today I laughed: how is business done in China?


Since I’ve been living in China for a while, many overseas friends are curious as to how is business done in China. I recount this story I heard:

An international organization was issuing tenders for a construction project, and every country was invited to bid. Every country had to do a presentation and explain the fees and charges for the project. 

India first presented. “The project will cost USD3000 : USD1000 for my profit, USD1000 is cost of materials, and USD1000 is labour cost.”

The chairman of the international organization noted it down, and then invited Germany to showcase their proposal.

“Well, it would be USD6000 for this project,” the Germans said. “USD2000 for my profit, USD2000 for cutting edge technology and top quality materials, and USD2000 for highly experienced professionals to do the job.”

The chairman then went around and heard all the countries’ bids. Eventually, it was China’s turn to present.

“We can complete this project in 15 days without a problem,” China claimed. “ It would cost USD9000.”

“Why so expensive?” the chairman asked.

China replied, “USD3000 for my profit, USD3000 for you, and USD3000 to get the Indians to do it.”


Living here in Beijing, and having worked with so many different cultures, I could not help but be thoroughly amused at this stereotype – but stereotypes also are formed from reality, I suppose.

But my disclaimer: no offense intended towards anyone or any country.

2 years ago, having heard something like this, I’d probably still look blankly at you, somber, and melancholy.

Today, I laughed. In fact, I roared with effervescent laughter.

I think that’s an improvement. So I’m proud of myself for this. No deep thinking point to ponder.

And I hope you had a good laugh too.


Be me.



15 Responses

  1. Ivy says:

    Haha… we have very similar situations turned into jokes here in Malaysia. Here’s one from my country : what do you call a Chinese driving a Merc Benz? — Boss. What do you call a Malay driving the Benz? — Driver. What do you call an Indian driving that Benz? — Thief ! ( this is a joke told and excepted by all urban Malaysian’s . It’s not meant to put any race down, but has some comedy in it based on the way things were many years ago..not anymore tho)

    –> I’m not sure if I should actually press send .? hmm… what the heck.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Ivy
      Ahaha thats quite funny. But yes i agree – no offense meant towards anyone. A light hearted way is that we can laugh at stereotypes. But at the same time I guess too much of this is what creates barriers between cultures and countries. So a laugh is good. But like you, no more than that 🙂
      Glad you pressed send
      Noch Noch

  2. The Vizier says:

    Hi Noch Noch,

    It is certainly refreshing to see an offbeat post once in awhile. You have indeed come a long way from your somber and melancholy days and it is something to be proud of. I love roaring with laughter whenever the opportunity arises.

    In fact, reading this post of yours reminds me of the joke I read this morning about the police officer who chased himself haha!

    Irving the Vizier

  3. Mark K. says:

    I laughed. 🙂

    But you know what? The last offer is the only one that took the buyer into account. That is part of what makes it funny, for me anyway: how business is often conducted like it is a mathematical puzzle instead of a matter of personal relationships. The more life I live, the more I see that everything is personal relationships.

    • Noch Noch says:

      Hi Mark

      Thanks for coming by again 🙂 Haha yup that’s very true, it’s all personal relationships, who you like and who you trust, there’s not much science in it, is there?

      Noch Noch

  4. RichardH says:

    Laughter truly is the best medicine! Just when did we all become so ‘politically correct’ that we can’t laugh at ourselves and embrace the differences inherrent in all cultures, religions and belief systems? We seem to only focus on all the negatives in the world – and there many – and I am not saying we should underplay the importance of trying to solve the ills of the world…..however, we should also be spending alot more time focussing on the things we are doing right. The human successes that transcend religious and cultural divides; the acts of humanity that ecery single person on this planet can identify with.
    A simple smile and a warm ‘hello’ costs absolutely nothing and goes a long way to improving someone else’s day…..who, in turn, may smile at someone else…..

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Richard

      Good to hear from you – got your email too and I know I owe you a reply. I finished (and absolutely loved) your book btw!!
      Yeh, Laughter sends us up in our moods and lightens up the soul. We should be allowed to laugh at ourselves. I did think I might offend someone but seeing I’m Chinese, I think I have a right to laugh at my country people. And anyways, it was only intended for a laugh. We do need to focus more on the positives though and what the human race has achieved.
      My friend once told me a story, that a boy in his class didn’t commit suicide that day because a stranger simply smiled at him when walking by on the street — the boy was on his way to actually jumping off a building or something… And he told that story 10 years later. I can’t remember specifics, but a smile a day can go a long long long way!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here
      Noch Noch

  5. Nigel Chua says:

    Actually, this is really funny (I have a permanent smirk on the left side of my lips now =p) thanks to you! Hahaha…but seriously, it made me wonder if it really works that way in China?

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Nigel

      hahah – i have that smirk too every time i read this story. Well, I’d say that I’ve come across similar situations and I”ve heard lots of stories from my friends who do business here in China. Some of them get frustrated at this thin line between guanxi (relationships) and bribery. It’s hard to say. it’s quite inherent in the culture. Just be careful when you do business here I suppose. And maintain your own standards. but be vigilant 🙂

      Take care
      Noch Noch

  6. srini says:

    good ones. noch and Ivy – do repeat good humorous ones like above.
    I typed humour and the spell check corrected it. Obviously the Indians follow grammar left behind by the British.

  7. Haha! That was a good laugh indeed and the fact that you laughed with such effervescence somehow made me enjoy the joke even more. =) My friend is currently working in China and is hardly enjoying it. I’m glad for another point of view on the topic! =)

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Samantha

      Glad you had a good laugh. I suppose some people find it offensive but don’t intend to. It’s more my joke against my own fellow chinese man. Where is your friend in China?
      Each city also has its own stereotypes and they make fun of other cities. Kind of funny ahha

      But re what you wrote on your blog – no racism intended!!

      Noch Noch

about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.