At WildChina, we really value our WildChina guides and the incredible work that they do to give our clients unique, bespoke, once-in-a-lifetime experiences all across China.
WildChina’s Alex Grieves recently sat down with our WildChina guide Fred to talk about guide training, problem-solving, and why he’s passionate about showing guests a different side of China. Based in Beijing, Fred is known for his colloquial American English, extensive guiding expertise, easygoing personality, and great smile.
WildChina Travel (WCT): When did you start guiding with us, Fred?
Fred He (FH): I began guiding with WildChina in 2005. My first group was made up of MBA program students. I still remember being extremely nervous and excited for that tour. Gradually, though, I became relaxed and the trip was a lot of fun. Since then, I still become excited for trips, but don’t get as nervous.
WCT: Since being a WildChina guide, what training have you received?
FH: You start with the basics: how to interact with people according to specific needs and requests, how to handle pressure well, that kind of thing. After initial basic training, we worked on other issues in subsequent trainings: teamwork and uniting to serve clients even in the face of problems.
WCT: What is your favorite aspect about these WildChina guide trainings?
FH: I would say interactive learning, getting to know fellow guides, and topic-specific training sessions. Training is not just a show – what benefits you is what comes after you learn these skills. So, during training, it’s really great that as a group, the guides come up with commonly encountered problems, brainstorm solutions, and discuss our various methods of improving situations. At first, you intentionally exercise these skills on trips and put them into practice, and then eventually, you don’t have to think about it. I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know fellow guides and learning about how we can best work together, given our leading styles.
WCT: Tell me more about “topic-specific training sessions.” What do you mean?
FH: Trainings on Chinese history, art, architecture, and more. My favorites have been on history and culture. WildChina hires experts in their field to conduct these trainings – for example, David Spindler gave us a presentation on stories, myths and rumors relating to the Great Wall. Details like these really help spice up your storytelling and bring magic and enthusiasm to each trip that you lead.
Specifically, I remember a tour led at the Forbidden City by an old Chinese man who knew everything about the historical site. Even though I thought I knew a lot about it, 90% of what he told me was new to me. Rather than just telling us official information and facts, he enhanced our training with colorful stories that really bring the Forbidden City to life. These sessions help us hone our knowledge, inform us in the subjects where we don’t know as much, and give us a comprehensive understanding of the lesser-known aspects of China.
WCT: What has been a recent challenge for you when guiding?
FH: Recently, during the Communist Party’s conference at Tiananmen Square, it turned out that Tiananmen Square was not available for tours, but this was not publicized. When I arrived there with my guests and realized the situation, I decided to take a long detour around Tiananmen to the Forbidden City, and spoke to them about the historical sites while we walked. This experience, while not a disaster, made me think that next time I should foresee special circumstances such as this, call in advance and do research to be fully aware of your limitations for a tour.
WCT: Despite the challenges, why do you love guiding?
FH: I thrive on the challenges and the new experiences that come with this job. I love the smiling faces, making people happy through a funny anecdote and an interesting visit, learning more about my country, and being an ambassador for China. For me, money and achievement are not the most important things; rather, it is most rewarding for me to show guests what China has to offer.
My wife and I recently went on a WC tour led by Fred and he made it a marvelous and informative time for us. He sets the bar very high for any other tour guid I might everuse. I hope to go on another “Fred He” WC tour one of these days. Best wises to your parents, Fred. Ron & Gail Denham