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11 Excellent Reasons to Consider Working in China

by Katie Sorene

David Goodman Smith, an Employment Consultant specializing in Beijing work placements for foreigners extols the virtues of living and working in China. Looking for a change? This could be just the thing!


Shanghai Skyscrapers SM

joshDubya

China might seem like a daunting place for people looking to move abroad and there are certainly a lot of misconceptions about life in China.

To set things straight, here are 11 excellent reasons to consider working in China.

Read on and keep an open mind… Looking for a life-changing move? This could be just the thing!

1. Amazing Economic Opportunities

Undoubtedly you’ve heard about China’s incredible economic development in the news. It’s all true. The Chinese are getting richer by the minute with huge skyscrapers shooting up all over the place and Chinese citizens proudly walking the streets with their Gucci handbags.

This is great news for expats with more jobs and more demand for anyone ambitious enough to give it go.

2. Upward Mobility in the Workplace.

Your foreign expertise and ability to help Chinese companies compete internationally will bring with it the opportunity to become a key player in the company.

This means there is a higher chance you’ll be promoted quicker in China than back home, which also means a higher wage!

3. A Luxurious Lifestyle for Less

A great apartment in the centre of Beijing can cost as little as $550 /GBP450 per month. Though wages are lower, you can live very comfortably for less than $1,500 a month.

A huge, delicious and filling Chinese meal for example, can cost as little as $1.50, so saving cash is easy and eating out every night is a normal part of living in China.

4. Learning the Language is Easier than You Think!

Learning basic Mandarin is actually pretty easy! The grammar is much easier than English, French or German.

No doubt it will take several years until you can hold a philosophical conversation about Confucius but if you can get some basic vocab under your belt, you’ll be chatting away in no time.

As for reading and writing…well that’s another matter!

5. Overwhelming Kindness

At first, you might get the impression that the Chinese seem a little indifferent. On the contrary, once you’ve been introduced, you’ll meet some of the kindest and most gracious people in the world.

Your Chinese friends will do everything possible to ensure you feel welcome and happy whilst in China. (This can get a bit awkward, however, when they demonstrate their friendship through some very interesting culinary dishes!)

6. Great Social Life

The big cities offer a 24 hour lifestyle with a huge choice of restaurants, bars and clubs if you’re looking for a good night out.

You’ll also find a vibrant cultural scene: great theater, rock concerts, art exhibitions, opera, ballet… In the last month alone there’s been everything from a Turner exhibition, a Beyonce concert, Irish dancing and Mixed Martial Arts! Your biggest problem will be finding the time to fit it all in.

7. Familiarity from the West

Everything western and familiar to you is there if you want it. On arrival in China people are often shocked by how western it is, given their preconceptions.

In certain areas you’ll find yourself surrounded by western shops, burger joints, Italian restaurants and cinemas; you could be in any cosmopolitan city in the world….except it’s all a bit cheaper!

8. Outstanding Beauty

China is staggeringly beautiful. Just some of the incredible travel destinations in China include: hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunan, floating down the Li River in Guilin, horse-riding on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, camel racing in the Gobi Desert, visiting Buddhist monasteries on snow tipped mountains in Tibet… Truly incredible!

9. Safety

Whatever you say about the Chinese government, one thing is for sure – you’ll feel safe walking the streets. Crime is rare and it’s unlikely that you’ll see any fights, muggings or theft….unless it is amongst the expats!

10. Phenomenal Food

There are eight different regional cuisines in China. Whether you’re an adventurous diner thrilled at the sound of 1000-year eggs and pickled duck feet, or a bit more conservative, you’re guaranteed to find a huge range of dishes to suit your palate.

The Chinese take immense pride in their food, and it shows.

11. Accessible Asia

China is an excellent base for your Asian hopping adventures. From Beijing travel north-west for just one hour to Seoul, three hours west to Tokyo, four hours south to Manila or Bangkok and five hours to Singapore. Asia awaits!

Got experience of working in China? What are the downsides? Post up your comments below, we want to hear from you!

If you liked this article you might also like: Travel China like a Pro: 7 Tips from Expert Travelers.

David Goodman Smith is a consultant for CRCC Asia Ltd, a UK/US based company that provides work placements for foreigners in Beijing.

For more info on work opportunities in China, drop them a line!

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15 comments… read them below or Add a Comment

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Carrie

I lived in China from 2003 to 2006 and I loved it. It was an incredible opportunity and I think that most of what is written here is bang-on. My time in China was one long amazing journey and I cherish the memories of my time there.

I met some truly inspiring people during my time there, both Chinese and expat friends. I also was able to take advantage of some terrific opportunities. I went to China to teach, but I was able to pursue a musical career there as well. I sang at a night club every night of the week with a Filipino rock band, I modeled, I acted in commercials, on TV, and in movies, and I was a radio host. These are just a few of the opportunities I was able to take advantage of during my time there.

Here are a few thoughts that I’d like to add:

Large cities are Westernized (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc.), but if you’re heading to a smaller city, you won’t find as many Western amenities. I lived in a small city in Northern China and we would wait for months for things like cheese and coffee to come in to the local Western food shop. By the time I left, little luxuries were getting easier to find though.

No matter where you are, people are warm and hospitable and they will display an avid curiosity in whatever you are doing. This can also work against you. I’ve had people follow me home and knock on my door at all hours of the day. While I consider China to be relatively safe, people should also be aware that cities are full of pickpockets. Keep your valuables safe and be aware of who is around you at all times, especially if you are on public transportation or if you are in a really public area.

The biggest downside to living in China, no matter which city I was in (with the exception of the rural countryside) was the air pollution and an apparent lack of respect for the environment.

The shopping, food, and nightlife, however, are second to none!

James

I think you have a typo. You wrote “12 excellent reasons to consider working in China” – but you only wrote 11. And also, Seoul is not north west of Beijing. And Tokyo is not to the west…

But anyway, good article. I’ve been thinking about working in China, but I wasn’t sure.

Katie

Great to hear about your experiences Carrie, thanks for sharing!

Oli's Shanghai Blog

Please don’t tell my Chinese teacher how easy it is to speak Mandarin…she will kick my behind!

Meh

I have lived half my life in China, and love it. But this list is total rubbish if quite hilarious.

1. “Expat” positions are dwindling, and half-pats are paid poorly. You’ll earn a third what you’d make in the West, but still several times more than your probably more qualified Chinese competition for the job. If hired at all, it’s probably to have a decorative white person to make the company look “international”.

2. Unless you are an amazing worker or at a very small company – not that likely.

3. You can live very well here on under US$1000, but it’s ever harder to do so downtown in a main city. And even harder if you’re not Mandarin fluent enough to pay Chinese (not expat) prices. For most, prepare to pay Manhatten prices for a commute practically from Hubei.

4. True that, but real fluency to the point of comfort requires 3-4 years of dedicated, full-time study. Unless you do that, or already have some Mandarin background, then prepare to feel and look like a lost, bumbling idiot – and probably end up bitter and racist towards the Chinese as a result.

5. “Chinese People” (*eyeroll*) are very nice to you if A. you are family or a close friend, or B. they are trying to rip you off. Unless you are certain it is A., and close means very close, be very suspicious of random friendliness. “The Chinese” are wonderfully sincere that way.

6. Also true – if you are into getting drunk at crummy bars. There is great culture in the big cities as anywhere, but the good stuff is not often that English-accessible. As for social life, prepare for the bunker mentality and lots of intimacy with other expats you’d abhor if “back home” – which is actually one of the best things about expat life, it’s the great equalizer.

7. Yeah, if you live in a whites, cleaning ladies and mistresses only ghetto in the suburbs of downtown. Yay neocolonialsim! Granted, the expats who come to China voluntarily are not the ones who can afford the apartheid rents and the $20 boxes of cereal.

8. Outstanding beauty. If you can see it through the smog, if a cadre hasn’t carved his calligraphy into it, and if you don’t mind wading through the refuse of other tourists. Natural beauty is pretty far from most of the cities, also, although the cities have amazing beauty inherent if you can see it.

9. Not always. Lots of pickpockets, and the occasional attack by beggars and/or nationalists. Sexual harassment can get pretty bad, especially if you’re ethnic Asian.

10. Eight? That’s unfair. It’s true that China has an amazing array of food. But the sort of expats enthralled by lists like this shy away from the best of it.

11. Yeah! And it gets old fast.

Come on, this is so aimed at recent grads who will come to party and teach English.

While not on Western scales, there is huge un- and under-employment for recent Chinese college grads in white coller jobs. I recently recruited, and it’s amazing how many really qualified, savvy Chinese kids are desperate for decent jobs. For foreigners, unless you’re Mandarin fluent AND willing to startUS$3 an hour, you can’t compete. Not that you could get a legal visa anyhow.

Adam Daniel Mezei

Posts like this make me wonder what the true answer is, the life of the expat…I just got back from a 2-week trip to China myself. I sat with many who said it’s like this, and then with others who said it’s like that.

Some seem to have had such and such an experience…experiences like Carrie’s. Others have had experiences like Meh’s. It’s confusing and we all want to know what’s the real story…a 2-week trip is one way to drill down to the answer. But can that replace on the ground experience over the course of the long-haul? In China, the answer seems to be especially “no.”

I’m glad I had a chance to get there for myself to see how it all plays out.

These comments just prove to me that there’s no such thing as a “China expert,” and finding expert opinion about what goes on in the country is really hard to come by. If you don’t agree with me, prove to me otherwise.

Has anyone ever felt like the way I do right now?

–ADM

Peter

I’ve worked in China for a little more than a year in 2007 and I can relate to all the points. It doesn’t matter whether I agree with Carrie or Meh, what matters is that I went out there, I had the experience, and I would never give it back. For me, it was much closer to Carrie’s experience and depending on your personality, your experience in China will vary significantly. All I want to say is working abroad is something EVERYONE should try, at least for a year. You will learn so much about the country, yourself, and it’s the best way to learn a new language. Stop reading about people’s opinions and go make your own!

Robbie

Meh’s response is just that of a cynic who is probably not content with anywhere. I agree with Peter, Carrie and Daniel. From my experiences of a 6 month teaching placement in China, its a fascinating, bizarre, wonderful, confusing experience and one which I would never ever regret.

Meh is also factually very wrong. Of course you can get a legal visa for working in china, ludicrous to suggest otherwise, the average expat earns far more than the Chinese whether he speaks Mandarin or not. I didnt once see any crime, thought the country and people were amazing and I loved the food.

I dont like how one person who had a bad time in a place tries to push his negative attitude on to everyone else. All the expats I know in China love it.

jessiev

great list -living abroad ANYWHERE for an extended period of time will open your mind. thanks!

Heather

Interesting discussion going on here. It definitely depends on each person’s experience and what type of job/salary package you get, although you can certainly get #3 in a lot of Asian countries if you budget right.

INA

Internship Network Asia (INA) offers a comprehensive program that provides participants with a working experience in Shanghai with all inclusive package:
an internship placement (Internship in China – Shanghai), housing, insurance, chinese lessons, pick-up and drop-off from the airport
and many other useful services to guarantee participants comfort.We require that all applicants have fluent English skills and high school diploma.
Our internship placements are both full and part-time, paid and unpaid depending on skills, duration and background.

Internship in China

All the reasons are true and helpful too. Because china is a powerhouse of excellence, if you succeed no one can stop you.

jennifer

i am looking at working in china- i have no idea where to start looking for a job/ somewhere to live if anyone can give me ideas please let me know!
thanks

Dave

Well I live in a city, Behai,,China. Food is very good, any type of fresh seafood,all very cheap. I bought my own place for less then $50,000 USA dollars and paid cash. No tax again on my home for 70 years. People are all very friendly, very kind and I have many Chinese friends. No air pollution like big cities. I am retired and live on my retirement of $1200 USD. Can afford a car, a electric bike, travel all over China, go tot a very clean beach every day, afford to have a lady clean my home, do my laundry,and have a man who is my driver and still pay all monthly bills, electric,phone,computer, TV, gas and water and have money left over. Try doing that in America. Can walk anywhere, anytime of the day and am safe. Crime here is so rare when it does occur, the person actually goes to jail. I’ll stay here for being able to live on my retirement with my Chinese wife is something I could never do in the USA. We eat out more then at home, go out with Chinese to drink,play games and we also have a few foreign friends here from other countries. I have learned enough Chinese that I can have conversations with everyone and am learning more every day.All I can say is this is a great place to live.

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