Based on the first few months of working in Washington with our Chinese client, here are critical challenges we are facing and opportunities we are enjoying.
Having bilingual students on our team is undeniably helpful, and luckily we have two who speak both English and Mandarin. However, the majority of us are completely lost when the client is speaking Mandarin. It would be inconsiderate for us to expect all communication to be in English, especially since there are a lot of terms that do not have direct translations. Ultimately, we have to trust the Mandarin-speaking teammates to effectively communicate with the client (which we do!!).
Working internationally generally comes with time zone differences, which makes scheduling meetings difficult. Shanghai is 12 hours ahead of Washington, DC. Needless to say, this results in us (both the group and the client) to be flexible and take calls at less than ideal times.
The visa process can be miserable for some of the international students. Where you are from, where you have traveled, and where your family has lived can impinge on the process. Our advice: start the process early.
Especially for the non-Chinese students, this trip will be an eye opening experience. However, having students from China is making the experience even more exciting. It’s always helpful to have inside information about anywhere you travel, but it’s even more helpful when those with inside information are traveling with you. We are more informed about what to prepare for, what to bring, how to act, and other cultural norms. Hopefully this inside information results in packing the right clothes.
Regardless of the challenges, the general process of working with an international client is a great opportunity. This experience will obviously be expanded when we work with the client in-country, but the preparation itself is critical to understanding how international business happens.
We expect plenty more challenges and opportunities, but for now these are the most important ones as we prepare for the trip. We can’t wait for May 17th.