Have you ever considered of working abroad? Is China in your list of option? Maybe you’re fascinated by the culture, the language, the food, the opportunity or the salary offers. Maybe you’ve already landed a job offer from a Chinese company and you’re packing your bags. Or maybe you’re just curious about what it’s like to work in the world’s second-largest economy.
Whatever your reason, working in China can be an amazing and rewarding experience. But it can also be challenging and frustrating if you don’t know what to expect. The working culture in China is very different from what we may be used to in Malaysia. And if you want to succeed and thrive in the career, you need to understand and adapt to these differences.
In this blog post, I’m going to share with you some of the most important aspects of the working culture in China that you should know before you go. I’ll also give you some tips and strategies on how to mingle with your Chinese colleagues effectively and respectfully. We have also spoken with a Malaysian who worked in China for over 5 years to get some personal insights and experiences.
So let’s get started!
How Important is 'guanxi' (Relationships/Networking) in China?
One of the first things you’ll notice when you start working in China is how much emphasis is placed on relationships and group dynamics. This is called guanxi (关系) in Mandarin or what we usually refer to in Malaysia context is "kabel". It’s a key concept that influences every aspect of business and social life.
Guanxi means having a network of connections and mutual obligations that can help you get things done and achieve your goals. It also means showing respect, loyalty, trust, and reciprocity to your networking partners. In other words, it’s not just who you know, but how well you know them and how much they owe you (or vice versa).
Building and maintaining good relationship is essential for working in China. It can help you get access to information, resources, opportunities, and favors that you wouldn’t otherwise have. It can also help you avoid conflicts, misunderstandings, and problems that could harm your reputation or career. It is an advantage for someone who has personality of an extrovert or people-friendly.
Is There Any Work-Life Balance in China Company?
There is a great focus on work in Chinese culture. When you start working in China, one of the first things you'll notice is how much people respect their jobs. Work is more than simply a way to earn money or a means to an end. It is a way of life, a source of pride, and an indicator of success.
People are willing to give up their time, energy, and even their health for a better career choice. They are also competitive and ambitious. Majority of people working in China aspire to outperform their peers and competitors in terms of achievement, learning, and earnings. So, if your goal is aligned with this idealism, China is the best place for you to climb you way up the career ladder.
How Can We Adapt to These Differences and Work Effectively in China?
Respect the hierarchy. Do not openly or publicly confront or question your superiors. Don't go around them or above their heads. Don't be too relaxed or nice with them. Unless they specifically want it, do not address them by their first names. Create a clear line between you and your colleagues or superiors.
Participate in the decision-making process. Do not make decisions without consulting others. Decision making is more consensus-oriented than individual-oriented. People tend to consult with others, especially their superiors, before making decisions. They also value harmony and stability over innovation and change.
Give and take feedback with grace. Negative feedback or criticism should only be given if it is constructive and required. Give criticism in private and in a polite manner. This is partly because of the concept of face (mianzi), which means one’s reputation, dignity, or prestige. Chinese people care a lot about saving face and giving face to others. They don’t want to lose face or cause others to lose face by being too blunt or rude.