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Fausto Leoni: An Italian working in a boutique hotel in Beijing

Fausto Leoni Photos: courtesy of Fausto Leoni

Walking into FACE boutique hotel and lounge (妃思精品酒店和酒廊酒吧) located on Gongti Nanlu (工体南路) in Beijing, one finds it unusually quiet for a bar in the Sanlitun (三里屯) area. “We don’t push people to spend money in our bar; instead, we want them to understand the cultural concepts we promote,” said Fausto Leoni, marketing manager of the bar.

Cultural attraction

Leoni comes from a small town named Chieti in Italy. He studied Chinese and Arabic languages in college. 

“As an Italian, it was easier for me to learn other European languages such as Spanish, but the Spanish culture is so close to ours. I have always been interested in something completely different,” Leoni said..

However, Asian cultures offer a new horizon for Leoni. “I first came into contact with the Chinese language and culture when I was in high school. We had a course called international history and culture which gave students a general idea of each Asian country. I became interested in the Chinese language and culture and wanted to dig deeper into it,” he said. He even spent half a year in Cairo to improve his Arabic after graduation.

Working in China

Near Sanlitun area

Leoni moved to China in 2009 because he wanted to come into closer contact with Chinese people and put what he had learned to practical use. “It is pointless to learn a foreign language and stay in your home country. We do have a lot of Chinese people in Italy, but they are mostly from Fujian, Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces. They speak Chinese with strong accent. I tried to speak with them in mandarin but they couldn’t understand me,” he smiled.

After coming to Beijing, Leoni worked for an event management agency for one year, organizing events and conferences for companies and institutions. Then he freelanced for two years, organizing fashion or music-related events. Most of his clients were foreign companies with offices in Beijing. He admitted that the cultural gaps between China and other countries are still big even if you have no difficulty in speaking the Chinese language. “Even the presentation of a product had to be easily understood from the Chinese point of view while maintaining its original image. I could not do it as I did in Italy,” he said.

Leoni said it is more difficult to work as a freelancer. “The Chinese market does not have a established system to use freelancers. You have to go through a series of formalities here.” Therefore, he started to think about finding a full-time job again. Recommended by a friend, Leoni joined FACE at the end of 2013.

Leoni had never worked in a bar, but he learned a lot about how to run a bar from owners and bartenders when he hung out with friends in bars before. “No matter which industry you are working in, the marketing guidelines are almost the same. What you have to do is changing the colors. It’s fortunate that I am a fast learner,” Leoni laughed. Leoni has the feeling that a job that only requires one person’s effort in Europe often involves a lot more people in China. “Even if China has huge human resources, efficiency should be improved,” he said, “I am not picky or control freak. I always try to be smooth, gentle and polite, but I need my staff to get to the point and meet deadlines.”

Love for China

Traveling to Inner Mongolia

Having lived in Beijing for five years, Leoni has quite a large network of contacts in the city. “But I don’t push them to spend money in our bars,” he said, “I just tell them what’s going on in the bar and those interested will come here with their friends. I don’t like those customers who spend 5,000 yuan on a bottle of wine without any knowledge of its cultural background.”

Leoni has traveled to several cities in China on tours or business trips, such as Shanghai and Xi’an, but he likes Beijing most. “There is no doubt that we’ll have a lot more pressure living in big cities like Beijing, but living a decent life doesn’t mean you need to have an expensive car or a luxury house,” he said.

When asked about what he doesn’t like about China, Leoni answered, “I don’t know”. The three simple words clearly express the Italian’s sincere love for the country.

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