July 12, 2010

Grand Opening: Guangzhou Labs

I admit it has taken us a bit longer than expected to get things going in Hong Kong, but we are finally open for experiment in Guangzhou.

I'm not exactly sure why the delays, but here's a little insight into how Hong Kong works.

I took the elevator down to the lobby of our new building. I asked the woman working at reception where the post office was.

With a bright smile, she effectively told me, "You can't get there from here."

It was too far to walk. Too short to taxi. There was a bus, but the stop wasn't convenient and you might have to transfer to get back. She got out maps to show me. A colleague joined her. Both of them trying their best to be helpful as they delivered the disappointing news that the post office was beyond my reach.

By the time I stepped away from the desk, even their manager had joined the discussion.

I thanked them for their help and trudged slowly back to the elevator banks. I was dejected, my disappointment obvious in the slump of my shoulders. I could feel their pitying stares on my back, when one of them asked, "What you need at Post Office?"

Stamps, I said.

"Oh, stamps! We have stamps right here."

Hong Kong is efficient. Hong Kongers are eager to be helpful, almost obsequiously so. But it helps to know how to ask for what you want, directly and without abstraction.

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