The Importance of Food and Relationships


The first thing that one of my Accion coworkers asked me when he found out I was going to China was will I buy a funnel? I gave him a perplexed look, and he said “To funnel all the delicious food into your mouth!” I really should have bought a funnel. I am eating my way through Beijing. Much of my planning is around which restaurant and what dishes to try. My coworkers have been amazing with this—they take me to lunch and then plan which restaurant I should go to at night and I ask them for recommendations of dishes.

We had egg with jasmine flowers yesterday as one of the dishes for lunch, plus amazing noodles, fried fish, lotus root fries, tofu pattes, and the best cranberry juice I have ever had (see photo below). And that’s just one meal! The dishes come out at different times so I try to find some way to pace myself – so many delicious and fun things to explore.  This morning, my Airbnb host took me to breakfast with her and we had bean curd soup, wanton soup, and dim sum like rolls. All of it so delicious! My life revolves around food right now, so I’m pretty happy.



At first I was embarrassed at how much my life was centered on food, and then I realized that this is the Chinese way. Meals are important here. People go out to eat with others for lunch and dinner. The more people, the better, because all the food is shared and the more people you have the more dishes you can order. Relationships matter here – and what better way to develop and maintain them than eating together?

Food also is a universal point of pride for people and I unconsciously or consciously use this as a way to show respect. I have eaten some weird things and some questionable things over the years as a way to relate and gain some points with my hosts. It always works and it is working here too. Next week I will be in the field in Wanzhou and the food is famous for being spicy and delicious. I am so excited to get to meet clients and loan officers and hope I can survive the spice.

In terms of work, I am helping Grassland plan their e-learning program for their loan officers and onboarding. More to come next week! IMG-20150731-WA0006 IMG-20150731-WA0005 IMG-20150731-WA0004 Breakfast.jpg


Mary Hansen is working out of Beijing, China with Accion partner Grassland Finance on human resources projects.

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