International Business Stereotypes: Enlightenment Needed

A couple days ago, we did a post, Outsourcing IT To China. Fear Not? The thrust of the post was whether it is safe to outsource IT to China. The post was based on that question asked as part of a Computer Weekly survey. In our post, we talked of how on many important statistical measures China scores considerably better than India, and yet one rarely hears businesses talking about being afraid to outsource their IT to India.

At one point in the post I noted how “I am of the view that in the end the best analysis is by company, not by country.” In response to that, a very worldly client-friend of mine called to say that not choosing by company is a common form of stereotyping and then talked of how that sort of thing goes on all the time. He’s absolutely right and I have to admit I have been guilty of that same sort of stereotyping myself.

I own two German cars and one Japanese one. True to stereotype, the German cars have amazing engines, but mediocre electronics and ergonomics and the Japanese car has a good engine with excellent electronics and ergonomics. For years, I took the German cars to a repair shop run by a Teutonic looking older guy who spoke with a German accent and looked like he stepped out of a TV Ad as the head engineer at Mercedes. Then he retired and a Greek guy took over. The changing of the guard gave me pause.

I used to occasionally buy lunch from a small local European grocery, with a really good gourmet food counter. The grocery was run by a very polished looking woman with a French accent. When it was sold to a Korean couple, I immediately worried the food might go downhill.
I would like to think (and claim) that my worries were just about going from one owner to another, but I have to admit they went beyond that. I mean, if we are being honest here, we would admit to a certain comfort in having a German fix our German-made cars and a Frenchwoman fix our lunch. Ugh.

One of the great things about China is that it is so huge and so diverse that stereotyping becomes more difficult, but it happens nonetheless. I cringe every time one of our clients proclaims how “the Chinese just can’t be trusted.” I virtually always counter that by saying that my firm has had long-term great relationships with a number of law firms in China and trust has never once been an issue. I then usually follow that up by saying that we have a number of clients that have had 20+ year relationships with their Chinese factories without a single incident involving deception. This is but one common example.

What stereotypes have you found yourself harboring about Chinese companies that you know to be unfair or just plain irrational? What China business stereotypes did you once harbor but have been proven wrong on so many times that you have managed to banish them from your thoughts. The last thing I am asking here is for China-bashing and I will delete such comments. What I am seeking here is comments that will help all of us expand our minds when it comes to doing business with China. Enlightenment sought here. Please help.

UPDATE: I knew my reactions were unfair and so I kept going to both places and both new owners actually infused their new businesses with positive changes while keeping the good things from the past. But, of course, even if that had not been the case, it would not have justified by stereotyping.

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