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Expat in China

Living and working in China as an expat

The decision to live and work in China for a specified period should be well considered. Too fast of a commitment to the employer or too little preparation can quickly lead to frustration and demotivation – at for one’s self, but also for the family members, as in China you will find yourself in a completely different cultural, normative, and value circle. In order not to start China with a culture shock or risk that the assignment needs to be stopped early, we want to ensure that you can begin to directly and productively in this new phase of life. Therefore, preparation and an intense confrontation with the country, and its people is the be-all and end-all.

Moving to China
If one’s own company offers to ship their furniture to China, then it should be remembered that the landlord already furnishes 95% of all apartments and houses and it is not so easy to find an empty apartment. Therefore, it will be easier to see a suitable property without your furniture. If you still wish to have your personal belongings shipped, then a transfer would likely need about 7 to 9 weeks. This process also includes the time at the Chinese customs, where the shipment will stand for a different period.

Working in China
Workflows, company structures, corporate loyalty, managerial functions, the principle of “guanxi” (network) within the company, as well as government offices are just some of the points in which Chinese companies and everyday work in China are fundamentally different from Europe. A direct way of communicating, as we are used to in Europe, can quickly lead to a “loss of face”. For us, familiar ways of working can be misunderstood by the Chinese. Besides, there is often no clear yes or no in negotiations or talks.

We are happy to share our experience with you and prepare you accurately for your work with Chinese.

Everyday life in the distance
You will quickly become aware that living in China is very different. Chinese customs, behaviours and habits may seem exciting in the beginning. However, the working day can quickly lead to rejection and frustration. It is essential for everyone to develop a strategy for themselves so that these cultural differences do not affect their spirits as well as the minds of the accompanying persons significantly. The severity of the differences also depends on location in China. Write or call us. We are happy to advise you in detail about life in China.

Learning Chinese
The higher the economic power of China gets, the higher the Chinese self-confidence and national pride will become (this is a pointed language instead. Chinese protectionism and national pride strengthen as the country’s economic power increases). That is why it is becoming more and more important that an expat – at least – speaks some Mandarin, as the Chinese expect this more and more from foreigners. In addition, it makes it easier to arrive in China, to take the first steps in the new everyday life it would also be helpful to get used to unfamiliar everyday work life. Do not worry; Mandarin is not as hard as its reputation paints it to be. The grammar is much simpler than, for example, German. In the beginning, you should focus on speaking and listen, and put the characters back.

We will show you the best-tailored way to learn Chinese.

Cost of living
The cost of living is highly dependent on the location (different cities or areas) and lifestyle. Above all, all imported products, as well as dairy products and foreign drinks, are more expensive in China than in Germany or the US. In medium-sized cities, you can get a 4-room apartment for 200 to 300 euros a month, whereas a similar apartment in a central location in Shanghai requires at least 2000 euros.

If you are willing to stick with the Chinese cuisine, a good restaurant visit can cost 6-10 euros per person. The international supermarkets can sometimes be outrageously expensive, so seasonal fruits and vegetables can be bought for much cheaper in the Chinese neighbourhood markets.

Insurance and health
In major cities, such as Shanghai or Beijing, many international hospitals have Western standards but also charge correspondingly high costs. Therefore, it is essential that you have excellent international health insurance, so that in case of an emergency, all expenses are covered, and you do not have to rely on a Chinese public hospital, as the treatment methods may not meet western expectations. Insist that your company ensures you well.

Public holidays

China mixes their own holidays with the Western ones. The public holidays in China are as follows:

  • the Western New Year (January 1st, one day holiday),
  • Spring Festival (Lunar new year, four days of holiday),
  • the Ancestor Devotion Day (after the lunisolar calendar, one day holiday),
  • International Labor Day (1st of May, one day holiday),
  • the Dragon Boat Festival (according to the lunar calendar, one day holiday),
  • the Mid-Autumn Festival/Moon Festival (according to the lunar calendar, one day holiday)
  • the National Holiday (1st of October, five days of holiday).

The government likes to arrange business days and holidays in such a way that you can get at least three consecutive days off. However, this also means that work has to be done on weekends for five to seven working days a year to compensate for these “bridging days”.

The Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival) and the National Day are two other calendar dates where a whole week of holidays are given to the employees and celebrated nationwide.

Most Chinese spend their entire annual holidays (which often consists of only a few days) around the Chinese New Year, as it is traditionally celebrated with family in their hometowns. This family reunion, in turn, means that over 500 million Chinese are on their feet during this period and often travelling. It is a masterpiece of logistics for the air and rail traffic, which also poses enormous challenges to the highway network. Some cities seem almost empty at this time; Shanghai is an example. Most of the inhabitants are not local Shanghainese, and for the holidays, only 5-6 million of the 25 million inhabitants remain in the city. In general, one can say that 1 to 2 weeks before the festival, the Chinese economy slows down, and it takes 1 to 2 weeks after the holidays to get back on track. Managers, in particular, must be aware that 10 to 20% of the workforce is unlikely to appear back at work after the New Year because as they make plans with the “Family Council” for the following days.

Also, the national holiday week in October comes with a week of holidays, which often consists of travelling, since the statutory holidays in China are rather small. A large number will travel into the country, so you should avoid Beijing, the Great Wall of China, the pandas in Chengdu or Hangzhou at this time. To travel abroad is also becoming more and more popular – Japan, Thailand, and Singapore are particularly popular destinations because these countries do not have strict visa requirements for Chinese citizens.

We are happy to advise you on these Chinese phenomena and the likely occurrences one might expect in China during the holidays.