The subtle Irish art of winning Chinese hearts and minds: Irish Pub culture takes off in China

The subtle Irish art of winning Chinese hearts and minds: Irish Pub culture takes off in China
China Government officials and businessmen enjoying the craic with pints of Guinness in O’Donoghues Pub Merrion Row Dublin

Hooley’s in Guangzhou; Danger Doyle’s, The Volunteer, Paddy O’Shea’s and PJ O’Reilly’s  (and quite a few more) in Beijing; Delaney’s and Dublin Jack’s in Hong Kong (and quite a few more); Druid’s Irish Pub in Yantai;  O’Reilly’s in Ningbo; The Shamrock Irish Pubs in Ningbo, Hangzhou and Chengdu; Finnegan’s Wake Irish Pub, in Nanjing; Mulligans in Shenyang; The Irish Pub in Xiamen; O’ Malley’s Irish pubs in Changsha and Qingdao; The Speakeasy Irish Bar in Taipei (and quite a few more); Irish Bar, Macau; Green Molly in Xian; The Ennafort Irish Pub in Jinan, Back Garden Irish Pub in Guilin; The Dublin Irish Pub in Tianjin, The Toucan Irish Pub in Wuhan; The Harp Irish bar in Chongqing; McCawley’s Irish Pub in Shenzhen….. (have been doing a bit of research on the topic!! Unfortunately, I’ve only visited about half the pubs on the list)

There’s probably double, or even triple the number of Irish Pubs on Mainland China, in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, especially if you include the hotel chains: All spreading the word that Ireland has a friendly, relaxing and fun-loving culture, whether it’s good music, the perfect pint and good food, in a clean atmosphere: All Irish pubs in China are true Ambassadors of Irish culture.

What’s particularly noteworthy is the fact Irish pubs have been opened by pioneering Irish businessmen and women who have lived on Mainland China, in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau for a long while. They know their stuff and all the gossip about what’s going on in their area. Chinese businessmen and women who have lived and studied in Ireland are also opening Irish pubs as well.

What an excellent source of business intelligence for all businessmen and women from Ireland looking to development business in China.

A role for Irish Government agencies / Embassy of Ireland in Beijing?

Sure.

  • Draw up a full list of Irish Pubs in China
  • Promote the creation of an Irish Pub in China association
  • Encourage initiatives supportive of Irish business interests

For example, encourage the Irish Pubs in each city could set aside a Meeting Room for Irish businessmen and women to host business meetings with Chinese clients during office hours, not just to drink, but to savor the atmosphere. The rooms could be sponsored by an Irish business, or Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia, IDA Ireland…

With 50% of China’s population moving into its cities, and 160 cities in China with populations of over one million people, to use the business jargon that Irish Pubs offer “compelling growth” potential for their shareholders, and for the development of Irish business interests in China is an understatement in the extreme.

The “there are no strangers here only friends” mindset associated with Irish Pub culture is clearly becoming a potent weapon in winning Chinese hearts and minds over to genuinely Irish culture, and more.

A seisiún (music making session) at The Blarney Stone Irish Pub, Dongping Road, Shanghai
A seisiún (music making session) at The Blarney Stone Irish Pub, Dongping Road, Shanghai
A seisiún (music making session) at The Blarney Stone Irish Pub, Dongping Road, Shanghai
A seisiún (music making session) at The Blarney Stone Irish Pub, Dongping Road, Shanghai
China Government officials and businessmen enjoying the craic with pints of Guinness in O'Donoghues Pub Merrion Row Dublin
China Government officials and businessmen enjoying the craic with pints of Guinness in O’Donoghues Pub Merrion Row Dublin

Niall O’Reilly

Accurate China Business Services

“Helping Ireland’s Business Do China Business”

http://www.accuratelimited.com

Tel: +353 1271 1830 / +86 152 5719 4468

Two days in January: Guinness, drugs, bar brawls in China, the Gardai (Irish Police), and a roller-coaster

Saturday 10th / Sunday 11th January

Irish and Chinese pub scenes

Last Sunday appears a bit hazy, but now come to think of it, that’s probably due to the four pints of Plain (Guinness) I swallowed the previous Saturday evening with close friend and business partner P at the swank (for Dun Laoghaire at least) setting of Bordega’s Bar −well it used to be when it first opened as the 40 Foot Bar.

We didn’t mention the ‘A’ (Accurate) word once, except to remind ourselves not to mention the ‘A’ word (we’d our thinking caps on all week long planning our line of attack for 2009 and it was now time for a break, let the hair down). More to the point, there were far too many distractions in the Pub, and I’m not referring to the overly cosmeticized peroxide blondes, or the Chinese bar-tenders speaking in a Dublin dialect…. “How’r yah…what’ill yah ave” and the like. Dalian seemed another planet away.  No, the highlight was the barney (argument) between what appeared to be a Concerned Parents Against Drugs parent who over in the far corner of the bar had confronted a peddler of death and destruction, otherwise known as a drug dealer (like their European neighbours, Ireland’s towns and cities are blighted by the scourge of cocaine, heroin, and just about everything else that has caused indescribable misery for so many families). “They were having words”, as we’d say in Dublin, and things were getting a bit heated. Perhaps it was the drink, I initially thought. Nothing too unusual so far until the unremarkable looking parent, a man in his 50s, suddenly pounced on the à la mode dressed dealer, a man in his 20s. All hell broke loose, and fists were flying.

The pub’s brawny, bald and tattooed security people (we call them “bouncers”) excitedly swung into action, burying themselves in the mêlée to the point where it was difficult to make out who was who.  In due course, however, the well-practised bouncers emerged from the fray with three louts and the parent, all of whom were strong-armed from the bar.

[As an aside, I just had a rare ‘Niall deliberation’. At least three additional bar brawls and one street fight have been observed by myself over the years, and all in China…  :

  1. In 1989 I was drinking in a bar, one of those cosy diminutive bars typical of Beijing at the time, which was owned by a local Chinese friend and his English wife. Three sinister looking, thug-like, plain clothes policemen dressed in black leather jackets were seated in a dark corner apparently playing cards. They had been following my friend around for weeks. The Government didn’t like the fact he was becoming quite well-known outside China for expressing opinions they considered to be ‘counter revolutionary’, and they were taking every opportunity to harass him. Imbibing with me were  BW an Irish diplomat, and Didi, a Nigerian diplomat and Didi. Suddenly a full bottle of beer came hurtling through the air smashing against the wall within an inch of Didi’s head. One of the thugs pretending to be swaggered his way to our table: “Hei ren zou ba!” (black man get out!). We left abruptly.
  2. In 2000 I was drinking in a bar in Hangzhou with an Italian friend and two local female friends. A thug at the bar clearly very drunk was taking exception to two local ladies drinking with foreign men. He wobbled over to our table and asked the girls to leave, before cursing them in Chinese. The noisy bar Kana Bar turned eerily quiet. We ignored him, which made him even madder. Eventually, still full of bluster he turned around and headed back to his Russian and American friends gutlessly seated at the bar. We thought the intense stand-off was over, were congratulating ourselves when suddenly a wooden bar stool swished by us before crashing on to someone else’s table, whereupon all hell broke loose. Tables and chairs were flung everywhere… The four of us hide under the table before crawling out the door, untouched. Incidentally, the Russian guy at the bar is one of the most feared people mafia types in Hangzhou, while his American friend runs a bar and language school in Hangzhou.
  3. In 2002 was enjoying the Salsa at Hangzhou’s popular Night and Day when suddenly a large street-level window disintegrated from the force of a street sign post lobbed through it. A fight ensued, and there was a lot of blood… Within five minutes all was over. Apparently, the owner of the bar had fallen out with some local thugs.
  4. Oh and the fight on a street in Suzhou between two women, squealing like injured pigs, pulling hard at each other’s hair and scratching each other with their long nails, and a crowd of onlookers egging them on, nobody brave enough to intervene, least of all myself.

Curiously in all four incidents, not a uniformed policeman in sight. But I digress…]

Meanwhile back in Bordega’s a sense of normality had been restored, not that the tussle had really distracted us:  The pints and the crisps were going down well. We were having too much of craic (as in Irish for “fun” not to be confused with the Crack derivative of heroin) nattering on about our existence when about six members of An Garda Siochana  (the Irish Police) appeared from nowhere.

The Gardai have been a source of public dissatisfaction for years (some would say deservedly so, while others would say the Force shouldn’t be judged on the indiscretions of a few black sheep) on account of past recklessness including bribery, beatings (they were particularly partial to a good old-fashioned riot, especially the anti-Establishment anti-Globalisation protests run by a motley mix of Guevaraesque leftist students, anarchists,  greenies, students,  and other ‘new-age’ thinkers where they could swing their batons at will), doctoring evidence, being a little too close to certain politicians, and bumbling ineptitude.

How times have changed. After this particular Saturday night, no more will I paint all Gardai with the same villain brush, but rather they have earned my wholehearted admiration and respect. Watching them vigorously go about their work with a strong sense of purpose and duty it was clear to me this ‘new look’ Irish police force, dressed in their standard issue anti-stab vests (they don’t carry guns), has learned not only to be politely civil (they now speak clearly enunciated English, as opposed to heavily accented country-speak!!. In the 1980s a UK publication referred to them as akin to thick lumps of red meat from the mountains of Kerry, ape-like), but projects an appearance that is able-bodied, robust and confident, a clear force for the  thugs, who of late seem to gaining the advantage, to reckon with.

They courteously asked several men who they suspected of being involved in the fight to join them outside, while at the scene of the initial argument a Garda was down on all fours minutely searching the floor…. Hopefully, in his haste to defend himself from the irate parent, the ‘merchant of death’ had dropped enough traces of the misery he peddles for the Gardai to take him off the streets for a few years at least.

But really, for what they have to deal with in a daily basis I say “hats off to the Gardai”…which reminds me of the time in my youth when a friend of mind, the worse for wear after a few post international rugby match drinks too many, grabbed the hat off the head of a Garda, and started sprinting down the road.. the Garda gave chase but after about thirty meters was huffing and puffing.  Not anymore.

Still what I actually did on Sunday is still a bit obscure (now blaming the void in my brain on the jet lag)… I remember the delicious dinner of stuffed pork cooked by Mum and the bottle of Romanian red wine.

Investing in an Investor and ‘Cast-iron guarantees”

Ah, another rare ‘Niall deliberation’ has occurred. The call from Tim S, the prospective investor in ‘A’, which brought me to my senses with a thud:

“I talked to three potential investors, and they won’t be putting their money into A unless you can provide them with a cast iron guarantee of a return of investment….  but I consider what you are doing in China to be the future for Ireland”… So says Tim S. who had recently lost his shirt to the tune of €300,000 from investments in AIB, a leading Irish bank tethering on the brink of collapse (I was quick to tell him I’d lost an additional part of my clothing in the hugely over-hyped Marrakech, a memory which still touches a raw-nerve, so we’ll leave that one there).

So the NSP team that is A have put together a solid investment proposal for a business which based on some of the exciting programs coming together at last will see investors being repaid with a nice big interest within 24 months.  I am told by the movers and shakers in Ireland’s investor community that 12 months ago, given the scope for two of the key projects we are working on, and the specific plan to build a strong, stable and well-branded business, we’d have had investors queuing up.

Now the buzz term used by the private investors, venture capitalists, and banks  when turning down an investment proposal or a loan request is there need for a “cast iron guarantee” of return on investment.  Of course this is pure nonsense. Nobody can give a 100% guarantee about anything these days.

The reality is the fear of much worse financial turmoil to come, and no person, company, or bank wants to part with money they already have.  With banks not lending and investors not investing, or, worse, tightening the screws on ordinary people and businesses, they have already loaned to or invested in, there is a burning need for Government to restore confidence by decisively taking the lead in stimulating demand. Alas the half-hearted Irish Government appears like a deer standing in the middle of a dark road dazed by the headlights of an oncoming juggernaut.

Like many people running a small business, Sunday’s sleep was troubling at best: the ‘A’ dream roller-coaster analogy trundles forward at full-speed: front seat passenger (the buck stops with me), white knuckles (hanging on for my dear life, trying to keep my eyes open), massive loop-the-loops (stomach churning highs and lows), followed by huge senses of elation and delight as the roller coaster flattens out and the expected calm returns. Yes, I am looking forward to looking back and telling myself “yes  the journey was hell, but the sense of achievement, having endured and succeeded are much more important than the pain and hardship, which we’ll eventually chalk down to experience”.

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China – Under The Hood: What is an Irish Pub and can the Shamrock in Hangzhou be considered an Irish Pub in any shape or form?

26-May-07 at 2:47pm

Imagine it’s the Middle Ages and you are a spice merchant travelling through the green, boggy lands of Ireland. You might just take time to stop into an Irish pub for a drink and a rest. Pubs — short for public houses — were places that did not require a membership to enter, unlike private houses. So while the rich had memberships to other establishments, pubs were frequented by the hard working lower classes.

The history of the Irish pub is steeped in culture and folklore. An Irish pub of the Middle Ages was a rough-hewn place of natural wood furniture and stone walls. They bore large fireplaces and hanging oil lamps over wood or cobblestone floors. In addition to ale, an Irish pub usually sold essential food and hardware items. The Irish pub was a warm, welcoming place where people, including entire families, socialized, sang, relaxed, told stories, and exchanged gossip and rumours.

In the 19th century, under British rule, the Irish pub was prohibited. So, under the aggressive, independent spirit of the Irish, illegal pubs started to flourish during this time. Pubs became places where rebels gathered to grumble about British rule — some to release frustrations, others to coordinate full-scale rebellions.

And so to the Shamrock in Hangzhou: It takes much more than an Irish name and a neon Shamrock sign to be an Irish Pub. By definition a real Irish pub must have real Irish people in it once in awhile – on either side of the bar, and great great crowds enjoying the craic (a good conversation among equals). Some other requirements are: a two pour Guinness stout, (an imperial pint glass is a given) Kilkenny ale, a decent selection of Irish Whiskey (Power’s and Tullamore Dew), Tayto’s (the best crisps in the world) or Crunchies (chocolate covered toffee) for sale behind the bar, extra points for a fireplace (even if pseudo), live Irish sessiun, an open jam where musicians play traditional Irish instruments, and Irish food.

While it is relatively easy to import bar fixtures from Ireland, hire staff members with Irish accents and serve the requisite drinks, as is the case with the Shamrock in Hangzhou, good banter and craic can be harder to come by, especially if the strategy is to overcharge customers with high prices so that they don’t come back a second time. And yes real Irish Pubs exist are very successful in China: The Blarney Stone in Shanghai, Delaney’s and the Dublin Jacks in Hong Kong are heaving with fun, there’s always a hearty welcome, or a nod from the barman, and if he knows you well enough, or takes a keen interest in your story, a drink or two on the house. He definitely remembers what you drink. Great places to hang out with friends or have a quiet drink on your own, listen to Irish music and relax. Enough said about the Shamrock in Hangzhou.