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The original world nomad "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." - Confucius.

Friday night in Shenzhen

CHINA | Friday, 30 November 2007 | Views [1463]

Communism? What's that?

Communism? What's that?

Smell. The first thing you notice is the smell. As you step off the air-conditioned train scents waft up from from bakeries and noodle shops to mix with the odours from the sewers and stale cigarettes.

Actually, in fairness, I find Shenzhen much cleaner than I remember it: the air is cleaner, the roads are cleaner, the shops and restaurants are MUCH cleaner, the people are cleaner. Yeah, they've come a long way that's for sure, and I like to see a country and its people doing well for themselves.

In many ways Shenzen is more fascinating than Shanghai was in May; somehow everyone knows and expects Shanghai to be booming, the place with the crazy stock market that you see on the nightly news. But Shanghai has also usurped Hong Kong's mantle together with much of the wealth and the ex-pat community.

Here in Shenzhen however there seem to be far fewer foreigners, or for that matter, foreign companies, and this can be quite revealing. Wandering around the sparkling and modern shopping centres and boutiques or for that matter the food courts or street stalls you are in effect viewing the local economy targeting the local consumer and this gives you a finger-in-the-air measure of the local purchasing capacity.

$300 pairs of jeans, $1,000 dresses and shoes ... on the prestige ground floor at least and primarily targeting the female fashion audience. I wonder if the social structures aren't similar to Japan where many young women remain living at home so the substantial part of their earning capacity is in effect powerful pocket money or, because Shenzhen is actually a city of immigrants, perhaps this isn't the case at all and there is often no family home to live in as those would be back in the provinces.

The whole city here is very reminiscent Seoul (Korea) in 1997 ... and look where they are now!

As we were eating dinner in a small place on the street, a tired older man walked past, dressed in a blue Mao jacket and cap with a bamboo pole across his shoulders carrying a bundle of something on either end.

For me this encapsulated how much had changed since last time I was here this was quite normal.

Now he is the exception.

We are here to establish World Nomads in China, which is a pretty daunting task for a small company like ours: where do you start? From no company structure, no license, no brand, no staff, no offices, no channels to market, little credit card penetration, significant internet censorship and a population that has little experience of independent international travel, the challenges ahead ... are not without their risks!

But you see what they have achieved and feel where they are going and you have to be buoyed by their optimism, even if you know the road is going to be bumpy from time to time. As the Chinese proverb says: a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.

You just gotta start somewhere.

Tags: business, culture, economy, work


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