Zheng admits his office football team isn’tthe greatest. “Sometimes, we’ll win... by luck!”, he says, but, results aside, every Wednesday night he and his co-workers kick a ball about on a pitch in northwest Chengdu, the Silicon Valley of China, which is home to international giants such as Intel, Phillips, Foxconn and Texas Instruments. His office chips in to cover the costofthe game and often old colleagues willput on their boots forafriendly catch-up. “Intel is always the best,” Zheng laughs, “They have a very big factory, so they can easily choose the very good players.”
Chengdu – the capital of Sichuan province in central China – is a famously relaxed city and it maintains a reputation as a place where people enjoy a healthy work-life balance while being a fast-growing finance and tech hub. It’s this combination of laid-back and progressive that drew Zheng to move there in 2013. Well, that and the spicy hotpot the city is known for. “It’s quite scary for Europeans or Westerners,” he says, “Because it contains lots of different cuts of meat... the brain and that kind of stuff.”
Zheng is on the Electronics team at the Siemens Digital Factory, one of the most advanced factories in the country; each year 5,000 visitors pass through the factory to see digitalized production in action. He’s on a team of sixwho are all in their late-twenties, and who share an attitude towards workthat’s steeped in enjoyment; any problems they encounter are treated as challenges to be solved and then shrugged off with jokes. They are a dynamic and unconventional group, reflecting the vibrancy of Chengdu’s younger generation who shun stuffiness and working in isolation. “There’s a lot of noise in our team,” Zheng says, referring to their collaborative way of working.
After work, they like to head to Chengdu’s center and grab a late dinner of seafood and beer or to share a steaming hot pot. Eating together is central to life in Chengdu. “WhereIcome from, it’s more traditional; people focus on the past, or they’re preoccupiedwith earning more money,” Zheng says, “but here in Chengdu it’s truly relaxing, and eating delicious foodislike a hobby.” Naturally, a regularroutineof sitting at desks and eating hot, gelatinous soup means action is required to provide some balance. Zheng tells us that he’s started joggingwithsome of his friends on the team. What advice would he give to somebody thinking about working in Chengdu? He says,without a hint of hesitation: “I hope you likehot pot...”