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Working in China

Choosing a city, the work permit and business culture - all in a nutshell!

China is on its way to become the largest economy in the world, and as a result, many foreigners are interested in relocating to the country, gaining work experience, acquiring language skills, or obtaining a cultural understanding. At the 2010 census, nearly 600,000 foreigners were living in China, of which more than 200,000 were in Shanghai. About 250,000 were international students, 300,000 were employees, and the rest were family members of the residents.

Where do you want to live? What about the work visa and what are the cultural differences in everyday working life in China? Here, we offer you a small overview. Would you like to know more? Give us a call! With over 10 years of work experience in China, our expert will be pleased to advise you in detail about the working world in China, the working attitude of the Chinese and much more.

Which city?
The most popular cities for foreign workers are Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou or Chengdu. Most foreigners in China live in these metropolises, as they are more comfortable for westerners to adapt to and find everyday necessities they have gotten used to.

The cost of living is relatively high in many major cities in China and often. The main contributor to these costs is the rent. However, it should be mentioned that overall cost of living in China is still significantly cheaper than in Europe or the US. It is possible to eat in a small Chinese family restaurant for five euros or less. Regarding the accommodation, outside the centres, you can also find suitable and affordable apartments, while in the centre often it is not the case as the prices are higher and space is limited.

There are many other big cities, which are still convenient to live. After all, there are over 90 cities in China, which have more than a million inhabitants. The “smaller” million cities, also known as “2nd and 3rd tier cities”, have the advantage of being cheaper, but the ways of living often are more traditional “Chinese”.

It should still be noted that both private and public investments in these “2nd and 3rd cities” are ever-growing, as they even offer cheap land and labour conditions. Near Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and other cities in the south and north part of China, there are also booming communities that attract more and more skilled foreigners each year.

Guangzhou and Shenzhen are well known to produce a large part of the electronics supply for the world and have a lot of potentials to grow in the future.

Qingdao is a major port city known as the home of Tsingtao beer and Dalian in the north of the country and starting to be noticed by many IT companies due to its location-based advantages. The city of Xiamen currently has the highest growth rate in the entire country. Additionally, this city scores with one of the best universities in China and a pleasant climate. Chengdu and Chongqing are now among the largest cities in the world and home to a growing community of expats.

Work permit
If you want to work within the mainland China, you must apply for a residence permit. In the past, getting a work permit was much easier, however, since many companies in China were sometimes very mischievous with their work permits, the authorities have made the process more difficult starting from the summer of 2017 onwards.

To obtain a work permit today, the curriculum vitae, grades and certificates must be notarized attested. Also, you would have to prove your that you are impunity and have a reputable working past.

The company must provide a detailed employment contract, which also includes the wages and the job description. The company must even justify why they need to hire a foreigner. After examining all documents, you will receive the “Alien Certification”, with which you then apply for a Z visa at the Chinese Embassy in your country. The Z visa must then be converted into a Residence Permit in China, which requires you to take a health exam.

Since the summer of 2017, a point system has been introduced for the assignment of work permits. The work permit usually has to be renewed once a year, depending on the position.

To prevent fraud with the work permits, the salary and the payment of the tax will be checked at the annual renewal.

Through our own experience with foreign employees in Shanghai and our broad network in China, we can provide you with the best possible advice, so that you know the processes, the challenges and your opportunities in advance.

Business Culture
Business conduct/operations in China are different than in the Western world. Therefore, if you want to work in China, you should think about the local culture and cultural differences beforehand. Among other things, Chinese business culture attaches great importance to a suitable network (called “Guanxi”), as it makes it easier to open doors.

Giving and receiving gifts from and to Chinese friends, colleagues and business partners is also essential. Pay attention what kind of gifts you give, you should pay close attention to your gift choices. Superstition has a high status in China and influences many areas of both the private and the professional aspects of life. Colours, numbers, symbols, and gifts that can be associated with life or death, therefore wrong choices may interrupt or destroy the business relations with a Chinese.

The working world in China
Office hours in China are similar to the western world. Sales employees in shops and shopping centres usually work from 10:00 to 22:00. The working environment in China is very competitive, and the application process for Chinese companies can be quite different from what you are used to. It can be either very easy or challenging to find a suitable job. There are, however, many job platforms, on which the job seeker can send his or her CV to a company.

It is not uncommon for employees to work overtime. These are either remunerated or considered reasonable depending on the size of the company. Many employees do not necessarily work because they find the job exciting, or they get career prospects within the company – they do it for the payment.

What companies in China attach importance to is the implementation of ” the teambuilding measures”, which should be understood as “eating together, having fun or enjoying a nice weekend together”.

It should not be forgotten that the world of business is deeply intertwined with the Chinese culture. If the marriage age of a colleague is reached, it may well be that she no longer appears to work after the Chinese New Year celebration, because her parents got the right husband for her to marry.

Wages are very different and vary greatly depending on the industry and occupation. Usually, 12 wages are paid out. Bonus payments are widespread to bind the employee to the company.

Working with Chinese people
Many Chinese have a university degree but do not acquire professional skills as we do with internships or apprenticeships in the West. Education is also focussed on performance, however, promoting one’s skills as a part of the educational system is still in its infancy. Therefore, the Chinese can be very hard-working workers, yet lacking in the innovation aspects of the business. Although nowadays, many of the Chinese also study abroad and bring back skills, ideas and practices back to their home country that they think may be beneficial for business.

The collaboration is exciting and challenging at the same time. The ways of working are still different from ours. The employees require a bit more leadership and authority to take on new or different tasks. If you start working as a manager in a Chinese company, previously learned leadership methods might not apply to the Chinese.

Because of the “loss of face” concept, you will very rarely experience a Chinese who gives his direct superior an opinion or suggestions for improvement or the optimisation of processes, procedures or issues related to customer loyalty.

We are happy to advise you in more detail about working in China. There is a lot that may be new for you to learn about how the Chinese work, how they behave towards their employer, what they do during lunch-break or when and how the bonuses should be paid out.