone’s house and they invite you to see their garden, you should accept, even if you have no interest in gardens. This is basic courtesy. And when you go to China, even if you have initiated the trip and you are the customer, you are nevertheless a guest.

2.) China vendors want you to pay your respects to China. China has no shortage of historical sights and places of great natural beauty. The Chinese are proud of their culture and their history, as they should be. They are also aware that China fell behind the industrialized world following WW 2 and for many years was regarded as a developing country and more recently as an emerging market economy. Many Chinese, to borrow a Rodney Dangerfield line, still feel they “get no respect. “ This is especially true in cities and areas in China which have not yet seen the breakneck pace of development that one sees in places like Shanghai, Xiamen, Guangzhou et al. Inviting you to see a local temple or walk around a famous park and hearing you say how beautiful it is, is one way Chinese vendors feel respect.

I would add that Americans do not seem to have the same values. I have worked in the US for companies that would occasionally invite Chinese vendors to visit. But no days were scheduled for anything but office and warehouse/factory visits. Vendors came quickly and left just as quickly. I don’t know if it was a lack of respect for the Chinese or just the way Americans do business. I suspect a little of both. But in China it is very different. You arrive as a guest and are treated like one.

So the next time your vendor invites you to go see some local places of interest, your reply should be “Great, I would love to.” If you do this, who knows, your next order may ship on time.




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