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Foreigners in China
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Foreigners in China: Things You Need to Know

If you’re reading this article, then we’re going to assume that you’ve at least had thoughts about coming to study or work in China. Amongst those thoughts, you’ve probably been wondering if there’s anything you should know, or what foreigners in China can expect.

Well, we’re here to tell you that China is a great place to work and live. There’s possibly no other place on the planet right now with as many opportunities. Sometimes, they’re quite literally waiting for you around the corner. Chances are, though, that Chinese culture, and the work environment, is very different from what you expect back home.

To help you prepare for when you arrive, we’ve put together few things you need to know before you arrive. 

Flexibility is key

First things first: there’s nothing more important than being flexible. This is arguably a quality needed by anyone who wants to live and work in another country, but in China, I would say doubly so. You’ll have to adapt to a huge range of different situations; from different types of food (which are delicious) to different ways of interacting with your boss and co-workers.

You’ll also have to be flexible with regards to deadlines and workload. One minute you might be set a new task, the next you’ll find it’s been cancelled without anyone telling you.

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Expect your flaws to be noticed (and commented on)

Chinese people can be incredibly direct in what they say. There are more than a few stories about a Chinese co-worker telling someone they’re looking fat, or that something they have done is wrong. Most of the time, what the person is saying is not intended as offensive, but rather a suggestion for how you can improve yourself. This might seem harsh, but it’s just another area where you’ll have to apply that high level of flexibility we were just talking about.

Where this stops is when it comes to your boss. This is due to something called ‘face’. If you don’t know what face is, then continue reading. It’s important.

Face and Guanxi

An integral part of Chinese culture, Face and Guanxi are two things which you won’t be able to avoid if you decide to live and work in China.

Face can be thought of a ‘dignity’ or maybe ‘prestige’. It’s essentially the way in which a person is seen by others. The better they look, the more face they have. As your boss’s employee, you will be expected to give them face. That includes complimenting them on their performance in front of other Chinese people and clients. Ultimately, it is your job to help them look good. Give face and you’ll be liked, but embarrass them or say something negative about them or their actions in front of others, and it won’t go well.

The other concept is Guanxi. Guanxi roughly translates to ‘relationships’. It’s basically the notion that whatever you do for someone else, they will do back for you in the future. Make sure that you foster your own Guanxi and care for it. If you’re planning to stay in China for more than a year, it will put you at a huge advantage over someone who doesn’t have any.

The China job permit has just gone through changes

This year, the China job permit went through a couple of changes; changes which have made it a little harder for some foreigners in China to find jobs. The new system is based on accumulating points centered around different credentials and achievements. For example, your annual salary level, your age, and the type of job you’re doing will affect it. Depending on how many points you get, depends on how easy your application will be to process.

You can check how many points you potentially have by looking at what everything this worth. If you have over 85, then you’re an A-rated expat. You’ll have an easy time of getting a work permit here. Most people will fall into the B category though.

Education goes a long way

Your education level in China is important; probably more so than it is back home. The reason being that there is a bigger educational gap in China. The countries education requirements for foreigners in China are generally fixed at having at least a Bachelor’s degree.  And if you have a Master’s or Ph.D.? You’ll be ahead of the competition. The more you exceed the education requirements, the higher your salary will be. You’ll also be given more opportunities and have access to areas of

In fact, when it comes to applying for your China job permit, having a better degree can net you some extra points. It might just mean the difference between being stuck as a C and rising to a B. Moreover, it’s not just what degree if have, but where you got it form. If you graduated from a top 100 university then you’ll have even more points attached to your application.

Learn Chinese (If you’re not in a Tier 1 city)

But no matter to what degree you meet or exceed the education requirements, if you’re thinking of living outside of a Tier 1 city and want to make a career outside of teaching English, then you’re going to need to learn some Chinese. Whilst there are opportunities for those who don’t speak the local language, they’re few and far between – and you’ll probably need some of that highly sought after ‘Guanxi’ first.

Foreigners in China: Things You Need to Know
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