Ruchi Dhir: Exploring China’s Cultural Heritage Through Travel

Having a passion is a funny thing. While it can appear to absorb you completely, it can often end up being the thing that sustains you while you absorb a multitude of other skills and experiences on your journey. And travel was that passion for Ruchi Dhir.

Growing up bilingual in a family with parents who loved to travel, by air, road and sea, she had visited most of Europe, Scandinavia, parts of Asia and America before her 10th birthday. Her internationally scattered family meant learning new languages and cultures became a passion and obsession which led to her initially pursuit of modern languages academically which grew into extensive travelling for both adventure and work.

A History of Ruchi Dhir

Fluent in German and Hindi and having completed a year in Germany as part of her degree in English and German Literature, Ruchi Dhir was advised at a graduate fair when enquiring about embarking on a law conversion course, that she should try and get some commercial experience if she expected to make an exceptional barrister. And again, the lure of travel altered the course of her life: the commercial experience was readily available in her father’s import and export business but, more importantly for her, it would open up the Far East for travel where she had never explored.

Though India had been a part of her annual travels since she was a baby, Ruchi had not ventured further East since her academic background had been in modern European languages and those countries had formed most of her travels in her teens. China and the other countries of the Far East were entirely new territory for her.

And it was the combination of location and timing that gave her the unique experience of watching China develop economically and internationally from 2000- 2018.

Working with China, travelling there and learning their culture and business practices became a new passion piggybacked onto her love of travel. As an essential requirement of her work, it was required for Ruchi to travel to Chinese factories, who in 2000 were moving away from government ownership to independent ownership and addressing all the challenges and excitement that involved. It meant that it was easier to get to know the families and people behind the Chinese businesses and factories on a one to one basis as they were heavily involved in starting, maintaining and developing their businesses without the cushion of the government which they had been so used to.

Embracing the Business Culture

China had started to open up in 1978, and although Ruchi Dhir’s family had had offices in Hong Kong since 1978 and her father had been travelling to China since 1968, it was the year 2000 that she embarked on her solo travels and experiences. The main attraction for her was their sheer work ethic and the sincerity in their efforts to do their best, be their best and produce their best, often above just profit. The primary element she took from their culture was discipline; it was the same element that had struck her about German culture: that you could have limited skills and resources, but from discipline and sustained effort, you could produce something greater than the sum of its parts.

She visited Chinese factories in remote areas dedicated to producing Christmas decorations for American and European buyers and watched Chinese factories in central China paint Chinese facial features onto a Santa Claus, not knowing who or what they were painting. Every time Ruchi visited the same factory, the improvement in those workers just blew her away. It was an outstanding work ethic by any standard and this revitalised her with every trip.

The comparison between India and China and their cultures fascinated her. Travelling to India since she was born, India had always felt like a different country, but China felt like a different planet. Even as an academic linguist, she had taken for granted words like TAXI, or WC were not international and on her first few trips struggled to find toilets or catch taxis easily.

Celebrating Cultural Diversity

In Vancouver it was more evident in the food: with maple syrup pancakes and coffee, dim sum and dumplings all on the same menu which was great. Sydney was another great city, like Vancouver (dubbed as Hong-couver after mass emigration from Hong Kong) and Hong Kong. It was another vibrant city on the water with the excitement and effervescence of city life on the calm of the ocean at night.

And now it’s come full circle: more and more Chinese from the developed middle class in the last 20 years have moved abroad. St Martins Square in Venice is full of Chinese run shops, as is Manchester and Leeds city centre. We buy from the Chinese, and we sell to the Chinese; it has become a part of her business life and personal life.

Conclusion of Ruchi Dhir’s Travels in China

What started as curiosity and a love of travel, with an eagerness to learn business principles and some commercial awareness to apply at law school, developed into a full-blown love affair with one of the most exciting countries in the world. China remains exciting in recent history but also in its entry onto the worlds stage and assimilation of global concerns regarding the environment and human rights.

Moreover, what has become fascinating about to Ruchi Dhir about China is their ability and history of co-investment in countries. Ruchi’s travels in business and for leisure took her to those countries affected by partition and division, such as Ireland and India where invaders had historically come, settled and divided them. What’s truly fascinating is the way China co-invests in countries having a historical and significant impact on infrastructure and logistics in countries such as Belize, other parts of South America, Africa and more recently Pakistan. It’s amazing how seemingly culturally opposite people meet, trade live and fuse while still maintaining their respective religions and cultures.

It is this upside of business, the recently dubbed “WEconomy” which Ruchi Dhir is currently preoccupied with and how companies of a range of sizes can act as platforms for beautiful expressions of human connections and aspiration.

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