5 Things I’ve Learned From Working In A Chinese Company
It’s been 3 months, since I started working in a Chinese company here in Changsha, Hunan Province. Unlike the “typical” foreigner image in China, I do not teach English but work in the Marketing Department of a Chinese-German company selling computer accessories worldwide. As of now, I am the only foreigner working in the company – all my coworkers are Chinese. It’s not always easy and the “corporate” world in China differs a lot from the one in the West.
Here’s what I found out:
Being on Time is Essential
In my previous work experience, which basically consisted of summer work and internships, I was familiar with time cards. You “log yourself in” when you arrive in the morning, and then you check out in the evening when you go. This is mostly used for hourly workers, though. I used to work in a beverage company during a summer or two to earn some extra money and where i worked 8 hours at the belt lifting wine up and down.
In my Chinese company, you even need to check in and out using your fingerprint. There is a small device where you place your index finger and recognizes you and saving the time you arrived and left. This is a very strict procedure, because even if you are only 1 second late, it will mark you red.
On my first day of work, I was shown around by two co-workers who can speak decent English and I was introduced to all other coworkers and their position in the company. I greeted everybody and also introduced myself. Done – I thought.
However, when a new co-worker was employed after me, I noticed that despite being introduced to everybody in person, they still send out a mass email to everybody stating their professional background so far and sometimes even personal interests. When I asked one of my co-workers if this was a “thing” she said: “Yes, it’s polite in China. It’s a standard practice.”
So, if you started working in a Chinese company, send out a mass email to everybody with a short introduction about yourself. I am sure they will be impressed!
Another thing about being new in a Chinese company (and this is also true for Koreans) is that you need to “gain the acceptance” from your co-workers and boss by being the first to come and last to leave in the first working period. Also, interns and new employees in my company tend to go through the office in the morning and cleaning up.
Breakfast at the Office
I also noticed that most of my co-workers eat their breakfast at the office in the morning. There are lots of food vendors around the bus station and the office building itself offering all kinds of Chinese-style breakfast dishes to buy to go.
Now, I am also used to this practice because it simply saves time and is efficient. I get more time in the morning getting ready for work, I get on the bus and buy my breakfast in front of the office and eat it.
The selection for breakfast dishes is quite varied. You can get noodles or dumplings with different sauces, as well as Chinese egg muffins or steamed buns with different fillings! Super delicious and freshly made right on the spot for a couple RMB to buy.
Our offices are located in the city-center in a high-rise on the 24th floor. The entire building is full of offices. Therefore, the 3 elevators available are packed almost every morning, lunch time and evening. Usually, as many people enter the elevator as long as the warning sound did not go off. Now, I heard a lot of stories about elevators getting stuck and even collapse in China. I don’t see why this couldn’t happen here as well.
My co-workers told me, the emergency buttons don’t even work anymore. So in case the elevator gets stuck, you depend on the people outside to get help or you need to call for help using your cellphone, in case you have service.
So far, thank god, nothing happened with the elevators since I started working here. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Lots of my co-workers don’t leave the office during lunch-time. They either bring some leftovers, warm it up and eat it in the office or they order something for lunch and get it delivered directly to the office.
In our company, we get 1.5 hours for lunch. So, usually after my co-workers ate their lunch, they tend to rest for the last 30 minutes or so. They simply sleep at their desks. Sometimes, the entire office is silent and all of them are sleeping. That’s quite funny to me. But I must admit, I tried this special Chinese method a few times, too, and it is actually not that bad of an idea 😉
Napping after eating lunch is common practice in China. Not only employees do it but everybody. You can even see sales staff in stores nap during working hours a lot. Good night.
Overall, I can really say I enjoy working at a Chinese company. Even though, they do have different customs in the Chinese business world, people do not despise you as a foreigner because they know about the cultural differences. Therefore, a foreign employee is not expected to behave in the same way like their Chinese co-workers do. In the end, we all have to respect each other in and outside the office.