4 Useful Tips to Know before You Start Work in China
Moving to a new country is never easy. You’re leaving behind, in addition to your family and friends, everything that’s familiar to you. Expatriate life is hard on many levels, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Truth be told, I’m a little jealous of the adventure you’re about to embark on, but not so envious that I won’t try to help you out any way I can.
1. Before you go, stock up on essentials. Unless you fit the average Chinese body type, you are definitely going to want to amass a large wardrobe before you’re due to leave. Areas like Shanghai and Beijing will have some western sized options, but they may be much more expensive due to import fees, and the selection may be limited. This is especially true for shoes; if you wear a size larger than 38/39 in women’s shoes and 45/46 for men you might want to make a shoe shopping trip before you leave. Women with a bust size larger than a B cup will want to bring along enough to get them through their stay because, like shoes and clothing you may not find many viable options once you reach your destination.
2. Before you go, get some new business cards. Business in China relies a great deal on “Guanxi”, or relationships. Making connections and nurturing them all starts with a seemingly inconsequential piece of paper: the business card. find someone who already knows the language—a friend, colleague, or your language teacher—help you translate your card so that you can have new ones printed with Chinese characters on one side and your native language on the other.
It’s worth mentioning that you should learn proper business card etiquette.
- If you are handing your card to a Chinese colleague, hand it to them with the translated side facing up.
- Always give and receive business cards by using both hands.
- Don’t quickly put away another person’s card upon receiving it. Look it over and show interest; not to do so is considered rude.
3. Before you go, make a list of resources. This one is a no-brainer. Make a list of any embassies, doctors, or officials you think might be important at some point and give your family a copy of that list. You also may want to check out resources like Lifeline Shanghai a free helpline dedicated to helping expatriates throughout China with their problems (it’s anonymous, in case you were wondering).
4. Before you go, watch your language. Most of the people you encounter in China who have learned English as a second language will undoubtedly have an academically based knowledge of the language, and any colloquialisms or figures of speech you use won’t go over too well—if at all. Use this time to try shifting into more formal forms of speech for short periods of time in order to assess what figures of speech you want to avoid.
Unless your trip is scheduled for several years from now, there’s no way you can be completely fluent before you leave, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. You can use our language level test to evaluate your current knowledge base. Or, if you prefer you can contact us directly for information on classes in your area. By learning as much as you can before you depart, you’ll be able to get the most out of your adventure. Good luck!