Guest post by Shlomo Freund, Founder of Start Up Noodle – Asian entrepreneurs community
I started my China journey as part of a Chinese company. Without the benefits of a relocation pack, I spent a few grueling months trying to secure a position before coming to China, it was harder than I thought it’d be, but in the end I did it! It wasn’t the perfect position, but it was my ticket to China and I intended to make the best of it.
Fast forward, and I’m on a plane on my way to becoming an intern in a Chinese company.
I think the best way to start helping you prepare for a position in a Chinese company, is to share with you my impressions from the first couple of days on the job.
These days, and actually the entire period there taught me a lot about the Chinese mindset, work style, rules and conventions, and also how to successfully handle these and the various cultural differences. Coming from the world of High-Tech where hours are flexible and office atmosphere is quite loose and personal, I faced several challenges in my new position.
One very important thing I learned as well, is that there are times that your colleagues will go out of their way to help you with things you didn’t even expect. I did expect my employer to help me find an apartment, but I didn’t expect that my colleague will barge for me and save me a lot of money on the rent. She really made tremendous efforts to help us buy our stuff for the house and barging there as well, getting us good prices.
Time is everything
Although societies in many Asian countries don’t seem to attach much importance to keeping times (take India as extreme example) this does not apply to work places in China. At least when it comes to official working hours Chinese companies are very strict about employees arriving on time.
From my experience they want you to come on time and leave as late as possible. It really doesn’t matter if you stayed late yesterday, that was time you generously contributed to the company (paid or non-paid depends on your contract), today is a new day and you must be in the office on time, if not a little early to show your commitment.
When the work day ends there’s a tendency in many companies to stay over time, and the decision when to go home depends less on the clock and more on when the boss decides to call it a day, it’s not an official statement, but when he’ll walk out the door many will quickly pack up and follow.
I remember that on the first 3-4 days in the office my computer clock was set by mistake to 7-8 minutes ahead of my boss’s clock. I didn’t notice it, coming and going around the set times, keeping my hours with some flexibility. Until after a few days, when I was about to leave, my boss pointed out that I still had 7 more minutes of work left…
My next cultural difference encounter was when during the work day I had to call my wife as we moved to a new apartment the previous day and there was a lot to do. I called her and we spoke for a couple of minutes. Following that I was told that phone calls should be made only on lunch time or after leaving the office, not during working hours…
Western companies are more forgiving/flexible about this and more “holistic” about employee’s needs and their welfare, something that Chinese companies are sometimes lacking.
Time is everything, with some exceptions…
One great thing on Chinese working culture is nap time. It’s acceptable to put down your head on your desk while working, if you are feeling tired. It’s great for after lunch time tiredness we are all fighting with and trying to keep ourselves awake. I saw my colleagues doing it and it really felt okay doing the same. Its something you would never do on a western company.
Instead of that being count as a waste of time, it counts as a way of increasing your efficiency. Let me mention a yoga mattress that was folded at our office corner enabling us to sleep properly on lunch time if we wanted.
The Time is NOW!
One more thing you should be aware of is the urgency factor. You have many tasks on your hands and they all need to be done now, and results are always expected quickly. Plans (like marketing plans, I’ve done and executed) were always asked be on shorter schedule.
Short cuts will be taken, and time tables will not always be reasonable, when I saw fit I tried to advise against taking short roads that’ll only end up becoming long ones, sometimes it worked, sometimes it only left me frustrated, but the expectation for faster results always remained.
Seems like I’m complaining…no? So, I’m really not. This period was one of my best experiences in understanding Chinese work culture. It was a wonderful lesson about how a Chinese business works, how the Chinese mind works and how to cope with them both.
I assume that when you’ll arrive to China you won’t create your start up or project right away. You’ll need time to explore and understand how things work. So, even though there are always exceptions, I highly recommend NOT skipping this stop in your Chinese experience. You will learn a lot!
Thank you for reading —I’d love for you to reach out over Twitter
Shlomo Freund (@StartUpNoodle) is the founder of Start Up Noodle. Shlomo helps entrepreneurs arrive to Asia and China in order to create their own business.
Shlomo created several businesses related to China: China Business webinars and eBusiness Chinese. This along with a 9 year experience in the internet marketing world makes this China entrepreneurship journey more exciting than ever.