“I’m moving to China!” More and more people from across the globe are finding themselves saying these words each day. As China continues to establish itself as the most important growth market in the world, expatriates will continue to flock to cities like Beijing and Shanghai in search of opportunities.
For people considering moving to China or businesses who are posting expatriates in their Chinese offices, it’s important to understand the importance of respecting the host culture and blending into the country’s business environment.
Tip 1: Bring Something to the Table That’s Not Already Available
Keep this in mind: each business expatriate who comes to China takes away a job or promotion from a local, and the money spent on expat packages could employ entire office floors of Chinese workers. The local workforce knows this all too well, and therefore it becomes increasingly more important for the incoming expatriate to be highly proficient in something that fills a gap in the organization. Simply having worked as a middle manager at the company’s headquarters will not be sufficient for gaining the confidence, respect, and rapport necessary to successfully manage Chinese staff.
For companies sending employees to China, it’s important to choose candidates primarily on their professional skill and how they will contribute to specific goals of the Chinese organization. For professionals being sent abroad, take the time to discuss why you were chosen for the posting and how your qualifications are unique to those of your in-country counterparts.
Tip 2: Come for the Right Reasons
Many people see a relocation to China as an adventure, and in many ways, it is. However, expats who are looking for personal fulfillment over their contribution to the company’s goals will not be a good fit in the Chinese business environment. Companies may struggle to find candidates who are willing to relocate to China, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for failing to understand the individual’s motivation for accepting the job. An expat manager who develops a reputation for his or her “always on vacation” mentality, “fountain of youth” dating style, or “just here for the money” work ethic can be incredibly damaging in a Chinese organization.
Companies should always delve deeply into a candidate’s reasons and motivations for accepting a relocation to China, and individuals who are planning their relocation should be honest with themselves about their expectations.
Tip 3: Have a Stable Family and/or Emotional Life
China is a stressful place to live. The market is ultra-competitive and fast changing. Cities are crowded and polluted. The language and culture can seem impenetrable. And there is no let-up. These stresses can push even the most stable people and families to their limits. It’s critical for both partners in a relationship (and the children) to feel right about the move and to have the shared desire to experience China as a couple or family.
One way to help expats and their families to determine if they would be happy in China is to take a course on Living and Working in China before they make their decision. This way, they can use real knowledge and awareness when deciding to opt-in or opt-out, which saves the company from the headaches and lost revenue associated with an early return.
Tip 4: Understand the Power of Diplomacy
A Chinese business environment is different than an American or Western one, and expat managers who always side with headquarters and maintain a “do it our way” mentality will never develop the loyal and independent Chinese team necessary for long-term success. The Chinese team will expect you to be the bridge between the China and main offices, providing insight and advice in both directions. As an expatriate, you will need to know when to stand up for the Chinese organization and negotiate on their behalf, and how to sell unpopular initiatives to the Chinese staff in a way that doesn’t shatter motivation and morale.
So, a successful expat in China must be a diplomat in every sense of the word: a deal maker who tries to understand both sides of an argument and seeks to find common ground to move things forward for long-term sustainable success.
Tip 5: Don’t Bring the “English Only” Bias
Unfortunately, expatriates who only speak English are notorious for not attempting to learn a new language while living abroad. There’s no doubt that learning a foreign language is incredibly challenging and attempting to converse with native speakers is a humbling experience, but even small successes are thrilling and reward all the hard work. Even more important, those interactions earn respect from locals – both in the professional setting and in your life outside work. It’s not expected for the expat to be fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, or the various other dialects common in China. However, failing to learn any of the native language communicates an indifference to the country and its rich culture.
Tip 6: Learn about China before you come
Learning about China before you arrive gives you a head start on your transition and will help to reduce the culture shock you (and your family) are bound to experience. If your company is providing you with valuable cross-cultural training, make sure you take advantage of it. Whether that takes the form of an online course like Living and Working in China or personalized expatriate coaching, it’s important to be proactive before your move and while establishing your life in-country.
Expanding Your Cultural Awareness with Global Coach Center
At Global Coach Center, we work with expatriates to expand their cultural awareness and make an easier transition into their new lives. Global Coach Center is your gateway to a culturally connected workplace and lifestyle. We work with clients in every corner of the world to help them succeed in today’s global environment. With an international network of coaches and proprietary coursework, we offer coaching, training, and online classes for multi-national organizations, global leaders, multi-cultural teams, and expatriates.
Visit http://www.globalcoachcenter.com/ to learn more.