Through our travels, personal relationships and experiences living and working in China, it's inevitable that we'll learn a few life lessons along the way. The interactions we have, the people we meet and the work we do will leave an indelible impression on us, whether or not we want it to. For better or for worse, here are a few life lessons you'll learn while living and working in China.
"When in Rome…"
The way things are done, the different ways of communicating and the customs concerning gift giving in the workplace all vary from what most foreigners are accustomed to. Instead of continuing to comment on these differences, maybe it's time we not only accepted them, but embraced them. Coming to terms with the fact that things are different is a huge step towards having a better experience in this widely diverse country.
For example, not using cash to pay for things, using a squat toilet, and accepting the fact that people will smoke in the corridors of your office. As 2Pac said, "That's just the way it is." These habits may take some getting used to, but some might be an improvement. Just think how much more flexible you’ll be after using a squat toilet for a year!
"Your pride is never worth a fight"
We all have our egos bruised in the workplace every now and again. However, in China, it's not worth losing “face” to defend your pride. This one takes some time to understand, but ultimately sucking it up and shutting up will help you advance both in your personal and professional relationships in China.
A similar life lesson is "Take the high road". We'll inevitably find ourselves in situations where we want to argue and defend our perspective, but sometimes it's better to let it go, maintain the respect of your colleagues and move on.
"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"
We will all undoubtedly run into challenges when working in China, but it's largely up to us how we approach these challenges. Maybe you're frustrated that everyone in your office only speaks Chinese. This is the perfect opportunity to finally knuckle down and master the language now you have the environment to practice. Perhaps your internship doesn't pay much. Think of it as a great opportunity to network for future jobs.
"Tomorrow's another day"
We've all had bad China days. The days when your scooter won't start, your boss gives you hell, your favourite noodle shop gets bulldozed, and your girlfriend/boyfriend is once again complaining about cultural differences. However, tomorrow is another day, and the sooner you realise that, the better-equipped you'll be to deal with the present.
This is definitely a life lesson that's easier said than done, but if all else fails, grab a bottle of baijiu and tomorrow will come sooner than you expected. No promises that you’ll feel great, though…
"All that glitters isn't gold"
This can also be understood as "If something is too good to be true, it probably is." Look out for super cheap name-brand products on Taobao (fake), pretty girls/cute guys who want to have tea with you (scam), or English teaching jobs that over-promise and under deliver, locking you into a contract (trap). Use your logic, intuition, or whatever you want to call it, and make sure you don't find yourself in a too-good-to-be-true situation.
What have you learnt while living and working in China? Tell us in the comments section below.
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what I have learnt living in China: 1. Hypocrites. Communist country that contradicts istelf by wanting Western things whilst not really wanting foreigners to be here. 2. Sod's law: in China if it can happen it will happen. This is especially true for negative experiences - "it could only happen in China" is how I mentally deal with it when it does. 3. Watchers: Virtually impossible to do anything in secret, there is always someone coming around the mountain. 4. Driving laws: seemingly made up as they go along - especially laws that get you points on your license. 5. Isaac Newton knew F all: In China it seems that there is 'Chinese gravity' where things drop off walls or fall over more easily than the rest of the world. 6. Tripping over: I have tripped over more paving stones etc. in China than in my entire life (quite a long time). 7. Integration: things are made difficult on purpose so foreigners cannot do them. 8. Double standards: Chinese people think it is amusing to see a foreigner get angry but hate it when a foreigner laughs at them (try it and see). 9. Slow food restaurants: People who work in KFC apparently do not know how to speak their own language properly and cook food to order, thus defeating the purpose of the notion of fast food ("please wait 4 minutes" for Chicken nuggets etc.). 10. Deguo: China is obsessed with German products and the women looking for a western guy prefer Germans. Must be the sausages.
Mar 15, 2018 15:23 Report Abuse
I never understand criticism like this. If you've actually worked in China, and not made a fool out of yourself, then you would know full well that the tips in this article are pretty much spot-on. Your personal opinions are irrelevant, and you as a foreigner most certainly don't set the rules in a Chinese workplace, in China with, Chinese employees. And if you think you do or will do, you will be sorely mistaken.
Mar 15, 2018 01:21 Report Abuse
It is possible to take the "high road" as the author of the article writes above...but it should never be at the expense of your self-esteem or saving "face" (while not so important elsewhere it is particularly important here.) You are not gong to gain the respect of your work colleagues doing that as the author claims. This also has nothing do with trying to "set the rules in a Chinese workplace" as another commenter claims. Sometimes you simply have to maintain your self=respect and if that comes at the risk of confrontation/job...so be it. I wouldn't want to work at a place where you had to choose between the two options.
Aug 17, 2018 13:20 Report Abuse