Now that you are in China as a foreigner, are you ready to cope with China’s hard work culture and working hours?

First up, do you know how to say hardworking in Chinese? Do you really understand the Chinese work ethic? Do you know why Asians work so hard? How different are the workplaces from the West? Are there any challenges for foreigners when they have Chinese co-workers?

So many questions, right? Don’t worry, this article contains everything you need to know about China’s hard work culture.

How to say ‘hardworking’ in Chinese

China's hard work culture

Picture this – you’re a foreign student in China working on a project with hard working Chinese students who are doing their best to ensure it is a success. How will you compliment them for their hard work? Well, you should start off by knowing how to say ‘hardworking’ in Chinese. This is how you say it:

· Mài lì– means to exert all your strength, or to put out energy for something.

· Qín láo – means industrious, diligent or hardworking.

· Yòng gōng – means hardworking, studious or diligent.

Working with Chinese co workers – How to establish a strong bond

Some Westerners have a problem working with Chinese colleagues. This is probably due to the many differences between Chinese work culture and Western work culture. The following are things you should know to create a strong friendship bond with your Chinese co-workers.
Understand the core values of Chinese people.

Different cultures have different core values and the Chinese are no different. What you might call ‘normal’ in a Western country might be considered weird in China.

The main core values of Chinese people are: collectivism, family first, guān xì(relationships), harmony (balance) and respect for elders or superiors. Therefore, you should know what’s important to your Chinese co-workers and what motivates them.

The Chinese don’t like using the word ‘no’

Rather than saying ‘no’, the Chinese prefer saying ‘maybe’, or even changing the subject. In fact, the Chinese don’t like giving a 100 percent ‘no’ or ‘yes’ answer to anything as they may feel embarrassed if it’s wrong.

The result is everything

In most cases, the process is less important than the result. There’s a famous Chinese saying which states, ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s a black cat or white cat as long as it catches mice’. Therefore, you should bear this in mind when you are in the middle of China’s hard work culture and when dealing with Chinese employees.

China's hard work culture

Control your temper

You should never criticize or lose your temper with Chinese staff or colleagues in public in China. Losing face is one of the worst ways to insult a Chinese person. Therefore, you should keep your cool and give as many compliments as you can to your Chinese co-workers and clients.

Encourage an open culture

Promoting an open culture ensures that your Chinese co-workers speak up during meetings. In Western culture, people say ‘The early bird catches the worm’, but in Chinese culture people say, ‘The early bird catches the worm, but the early worm can be eaten by the bird’. This means they tend to agree with what the boss thinks without question.

Chinese working hours

The Chinese work ethic means people tend to work harder and harder. This is why so many of us probably know about China’s hard work culture. You’ll find Chinese work hours to be different from typical US work hours. However, the number of working hours you do per week in China will depend on where you’re employed.

According to the Labor Law of the People’s Republic of China, people should work for 8 hours a day, five days per week. Work hours should not be more than 44 per week. The working days are usually Monday to Friday while working hours are from 08:00 to 18:00 with a two-hour lunch break from 12:00 to 14:00.

However, hotels and hospitals have a round-the-clock service, while bars and restaurants start operating from 10:00 until late at night. During weekends and holidays, bars usually extend their working hours.

Why do Asians work so hard?

The main reason Asians work so hard is because their culture values hard work. For example, China is considered to be the most hardworking nation, not only in Asia but also worldwide. This is because Chinese culture glorifies hard work.

Other reasons why Asians work so hard are:

  • Asians believe that talent can be learned. The harder they work, the easier they can solve complicated problems.
  • Society expects them to succeed in everything they do.
  • Their parents put pressure on them to work hard from childhood.
  • When they move to foreign countries, they believe they have a better chance than the natives of that country.
  • Hard work brings honor and pride to their families.
  • Chinese students value education a great deal.

Losing face

Unlike Western people, the Chinese people are non-confrontational. Losing face occurs when one starts conflicts or situations that will embarrass someone else in public. To avoid this, the Chinese never show their disagreement plainly in public. In America, anyone can express their opinions in public.

Humility versus self-promotion

According to the Chinese work ethic, people should treat each other well and show humility when they talk about successes. If they feel that the other person may be embarrassed, they prefer not to talk about the success stories. In American culture, bragging is kind of acceptable. In fact, some Westerners consider humility as a weakness rather than a virtue.

Professional life versus personal life

In America, professional and personal lives are two different things. They should never overlap with each other – you don’t bring your problems into work or discuss your life with many people. On the other hand, in China, personal and professional lives are one and the same thing. Here, people are expected to know each other personally. This is why Chinese managers ask Westerners a lot more about their personal lives.

Relationships and economics

The Chinese work culture puts a strong emphasis on building a social relationship before doing business. They call it ‘guān xì‘, which means relationships. Therefore, they try to know their customers well before signing any deal. Friendship comes first, the rest will follow. On the other hand, Americans prefer closing the deal as fast as possible. They don’t need to be friends first, or at all.

Collectivism versus individualism

The Chinese make decisions depending on how they will be perceived by people around them. They think of themselves in a collective manner. However, Americans put a strong emphasis on personal goals and achievements.


Hopefully, you now know more about China’s hard work culture than Westerners who haven’t come across this article. By sticking to the guidelines, which may feel weird at first, you’ll establish a strong bond with your Chinese colleagues.

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