As Chanui prepares to launch in the UK, I’ve been visiting Cambridge, London and Felixstowe to meet the people making it happen and build the relationships I hope will help make this a success.
Unfortunately, I left my invite to the Coronation at home so I'm flying back earlier than intended.
It’s been a productive week filled with fish and chips, cask ale, and many, many cups of tea. We won’t bore you with the pencil-pushing, box-ticking, lowercase "j" dotting admin we’ve been dealing with.
Instead, here is a list of five things I found interesting:
1. The Coronation is a pretty big deal!
I suppose I could have guessed it, but when you’re on the other side of the world, you don’t really get a sense of how big of a deal it is in the UK. In Cambridge, I saw bunting running down entire streets, people camping out in London three days ahead of the big day, and more police than at a North London Derby.
While it was nice to see so many people getting excited about it, I also enjoyed the Celtic soccer fans making their collective opinion on the whole affair known. The guards at Buckingham Palace didn’t believe me when I told them I’d been sent as the New Zealand envoy.
2. The UK and New Zealand are so similar culturally
I already knew this one, having lived in the UK many moons ago, but it was great to reaffirm it. It’s the humour of the people you meet, the jokes on TV, and the fact that the mood of the entire nation is so closely tied to the weather that makes it so easy to fit in when coming from New Zealand.
3. Meeting people face to face is worth flying around the world for
Martin (middle) is helping us get set up in the UK. That's his Dad, Ray who I know from years ago.
While getting ready to bring Chanui to the Brits, I’ve spent a lot of time on Zoom calls and emailing the people on the ground who are making it happen. While this is a miracle of doing business in the modern age, getting face to face with someone for an hour over a few cups of tea or a pint of ale is just so much better.
When someone can put a face to a name on an email, it just makes for a better, more generous working relationship. We ran into a couple of unforeseen problems recently, and the offers of help from the people I’ve met have been amazing. I just get the feeling that people are willing to go that little bit further to help you out if they’ve seen the whites of your eyes.
It doesn’t matter how good technology gets; nothing will ever be able to replace shaking someone's hand and talking in person.
4. Felixstowe port is really very big
One such meeting was with a guy who’s been helping with some import snags at the port. He showed us a great place to see the port from. Seeing the ships stacked up with containers was genuinely impressive and gives you a sense of how much more stuff comes in to a country of 67 million people compared to our five million.
5. British pubs are excellent
I got the chance to visit a couple of Cambridge pubs in the last week for those rare moments when I didn’t fancy another cup of tea. Due in large part to towns being built before the advent of the automobile, pubs are very much neighbourhood establishments and crucially well within walking distance.
One great innovation is the non-alcoholic beer variety available which has come on leaps and bound since my last visit. If you like Guinness, try their 0% offering if you get the chance.
Time to fly home and make a mockery of my internal body clock!