What You Need to Know Before Working in China

China has become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and as such, a wealth of opportunities for those looking to take advantage of its vast potential have become available. If you’re dreaming of international work experience, China might be the ideal destination for you. Before taking the plunge, however, you should make sure you have a thorough understanding of Chinese culture, government policies and everyday life. Here’s what you need to know before working in China.

Understand Chinese Culture

The Chinese view the workplace as an extension of their home, and as such expect workplace relationships to mirror familial affiliations. While foreign managers in Chinese companies tend to be given generous respect, authority and deference, they are also expected to be both friendly and approachable.

Furthermore, cultural norms dictate that politeness and restraint should dictate interactions between coworkers, and former employees and customers should always be afforded respect. This can be seen in the formal language used during phone conversations and in the “face” that’s often of utmost concern. It’s expected that those new to the country don’t embarrass their coworkers during workplace interactions.

Also, don’t be surprised if your Chinese employees don’t necessarily value job titles, as the Chinese culture does not recognize a single hierarchy that applies to any particular organization. It’s uncommon for coworkers to refer to each other as “Mr.,” “Miss,” or “Mrs.,” instead taking to the approach of referring to each other by their first name.

Be aware of Chinese Government Policies

Before taking your job in China, it’s essential that you have a clear understanding of Chinese government policies and their implications. As China continues to evolve as a global powerhouse, most of the country’s important business dealings and contacts are now done via the internet. As such, the government has implemented certain policies that aim to protect its citizens information when doing business online.

Among the country’s most important domestic policies are the censorship policies it enforces to protect its citizens from inappropriate content. Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are all officially blocked in China, though individuals have found ways to get around the block through the use of virtual private networks (VPNs). Furthermore, it’s not just online that the country has strict regulation, as freedom of speech and religion are also strictly limited.

As a foreign business leader in China, you should ensure that you are familiar with all the legal hoops that need to be jumped through to comply with the Chinese government’s regulations and policies. Rely on the help of a professional advisor who is experienced in China-related business matters to stay abreast of current legal changes, or risk running afoul of the state.

Navigate Daily Life

If you’ve never been to China before, the country may seem rather confusing and intimidating. However, with a little preparedness and research, daily life can actually be very manageable. For starters, learn some basic words and phrases in Mandarin, like “thank you” (xie xie) and “hello” (ni hao). This will help you to better navigate your daily affairs as a foreigner in China.

You should also familiarise yourself with the concept of face. Face, or guanxi, is the informal network of social, political and business relationships that exists within Chinese society. When you make requests of individuals, it’s important you don’t appear to be taking away from their “face,” as this can cause significant offense.

The Chinese take their food and dining etiquette very seriously, and as such it’s important that you demonstrate respect and an open-minded attitude when trying out new kinds of cuisine. It’s important to remember that dining out in China is a social event, and can often involve rounds of beer and hard liquor to accompany the meal.

Finally, gain an understanding of the Chinese religion and customs. Communist China is officially an atheist state, however Confucianism remains firmly entrenched within cultar. Most Chinese follow Confucian principles, and knowledge of Confucius can go a long way when it comes to building bridges between yourself and your Chinese coworkers or colleagues.

Ready to Take the Plunge?

China can be an overwhelming country to work in however, with the right amount of preparation, it can provide invaluable work experience and a wealth of business opportunities. To ensure success, it’s essential that you understand Chinese culture, government policies and everyday life before making the big move. Once you’ve got your head around all the necessary elements, you’ll be ready to take the plunge and reap the rewards of working in the world’s most exciting emerging economy.

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