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The unexpected knowledge and skills you can gained in China [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2013-10-23 16:14:25 |Display all floors

Stepping foot in a country with over 3,000 years of history is exciting yet daunting. Ideals of what you could do swirl in your head because you have read everything that you needed to know about China – a country that has become a competitive force at the international level ever since it opened its doors to the world in the early 1990s.

With her arms wide open, foreigners have made China their new adopted home – temporarily or for a longer term – because of opportunities. Foreigners near and far have come for various purposes: to study, to work or even to find love. Still, whether you like it or not, unexpected skills are learned and knowledge is gained even after moving to China.

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Post time 2013-10-23 16:16:12 |Display all floors

Let’s talk!

Whether you can speak null, a little bit or a lot of Chinese, communicationis a skill that needs to be relearned at some point during one’s stay. Imagine having to find your way around with little spoken Chinese. In an unorganized city like Wuhan in the province of Hebei, Garic B. from the United States, came to China to study Chinese. When the school term had already started, Garic needed to sort out his immigration. But being a self-paid student at that time, not much help came from school officials so he had to complete all of his paper work by himself as well as looking for a place to stay. This experience didn’t deter him from leaving the country. However, it was the Wuhan customs that tested his resilience. “In Wuhan, I learned how to yell,” he said, recalling the times when people did not stand in line. “I had to learn to push my way around in the Wuhan dialect and to push my way to the front so that I can be heard.”

Hearing is one thing, yet understanding is another. “Communication is not just about speaking good English,” said British expat, James O’dowd and owner of Rebel Rebel, a café and bar in Guangzhou. Even after living in China for 12 years, spearheading a bar with local staff is learning how to balance his own culture with those who surround him. “The idea of explaining to somebody and believing that they understood everything you had said. You go away and come back the next day and then find out that they [the staff] didn’t understand. You realize that you have to be slower and to communicate clearly.”

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Post time 2013-10-23 16:17:32 |Display all floors

“Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?”

Body language alone might not suffice when trying to communicate your intentions. Known for her short bop and her bubbly personality, Tiffy Li is Chinese and works for EF English First, a language training institute in Guangzhou. Relaying information between local staff and international teachers, for example, is an art for her. “Foreigners are usually more direct while Chinese people tend to be too indirect most of the time. I think communication, respect and understanding between each other are the key to improve understanding for both foreigners and Chinese.”

At present, the economic booms in the past have led the factories to flourish to a level where foreign talents have been needed. Such was the case for Graham C. from Ireland. Prior to living in Guangzhou, he went on business trips to Shanghai, Hangzhou and Dongguan as a furniture designer. This exposure to different Chinese cities encouraged him to take the ‘relax’ approach when dealing with local staff at the factories. “At the beginning, I had high levels of frustrations. During those moments, a lot of people would look at me and they would give me an objectionable smile. I would ask myself: ‘Why are they smiling at me? Why are you not helping me in moments of anger and impatience?’ When I realized that this anger or this impatience wasn’t helping me move forward, I took this relaxing approach,” he said.

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Post time 2013-10-23 16:21:50 |Display all floors

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…”

It is a shock to see so many people in first-tier cities in China where the city swells depending on a particular time of the year. China is not for everybody. Accepting that you will be staying here, even momentarily, is an adjustment phase.  “You choose to be here so get over it,” said Garic. “As a language student and being in a room with other foreign students who have their own businesses or have PhDs, it’s interesting to learn a language because you’re sent back to a kindergarten level very quickly. When we are discussing the color of your hair and that’s all you can say, it brings your walls down. You become vulnerable.”

Outside of China, Chinatowns have been the lifeblood of the Chinese culture, sharing their talents and their know-hows with the natives. This also applies to foreigners who wish to set up their own bussiness in China. “We could bring a little bit of our culture. And bring it to the masses. So that’s a great way to set up a business because you’ve got skills and knowledge that a Chinese person wouldn’t necessarily have,” said O’dowd. These days, Rebel Rebel has been attracting more Chinese locals than before when it first opened a year ago. Many locals have enjoyed the British ambiance and it has stayed true to foreigners’ expectations regarding food, live music and customer service.

When you are in the product development industry such as in the case of Graham, pushing the creative process continues be a challenge for him. “By living here, I’m feeding a knowledge. In my project development department, I’m also giving them new ideas that they haven’t seen before. They see it as an added benefit from me. That they can reuse my knowledge later on in the future.”

This shared knowledge between foreigners and locals have led to lasting friendships for Li. Working for a foreign company has allowed her to be exposed to different cultures that her parents might not have had the chance while growing up. “My experience with one particular foreigner made us best friends because we can share our thoughts together,” she said.

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Post time 2013-10-23 16:29:33 |Display all floors

Word on the street

Some other unexpected skills and knowledge people have gained after moving to China:

Renee M. – USA, formerly living Guangzhou, now in Turkey: “To get over myself; To accept things for what they are instead of being angry about what they’re not; How to laugh at others.”

James R. - Madagascar: “Having to adapt to the crowded metro since it’s always full; Making friendship with Chinese is difficult; Beers have lower alcohol percentage in China.”

Lisa May – Canada: “You can get by without knowing a lot of Chinese words; the use of body language can go far even when you can’t speak a lot of Chinese. I have seen people in smaller cities to be more willing to understand you; Chinese families have different expectations from Canadian families – the inner workings.”

Paul – Belgium: “Learning how to deal with cockroaches and how to get rid of them; to appreciate the Chinese’s way of thinking by listening and following every word without making too many interpretations.”

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Post time 2013-10-24 06:11:47 |Display all floors
I'm learning some soft skills from my Chinese fiancé and my Chinese coworkers.

They have this skill I cannot master in which they choose not to reply, rather than give a reply that must be hurtful. They change the subject, distract with something else. Sometimes, it is irritating and gets her in trouble. Sometimes, a person NEEDS an answer, even if they don't like it.

An older Hong Kong guy taught me to play table tennis many years ago. He can still beat me, even though he's 60 and I'm 37, but I got much better!

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