My recent trip to Beijing was a blast. Upon arriving, my friend and colleague, Chris Boehner, graciously met me at the Beijing airport (PEK) and escorted me to our office.
Before being taken to the apartment where I would be staying for the week, we joined up with Andy McComas to try the best dumplings in town. I gladly played the role of Andy’s sidekick as he hailed us a cab, confidently told the driver our destination in Chinese, and took care of the payment.
Quickly realizing I might have a rough time independently explaining to cabbies where I was headed, I needed a plan.
I started with the most useful and frequently used scenario: needing to get home. I would need to be able to tell any cabbie exactly what Andy did, and since my Chinese is rather elementary (generously), I pulled out my phone and recorded Andy, as he repeated exactly what he said to the driver.
Over the next nine days, I used this recording and others to get to my destinations, including hotels and restaurants. I’d hop in, immediately play the recording of my destination, and with a head nod and a thumbs up, we’d be on our way.
I share this useful tip as a safeguard, as a means to communicate effectively in a foreign country. It worked like a charm. If you are traveling without a smartphone, I am told that showing the driver a business card isn’t a bad idea either.