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Four things I've learnt from working in Fuzhou

( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2015-06-02

Four things I've learnt from working in Fuzhou

It can be intimidating as a foreigner to come to Fuzhou to work in a waizi (China-based foreign company). The language barrier is just one of the obstacles together with the work culture, the codes of relationships and the values themselves.

Fuzhou is not Shanghai. The city is relatively small in Chinese standards and it doesn’t have the same level of international exposure as Shanghai does, at least for now. Some aspects of the Chinese and the Western cultures are so different that it seems impossible to reconcile one with the other. As a strong advocate of mutual understanding between people, however, I believe that it is manageable to work together towards a common goal.

The first thing I’ve learnt is: we should embrace the difference.

Yes, foreigners are different from the people in Fuzhou. And the Fuzhou locals are actually different from the typical Chinese depicted in the West.

As I often work with Fujianese business partners, I realize that they really value what is different in someone else. In Fuzhou, a foreigner is special and doesn’t go unnoticed. It is a great advantage for two reasons. First, people can spot you and remember you easily. This is highly beneficial as long as you have the proper behavior. A foreigner almost always has an edge when it comes to making friends, and Fuzhou is a particularly friendly city.

Second of all, by being so different, you really have something to bring to your local colleagues at workplace, even if you don’t realize it. The way ideas are created and plans are laid out is very different between the two cultures. There is a lot to share and also a lot to learn from one another.

The second point is: we should remember that we are not that different.

Differences cannot be an excuse for not trying to adapt to the local culture. Working in Fuzhou with local people requires efforts by both foreigners and locals.

It is important to keep in mind that locals and foreigners share similar dreams and ambition for happiness.

Fuzhou is a rapidly growing city with lots of opportunities in terms of work and business. Some foreign businesses fail to acknowledge that many Fujianese do not only want to work, but also want to learn new skills and have an interesting career. As Fuzhou develops economically, its taste for culture, arts and good living is also on the rise as well as people’s expectations.

A foreigner in a waizi has a special responsibility towards its Chinese colleagues as he or she is an ambassador of the main company.

If I work in Fuzhou, I should try to give more and ask less, and everybody should benefit from the collaboration.

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