Blog Reader Asking For Advice Moving To China

In china business by Michael Michelini1 Comment

I have blogged about Americans wanting to move to China in a few different ways, and I have answered why I moved to China …..but again and again my email box becomes flooded with questions like the below from Ricardo:

On Sat, Jan 7, 2012 at 9:36 AM, Ricardo wrote:
Hey Michael!

How are you? I’ve found your website on the web, and have been reading it ever since. I’m writing to you because I’m planning on going to china to live and work and I’d like to get as much feedback as possible before I take this huge decision.

I’ ve been to china a couple of times, and I really enjoy it. But I would like to know more things about it, that a couple of days could never say.

How is it like to do business in china, how do they treat the laowai and is there much corruption? What about food? is it as fake as they say it is? ( it all tasted great when I was there)

Most importantly, what tips can you spare on the whole subject?

thank you,

best regards,

Ricardo from Portugal

On the “twittersphere” I found a interesting site that outlines why Americans and other foreigners should NOT move out to China.

In some ways, I have to agree a lot with what this website has to say…and would recommend reading the whole post To answer Ricardo’s email directly:

How is it like to do business in china

I would have to say ….you should choose the line of business carefully. I think the traditional foreigner coming to China in the past has been BUYING from China (sourcing) – so the Chinese here are used to foreigners coming here to GIVE THEM MONEY, not sell to them….

Lately, that is changing…and more and more foreigners here are coming to sell to Chinese – As China is not cheap anymore….inflation, RMB/USD currency, etc….less foreigners are buying.

I think this is changing the “tone” to foreigners coming here…..Making Chinese feel like they are “being sold to”, rather than receiving the money….

To add to that, Chinese love to learn, and have been welcoming foreigners who come here and add higher value jobs to the economy. And as Chinese have been moving from manufacturing to office jobs….they are less “needy” for foreigners to come here and do these jobs.

So, in these ways, the past few years it has been getting more difficult for the foreigner coming to do business in China.

how do they treat the laowai

Chinese are very curious people. Some foreigners get upset when Chinese stare at them, but I just smile right back. And Chinese smile back too. Babies sometimes are a bit scared to see a foreigner.

Actually, Chinese normally trust foreigners more than other Chinese! That is why there are some programs such as “rent a white guy“, so this can also be leveraged.

is there much corruption?

Again, depending on what type of business you are in….Chinese are very competitive people. I believe its best to have the mindset that chinese see business as a game of Chess. Its all about positioning. And being in the right relationships, the right circles.

So, in this way, when certain people get power, they sometimes use it for the wrong benefits.

But, besides internet filtering (China blocks facebook, twitter, and more)….I don’t deal much with government. I just try to find businesses where I am not too reliant on large organizations or government. And that is true in any country as far as I am concerned, China, USA, France, etc.

What about food?

is food as fake as they say it is? (it all tasted great when I was there)

It took me some time to get used to it. I used to love spicy food in America…but here in China its soooo much spicier! Seriously I think its the oil thats used. I stay away from spicy food now. But I love BBQ! Street BBQ outside in the middle of the night with a big bottle of beer. Those are the priceless times I treasure.

There have been cases about fake eggs, tainted baby milk powder. Another thing to worry about is there are stories cheaper restaurants re-use cooking oil multiple times.

I’ve been here long enough…I just somehow try my luck. Some of my friends are more careful then I….but I want to get the local food.

Most importantly, what tips can you spare on the whole subject?

Ohhhhhh man, the tips for a new foreigner (fresh meat!) coming to China…I think most importantly is to start slowly…and do not assume things work like they do in your own country.

Keep an open mind. Hold your breath when things don’t go as smoothly as possible. Try not to talk badly about china outloud, obviously….but I have had temper tantrums in Chinese offices and talk badly about China in front of Chinese…certain circumstances in business and life are not the fault of a group of people. I have learned to deal with it.

sometimes I hold my breath and as my friend Todd Kleperis said, we say “TIC” (this is China), deal with it, or leave. We cannot change it.

There are many great things about China….the people are great.

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  1. Great article Mike. I just wanted to add since I have lived in China for 7+ years. Be respectful and don’t try to change China. Each country has their own culture, own ways of doing things. If you don’t like it, get out. Adapt to the changes or frustrate yourself trying to change people that don’t want to be changed. And get used to be punished. Because common sense is not a gift, its a punishment. Because you have to deal with everyone who doesn’t have it!!! And let the little children poke you with there fingers to see if you’re real, its a kick when you play back and fall to the floor shaking…the looks on their faces that they just injured a wei-guo-ren (foreigner)  hahaha

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