When visiting suppliers you will want to make plans that best utilize the available time. This is even necessary if you are visiting suppliers in one of the large Chinese cities like Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Shanghai. These cities are so vast that you need a realistic plan if are going to get much accomplished.
Getting Around Hong Kong
Most visitors underestimate some time factors that are actually out of their control. I will give you an example for meetings held in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is a city with a population of approximately 7 million people with an excellent public transportation system. Using the subway (MTR) is advisable and it should not take long for you to become a little bit familiar with it. If you know the closest MTR station to your destination, you still need to know which exit to take out of the station and then the street leading to your supplier’s office.
The public yellow or green minibuses are best left to the locals. It is usually too complicated for visitors to become reasonably acquainted with them during a short stay.
Once you arrive at your supplier’s office building, you need to get to the floor where your supplier’s office is located. Hong Kong is a modern city with many skyscrapers. Even after you locate the floor, it can be a small challenge finding their office. There can be as many as 20 offices on the same floor.
The Trouble at Lunch Time
It can and does take considerable time to find suppliers’ offices. Special precautions are needed if you have a 2:00 PM meeting in Hong Kong. Plan to arrive at least 15-20 minutes early because all elevators will be very crowded. At 2:00PM the general lunch hour ends and everybody is trying to rush back to their offices at the last moment. Get there 15 minutes early and miss the rush.
Knowing these details will help you to make the right plans. For instance, I prefer to arrange my first appointment after lunch at 2:30PM instead of 2:00PM when I am in Hong Kong.
The Chinese love getting out of the office during lunch and really do not want to accept any meetings during that time. They are usually polite enough not to let you know this, but I suggest not trying to schedule meetings between 1:00PM and 2:00PM.
Offices are now staggering work hours similar to Western societies. Part of the reason is to reduce traffic congestion. This can make it impractical to schedule an appointment before 10:00AM. Unfortunately, any earlier and some of the people you want to attend will not have arrived at work yet.
Lunch hours can start as early as 12:00PM or 12:30PM but that is an exception. As long as you honor the main lunch period between 1:00-2:00PM everything will be fine.
Keep in mind that taxis will be also difficult to catch during these times because some of the returning staff will also use taxis.
Going the Distance in Hong Kong
If you have a meeting in the Tsuen Wan district and your next meeting is supposed to be in Chai Wan, it will take you approximately one hour by taxi to get there. The distances in Hong Kong are considerable and take time to cover, even with their excellent transportation system.
You need to consult a street map in order to avoid scheduling meetings with suppliers that are far apart from each other. My suggestion is that you contact the suppliers you will be meeting with and ask them how much time you may need to get from your hotel (after you have booked it) to their place. Next, check with the second supplier that you will meet with to learn how much time you will need to reach them from your first supplier’s office.
If you have meetings with suppliers in the industrial areas of Shatin, Fotan, Kwai Chung etc., you will need more time to reach your destination from downtown. On your return trip it may not be easy to find a taxi.
Sometimes it does not make much sense to use a taxi in certain areas. For instance in Kwun Tong. Most suppliers’ offices can be reached within a short walking distance and sometimes taxi drivers will even refuse to drive you if your next meeting is just e few blocks away.
I think you get the point already. Knowing the exact locations of your suppliers’ offices allows you to tailor your meeting schedule without including unnecessary taxi rides or walking. Besides the time savings, it will also help to save substantial travel costs.
The same applies to the larger cities in China. However, you have the added complication of communicating with your taxi driver. This will be very difficult if you do not have the address of your supplier’s office in Chinese with you. Your hotel can help you with that and also your supplier can send you a copy of his business card in advance. That will do the trick.
Considering everything involved, you may not be able to make more than two meetings before noon and another two in the afternoon.