Working from China to Europe is the most frustrating part of this business, period. Since the Great China Firewall is blocking most of the regular communication methods like Whatsapp and Google services, you are relying entirely on the random functions of a VPN service. I use ExpressVPN, which used to be a really good one but has begun to drop connection these days very regularly. I asked on Twitter around for better options but got mostly ravings about services nobody had actually tested in China. There is, I understand, a really hardcore VPN service which you can use, but it needs deeper computer knowledge, and thus, way out of my league.
The solution could be WeChat, but the truth is, WeChat sucks big time. It’s a terrible way to communicate and especially since nobody really has that in Europe, it’s always hard to start asking people using some shady service just to have a call. Phonecalls are obviously ridiculously expensive so you have to find better solutions, especially this day and age, making a phone call to Europe from China is just unnecessary and ridiculous.
Funny enough, the time difference is not that big of a problem. Morning in Europe is late lunchtime in Europe, so if there WAS a meaningful way to communicate with Europe, lunch would be the best to take care of that side of the world. But since VPN usually works the best only during nighttime, you have to stay awake until midnight to get a steady connection, and then it’s already past office hours in Europe…
Truly, there’s no way to win this battle, and it’s getting worse and worse all the time. Running a big project like ours, which requires constant communication between these two worlds is already hard on its’ own, and with this constant communication breakdown, it’s just terrible trying to make something out of all this.
Another thing is the big files. Of course, every conceivable service for sending files you can’t fit into an email is blocked, no surprises there, but the issue is that for some reason, China doesn’t have any decent alternatives available, at least not in the English language. There is Baidu’s service, but it’s truly impossible to operate since everything is in Mandarin and there is no “change language to English” -button anywhere.
So the only way to send huge files to Europe, or to receive them – and trust me, in the film business that’s one thing you need constantly – is to do it via VPN and using DropBox or WeTransfer, but when the connection drops, that’s the end of that transfer. Praying it would actually continue – which these services sort of should understand to provide – is a high hope. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing you can do to get a 100mb file across. It’s easier to send a hard drive via airmail if you really need something.
And of course, adding to it all the general bad WiFi situation here. The office I work at has a terribly slow WiFi even without VPN, the hotel’s Internet is choppy as hell and our VFX company’s WiFi is also quite a disaster.
Truly, in order to really connect the west and the east, this is where it all should begin: communications should be made easier. China can keep its’ Firewall, and Google and Facebook can keep their encryptions, but please punch a hole in both ends so we can do some legitimate Internet calls and send the crucial files. I don’t give two shits about Instagram of Facebook or Snapchat or Twitter or what have you not working here, my life is better with any of them constantly pinging around, but PLEASE let me use Gmail, Skype or Whatsapp and Dropbox or Wetransfer. Or at least, Google, Facebook and whoever-is-running-Dropbox – please make a China-friendly versions available of your most crucial services.
This situation as it stands now is not good for anyone.
As for the VPN situation, if you’ve got a virtual server humming along somewhere in Finland, you could try installing Google’s https://www.getoutline.org/fi/home (unless that’s the thing you’ve been reading about).