Some time ago I saw a live performance show by a troupe called "The Happy Sideshow". Their motto is "it just keeps getting better" — often said as a hand or arm is placed into a dingo or bear trap (or much worse). This motto implies that improvement can only be made through a strange sort of pain — one that requires you to endure it while still smiling.
After almost a week here in Shanghai, I see a special relevance to this phrase … in fact, it is the same phrase I used with my team when in China last time. If you are looking to do business in China, then you need to know that it is never easy. There are many protocols, challenges, obstacles and cultural minefields to negotiate — and that is just at the airport!
When you can’t believe that the issues you face can become worse, then you must remember that "things just keep getting better". When the items that you purchased arrived and they are "below standard", you also need to remember that "things just keep getting better". And when you feel that the work you have paid for is shoddy, but there is no one responsible, no one to instruct or no avenue for recourse, you need to remember that "things just keep getting better".
It is clear to me that the best way forward in China is to be patient, firm in your articulation of need (matched with determination) and flexible in the way you deal with obstacles. This in itself can be frustrating, but is often the only way — the more you resist, the more stress you cause yourself and those around you.
But there are benefits and joys also. The people can be warm, supportive and very hospitable. They will go out of their way to show you the very best of their country and culture, point you in the right direction and even negotiate the price at markets. They are generous with their time and energy.
It reminds me of this post by Seth Godin. He talks about the perception of "weirdness" — and points out that it is not weird if it is YOUR weirdness. The things that frustrate and challenge westerners in China are just "part of life" for those who live here.
Does it just keep getting better? Thanks to my friends in China, I can say "yes"!