7 Things Newcomers to China Should Know

China is now the second largest economy in the world and is quickly becoming the industrial and economic center of Asia. Many multi-national corporations base their headquarters out of major Chinese cities such as Shanghai or Beijing. If you are a Canadian thinking of moving to China for work, here are seven things that newcomers to China should know.

Learn Mandarin

While there are plenty of jobs available for English speakers, you won’t be able to reach your true potential in China until you learn Mandarin. Once you do, people will respect you more and better job opportunities will open up. If you don’t have time to learn Mandarin, you can still consider working in Hong Kong, which offers a wide array of jobs to English speakers.

Work Competitiveness

Competition level in China depends on where you live. In large cities, especially Hong Kong, the job market is extremely competitive with both international and local graduates trying to get work. In lesser-known cities however, you’ll probably have an easier time getting a job as a foreigner.


Canadian nationals need to have a visa before entering China. To work legally, you will need to ask your employer for paperwork and they will need to apply on your behalf. For any work or study that lasts longer than six months, you are required to obtain a Chinese Embassy certified health certificate.

Housing Options

In general, housing in China is far cheaper than trying to find a house in Canada. As a foreigner, you’ll only want to rent instead of buy. Trying to buy land as a foreigner is very complicated and you will probably end up losing money in the end.


As a Canadian, you’ll probably want your child to learn Chinese while still teaching him/her Western values and cultures. China’s major cities have several international schools that provide a primarily English speaking environment with the option of also learning Cantonese or Mandarin.

Learn the Culture

Chinese culture is miles apart from the way things work back in Canada. If your company doesn’t give you cross-cultural training, make sure you get it by yourself. A lack of culture training can lead to misunderstand and can have huge negative repercussions on your business. You may find Chinese to be ill-mannered and even rude at times, but many of these characteristics are just part of how things work in China.

Be a Diplomat

As a foreigner, you will need to understand both sides: the Western perspective and the Chinese perspective. Any successful expat in China uses diplomatic qualities to bridge the culture gap between cultures. If you only try to go your way, your Chinese staff will resent you for it. Like with any business, you need to understand your co-workers and gain their respect if you want to be efficient.