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Cultural Awareness: The Do’s and Don’ts for Living in China

Have you ever experienced culture shock? It’s as disheartening as it is inevitable. When you don’t understand local customs or how to communicate, it is very easy to feel isolated and intimidated. When you add the uncertainly and stress of relocation to the mix, culture shock can easily be considered the most common reason why international assignment fail. Since culture influences everything that we do, from working with colleagues to making new friends, employers need to ensure that assignees understand local so that they can be successful in their new location.

If you have an international assignment program, you probably have a lot of questions all the time about destination legal, tax and

Cultural Awareness

Photo Credit: Culture Shock

immigration issues. But, how often to you consider the cultural customs that will have the greatest impact on your employee?

Sometimes it’s good to know what they are going through. That’s why we are committing to sharing here common do’s and don’ts for living in some of our most popular destination countries. If you do manage an international program and you are interested in receiving more training, Expatise and their partner GRS Relocation run occasional master class sessions that cover issues similar to those addressed below, as well as legal, tax and immigration concerns. I’ve included information and a sign up at the end of the post.

Without further ado, here are some important do’s and don’ts for assignees moving to China from our partner, Beverly Dwiggins – Mayhew:

China Dos:

1. The order of Chinese names is family name first, then given name. Brides in China do not adopt their husband’s surnames.

2. Always address people with their official title, referring to them as Mr/Mrs/Ms, plus their last name. Do not call them by their first name unless invited to do so.

3. A handshake is common form of greeting. While meeting elders or senior officials, a handshake should be gentle and accompanied by a slight nod.

4. Always show respect to the elders and acknowledge them in a group first.

5. The Chinese do not usually accept a gift, invitation or favor when it’s first presented. Politely refusing two or three times is thought to reflect modesty and humility.

6. Always present your gifts with both hands. And be aware of color when wrapping. Red represents lucky, pink and yellow represent happiness and prosperity, while white, grey and black are for a funeral. White or yellow flowers (especially chrysanthemums) are also used for funerals.

China Don’ts:

1. Do not use your own chopsticks or spoon to dish shared dishes (which is customary) when eating with a group, use the serving spoon to dish into your bowl or plate to eat instead.

2. Do not open a present in front of the giver, it is not polite.

3. Do not leave your chopsticks upright in the rice bowl before or after eating a meal. Instead, lay them on your dish. Doing it in a restaurant or a private home would be a terrible curse on the proprietor, as sticking chopsticks in the rice bowl looks like the shrine with two sticks of incense stuck upright in it, which is equivalent to wishing death upon person at the table.

4. Do not give a gift like clocks (giving a watch is okay), straw sandals, a stork or crane, handkerchiefs and anything white, blue or black which are associated with death or cause for crying and are perceived to bring people bad fortune.

5. Do not lose your temper – losing one’s temper is an absolute loss of face.

6. Do not point the bottoms of your feet to any person when sitting. Try to sit cross-legged or tuck your legs underneath you.

7. Do not touch someone unless you absolutely have to. Chinese people do not enjoy being touched by strangers, which is the direct opposite to Western society.

8. Biting your nails or putting your hands in your mouth as it is considered to be vulgar in Chinese culture.

9. Do not behave in a carefree manner in public. Embracing or kissing when greeting or saying goodbye is highly unusual.

10. Do not write cards or letters with red ink or ball pen as it symbolizes the end of a relationship.

11. Do not forget to take off your shoes when entering any home in China, unless are told not to.

These are just a few cultural considerations that we hope you will share with your assignees moving to China. If you are interested in learning more, or taking an in-depth Master Class on relocating employees to specific locations, please sign up below for more information.

Our next course will be held in October – November 2014 and the course title is “Employing local and foreign staff in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia.” Specifically, we will be covering:

  • Immigration issues specific to each country
  • Labor laws specific to each country
  • Tax regulation
  • Social security issues

Interested in receiving more information about the Master Class? Sign up below (we will not send you any information that is not related to the Master Class).

International Master Class Information Form

[contact-form][contact-field label=’First name’ type=’name’/][contact-field label=’Last Name’ type=’text’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

Thank you for your interest!

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RICK CALANNI
VP of Business Development Northeast Region

 

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