Gregarious Canadian promotes Western way of socializing

Writer: Peng Zekun  |  Editor: Vincent Lin  |  From: Shenzhen Daily 

The nightlife industry has been booming around the world in recent years. As a way of socializing, partying is becoming increasingly ubiquitous, because people can party with their families, friends and even strangers. However, for Chinese and Westerners, socializing bears different meanings and therefore indicates different methods.

Matthew Hennebury from Canada, who defines himself as a “social guy,” came to Shenzhen five years ago and founded his company Pandora Parties with the aim of creating more opportunities for people to interact with others and popularizing Western ways of socializing.

Matthew Hennebury

Back in university, Hennebury majored in Electromechanical Engineering before working in the robotics industry for a short time. He then worked as a body painter in Canada, which finally brought him to the night life industry. “As a result of doing body painting, I was then discovered by some bars and night clubs, which invited me to do the body painting,” said Hennebury.

The transition from a robotics technician to a party organizer seemed inevitable to him. “I had a fascination with Electromechanical Engineering since I was much younger, but after studying and working in the industry for a while I realized it’s not quite social enough for me. I am always into the environments where people are able to socialize, interact and make new friends,” he further explained when asked about the change.

Hennebury lives in Futian District, and he has transformed his apartment into a mini bar complete with liquor, beer, a bar table, audio equipment and even a dance floor. It is one of the venues that is used to organize parties for his customers.

Doing business in Shenzhen, which is a young city with a diverse population, is interesting while it also has posed some challenges to him. “Everybody in Shenzhen has a different background and upbringing and different expectations for everything. When attending events, everybody has a different concept in their mind of what should be provided, and trying to cater to such a broad range of people with different expectations is very challenging,” said Hennebury. However, he managed to overcome these challenges, and Pandora Parties has started to gain ground in recent years.

When it comes to the differences in socializing between Chinese and Westerners, Hennebury stressed that people in Canada tend to interact and find connections with everybody when they are in a bar or night club, where they will chat or dance with their friends and strangers. “You enter the bar with two friends and you leave the bar with five friends,” he explained. In China, according to Hennebury, people party with friends in order to relieve pressure, and they mainly chat with friends rather than strangers, but he believes that the Western way of socializing will be embraced by the Chinese one day. “Despite cultural differences, people are essentially the same. Chinese people are very social. At least 50 percent of my customers are Chinese people, so I can see very clearly that the same desire to interact with people and to build connections with people exists here,” Hennebury said.

To him, Shenzhen is a special place. “I have had a lot of good experiences here, and I really enjoy my time here,” said Hennebury.