Travel Lessons Learned in Dalian, China – The Kirkpatrick Report

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Travel Lessons Learned – Security Abroad


Dalian, China

By Al Kirkpatrick, CISO for Firestorm’s The Kirkpatrick Report

Tuesday Morning, August 2, 2011

Hello again, this time from Dalian, China.   Dalian is located on the bay southwest of Beijing.   It’s another multi-million person city and again, quite modern by western standards.   Our hotel is right on the water and it’s interesting to view essentially a boardwalk area complete with amusement parks with the same types of rides you would see in the U.S. squeezed in between modern high-rise condos.

That said, for the first time we really feel like we are in CHINA!   Dalian is not nearly as English-language (or international signage) friendly as we found Beijing to be.   The people are friendly and you can see that they try to understand, but it’s a battle to communicate here.   We are staying in a new and beautiful large hotel, and have not found a single person on the staff that clearly understands us (or vice-versa) – so every communication is a comedy of pantomime.

Lessons Learned

  • As with any other location where English skills are not expected, you had better travel with your destinations printed on 3×5 cards in the local language. 

 Unless you can do so, hailing a taxi and getting to your destination will be impossible!   Our hotel did however, provide a card that has its Chinese address and instructions for our taxi.  If you choose to do business in a China second-tier city such as Dalian – language and related culture gaps must be factored into the equation.

Our first client meeting went relatively smoothly, but only because we were aware that they are not English literate (interestingly, they read and write it very well as part of their job for U.S. clients – but cannot speak or understand it when spoken).  Thus,  we arranged for an interpreter.

Lessons Learned – I have traveled world-wide, but I think this is the first time that I really relied on an interpreter for communications.   It’s not as easy as it sounds!

  • It takes some concentration to remember to take a break every few sentences to allow the interpreter to catch up!

Today’s vendor is located within a Chinese technology business incubator.   Apparently, being selected to run your start-up business within this framework not only provides a very cost-friendly location, but also guarantees priority to ensure high power and communications availability as well as other government provided perks.

Lessons Learned:

  • I am quickly learning that many of my impressions of mainland China are invalid and based on outdated information.

Apparently belonging to the Communist Party is no longer required and not a career dead end if a person chooses not to belong.   I have been told that the central government is even hiring persons who are not members of the party to provide a broader perspective.   For those outside the party, there is freedom of religion and organized religious services are no big deal.

As a visitor, I admit I expected to encounter (or sense) a big-brother presence when entering and traveling the country and I have not found that to be the case.   I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist, but only that it’s not oppressively obvious.   Most obvious however – the Chinese people are smart, energetic and motivated to compete on a world-wide basis using capitalist principals.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive enough to think that China will be a democratic look-alike, but at least in the large cities, people are happy, and progressing with successes and problems not unlike the good old U.S. of A.

Enough rambling for this edition.   Next stop is Harbin, China.


City Image: Wikipedia


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