Living and working in China

Marcel Gerth-Noritzsch, Head of Engineering at MTU Maintenance Zhuhai, paints a picture of what it’s like to live and work in China.

12.2018 | Text: Victoria Nicholls

Victoria Nicholls is a specialist for aftermarket topics such as engine MRO, leasing and asset management, as well as international market trends. The British-born editor lives in Berlin and works for MTU’s corporate communications in Hannover and Ludwigsfelde.


“You’d be mad not to con­sid­er it,” says Mar­cel Gerth-Noritzsch about sec­ond­ments to MTU Main­te­nance Zhuhai. There is a lot to love: ex­cit­ing, dy­nam­ic pro­jects; a fast growthrate with­in the com­pa­ny; a very new and in­vig­o­rat­ing en­vi­ron­ment to work in; the chance to move past your com­fort zone. Any down­sides? “Well, put it this way, it is a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent cul­ture that can be hard to get used to, es­pe­cial­ly for a Ger­man. We can be rigid in our mind­set.”

MTU and China

With bi­lat­er­al trade in goods worth near­ly 190 bil­lion eu­ros, ac­cord­ing to the Ger­man eco­nom­ic pub­li­ca­tion WirtschaftsWoche, Chi­na has been Ger­many’s most im­por­tant in­ter­na­tion­al trade part­ner for two con­sec­u­tive years now. It is al­so a key fo­cus for the Ger­man en­gine gi­ant, MTU Aero En­gines.

But be­yond cur­rent trade suc­cess, Chi­na is a key growth mar­ket for the fu­ture. Ac­cord­ing to Flight­glob­al’s fleet fore­cast, Chi­na’s com­mer­cial fleet of sin­gle-aisle and twin-aisle jets is fore­cast­ed to triple from 3,100 in 2017 to 9,400 air­craft in 2037, over­tak­ing the US by the end of the next decade. And from a main­te­nance per­spec­tive, over 35% of the world’s shop vis­it de­mand will come from the coun­try by 2027.

No won­der then that MTU Main­te­nance Zhuhai, set up 17 years ago and al­ready the num­ber one en­gine shop in Chi­na and largest nar­row­body shop in Asia, is poised for yet more growth. A shop ex­pan­sion of 50 per­cent, tak­ing the year­ly ca­pac­i­ty to 450 shop vis­its by 2021 is get­ting un­der­way.

Be­sides the strong re­la­tion­ship with Air­line cus­tomers, MTU has a wide net­work of re­la­tion­ships with oth­er play­ers in the Avi­a­tion and IGT Busi­ness. The com­pa­ny has a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of­fice based in Shang­hai that is key to ne­go­ti­at­ing the lo­cal mar­ket and co­or­di­nat­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the boom­ing re­gion. For in­stance, Chi­na har­bors sig­nif­i­cant po­ten­tial for aero-de­riv­a­tive gas tur­bine ap­pli­ca­tions, in which MTU al­so spe­cial­izes through its sub­sidiary Veri­cor and its brush team spe­cial­ists, housed un­der the brand MTU Pow­er.

Gerth-Noritzsch moved back to Zhuhai in Sum­mer 2017 to take on the role of Head of En­gi­neer­ing. It is not his first time in the Pearl Delta Re­gion, he joined the fa­cil­i­ty in 2010 as an in­tern, more or less by chance, then wrote his the­sis there, be­fore be­ing tak­en on as a pro­ject leader un­til 2012. Now he leads the de­part­ment he once start­ed in and is ex­cit­ed about the up­com­ing ex­pan­sion plans as well as any new pro­grams that might be im­ple­ment­ed in the near fu­ture.

Se­ri­ous job pro­gres­sion was one rea­son he took up his cur­rent role, con­tract­ed for three years. But he al­so had per­son­al rea­sons: His wife is Chi­nese and to­geth­er, they would like their son to grow up speak­ing and writ­ing Chi­nese flu­ent­ly. This would be hard to achieve in Ger­many, es­pe­cial­ly speak­ing Ger­man at home. “I was al­so in the for­tu­nate po­si­tion of know­ing that I like liv­ing here,” he adds. “I think a lot of col­leagues wor­ry about hav­ing to com­pro­mise on the way of liv­ing that they are used to. But that isn’t the case, I don’t want for any­thing. I can trav­el Asia eas­i­ly, and I go home reg­u­lar­ly enough to stock up on any of the treats I might miss.”

Change for the better

Of course, work­ing in a dif­fer­ent coun­try and cul­ture comes with dif­fi­cul­ty. “In Ger­many, we tend to have a very reg­u­lat­ed way of work­ing and that flows in­to our process­es, we some­times for­get to be flex­i­ble. Things are reg­u­lat­ed here too, but in prac­tice, peo­ple will ad­just their stand­point to reach a so­lu­tion and help oth­ers save face,” Gerth-Noritzsch ex­plains. “Over­all, that is al­so more cus­tomer friend­ly.”

Gerth-Noritzsch al­so points out that it is easy to think that the coun­try you come from is the cen­ter of the world. “It does us good as peo­ple to learn there is no sin­gle way of do­ing some­thing. If you’re open to new ex­pe­ri­ences, you can learn a lot about your­self too,” he adds. “You al­so re­al­ize that the Ger­man Au­to­bahn is a won­der­ful thing and that we can be ex­treme­ly proud of our in­dus­tri­al her­itage.”

His ad­vice to any­one think­ing of tak­ing on a job in Zhuhai? “Come and vis­it to get a feel for the place – and take some ex­tra days off to do it, two days aren’t enough. Don’t go to a Chi­nese restau­rant in Ger­many, that isn’t any­where close to the qual­i­ty of food you get here. Be aware that the West­ern Eu­ro­pean me­dia cov­er­age of Chi­na is not im­par­tial. And think about life out­side of work, es­pe­cial­ly if you’ll be bring­ing a part­ner or fam­i­ly with you.”

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