shu and joe

Top Five Tips for Working in China

Published on February 12, 2008

Okay, this is a companion post to the previous one. I realized that most of my “tips” referred to living in China, but none of them referenced any on-the-job to-do’s. This is mainly because I don’t have many. After giving it a thought, I’ve come up with five.

1. Be prepared to sit next to people who smoke. If you’re a smoker, hooray, even the staunchest of multi-nationals let this little transgression go by and you have license to smoke at work! If you’re a non-smoker, put HR on speed dial and threaten to report anyone you see puffing into their monitors. The latter requires more evolved language capabilities, but waving your hand in front of your wrinkled nose also helps offenders get the idea.

2. The working hours at an advertising agency are 10:30am to 10:30pm. Depending on what you do, you’re looking at midnight or later. Working on weekends is not strange. Nor is having a co-worker call you at night (usually while you’re comfortably curled up on your couch watching a DVD box set of 24). There seems to be a fine line between work and non-work and the line is often and unapologetically crossed.

3. Bring something back for everyone after a long trip. Food usually elicits excitement, but feel free to be creative with your gifts. Just remember not to forget anyone when you’re in line at the duty free.

4. Jokes are tough. Even physical humor may not elicit a smile as some people assume you’ve actually fallen. Irony and sarcasm don’t translate too well, so you may want to skip that part of your getting-to-know-you repertoire.

5. Please refrain from touching, hugging and/or kissing of co-workers. In general, physical affection is limited to immediate family and loved ones. Work colleagues do not hug you unless it’s your last day of work and you have physically forced them into your arms. Ditto with the kisses. Putting lips to someone’s cheek is an act of impropriety that will surely turn said cheek pink with discomfort. A gentle touch on the shoulder might be okay if you want to get someone’s attention, but make it light and quick. Almost a non-touch kind of touch. Does that make sense?

Filed under: Beijing, Everyday Life
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