First impressions are lasting.  As we disembarked from the overnight flight between Munich and Beijing, our arrival was greeting by the vast [insert name of airport].  Greeting us with its impeccable cleanliness and its immense design, the airport reflected China’s economy since the opening of its economy in 1978, it with the open arms and broad smile of a gracious host, welcomed us into its home.  The comparison with Russia is striking. 

Unlike the cramped, crumbling, and dusky environment of the Pulkovo airport, which is the hub of all of the international travel in St. Petersburg—revealing the much lower international exchange between Russia and the world—the Beijing International Airport had an air of recent renovation and constant construction.  Graced in beautiful hues of red and yellow, even its’ environment basked in the glory of wealth and hope.  Compare this with the danky, depressed and sorrowfully unpainted cement walls, and glaring fluorescent lighting of Pulkovo.  First impressions are lasting.  The lines moved rapidly despite the growing queues—revealing that the workers are quite familiar with working with the masses that constantly flow inside and outside the capital’s borders.  This efficiency is topped by the rawest and most innovate form of customer feedback I have ever seen.  

After being serviced at the big red circular desks which house the Passport inspectors, customers are allowed to complete an instant poll about the worker’s performance—further conveying the importance of the customer and client.  Compare this with the crawling, snail’s pace at which the sparsely populated lines in the passport section.  Here, intimidation is the name of the game.  The attendants are locked behind prison-like glass cell boxes from which they ominously glare, towering over the poor souls whose passports lay vulnerably in their hands.  One begins to sweat as the attendants slowly and harshly survey both the document and the person.  About five minutes, if all goes well, the torture is over. 

These edifices represent the difference in both perception and reality of the business environment in China and Russia.  China is open, inviting, and welcoming to foreigners and investment, while Russia is scary, cold, and seemingly indifferent to both. 


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