What to know before you move to China
If you are thinking about moving to work in China, there are a few things you should consider before you take the plunge. Firstly, are you more motivated by the kind of job you want to do, or the part of China you want to live in?
If you want to work in politics, tech or finance, you’ll likely be limited to the major first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. These are fascinating and vibrant places to experience the modern Chinese lifestyle, but lack beautiful countryside and unique local traditions that much of China is famed for.
If you’re craving a deeper cultural immersion, want to hone your Chinese language skills or simply want to live in some of the most stunning landscapes in the world, look for rural opportunities. For foreigners, this mostly means teaching English or certain jobs within NGOs.
Secondly, it’s worth considering how Chinese workplace culture might differ from what you are used to. For example, colleagues may have little regard for “personal time”, thanks to the ubiquitous messaging app, WeChat. “There can be different expectations from the West in terms of work-life balance, overtime and availability,” says Simon Frank, English Editor at UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. “You are reachable on WeChat 24-7.”
This can be both positive and negative. While it makes it more likely that a colleague will message you at 11pm on a Saturday, the app also makes workplace collaboration much quicker and more efficient. “What surprised me,” says Katie Cundale who works for Beijing-based travel company, Wild China, “is how much is done via WeChat (Work). Everything in the office can be transferred, booked, and approved on one system.”
There are many other positives to working in China. The cliche that China is the land of opportunity holds true, and you’ll meet dozens of people who are starting their own businesses on the side. There is much less bureaucracy than in western countries for start-ups, and a can-do attitude means that you could experience more exciting challenges in a month in China than you would in a year in the West.