8 Tips for a Better Life in China
With shrinking growth and opportunities in the West, many are those who think about or already decided to have a try and relocate to China for professional reasons.
Some just go on their own and finally want to stay there for a while, but most are sent by their company for 1 or few years’ missions, after having become a trusted element in the management team back home. No matter the context, of course, you may feel lost once arrived, and yes, there is a real cultural shock.
No matter the context, of course, you may feel lost once arrived, and yes, there is a real cultural shock.
But don’t stop there, take it as a new challenge, a way to leave your comfort zone and learn more about yourself, acquire new competencies and reach more maturity. You will feel scared at some point, exasperated many times, but you will have rewarding experiences and you are going to have loads of things to share when you will go back at home… Then when this time comes, you will maybe realize that in fact you need more and want to go back living in China!
You will feel scared at some point, exasperated many times, but you will have rewarding experiences and you are going to have loads of things to share when you will go back at home… Then when this time comes, you will maybe realize that in fact you need more and want to go back living in China!
Here are 8 tips to better prepare for your new challenge in China. Don’t judge too fast, live your experience at full capacity and only after that, you will be able to love or not your Chinese life.
Read more about: Moving to China
Ask questions to the right persons: your future colleagues or boss
Accept you are in a very different country and try to adapt to Chinese. If you have questions to prepare your trip, ask people who already went to China or are currently living there, rather than reading too many things about what to wear and how to behave.
Your future colleagues or boss in China, as well as those who’ve been there and already came back, are the best positioned to give you relevant answers. Besides it shows your interest in the mission and your trust in both your company and colleagues, a very good point!
Once in China, spend your days out, avoid locking yourself at the hotel or in your new flat. At the beginning, the more you will go out, meet people and see things around, the quicker you will get used to it and integrate yourself, get independent and finally enjoy your experience in China. The first place to visit is of course where you live. In Shanghai or Beijing, public transports are usually cheaper than in the West, and it is even truer for other places. So take advantage of it to explore the whole city, starting in your area. And then of course, if you want to see the best places in China you will have to leave big cities and head to Xinjiang province in the northwest, Yunnan province in the southwest or even further to Tibet.
Learn Chinese, at least, some!
No need to become fluent if you are in China for the short term, but you should definitely learn Chinese for a while, at least, all the basic stuff that will make you much more independent and quicker on a daily basis. You will also certainly save money. So even in a situation where your colleagues are all supposed to be able to speak English, and you are on a 6 months’ mission, it is still worth trying to learn Chinese in Shanghai, and it is almost mandatory in all other Chinese cities. You will not need more than 30 to 60 hours of 1 on 1 classes to learn all the basic stuff.
Now, if you consider staying for a long time in China, or develop yourself there, then there is no doubt that you should start investing on your Chinese, in order to progressively be able to smoothly interact with your environment and make the most out of your experiences.
Be patient with new language
You are trying to speak Chinese in the street and be patient. Obviously, you meet some of them who don’t want to understand you, because they are stubborn and you have to respect them even if you are upset. Others, make some efforts. This kind of situation helps you to forget your shyness. Then, you are taking the habits for speaking Chinese language and be more and more comfortable when you will practicing.
Create an Ali-pay account and Wechat account
Today, Chinese get a Wechat account. Indeed, they are connected and the famous platform help them for everything. So you have to get this app first to discuss with people, find a flat, have a social life. In addition, you can browser on brands’ page and find good activity such as go to the restaurant, visit museums, shops, go to the party. Then, Wechat or Alipay enables you to become a loyal customer and benefit of some promotions or offers, scan QR code to be aware of your favorite place’s news. You can also pay thanks to your account directly with your smartphone. Congratulation! You are becoming a real Chinese consumer!
Accept their self-centered attitude
As everyone who comes from Western countries, you think many negative things about Chinese’s skills and habits. But don’t! Indeed, like you and me, they have their own culture and customs. However, trust me, they have changed since few years and they look like more and more to you! But there exist some points which can’t criticize them just because they are different. Of course, you are angry because you are sometimes invisible, they look impolite, self-centered. Actually, they don’t, and you should find the exception in order to show you are wrong. You are the attraction and they love your culture. They are only shy so try to be comprehensive. You and Chinese have many things to learn each other. So don’t give up!
Did you know that China has more billionaires than the United States ?
Pay attention to what you eat
In China, you can eat very good specialties, especially if you have the chance to try Cantonese or Xinjiang food, as well as some dishes from the northeast. But in some situations, you can be quite surprised and taste what you could fairly call super spicy or disgusting food. Consequently, learn basic Chinese to be able to ask for non-spicy food, and how to both smile and keep quiet when you are not totally sure about what you are chewing on. Another important aspect of this is hygiene. Most of the foreigners will experience at a point or another some diarrheas. To avoid it as much as possible, never eat a fruit without carefully washing it, same goes with salad and raw vegetables, and avoid street food unless it is well grilled (it would be a pity to totally avoid it, so just make sure you choose the right spots). Finally, the water. Tap water is clean in all big cities in China, but most of the people do not drink it unless it was boiled before. This old reflex is often useless since the water is totally free of virus or bacteria almost everywhere except in some remote areas. One major concern however for many cities is heavy metal pollutions, mainly due to the old lead-pipe networks that are progressively being replaced.
Seize any opportunity to discover the culture, no matter it looks good or bad
Some people are used to traveling all around the world and well aware of big cultural gaps that can exist between different societies. These travelers usually better accept both good and bad aspects of their experiences. However, for many of those who’ve stayed in their home country for most of the time, China will be the first big adventure in their life. Big hopes with no preparation can lead to some sort of deception in the first days, as life can seem hard at the beginning. But don’t lose faith, open yourself and get used to it. You will quickly start enjoying all the new things that China can offer!
Few words about Chinese manners now. To make it short, don’t be shocked or feel offended if you see people spitting or slurping in front of you. Both are minor features of the culture, and probably not the most relevant aspects to consider when judging someone. Besides, well-educated folks or those with more international backgrounds will often pay more attention to avoid it, as they are well aware that Westerners are quite sensitive on the topic.
Another interesting aspect to keep in mind does not hesitate to bargain. At least in “rather informal” shops or malls dedicated to foreign tourists in biggest Chinese cities, and selling everything from fake products to DVDs or tailored suits to traditional items. Don’t be too candid, Chinese are very gifted sellers, and they might propose different prices once they noticed that you were an expat. So do not hesitate to play the game from time to time, propose much lower prices and check people’s reactions, they won’t consider you impolite (some will in fact, but it can be part of the game as well). And if you want to make sure to get the right prices and avoid getting scammed, the best way is clearly to learn Chinese in Beijing or Shanghai for example. When you can speak Chinese, most of the hunters will immediately stop seeing you as a potential prey J
Avoid Chinese holidays
Be careful, you think New year time or others Chinese events are wonderful and you want to be in. Unfortunately, that is not a reality and as a foreigner, it would be very difficult to have fun among million of them. You have to adapt to this situation and let them celebrate their vacations. Meanwhile, you should take away from famous areas to find another activity with your expat friends. Or go to work! You can ask your boss to have some rest another day.
Even if you stay in China for short time and make all the possible efforts to live with Chinese, sometimes you will need to have fun with people of similar background and culture. Hanging out with foreigners who have been on site for a while can be helpful to share good addresses and tips. Freshly arrived ones will be undergoing the same process as you, so it is also nice to spend some time with them and talk about things. To find them, just take part of some sport team or join local community events. Last chance, try few of the most famous bars you can find online and avoid to be shy. After all that, if you did not meet any foreigner it means there are none in your town.
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