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  • Writer's pictureAnja

100 Days China


Denny's conclusion

What's going well, what's not going so well, what's going as expected, what's not, would I choose China again today - a little interim conclusion.


Work

Basically, I am looking after similar and partly the same products here in China as I already know from my previous job in Braunschweig: Chassis components, mainly welded assemblies and their individual parts.

VW FAW is a joint venture and is 60% owned by VW and 40% by FAW, China's oldest car manufacturer. The VW structure and its code of conduct and high quality awareness are similar to those in the home company. This is not surprising, since strategically important management functions such as QA, TE, R&D and site managers are almost always held by German employees. They serve as multipliers of the values of the home company. In detail, however, I am doing a completely different job here in China than in Germany.


It's my first management job. I have a team of 7 Chinese engineers and together we form the development department for VW FAW. Instead of planning welding systems, I now deal with development tasks; instead of German, I communicate with my colleagues in English; instead of clerical tasks, I now have a management task. Yes, it's quite a few changes at once, because my English in particular was not so much in demand in Germany in the last few years. On the other hand, my team is motivated and ambitious, takes up good ideas and doesn't hesitate long in implementing them. With a good structure, an open mind and often highly technical tasks, communication and delegation are already working quite well. In the future, however, more can be done here based on growing experience with the topic of leadership and also the location topics. That means I currently work a few hours more a week than in Germany, but not at weekends.

The department's task is mostly to localise the chassis components that are already developed and produced in Europe for the China region. Put simply, this means that the finished product, e.g. a rear axle according to the overall drawing from Europe, has to be described by us for reproduction in China exclusively, in compliance with the same quality standards as in Europe. The aim here is to offer VW vehicles at a competitive price in China as well, thus contributing to the Group's overall sales. A production in Europe including shipping to China would be too expensive because, apart from customs duties, these chassis components are quite large and bulky and would therefore incur correspondingly high logistics costs. Only in the case of very critical supply bottlenecks do the Brunswick and VW platforms help each other out with production quantities.


So what do we do in detail?

The task is to create local drawings, to find local suppliers for the required individual parts, taking into account price and compliance with quality requirements, and to strive for the approval of the suppliers, the components and the finished products in close cooperation with the planning department, the welding engineers and quality assurance. Slight but targeted component and tool concept optimisations and a continuous scrutiny of cost potentials that have not yet been exhausted are on the agenda.

Looking back on my previous activities in production and planning in the product environment of chassis components, I am very satisfied with my decision to change to this new function and the new environment and I am happy about the new insights and perspectives.


Unfortunately, there is still no news regarding a great job for Anja. We haven't found anything yet, but we're not burying our heads in the sand and we'll keep searching. Until then, Anja is using her time here to do a lot of housework, to coach the girls in our circle of friends and to learn Chinese. With endless perseverance, conscientiousness and a hand for that certain something, she has meanwhile transformed our flat into a real home. Unfortunately, I don't always succeed in maintaining this super standard of quality, which is not due to a lack of appreciation for her work, but rather to a lack of time.

Currently, I am usually out of the house/at work from 7:15 - 17:45 during the week. In my free time, everyone also needs some time for themselves, or I definitely need some time for myself to pursue other topics besides work.

As a result, our time together is unfortunately much shorter than we are used to in Germany and Anja has unfortunately not yet found a great new job, so although she is busy with the current household chores, she does not receive the recognition and social exchange that a job in business would bring. This situation is also different for us than in Brunswick and leads to interpersonal tensions, where I unfortunately don't always have the best hand. But I won't bury my head in the sand here either, self-reflection is the approach to further development, with a lot of patience on Anja's side and a willingness to learn on mine, I'm convinced that we'll find our way back to a great togetherness here.

Now to life, the leisure activities, the weather, the air quality and the food.


Food

Yesterday we went to the Thai restaurant with 3 families of friends. Great ambience and really good food, here is a small excerpt: Coconut soup, papaya salad, fried aubergines, curry spaghetti and curry potatoes. Apart from an entrance check regarding the personal health app, there were no Covid restrictions.


Driving a car

After waiting for ages for organisational and official procedures and also technical problems, we both finally have our driving licences. I, for one, really enjoy driving here.

We have a Golf 7 with DSG as a company car, the roads are very well developed and except for rush hour you can get around very well by car. Compared to Germany, the roads in the city have more lanes, sometimes even considerably more (once the navigation system showed 11 lanes on one side of the road at an intersection). The traffic rules are slightly different but similar. Approximately 50 m before the intersection, there are solid lane lines between the lanes, which prohibit changing lanes immediately before the intersection. You should stick to most of the rules, as there is a points system similar to Germany and after 12 points you have to hand in your driving licence.

There are always flashes here, there are many cameras that always record everything and are then evaluated. So far, however, neither Anja nor I have collected any points, which at least in my case is due to the fact that the camera system does not cover 100% of the country, fortunately! Two other differences in the road traffic rules compared to Germany are that turning right is always allowed, even at large intersections where the traffic lights are currently red. In addition, there is no right-hand driving rule. The latter often tempts me to jump into all the gaps like in Fast and the Furious, which works out quite well on the roads with at least 3 lanes. I'm curious to see whether I'll be able to reintegrate in Germany later on...


Air quality

So far, we haven't had a day of smog like the one I experienced in Beijing. It is almost always sunny. Nevertheless, especially now in winter, depending on the wind direction, you can often smell that coal-fired power plants are used for heating here. The air is more polluted than in Germany. But China has also made significant improvements in the last 10 years. The government defines limits and specifications for the factories and many green spaces and parks have been and are being created in the city. If we compare the air values with Europe, they are sometimes even better than in Braunschweig, but often somewhat worse. Compared to Paris or Berlin, however, the differences are much smaller. In the flat we always have our air purifiers in operation as a preventive measure.


Leisure

If you're an outdoor fanatic like we are, you'll find plenty of opportunities for leisure activities here: Cycling, inline skating, electric longboarding, bouldering, ice skating, skiing or snowboarding, snowkiting and kitesurfing.... everything is possible here. As far as kiting is concerned, we are now connected to the local kite club, which communicates via Wechat. In winter, we kite on one of the numerous lakes around Changchun, and in summer on a larger reservoir 1.5 hours away.

Now in winter, people often go by car to the frozen lake and form a common base camp from the cars. A Chinese kiter often has his mini caravan with him, including a wood-burning stove, which is heated up as the first official act at the spot and thus provides small warm meals at lunchtime. By the way, we were very kindly welcomed into the group and were always provided with meals free of charge, even if we still had some language difficulties. 95% of the Chinese here in northern China don't speak English, so communication at the spot is difficult. However, most sentences work via a translation app and "no language barrier in the world can prevent us from kiting together and having fun" is a quote from the group chat of our new sports friends.

Especially in winter, the frozen lakes are used, as the amount of snow here is just enough as a base; on meadows and fields, stubble can sometimes still be seen through. This is due to the fact that the sun almost always shines here and we very rarely have precipitation. That means that when snow does fall, it stays there, because it's actually sub-zero here all winter long. Some nights it's even -25°, but it doesn't snow that often.

I am very happy to have found this kite group, as they are very friendly and patient in answering many of my questions about the local possibilities and are also technically up to date. Right before each weekend there is a briefing on which lake the community will meet for kiting that weekend, including weather forecast, kite size recommendation, optional provision of rental equipment and, for spots further away, the possibility of accommodation. So far, we haven't dared to ask about accommodation. But because it has just snowed a little again and the snow depths have now also gradually increased directly in Changchun, the distance to the spot has currently dropped to about 45 minutes from the initial 2.5 hours.

Anja's review

What have my first 100 days here in China been like?

First of all, I have the feeling that the days are shorter here than in Germany. I can't really explain why that is, maybe because everything takes longer here?

Since it didn't work out with my job, which really messed up Christmas and New Year's Eve for me, whether that's celebrated here or not, I'm trying to settle into the role of a housewife.

Well, things like vacuuming or mopping, ironing, cleaning, doing laundry, nobody, or very few, really likes to do. Does it still have to be done? Yes - it has to be done! But if the day only consists of these activities, if every day is like the next and there are no challenges except scrubbing the grout in the bathroom with the toothbrush, you slowly but surely go crazy.

There is no feeling of having done something great, good, big or meaningful. Only the relief of finally having done it, coupled with the regret that it won't last long.

In the meantime, we also had an ayi. That is the Chinese term for a cleaning lady. She was there twice. After that I cancelled her contract.

1. she costs money, of course (I don't want to spend money I haven't earned myself) and 2. her performance didn't meet my expectations.

So I am not satisfied with the overall situation here for me. It is different from what I expected and imagined. Denny did give me a heads up: "assume it all sucks..." but I didn't expect it to turn out like this.


A few positive things have happened anyway:

Now that I'm not officially allowed to work at the school, it also took quite a while until I got my money last week for the hours I had already worked. Some members of the school board had already blocked me in Messenger and no longer responded to my requests. I had also handed in my work laptop by mid-December, so I no longer had any leverage to demand my money through exchange. In the end, I contacted all the offices in the school and VW's Partner Support Programme, which had arranged the jobs for me. I was then paid in cash.

And since a week ago, I finally have my driving licence. My impression of the traffic here is completely different from Denny's:

As Denny has already described, it is possible to turn right even at red lights. What makes it easier for the person turning right is a danger for the person going straight. The right-turning driver simply drives. Without looking, without braking! Even if they are coming from a side street. And no, just because there is a right turn does not necessarily mean they have the right of way. A friend of mine had an accident because of this (no one was injured, just fender benders). The traffic routing here is also adventurous:

There is a motorway slip road here, which is crossed by an oncoming road. And both directions have green at the same time... There is no right-hand driving rule, the motorway intersections are extremely confusing and every driver is next to himself... Although ALL Chinese have to take an exam every 6 years to renew their driving licence, the roads are a wild mess. And that's not even including pedestrians on the motorway....


Another thing I'm happy about: my fitness room in our basement is finished. The shelves are up, the screen is installed and the anchors for the TRX bands are hanging.


What is still proving difficult is grocery shopping. My interim idea of having everything that is heavy or dry delivered online has also turned out to be a no-go. You can order all kinds of things online, including food, but not an entire purchase. There is nothing comparable to REWE online or anything like that. You order from the Chinese Amazon (-> Taobao). The problem is, they don't have a warehouse, they're all individual sellers. So you happily fill up your shopping trolley, press order and get 100 individual packages..... In the meantime, however, we have started to order at least milk online. Exotic things like vanilla sugar, pudding, baking powder, curd cheese, fruit or herbal tea have to be ordered online, they are not available here in the supermarket.

Before our container arrived, we lived off the reserves of toothpaste, cream and shower gel we had in our suitcases. While trying to find moisturiser in the supermarket, we noticed that all the creams are laced with whiteners or whitening agents. So the Chinese bleach their skin white. Where we are happy about a healthy tan, here a sickly pallor is the non plus ultra. Hoping that the Chinese don't already bleach their babies, I had decided to use baby lotion that day. However, I can't say whether I've become paler as a result or whether it's simply the natural process that makes me think I should go back into the warm. The sun shines almost every day here, but it's much too cold to do more than stick my nose out of my clothes. No comparison to the Alps and Kitzbühl, where you sit on the alpine pasture for your lunch break and enjoy facing the sun.


One important topic remains at the end:

Things are not looking promising at the moment for our wedding party in April. However, we are in the process of finding a possible alternative date together with our location and our service providers. We will of course inform you as soon as we have any news.


And last but not least:

Our 100-day review took a little longer than planned. The reason for this is that we have made a video of our first days here.


Anja & Denny

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