Congratulations, you’ve landed your first job in China. That’s the easy bit. Now you’ve got a steep learning curve as you adjust to the Chinese workplace. Fear not, here are six top tips for starting a new job in China.
Source: Flazingo Photos
Expect the Unexpected When it Comes to Transport
Being on time on your first day in a new job is obviously very important wherever you are in the world, but we all know how unpredictable transport can be in China’s big cities. Whether you take the subway in the wrong direction, get lost on your e-bike or your taxi gets snarled up in the morning rush hour, something is bound to go wrong. Being on time is seen as very important in China and being late is actually a sign of disrespect. If possible, do a test run of your route to work out preferred mode of transport beforehand, and always leave yourself at least half an hour longer than you think you’ll need.
Dress Like a Saint
Workplace clothing etiquette will vary from office to office, but when you first start a new job in China it’s best to err on the side of caution. Some employers and workplaces in China will be very conservative when it comes to business attire, which means a full suit for men and below-the-knee skirts and high-necked blouses for women. For more details, read our guide on How Best to Dress for Work and Interviews in China. Once you’ve sussed out the company culture you can dress down a little if appropriate, but make sure you’re always one of the smartest in the office when you’re first starting out.
Silence Your Phone
Even if your new Chinese colleagues are receiving calls from their mothers and collecting kuaidis (deliveries) during office hours, be sure to keep your phone silenced and off the desk throughout the day. Of course it seems that everyone’s on their phone the whole time in China, but as the newcomer you could come across as presumptuous and unprofessional if you use your phone during work hours.
Concentrate On Names
One of the hardest things for a foreigner about beginning a new job in China is remembering the names of all your colleagues. Chinese people use their family name 姓 (xìng) first, usually followed by a two-character first name. When you address your colleagues, you should either use their xìng and then their title, such as Mr (先生 Xiānshēng) or their full name.
Just as foreign names can be tough for Chinese people to remember, so will theirs be for you. It really pays to master the names of those you work most closely with, however, so put in some time and effort. If necessary, draw a map of where people sit in the office and add their names to it as you find them out. If you forget someone’s name, don’t worry. Just make light of it and ask again. Most Chinese people understand that foreigners find their names hard to remember. Finally, if you don’t have a Chinese name yourself, pick one or ask your colleagues to pick one for you. This will make them feel more comfortable when addressing you.
Use Your Lunch Hour to Bond with Colleagues
It’s typical for Chinese employers to take new hires out for lunch on their first day, but after that you’ll likely be left to your own devices. If you’re the only foreigner in an otherwise Chinese office, your colleagues, especially those who don’t speak English, might be shy about asking you to join them for lunch. It’s time to channel your inner extrovert and get out of your comfort zone. Spending just an hour a day in stilted conversation with your Chinese colleagues will do wonders for office relations and your Chinese language skills.
Don’t Rush Off Too Soon
It’s a well known fact that a lot of Chinese people feel compelled to work overtime, often for no extra pay. Obviously this is not a healthy habit to get in to, but it’s probably best to at least not be the fist person to leave when starting a new job in China. If you don’t have pressing outside commitments, such as children or animals to feed, suck it up and work a bit later for the first week or so. This will show both your boss and your colleagues that you’re one of the team and not in it just for the paycheck.
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