Occupation : Former Technical Manager in Construction and current Gelato Master
职业：曾任建筑技术经理，现为 Papa Gelato 纯手工冰淇淋店老板
Years in China : 14
How did your journey in China begin?
I used to work in the construction industry in Germany and in 2006 I got the opportunity to interview for a job as a Construction Manager for the company’s branch in Shanghai. I applied for the position and was successful! So, my journey to China started on January 2007 and I was really happy but also a bit worried.
我来中国之前，在德国工作，从事建筑行业。2006 年，我申请了上海分公司建筑经理的职位。通过面试，我成功地获得了这个岗位！就这样，我的中国之旅从 2007 年 1 月开始，我当时非常高兴，但又怀揣些许不安。
I came to China with just my passport, a bag and luggage filled with winter clothes. The size of the airport shocked me but before I could get over my shock, I wondered how my cab driver would find me. It ended up being a simple process as he was waiting with a sign and waved his hands as he saw me. Later, he showed me the picture the company gave him which was the photo on my CV. I couldn’t help but keep thinking that the airport was gigantic, and the 30-minute way from the airport to the hotel was just amazing! There were highways with overpasses, with bright colours everywhere. I was even surprised that at night the roads were still busy here! It was at that moment that I fell in love with China. I felt like that’s what I had been missing for so many years.
During my first years here, from 2007 to 2014 I worked as a construction engineer and project manager in the outskirts of Shanghai, Beijing, Yinchuan and Nanjing. Construction works are so much faster here in China. The manpower is incredibly high but also there needs to be more checks and quality control.
来中国的头几年，也就是 2007 年到 2014 年，我在上海、北京、银川和南京的郊区担任建筑工程师和项目经理。中国的建筑产业发展十分迅猛，人力资源十分充盈，令人难以置信，但工程检查和质量控制方面还有待加强。
When the financial crisis started in 2014, I went back to Germany and worked in my old company. There I noticed how different the work in Germany was. Chinese projects were handled by 20 engineers whereas in Germany we need 3 times more than that. Decisions were made by myself within an hour and in Germany it would take sometimes days or even longer. So, it was not a surprise that I took the first good offer to head back to the country I missed so much. 5 months after arriving in Germany, I got an offer from another German company in Beijing in a high-rank position. Thanks to the opportunities China offered, my career evolved from a construction manager, to project manager, and to area manager for South China, based in Shanghai.
2014 年金融危机爆发，我回到了德国，在我原本的公司工作。对比之下，我意识到德国的工作方式和中国有很大的不同。在中国，一个项目通常由 20 名工程师负责，而在德国需要比这多 3 倍的工程师。在中国我一个小时内就能作出决策，而在德国，有时需要几天甚至更长时间。因此，我接受一个不错的 offer，回到我日思夜想的国家，这并不奇怪。到德国 5 个月后，我得到了另一家德国公司提供的一个工作机会，是在北京的高级职位。感谢中国给我的机会，让我从建筑经理提升到项目经理，再到上海的华南地区经理。
What do you like most about the cities you’ve lived in?
Honestly speaking, when I was in Germany working in the construction business, even though I read the news every day and watched TV, I knew so little about China as the country was hardly ever mentioned in the news. I only knew the capital was Beijing and the song by Katie Melua that said “there are nine million bicycles in Beijing.
说实话，我在德国从事建筑行业时，虽然我每天都看新闻，看电视，但我对中国知之甚少，因为新闻中几乎没有提到过中国。我只知道中国的首都是北京，以及凯蒂•玛露唱的那首歌 “there are nine million bicycles in Beijing”（ 北京城里有900万辆自行车）。
I stayed in Beijing from 2007 until 2008 and I loved the art centers and art districts there. I usually spent my Sunday afternoons, which was my only day off, walking around the “hutong” streets which was always a delight. About China in general, I just LOVE the food as the tastes range from spicy to tasty. Additionally, I love how nice and friendly the people are, even if we can’t communicate in German or English, they are willing to listen, to help and to become your friends.
2007 年到 2008 年我一直待在北京，我喜欢那里的艺术中心和艺术区。我只在周日休息一天，所以周日下午，我会在“胡同”里散步，这令我心情愉悦。我喜欢中国的美食，辛辣的、美味的，有各种不同的风味。我还喜欢中国人的热情友善，即使我们不能用德语或英语交流，他们也愿意倾听你、帮助你，与你交朋友。
As an engineer, the fast pace and speed at which things are built here will always amaze me.
What is your unique China story?
At the end of 2016, I had to leave the construction company that I had not too long joined due to some internal issues. However, I stayed in Shanghai for an extra year developing an ice-machine to produce a special type of ice. Unfortunately, this project went slower than I expected, so I decided to move on from that although the machine I developed was very efficient. By then, I decided to work on my own and became interested in gelato-making and decided to start my own business, a gelato shop. In 2016, I moved to Xiamen since my girlfriend Sandra which I visited every weekend, asked me to stay and I did not regret it as it is such a lovely island. I started to work on my Project “Papa Gelato” which was my first and a bit risky shop concept. I had worked out my plan for over 2 years but I had support from a very good friend and former colleague from the former company who assisted with the shop and brand design, feasibility reports, and all sorts of details regarding this business which I was not familiar with.
2016 年底，由于一些内部问题，我离开了刚入职不久的建筑公司。但是，我继续在上海待了一年，准备研发一台能制造特殊类型冰块的制冰机。尽管机器非常高效，可惜研发进度比我预期的要慢，所以我决定放弃。我对制作冰淇淋非常感兴趣，所以从那时起，我就决定自己创业，开一家冰淇淋店。2016 年，我搬到了厦门，因为我的女朋友 Sandra （我每个周末都会去厦门看她）让我留在这里，我丝毫没有后悔，因为厦门真是一座美丽的岛屿。我开始筹备冰淇淋店 “Papa Gelato”，这个想法有点冒险。我已经筹备了两年多，一个非常要好的朋友和曾经的同事给予我很大的支持，他们协助我进行店铺和品牌设计、撰写可行性报告，告诉我这个行业我不熟悉的各种细节。
Although it should have happened 2 years ago, during planning in 2018, we decided to start with the paperwork, licenses, etc. Then in 2019 we had to postpone it again to the beginning of 2020. That year, my friend went home to Malaysia for Chinese New Year and in the meantime I was searching for a suitable venue. But, oh well, you know what happened then. The pandemic. The lockdown. Travel and Visa restrictions. My plan was postponed unwillingly again…
冰淇淋店原本两年前就该开业，但在 2018 年筹备时，我们决定先办理证件和执照等材料。然后开业时间又从 2019 年再次推迟到 2020 年初。那一年，我朋友回马来西亚老家过春节，而我在为冰淇淋店选址。但是天有不测风云，我们都清楚 2020 年发生了什么——新冠肺炎疫情、封城、旅行和签证限制。很遗憾，我们的开业时间又要推迟了……
However, something great happened during the pandemic outbreak, Sandra got pregnant and our first baby arrived in December 2020! That was probably the best thing that could have been done during the pandemic for us. We are so happy!
但是，在新冠疫情期间发生了一件大喜事，Sandra 怀孕了，我们的第一个宝宝在 2020 年12 月降生！这可能是疫情期间最大的喜讯。我们欣喜若狂！
That gave me an impulse to continue with this project. Last February, I went out to check suitable locations again and finally after a few weeks of endlessly searching, I found a place and started creating my dream on mid-March 2021. Most of the renovation works were done by end of July, and 16th August, Papa Gelato had its soft opening and was open for business. Fun fact, the official opening was postponed to avoid August, the “month of ghosts”, according to Chinese superstition.
这份喜讯鼓舞我们继续筹备开店。去年 2 月，我再次出门，挑选合适的门面，经过几周不停的寻找，终于尘埃落定。2021 年 3 月中旬，我们开始让梦想变成现实。整体装修工程在 7 月底完成。8 月 16 日，Papa Gelato 试营业。有趣的是，正式开业又推迟了，因为根据中国的传统，八月是“鬼月”，不宜开业。
About making gelato, there is a secret formula that nobody will tell you unless you buy a gelato company or find it by yourself. There is a lot of experimentation, exact calculations are needed to find the right balance of ingredients. So, after (only) 4 failures (I mean, my gelato was delicious, but the texture was not perfect, sometimes it was too sticky or just tasted of burnt vanilla) I found my secret recipe! To illustrate the process with an engineering metaphore, to make gelato you must turn some wheels, first a large one, then a smaller one, to eventually find the right technique. It’s always different when I start making new flavors, hoping that the customers will love it. Listening to them gives me new ideas for further flavors. Thanks to all my supporters and family that I went on this challenging road with. Nothing feels better than a smile of the kids with chocolate from mouth to both ears.
我有一个意式冰淇淋秘方，除非你收购了一家冰淇淋公司或者自行研发，否则没有人会告诉你。研发配方需要进行很多次实验，还需要精确的计算，以达到各配料之间的配比平衡。我（只）经历 4 次失败（我的意思是，冰淇淋很好吃，但口感不完美，有时太粘或者尝起来像焦糊的香草），就研发出了秘密配方。用一个工程学的比喻来解释这个过程，就是要制作冰淇淋，你必须转动一些轮子，先是大轮子，然后是小轮子，最终找到正确的技术。我还会继续研发完全不同的新口味，希望顾客会喜欢。我还会倾听他们的意见，他们总能给我新的想法。我要感谢所有支持我的人，包括我的家人，他们陪伴我在这条充满挑战的道路上披荆斩棘。看到孩子们弄得满嘴都是巧克力，绽放出幸福的笑容，没有比这更美好的事物了。
Some background about Andre’s hometown
介绍一下 Andre 的家乡
My hometown is a small German town called Unna just a stonethrow away from Dortmund, the hometown of my favorite Football Team BVB 09. Although the center of my life is here in Xiamen now. My little Family lives here and I found a place to be happy. I would love to visit my parents in Germany soon so they can meet their grandson. But this will have to wait for now.
If you would like to contribute your story, feel free to contact us.