China 2.0: Shenzhen
The People's Republic of the Future. The Silicon Valley of hardware in the east. The youngest mega city in the world. Shenzhen is the technological focal point in China, where everyone and everything is moving in something called "Shenzhen Speed" - which is a phrase that describes an unyielding change of pace.
Shenzhen is one of those cities that you see "before and after" photos of. That is because Shenzhen was a fishing village just 40 years ago, but today it impressively hosts 20 million people as one of China's biggest cities. It is almost impossible to imagine this when you're walking the streets at night and gazing upon the futuristic LED lightshows of the cities many skyscrapers. However, it is a very impressive feat that characterizes the entire city and the people living there. Our names are Christoffer Ring and Joakim Svahn and we had the pleasure to view these lights in this fast moving city together with our Chinese colleagues in the Biruikena (BillerudKorsnäs in Chinese) Shenzhen office.
Our view from our hotel apartment, where you can see Ping An Finance Center in the background, the 4th tallest building in the world.
The work culture in China is certainly different compared to Sweden, which we experienced first hand. Coming from two different departments in BillerudKorsnäs (The IT and Forestry department), we had different backpacks coming into the office but we learned new and existing things about the business we are doing in China and how different life can be. For example, the first days we were surprised about the half-hour mid day nap that is an informal part of the schedule. Between 13:00 and 13:30 the office turns dark and everything pauses for a while, which is a nice contrast to the otherwise fast pace of work and activity. We were also introduced to the whole office and its' different functions, which gave us a very comprehensive overview of the entire segment of Managed Packaging, which we run in China. It really is a luxury to be able to meet all the skillful people at the office, since they can describe and tell the stories and way of working of our business here. You really understand the problems, challenges and opportunities in a different way when being locally present.
Supplier visit where we found our own paper material!
Being on the ground in China also meant that we got a special insight into the factories and production partners that are part of our supply network of Managed Packaging. It was of course fascinating the see how our suppliers work and we got to visit them, but it was even more exciting to talk to the people that work here. Most of the people of Shenzhen are immigrants and originates from other provinces in China, meaning that the history of the city is very young. During the public holiday in China, many of the citizens leave Shenzhen and go to their home towns to visit family and friends. It really feels like a special place that has a mixture of all kinds of people!
The Shenzhen office + us
Besides learning about the Managed Packaging business area and spending time with our colleagues inside the office, we had the opportunity to join half of them on their annual company outskirt. This year, the destination was the scenic Hunan province, which is where parts of the movie Avatar was filmed (yeah, the scenery was pretty much like the movie!). After a 2 and a half hour train ride averaging 300 km/h and sweeping by lush green mountains, we arrived.
The trip was planned in detail and we had a couple of buses waiting for us to take us up to astonishing views of the bamboo covered mountains and picturesque lakes, which was a welcomed contrast from the buzzling city of Shenzhen. In addition to the nature experience, we got a taste of the Hunan cuisine, which is (in)famous for its spicy food. The two of us were crying and sweating our way through a couple of meals but it was so delicious that we just couldn't stop!
Outskirts to the mountains of Hunan with local lunch!
One of the best things about this trip was to hang out with our colleagues outside the office and get the opportunity to get to know them. One evening, we ended up having dinner and playing Mahjong (a Chinese board game) for hours together. At first, it seemed impossible to learn this Chinese board game but Christoffer brought out his gambling side and managed to win a couple of rounds.
We did some exploring on our own as well, such as hiking in the surrounding mountains of Shenzhen and meteting up with our trainee colleagues, Malin and Björn twice! Once in Hong Kong during the Chinese holiday and a weekend in the capital, Beijing
China, aka. the Middle Kingdom, has so many sides to explore and we got to experience a fraction of what this vast nation has to offer. It has been a great time with new encounters, both with people and places, and a valuable opportunity to learn about the exciting Managed Packaging business segment, which is very different from BillerudKorsnäs' core business.
On top of the Wutong mountain and along the waterside – Shenzhen offers lots of nature!
Zàijiàn for now and stay tuned for more blog posts from our trainee-colleagues' experiences abroad!