4 Ways to Find Your Place as a Foreigner in a Chinese Company

4 Ways to Find Your Place as a Foreigner in a Chinese Company
May 14, 2019 By Degen Hill , eChinacities.com

Getting hired by a Chinese company can be an exciting but daunting experience. Fitting in is something everyone is concerned about, both personally and professionally, and as a foreigner in a Chinese company, this can be particularly tough. Here are four tips to help you succeed and find your place in a Chinese company.

1. Understand your role

The best way to succeed at your job starts with a thorough understanding of your position and duties. What’s your role? Why were you hired? What skills do you have and how are you expected to use them?

If you’re unsure, talk with other people in your office (or friends) who have the same or similar job titles. If you’re not getting the answers you’re looking for there, you could consider talking with your boss to straighten things out.

Bothering your boss unnecessarily is obviously to be avoided, and ideally you’d have a clear understanding of your role before you start. However, sometimes responsibilities and personel will change while you’re going through the inevitable new job admin. If you feel the goal posts have shifted since you first took the job, confirm your suspicions and then get on with the new task at hand.

2. Clarify expectations

Chinese bosses have a tendency to expect more out of their employees than they might explicitly state at the outset, which can create confusion and frustration for both parties. To avoid situations like this, talk with your superior at the outset and make sure you’re clear about what you should be focussing your attention on and what’s not your responsibility.

You’re likely to gain more responsibility the longer you work for the company, so check in every now and again if you feel the expectations have changed.

3. Don’t step on other people’s toes

There are several types of people in an office environment, and one that nobody likes is the person who steps on other people’s toes. It’s good to be eager as a foreigner in the Chinese workplace, but don’t start branching out into other departments without permission or a clear understanding that it’s your responsibility to do so.

Although people might seem to appreciate your ‘help’, more often than not, they’ll be annoyed as your meddling in their work will cause them to lose “face". To avoid this, talk with people before you do things. If there’s something you can’t ignore, making discrete one-on-one suggestions to the person in that role is far better than jumping the gun and solving the problem by yourself.

4. Let nature take its course

If clarifications, conversations, and generally staying off other people’s patches isn’t working, it’s perfectly okay to keep your head down and go with the flow for a while. As long as you’re keeping yourself busy with whatever you think you should be doing, you can make adjustments and figure out the details over time. Inevitably, there will be some trial and error when you start a new role, but the aim should always be to learn from your initial mistakes.

New jobs, just like anything else, have a transitional period during which you’ll slowly come to understand where and how you fit in. For some people this takes a couple of weeks, others a few months. It’ll all depend on the job, your prior experience and the in-house support you receive.

It’s not always smooth sailing as a foreigner in a Chinese company, and there’ll probably be plenty awkward,“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know,”  moments, but, at the end of the day, you’ve got a job to do. Hopefully by following these tips, you’ll figure out where you fit in sooner rather than later.

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Keywords: foreigner in a Chinese company


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Hmmmm, that make sense from china

Apr 12, 2020 00:33 Report Abuse



Lots of perserverance too needed .. You have to perservere with all that comes along your way as you work for great fruits and good results at the end.

May 25, 2019 17:54 Report Abuse



Thanks alot for the advices above. I find them so helpful and I am hoping for the very best. I am looking forward to finding myself a chance to work in a Chinese compony.

May 25, 2019 17:51 Report Abuse



If you really want to fit into a chinese company, acquire mind-reading abilities, appear stupid, remember that you are not dealing with logical people and be prepared to lick a**. When dealing with Chinese, when you attempt to clarify the role, they get 'upset' easily. They don't take ANY criticism well. I have had to deal with consistent poor performance of a subordinate as i would a child, who gets 'hurt feelings' very quickly if asked to re-do any poor work, and won't take direction to improve. Also remember when working with Chinese, (generalisation alert) 'planning' 'deadlines' and 'schedules' are meaningless words useful only when they do not tell you that there are any changes to any of them. The joys of working with chinese people/teams make me appreciate all the more that i no longer have to do it.

May 15, 2019 22:24 Report Abuse