Lost in Translation in Beijing

| July 16, 2012 | 1 Comment

Jintaixizhao Subway Station

Beijing is a difficult city to navigate, made more so by the fact that even the natives don’t know where anything is. I spent about a third of my day yesterday lost in the city and nobody could help me.

In the morning, I set out for breakfast with some colleagues at the Park Hyatt Hotel, a seventy story high rise near the China World Trade Center. I was told it was close by my hotel, the Grand Millennium. When I asked the concierge for directions, he suggested I take the subway. It was only one stop away and he wrote the name of the hotel in Chinese on a card. Feeling adventurous, I took his advice. Big mistake.

Figuring out the subway took a little while, but it is a pretty user friendly system. There are multiple lines, all color-coded, but my station had only one going through it and the station stops are listed in English. I got on the Jintaixizhao Station and traveled the one stop and got out at a very busy intersection. I had hoped that there would be a big sign on a building that said “Park Hyatt” within sight of the subway stop. There was not. So, I began showing the card to various people, hotel staff from the China World hotel, a cab driver, etc.. They all scrutinized the card and look puzzled. Little did I know that all of these conversations took place in the shadow of the Park Hyatt. But I get a head of myself.

I then resorted to Google Maps on my IPhone, which seemed to know exactly where the Park Hyatt was. Following its instructions brought me to some back street of Beijing with dilapidated housing and clotheslines strung across backyards.

Turns out the Park Hyatt has no sign and I was finally guided there by one of my colleagues who I was able to get on the phone. By this time I had walked in circles for about 4o minutes.

Then, he and I had to find our way to the Fleishman Hillard Beijing office. Again, we had the address written in Chinese on a card to share with our taxi driver. The dispatcher and the driver had a very animated conversation at the hotel as we set out and we spent the next 53 minutes driving up and down a main street in Beijing looking for the office. Finally, we got a colleague from the office on the phone and gave the phone to the driver and he found the office in a very modern high rise. Our trip back to the hotel took about 7 minutes.

I have learned my lesson. Don’t venture into Beijing without a bilingual partner who knows where he’s going. No more adventures.

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  1. Sing Wang says:

    Bill, the Park Hyatt is not known as Park Hyatt in Chinese,, but a different name. I remember being back in Beijing and trying to figure out my way to that hotel, it was not easy, but I spoke Chinese and I had driver, so it wasn’t as bad as your experience. You are brave to set off alone in the steets of Beijing. It’s a very modern city from the outside, but it’s like me being lost in the streets of Sao Paulo, few people speak English.

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