Ozlem is one of my good friends from master class. Currently she is working as expat in China and very interested in cultural diversity. She has prepared recommendations on how to overcome 5 possible challenges to work and live in China as expat based on her real experience there. Let’s read her sincere and useful recommendations to us. Thanks for this nice sharing, Ozlem !
"Ooooo...I am an alien...I am a legal alien..." What a beautiful song! Such descriptive lyrics! I never thought it would be my favorite song before I move to China.
Imagine a 30 year-old non-Chinese woman -almost loudly- singing this song and walking on the noisy streets of a Chinese city after attempting several times communication with the local people to buy some simple, daily stuff or to find out a restaurant to suppress hunger. Shocking, nerve to laugh, frustration? Or altogether. (?) Because this is a true story and she felt like an alien some time ago.
Even though I am pretty much familiar about Asian culture and people, for years working with/for them and socializing, it wasn't as easy as I thought before I move to China. I had chance to visit the city in advance of my moving decision, so I had an idea how it looks like at least. But the thing for expatriate in Asia is; visiting or being in contact for business purpose, enjoying the food and having curiosity about culture is something completely different than living in it and calling as "home". After the first shocking honeymoon period I call my adventure like "YinYang", nothing is pure good or pure bad. Or in other words, shadow cannot exist without light. Because living in China is also exciting, cheerful, amazing, enlarging and even sweeping sometimes. It is FUN. For Serap’s question about ‘5 possible challenges for Expats in China’ I believe my answers slightly modified it in ‘5 points crucial in China’. Let‘s have a look together;
1. Language Barrier. For and foremost, trying to learn the language and getting know the culture as much as you can is important. Chinese (Mandarin, indeed) is the most difficult language in the world. But it is the key to overcome the culture shock and understand the reasons behind the way of thinking and behaviors of Chinese people. Without that, it is almost impossible getting involve with local people and having a mutual understanding for good relationships.
2. Emergencies. Need to be prepared for the worst case scenarios. Make sure you have a list of phone numbers, addresses and people you can contact (Chinese or Mandarin speaking friends, coworkers and the Consulate) in case of a problem.
3. Food. Chinese food is highly sophisticated and delicious for some of us. It is a cuisine with regionally-differentiated extensive options but taste is different than westerners get used to or tasted before somewhere out of China. Besides the taste, food security is a big question mark. There are several bad news and articles about meat and oil security and suspects for genetically-modified food. So be careful about what and where you eat.
4. Crowd. Before coming China, think twice when you say it is crowd. You can wait for long-long time and may have 250 people queued before you for a simple table d’hote or a fast-food restaurant. It is normal not to be able to take the first coming metro and wait for the second or even the third one. Remember that there are more than a billion of people and crowd equals to noise after a point and Chines people like it somehow.
5. Avoiding stereotypes. Accepting and appreciating the differences. There are near 200 countries in the world and I don’t think there is one without stereotypes and generalizations. China is a country with a long history and a deep culture with thousands of good and some bad points, like others do. Promoting diversification drives empathy, abundance. Let yourself transform into an open-minded world citizen by accepting and appreciating the differences and even strangeness. Remember that it is a country with closed borders for years, so ordinary citizens still may behave introverted against foreigners and let them feel like aliens :)
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Ozlem Oda received her Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Dokuz Eylul University and earned her Engineering and Technology Management Master’s degree from Bosphorus University.
She entered her professional life in Yazaki Automotive Turkey which performs in automotive industry and conducted several projects in Turkey and United Kingdom. Being responsible engineer, she led the company to gain ‘Best in Class, 2006’ performance award from Honda-UK with her team. She continued her career in multinational companies such as Delphi Diesel and Gates&Stackpole Intl. in several different and progressive positions, and overseed the largest and the most complex program of the company over the global organization. Since 2012 she, as a consultant, helps the companies which have trading and/or investment plans in China, supports their commercial businesses for procurement, supplier and project management aspects. She speaks fluent English and Chinese (Mandarin).