East vs West
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Cultural Differences: Travelers Working In China vs The West

A Comparison Of Requirements For Legal Work Rights In China And Australia

China is a great country for Westerners who would like a travel experience abroad.  However, the work landscape for foreigners who travel to both countries is completely at cultural odds.

Australia has liberal policies regarding work participation for foreigners.  You can work part-time 20-hours per week as a student, or alternatively apply for a working holiday visa and work in jobs alongside Australian people for 12 months.  It is a non-discriminatory policy.

China has comparatively conservative policies for foreigners who wish to participate in legal work in China.  The requirements for a Chinese Z-visa are a bachelor degree.  Travelers or students are granted no rights to work in China (as of 2018).

Both countries have a black market for illegal workers however.  In Australia, thousands of Chinese people who immigrated and established a business, normally hire foreign workers on low wages to keep costs down.  The work is cash-in-hand, and because the business owner has no in-depth understanding of Australian laws and work rights, they will also import the Chinese business practices, for example, overtime and unpaid work.

In China, as long as you are a native English speaker and have connections, you can become an English teacher.  All you need to do is change your LinkedIn job title to “English Teacher” and be bombarded with offers from Chinese mainland recruiters (猎头顾问) who promise the world, as long as you purchase your own airfare and fly to China for an initial interview.

There are no other real options however.

Going To Australia To Work

The problem with people who want to work in China or Australia is the lack of information available regarding the reality of work opportunities in the other country.

This became evident over dinner with a long-time Chinese friend well-acquainted with my life.  We began to talk about going to Australia.  She also had a friend that recently visited Melbourne to study in university.

When Australia arose, she asked, “What am I going to do for a job?”

I said, “You can get a job there easy.  Why don’t you talk to your friend that went to Melbourne and ask her how she is doing, has she got a job yet, and has she made any friends in Australia?”

She said, “I am pretty sure she made friends there, because I can’t see her making friends with just Chinese.”

I said, “Just ask her and find out.”

The Chinese View Of What Makes A Good Job Applicant

Then I listened in, as to what my friend assumes is important to attain a job in Australia, based on Chinese standards.

She said, “She is really cool.  She is rich, she is smart, she is young, and beautiful.”

I said, “First of all, she is not rich.  It is her parents that are rich.  Has she worked a day in her life?  Probably not.”

She answered, “Actually she did.  When she was in Britain she worked in the Chinese embassy while she was studying there.”

The Actual Hiring Criteria In Australian Business

I said, “Alright, so she has a bit of work experience.  But, it does not matter if you are rich, beautiful, or smart in Australia.  The only thing that matters to someone that is hiring you, is experience.”

“You can be the most beautiful or smartest person, but you are not going to get hired over a person that has five years of experience more than you.”

I told her, “That is why it is so hard to get a job in Australia, because once an Australian graduates, they still don’t have experience, and the companies won’t hire them.”

“Could you imagine if you were Apple, are you going to hire all new people and train them on how to sell your product?  No.  You will probably hire people from IBM or Google who have more experience, and they can bring that experience to your brand, because they want to improve their brand.”

She said, “Right.  You don’t want to be a company that only trains people, and then they leave.”

I said, “Exactly.  That is what Australian business does not do.  Australian business just does not care about people who have no experience.  They would rather hire experienced people.”

“That is why it takes so long to get a job in Australia, and why we also have the welfare system as a safety net, because the government knows it takes such a long time to get experience for a job, so they put all this money into incentives to help you in the meantime.”

Removing Misconceptions In The Minds Of Travelers

I concluded, there are a lot of misconceptions in the minds of people who have never travelled to another country to experience the culture there.

Before I came to China, I studied the language for one year, made friends with Chinese people in Australia, followed their customs, listened to their stories about China, and soaked up as much as I could.  I even used Google street view to walk around Guangzhou before I arrived to study in Jinan university in 2014.

The more of a proactive approach you can take to learn, the better prepared you will be to evaluate your options if and when you do travel overseas.

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