Employee Transitioning to China

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Introduction to the Country

For an HR Business Partner moving to a different country, the process of transitioning and adjustment to the new culture should start with the obtaining of the information about the country. It is essential to familiarize with the country’s particular features that might differ from those commonly observed in the US. Since the country of choice is China, the significant differences in its work ethics and national culture play a significant role in successful adaptation to the new working environment. The People’s Republic of China is one of the largest countries of the world, with the population estimated more than 1.4 billion people.

Politically, the state is a one-party socialist republic which is why the majority of the population does not pursue any religion, and those who do are Buddhists, Christians, or Muslims. Currently, China is the fastest-growing economy in the world, producing the largest share of materials and products within numerous industries. The long history of the country, its political, ideological, religious, and cultural particularities predetermine the local customs and work ethics, which are relevant for an employee moving to China.

Chinese Local Customs

In general, the people from China and the US share a lot of similarities in terms of prioritizing interpersonal relationships, work, money, and success. However, there are significant differences that are inherent in the opposing political and social vision characteristic to the two countries. To identify several particular local customs in China, one should state that due to the socialist party’s rule, the overall relationship between people in various domains is influenced by a collectivistic approach (Bryant, 2019). Individualism is not characteristics to the people of China; therefore, the new employee moving to this country should be prepared for extensive teamwork, shared responsibilities, and dependence of one’s performance on the outcomes produced by others.

When discussing the everyday life issues that might be surprising for an American, it should be stated that the Chinese eat with chopsticks and never with knives and forks, drink hot water, and dishes might be shared by all who dine at the same table. It is considered inappropriate to give clocks as presents or interact too closely with people by hugging or kissing. The knowledge of these details will help the employee integrate into the new environment without making mistakes and causing conflicts.

The Requirement for Working in China

As it has been stated, China is the leading economy of the world; its growing industries attract multiple immigrants and foreign workers who have significantly influenced the employment issues in the country. In order to regulate the inflow of foreigners seeking work opportunities in China, the government made the legislation concerning travels to China more regulated and complicated (Watters et al., 2018).

In the past, unskilled personnel crossed the Chinese border overpopulating multiple sectors of the economy with low-quality performance. However, in 2017, China “amended the Administrative Rules on the Employment of Foreigners in China and issued two notices integrating the two pre-existing work permit systems” (Watters et al., 2018, p. 263). Thus, it is now a several-step process that all foreigners in an attempt to work in China have to pass to obtain a working visa.

To get a work visa, the employee must prepare a list of documents and fill out a number of forms. As the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America. (2017) states, for foreigners who want to work in China, the visa of Z category is required. The list of documents required to obtain the Z visa includes:

  • Passport.
  • Visa application form and photo.
  • Photocopy of previous Chinese passports or previous Chinese visas (if a person was a Chinese citizen and has obtained foreign citizenship).
  • One of the following documents:
    • Foreigners Employment Permit of the People’s Republic of China issued by Chinese government authorities for Human Resources and Social Security
    • Permit for Foreign Experts Working in China issued by the State Bureau of Foreign Experts
    • Registration Certificate of Resident Representative Offices of enterprises of foreign countries(regions) issued by Chinese authorities
    • An approval document for commercial performances issued by the Chinese government authorities for cultural affairs
    • Letter of Invitation to Foreigners for Offshore Petroleum Operations in China (Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America, 2017).

Once the person receives the visa to work in China, they cannot be employed in any other organization but the one that issued the work visa. Therefore, it is critically important to ensure the accuracy and legality of all the necessary documentation to guarantee proper organization of the transitioning process. When all the issues are settled, and one gets the visa and prepares for living and working in a new environment, it is essential to understand the cultural differences between China and the US.

Cultural Differences Between China and the US

Collectivistic culture is inherent to Chinese society, which has a history of prioritizing societal interests instead of personal goals. It might be a challenging mindset for an individual from the USA, where individualism and capitalism are dominant social philosophies. Thus, to integrate into a working team, one should learn to be driven by the merits of the group rather than personal benefits (Bryant, 2019). In their interpersonal relations, the Chinese people tend to seek harmony and balance, which also determines their working ethics. As it has been stated, China has gained significant development in the world’s largest industries, which was possible due to the determined commitment and hard work of the Chinese employees. Hard work and commitment to work are primary characteristics of work setting in China.

Importantly, obedience to authorities and abiding by the rules of conduct are taken very seriously by the Chinese people. As Bryant (2019) mentions, “hierarchy is important to the Chinese and respect will be shown to those higher up in the structure” (para. 3). On the contrary, American companies often practice less linear organizational structures that do not prioritize subordination but rather concentrate on the value contributed to the corporation by each individual. In line with this observation, communication ethics in the workplace is also marked by the importance of showing respect to others and avoiding rude or uncomfortable topics (Bryant, 2019). In communication with Chinese coworkers, the HR Business Partner should be ready for indirect communication where information is implicit rather than directly stated.

Building trust determines the success of business efforts. Mere commercial interests characteristic to the American businessmen will not apply to the Chinese setting where interpersonal relations on trusting terms contribute to the business cooperation Bryant, 2019). On an interpersonal level outside the working setting, friendship is regarded as a pivotal issue in the life of a Chinese person, the trust and support to whom one should demonstrate by loyalty and help. It is common in the working environment too, where one should cherish relationships with coworkers.

Another influential cultural difference between the Chinese and Americans is the attitude toward space. In the USA, people are used to associating large living spaces with comfort and treat it as an obligatory asset of fulfilling life. In contrast to that, in Chinese cities, people commonly live in small apartments with a lack of personal space (Bryant, 2019). This is conditioned by the high population number of the country. In addition, modest behaviour is respected and encouraged in the Chinese workplace. People who keep their achievement to themselves and do not demonstrate their superiority are respected in China. On the contrary, in American society, philosophy is the opposite and entails the active promotion of one’s achievements for a better reputation. One should adjust their behavior within this realm to avoid conflicts or failures to establish good communication in the new workplace.

Working and Living in China

Once officially employed, the individual will be insured, and the deductions for housing funds will be made on a monthly basis. These funds might be extracted by the employee once they decide to purchase an apartment or a house. Longer working hours are very common to many Chinese workplaces, where employees are allowed to nap during the day to endure their working capacity and productivity. In terms of the cost of living in the country, it differs from city to city, but on a general scale, it is lower than in the USA. On average, one might spend $200 to $700 per month for the rent of an apartment in a city (“The cost of living in China,” n. d.).

Food prices vary from $2 to $5 per meal and will require approximately $150 per month. The transportation using public busses, subways, taxis, and trains will cost about $50 a month.

Generally, the employees obtaining a work visa and officially employed at Chinese companies have medical insurance. However, if one is unable to obtain medical services within their insurance plan, it would be required to “make a short 15-minute visit to a private doctor and pay about $42 out of pocket” (“The cost of living in China,” n. d.). Overall, one would be prepared to integrate into Chinese society possessing a brief overview of the working and living conditions in this country.


In summation, for the HR Business Partner moving to China for work, it is essential to learn as much cultural information about the country as possible to avoid confusion and complications. The understanding of local customs, social norms, work ethics, and life conditions will enhance the opportunity of successful integration into the new environment and facilitate performance outcomes.

Despite such differences between the USA and China as individualism and collectivism, differences in communication, food habits, and social norms, the knowledge of basic cultural particularities will help the employee to integrate into the new working environment. The practical experience and the direct interaction with the people in the workplace and outside of it will enhance the knowledge and help the HR Business Partner become a valuable team member in the new place of work.


Bryant, S. (2019). Identifying cultural differences and similarities: China vs. the US. Country Navigator. Web.

The cost of living in China. (n.d.). Web.

Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America. (2017). How to apply. Web.

Watters, C. G., Feng, X., & Tang, Z. (2018). China overhauls work permit system for foreigners. Industrial Law Journal, 47(2), 263-277.

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