Before coming to China, I expected work culture to be rigorous and non-stop. I expected my supervisor to have extremely high expectations of me and to receive little praise. I work at a small NGO called the CEO Roundtable On Cancer. When it was first founded the mission was to help organizations improve the health ofof the employees through cancer prevention and screening. This mission has expanded to workplace wellness in general and mental health specifically. I am very excited to be working on mental health in particular because it is something that is very stigmatized in China. Although the Chinese population experiences mental health issues just as much as any other population, the fact that many do not feel safe to seek out help and when they do there are few resources to help them means that many who are experiencing mental health issues in China are suffering in silence. I am excited to see what the development of mental health services will look like in the future.
At the start of my internship I was aware that many who work in nonprofits and NGOs worked very hard often for little pay, but they are often so motivated by the mission that this is negligible. I was expecting the same, however I came to see that although supervisors expected excellent work, Chinese working culture wasn’t as rigorous as I thought it would be.
I knew that Siestas were apart of certain cultures in Europe such as Spain and Italy, but I was not expecting that in China. In China, lunch breaks tend to be longer, somewhere between an hour and a half to two hours. During that time employees are encouraged to take naps. My supervisor even had a pillow at work.
2. Living near your job (Workers living quarters)
A number of emplyers provide housing on or near the worksite in China. For example, many construction and factory workers live in living quarters built by the company. At Universities, Professors and their entire families including Children and Parents are provided housing.
3. Indirect communication
In China, people strive to be non-confrontational and this way of communication is also evident in the work environment. There were a few times when I misunderstood a task and finished a project only to find out it did not meet the approval of my manager. I learned that the best way to navigate this is to keep your manager informed along the way and let them know you are open to suggestions. For example, when my manager gave me directions I would ask that they be written down or sent in an email so that we were all clear of what was expected. I would also repeat back the directions to them and at the end of the day show them the progress I had made on the task assigned. This seemed to help prevent any future misunderstanding
All in all, I do not think work culture is that much different in China than in the US, but everyone’s experience will be different depending on what type of company they work for and the particular job they have.