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The daily negotiations of expat life in China


The significance of the cultural differences between the West and China are very badly misunderstood by the majority of Westerners.

I have already detailed some of the more simple and obvious differences and misunderstandings, however adapting to these differences is a significant challenge. The adaptation to different cultures, and then finding a way to work effectively, is very draining both mentally and physically.

Kelsey Cole book coverA good example of this is a simple hotel contract. Your company has a contract with a hotel (can be a local brand or for that matter a very famous international one). You arrive at the hotel and are advised there are no “standard rooms” available and they are trying to upgrade you to a more expensive room. You go through a twenty minute routine, talking with the check in personnel….who then gets a supervisor…..who then gets the Manager. During this time you have to get your laptop out and pull up a copy of the signed contract showing the fixed rate pricing and agreement that if the hotel is full then you are upgraded to a higher class of room at the cost of a standard room. Then you are advised the internet will cost such-and-such amount per day, so again you point to the contract… then laundry charges… so you again point out the contract. Three weeks later going back to the same hotel it’s deja vu.

This is a stereotypical format of the daily “fighting” that is gone through in a work environment also. It’s not just one element or area (ie just work or hotels) it’s really across the full range of your daily life. Dealing with taxi drivers, going shopping in the ‘supermarkets’ etc…

Extracted from Kelsey Cole’s new book, ‘Down (but not out) in Beijing and Shanghai’. Visit his booksite or buy it from Amazon

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