Understanding the culture in China and how you will react to cultural differences will help you to better thrive as an expat living in China.
Most foreigners come to China for work. Many Westerners are sent by their company on an expat assignment for a few years or sometimes only a few months. Others come to find work on their own. Some even start their own business in China or expand their business into China. Many are accompanied by a trailing spouse and sometimes kids.
And almost no-one of them has prior experience working with Chinese people or Chinese companies.
Here I am not talking about finding a job in China or getting the right visa. I am focusing on the cultural aspects of working in China.
Some companies offer culture training to expat employees and their families when sending them to China. But there is only so much that a one or two day classroom training can really convey about a very different culture. Still, it is better than nothing.
Is coming to China a smart financial move for you? Well, the answer is again: that depends. (Do you sense a pattern here?) The overall cost of living in Beijing is rising and comparable to other capital cities. Cost of living rankings for Beijing vary from one study to the next, depending on what cost items are included.
The reality is, life in Beijing can be very cheap or very expensive. Western standards including housing, food, groceries will cost you Western prices plus a premium. Local stuff often is really cheap. Mixing both, some Western and some local, allows you a decent standard of living without breaking the bank.
A change like this may teach you things about yourself you weren’t aware of before (it definitely did for us). We all react differently to cultural differences, depending on own individual personality and prior experience.
Will there be a big culture shock? The answer is it all depends on your personal experiences and circumstances. You can make lifestyle choices, like housing, neighborhood, transportation, that keep you closer to your comfort zone or expose you to more immersion.