Let us introduce Jenny Cheng, APC Logistics “Swedish ambassador” in China
SHIPPING MADE EASY
APC was founded on the strong belief of simplicity. To work with us will make life easier for you. The essence of this comes down to the people at APC that takes care of you in your daily business.
In our view it is our engaged and highly skilled employees that makes the difference. They find solutions to problems all the time and never shy away from challenges. A clear example of this is the story about our colleague Jenny Cheng.
Jenny spent many years in our Gothenburg office taking care of APCs customers, but recently decided to relocate to APC China to leverage her experience from Sweden and support APCs customers and organisation in a bigger way. Re-locating to China is normally a big step but doing it during a global pandemic is a totally different story. We got a chance to ask Jenny about what her current everyday life looks like.
Why did you decide to move to China, what attracted you?
To challenge myself and to further explore my roots. I’ve always wanted to experience living and working in a different culture and what better place to do that than China, a country which in many ways is so different from Sweden. Except from spending many of my childhood summer breaks there, I’ve also lived and studied in China for one year previously. These occasions opened my eyes to how different people live in other countries, and the year I spent in China was also one of the most rewarding periods of my life. So, I knew I wanted to go back again if the opportunity ever presented itself.
Also, I get to take advantage one of my strengths which is that I’m multicultural and I consider myself good at handling cross-cultural tasks. It’s what makes me stand out and with the new job position in China I get to use those skills a lot. At the same time as I am working on helping to develop the trade between the two countries that I´ve always considered my 2 homes.
-How was the process for you, because of the Global Covid pandemic it took almost 1,5 years from your decision to go, until you finally touched down in China? To sum it up in one word: Nerve wrecking!
It’s really been a rollercoaster ride the past 1,5 years but the journey has also been very educational, and it also gave me an early crash course into Chinese bureaucracy.
Because the first stage of getting my PU letter approved by Chinese Foreign Affairs Office took several months, a lot longer than the usual processing time pre-pandemic. When I finally received my work visa, I had managed to sync the period to travel to when there were big increases of covid cases in China. That made the regulations to enter the country become even more strict and there were very limited flight options. My flight got cancelled in the end and while waiting for the airline to get back to me about when they could find me a new ticket, the three months validity on my visa to enter China was close to expire. I then found out that the Chinese consulate wouldn’t be able to extend the visa validity and I would have to go through the whole application process again. Since the process took almost seven months last time and I wasn’t very keen on going through that again, I had to start looking for new flight tickets desperately. In the end I had three different tickets from three different airlines just in case any of them would cancel me again. I remember that March and April were a very odd period also for my friends and colleagues in Sweden, because my departure date kept being pushed back and I would always be informed last minute about it. We would say our goodbyes and then a few days later I would show up again in the office, much to their surprise. This kept repeating itself, so it became quite funny in the end and something to laugh about, but it was also tough not to be able to plan. Because of all the hurdles I had encountered along the way, on the day I finally boarded the flight that would take me to China it felt very surreal. Even now when I´ve been here for six months I sometime still get sudden moments of realization that it finally happened.
-What was difficult, what have you learned from it?
The most challenging part has been to try to navigate through the different rules and requirements. The pandemic complicated a lot of things and there were often sudden changes which made it hard to keep up and sometimes you would get very vague answers when asking. But I am happy and proud that during the time with the most severe restrictions to enter China, I still managed to solve everything and arrive here. I would say I´m usually quite calm and stress tolerant, but this past year has really tested and taught me about patience and adaptiveness. To take things as they come and that there is always a creative solution to most issues.
I´m also incredibly lucky though to have an amazing group of people helping and supporting me both in Sweden and China. Without them, me being here in China now would not be possible.
-How has the experience been since you landed in China?
I don´t think I could have gotten a better welcoming. I did my quarantine in Xiamen, and during the three weeks I spent in the quarantine facility and the one week after before I could travel to Shanghai, the colleagues at APC Xiamen made sure to always check up on me and take care of me. It was really great to finally meet them after having worked together for so long.
Once I was allowed to travel to Shanghai, initially there were some issues and delays with my residence permit due to that the city just came out of a long lockdown, which resulted in me having to wait a few more months in order to be allowed to work. But I chose to see the positive side of that, it gave me time to explore how much Shanghai had changed and also allowed me and my new colleagues in Shanghai to slowly get to know each other more before my first official working day.
And yes, China is different from Sweden. From how to do things, to social norms and expectations, but I find it very rewarding to learn about all these new perspectives. Each day is full of challenges, different experiences and meeting new people. I’m finding myself constantly stepping out of my comfort zone and learning and doing new things, which makes me appreciate everything more.
-You have studied 1 year in China before; do you notice any differences in society? If so, which ones?
The biggest change I see is the new unpredictability, due to the current covid situation. There are still occasional partial lockdowns, so people are more aware when/if they move around, go out to eat or visit places due to the possibility of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s also hard to make plans far ahead, so most engagement are often spontaneous and in the moment. You can still move around freely, but there is another level of awareness now.
One of the things I find really intriguing with China is that it is a country of constant rapid change so you’re always exploring and finding new things. Even though you’ve visited a certain city the year before it will be somewhat different the year after. Same with your favourite restaurants or stores, next time you go there it might be something completely different.
The social norms have also changed quite a bit. China has always been a country of traditions but based on the discussions I´ve had with the people here lately, I feel like the quick development has resulted in the generations gaps growing even wider and more apparent than ever.
-Can you see any clear differences in how it is to work in China compared to Sweden, what has been the hardest and best so far if you compare I would say the general business environment is similar, it´s relaxed and people talk freely, joke with each other and there´s a lot of laughter. The difference is the habits, which is partly rooted in culture. The hierarchical structure is a bit more apparent while working in China, everyone has a clear role. How we approach things and expectations are also different. I´ve encountered that Swedish people sometimes feel that Chinese people are not clear enough in their communication, while Chinese people are not used to how direct Swedish people can be.
The overall setup and way of working in our line of business, freight forwarding, is also different. Because Sweden is much smaller, in terms of both population and area, the freight forwarding companies are used to working directly with the carriers or trucking companies. In China the use of agents is much more common. So even though it´s the same company and same industry it´s often hard to make comparison because the playing field is different.
The hardest part, but also the most interesting, has been to try to adapt and gain a better understanding of this, for me, new working environment. Switching habits to talk and write more in Chinese during my workday has also been a challenge.
The best part has been the people I´ve met, both colleagues and customers. Overall, everyone has been very open and welcoming, glad to help and curious about my background. Many of the conversations and discussions I´ve had the past couple of months have been very eye opening, so I look forward to having more of those and excited about this journey ahead.