Tianjin, just one of 100s of Chinese cities?

To be fair I cannot claim to be any sort of expert on China at all, I’ve been here 9 months only, most of which time has been spent in Shanghai or out of the country really, so when I pretend to pass judgment on Tianjin, take it with a pinch of proverbial salt.

So what did I learn on my trip then, all of 48 hours of it? Well, actually I was in Beijing for the launch of Brandz China Top 50 brands for WPP.  If you want to know which companies most of the people in the world currently work for or will work for in the future is a brilliant thing to have a look at!

Plus if you do you get to meet people like this (the name people, the name!)

Now BJ, as it’s so brilliantly shortened to, is getting cold about now. I mean around the freezing mark and it’s still about two months away from the worst winter has to offer.

Then you take the train to Tianjin . . .

Tianjin is a ‘smallish Chinese city’ of roughly 10 million people, one of about 20 or 30  in the country and so it’s nothing special really and in fact for the time I was there you couldn’t really tell the roads from the buildings from the sky which makes it even more of a treat! I’m probably being unfair to the place, I mean it does have a Ferris wheel, that’s gotta count for something, no?

Now because my job is based around retail I generally get to have a look around stores and malls wherever I am. This is a lot less glamorous than you would think but in China it certainly has its perks. The range of things you see from fully clothed pets (incl shoes and hats) to people smoking in the fresh produce section (TO THE FRESH PRODUCE  SECTION ITSELF as my fellow STM partner says ‘most of that shit you would find in a pet store’) to beautiful things like this!

Now sometimes I travel on my own budget which means I like to enjoy where I stay as much as is humanly possible so this results in villas mostly. Then there are times I stay on the companies budget which means run of the mill Hilton, Hyatt etc, good hotels but pretty much standard rooms and then, there are sadly times when my clients prescribe the budget and I stay in some very average, sometimes frightening inn-sorta-places. Now in China this really can be surprisingly pleasant or horribly un-so, this trip was the latter. You know that it’s not going to be a good night when you find an Armageddon mask in the bedside table (and when the bedside table is bolted down for that matter).

Finally the airport on the way out was the best part of this specific Chinese outing. Normally the smoking lounges in china are tiny, old and filled with a thousand small men all trying to, simultaneously, get cancer and give it to each other, so you can imagine what I expected in a ‘small city’ airport. To my magnificent surprise I found the last place on earth that still respects the smoker! A massive room with about 30 massage chairs for the general public to wonder in, have a smoke and sort out their lower back issues!

The best part of the trip however, and this is why I love travelling in China so much, was the massive gargantuan unbelievable amount of arbitrary that the Chinese often indulge in! As I was walking to my gate I saw a line of about 50 people, assuming this was my boarding gate I walked up to the queue only to realize these people were waiting in line to get their photo taken, by a professional no less, in front of a giant picture of an Airbus A380.

Sometimes words actually fail me.

The moral of the story is every trip I gain a tiny insight into the Chinese way of thinking, culture and countryside. It is in all seriousness a true privilege and one of the big reasons I moved here!

The exploration continues, but first off to Moscow!