No. of Recommendations: 15

I live in Taipei and I've been for a weekend to Shanghai, but this was my first experience of the real China.

Many of yee will learn nothing new from this, but you might find the views of a wide eyed 24 year old interesting/amusing.

My Dad and I met (on Monday) with a possible supplier of his in their Hong Kong factory. The first thing that was strange was that they had a multistory factory. It looked like and office block and they had big heavy plastic molding machines up on the 2nd floor and their warehouse was on the third. Back home in Ireland, this never ever happpens, its all on the ground floor.

In China, although their is an abundance of textile manufacturer's nobody seems to wear a suit to work. I was just accompanying my dad and I wore shirt,trousers,shoes. The 2 most senior people in a company of 200 workers wore jeans, sneakers and a polo neck t-shirt with the company logo on it. Pesonally, I think its too informal. My roommates tell me its the same in Taiwan.

After looking at their Hong Kong operations, and hearing their very ambitious (my dad thought over-ambitious) plans, we went across the border to Dongguan, which is on one of the feeder rivers of the Pearl River as it descends to the Sea. This whole area is one of the most heavily industrialized in the world.

Even though, in theory, Hong Kong belongs to China, it still is a bit of hassle getting across the boarder at Shenzhen. Lots of forms to fill in etc.
We eventually got through and got the train up to Dongguan. Along the railroad, there was lots of Shanty-type houses and people walking along a newly built track, searching for recyclable bits of material such as wire.

On arrival, emerging for the train station, there must have been 30-40 taxi drivers trying to get our business. Lots of them were motorbike taxi's. I won't be getting on the back of them anytime soon.

The factory we visited was in set amongst lots of generic textile factories. You have to think, when people talk about sweatshops, this is what they're talking about. We entered the factory compound and got a full salute from the security man. They have 2 buildings, all recently purchased, one, pretty much empty. At the back of the buildings they have a dormitory (it seems most factories do) where most of the staff sleep. Most of the staff have migrated from the north. They have a basketball court and a nice garden area with some shaded seating, so its pretty good. However, with their ambitious attitude, you'd have to think without a moments thought, they'll throw up another building on that basketball court. They also have options on the land behind, but that's a long way off.

Inside the factory, I felt like I had 2 heads. As my Dad (100% Irish) said about himself - "They're probably used to seeing balding fat looking American type businessmen" but they weren't used to seeing young fella's like myself and some of the younger machine operator's were looking at me with their mouth's open. When one of the boss's was explaining a machine process to me (I'm not an engineer) I could see with the corner of my eye, 2 of the male workers heads slowly going up and down as they inspected me, like a zoo animal from head to toe. I suppose they think I'm rich and was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Neither is true.

It seems most Chinese factories are overstaffed, obviously because of the cheap labour, but also I think it's cultural. You could see lots of tasks, that only required one operator but had 2 or 3. My dad say's this conflicts with western companies trying to introduce 'lean manufacturing' they just always want more staff than needed. It's not just manufacturing that's overstaffed - hotels , restaurants, trains stations, customs, airports, they all have extra staff just standing there. It's funny at times, at breakfast in Hong Kong, my dad and I had to make sure one of us was still at the table at the buffet breakfast, because the staff will just whip away you're have eaten bread of half drank coffee.

On the way home we asked the 3d in command dude, what hours he works. He says - 9 until 7 or 8 then go home, have shower, eat and relax, then do 1 or 2 more hours on computer at about 10.30 He also works Saturday morning and often has to go up to Dongguan on Saturday afternoon. I personally think that's fine for young single people on the way up. But he has a wife and kid, life is too short, in my view. What's he going to do, work like a dog until he dies, so his child has wealth, then his child will do the same (to create wealth) but somewhere along the line, maybe his grandchild (like Paris Hilton) is going to say: to hell with this, I'm going to have a good time and spend some of this money" then the process starts again.

It was definitely an interesting experience, but its good to be back 'home' in a much less chaotic and 'wild west' feeling Taipei.

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