Working in China was not what I expected and in this post, I share what my experiences were of living and working in Dongguan City, Guangdong Province, China for four weeks back in May.
I took up what I thought would be a pretty cool opportunity, to consult one of China’s largest luxury hardware manufacturing companies. My main responsibility would be to help improve their communications with their top clients in America.
I met the CEO of the company in Melbourne who needed help to improve the communication channels of his company when dealing with his American clients such as Michael Kors and COACH. The opportunity meant I would start consulting from their office in China before relocating and working out of their office in New York. What an opportunity – how could I say no to that!
There were some things from the start that made me feel uncomfortable such as the fact that everything was done verbally. There was nothing in writing and there was no contract. Also, as expected, I asked a lot of questions at the start about the role and was told: “to stop asking questions and to just focus on getting to China”. This really annoyed me because how was I suppose to know if this was the right opportunity for me without asking questions?
Despite this, I still weighed up the risks and decided to go. After four weeks of working and living in China, I was irritated and decided that I didn’t want to pursue this opportunity to relocate to New York.
Cultural differences between China and Australia
I couldn’t stand the slurping, burping, sniffing and yes, smoking indoors when I was trying to enjoy my breakfast each morning at the hotel. Nothing was more disgusting than seeing someone at the table next to me burping and smoking while I was eating a piece of watermelon.
The Work Culture
As a consultant, I work my hours and expressed this is to the CEO. However, he completely disregarded this and expected me to get up at 6:40 am every day for an 8 am start. I had a lunch break from 11 am to 1 pm before returning to the company again from 1 pm to 5:30 pm – it was crazy! They even asked me to work on Saturdays.
From what I saw the employees worked very inefficiently. The staff worked on boring labour intensive tasks that would make them tired and take naps during their lunch breaks. I witnessed a lot of time wasting in the office with many people just waiting around for things to happen. Basically from what I saw I felt that the staff could work for a lot less hours if they knew how to work more efficiently with their time.
Another interesting observation was the fact that no one spoke about their activities outside of work. These people worked with each other for years but had no idea what they did for fun. This created a very robotic working environment with no personality.
I was also explained not to trust my co-workers and was told not to tell people that I was married. There were a lot of little white lies I was told to say if I was asked certain questions. I felt this company (and many others) from what I discovered, operated behind smoke and mirrors. They put a front up, but it’s a whole different story behind closed doors.
This was one of my biggest frustrations – I felt I was back in 1997! It was impossible to do anything online in China. The internet was so slow and impossible to use (even with a VPN, which I just read here is now illegal!). There was no access to Google or social media, and their search engine was impossible to use. There was no way I was able to continue working on my online businesses while I was in China.
You would think by the way people drive in China there were no road rules. The constant beeping of the horn was enough to send you bananas. There was no courtesy or etiquette whatsoever on the roads and some of the driving skills I saw was shocking. In the four weeks I was in China I nearly had two near misses.
I discovered in some parts of China you can buy a driver’s license, so you don’t even have to know how to drive in to have a license. Also, if you have a car accident, you are expected just to sit and wait in your vehicle in the middle of the busy road until the insurance company arrive which can sometimes be hours. Just imagine sitting in your hot car, in the midst of a busy road.
Besides the internet, the food was not what I expected. There were minimal choices when it came to brown or whole foods. I enjoy eating a whole food plant-based diet with minimal (and I mean minimal) meat and chicken and no oil. But most of the food in China was fried with massive amounts of oil.
It was also hard to smell fried food at breakfast – it made me ill. I think I was the only one at the hotel who ate fruit and steamed potatoes for breakfast. Everyone else stuffed their faces with fried rice, noodles and other Chinese style breakfast foods.
I was very pleased to discover a gorgeous little coffee place around the corner from my hotel and a gym that I could enjoy while I was there.
Work and Life Balance
I felt sorry for the people I saw and worked alongside in China. All they do is work six days a week with only 7 to 10 days off a year. Another disturbing thing was the fact that it was common for workers to live in a dorm room at the place of work. Employees don’t pay rent, or for food, such as their lunches and dinners. Can you imagine living and eating at your workplace for six days a week – it would make you feel sick!
It was a valuable learning experience and I never looked forward to coming back home as much as I did after this trip.
By the way, I declined the offer and didn’t go back to America after everything I experienced working under their rules – there was no way I could adapt to their culture. I also declined because I found out 3 days before I left for China in May that I was pregnant (what a shock) so there was no way in hell I was going to stay out side of Australia pregnant.
Here are some of my other travel posts: