How to Survive in China As a Foreigner

For many Westerners, China can often appear to be a vast, inscrutable nation with an ancient past and a very modern future. The first big wave of Western expats started to make their way over to China about 20 years ago, and these veterans of life in China have started to develop some very helpful tips on how to survive in China as a foreigner. What follows is a look at some of the key tips to getting along in China and making the most of your stay there.

Tip #1: Learn as much Chinese language as you can before making a long trip

In order to really appreciate the local culture and meet as many Chinese people from every walk of life, you have to know the language. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to learn basic Chinese before you even arrive overseas. For example, Western expats typically use websites like ChinesePod.com to pick up some useful phrases and helpful expressions. Chances are, your landlord won’t speak English, and basically no taxi drivers will speak English, so you need to be prepared ahead of time. At the very least, invest in a helpful phrasebook.

Tip #2: Understand the value of your foreign passport

One of the first tips you’ll learn about thriving in China is protecting your passport wherever you go. Your Western passport is arguably one of the most important things you will own when you live in China. According to expats who have learned the hard way, the street value of a U.S. passport these days is anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000.

And, unlike Western nations, where you rarely if ever need your passport, your passport is vital on a daily basis in China. If you are booking a hotel or train, traveling between cities, or just interacting with a local Chinese bank, you will almost always need to show your passport. Most experienced China travelers keep multiple photocopies with them at all times, and know exactly who to contact if they lose their passport in China.

Tip #3: Be willing to experiment with food options in China (but not too much)

One of the real pleasures of living in China is the sheer variety of foods that you will encounter. Almost every city has a large local market, and most people don’t hesitate to eat food right on the street from local vendors. However, this presents its share of challenges for any Westerner because you do not always know what is going into your food. Stories are legion about “lamb meat” actually being rat meat, and about recycled garbage showing up in meals.

And there’s one other fact about life in China that might strike a Westerner as being a bit odd, and that’s the real safety issue of cooking oils used in China. As much as 30 percent of all cooking oil used in restaurants is not olive oil or vegetable oil; instead, it is something known as “ditch oil.” To be charitable, this is reused oil that could be from just about anywhere.

Thus, taking these two facts into account, many experienced travelers advise avoiding all meat while in China, and strictly controlling how much of their food is cooked in oil. You can still shop at the local market, of course, but mostly focus on fruits and vegetables that you recognize. And only eat at restaurants that you trust.

Tip #4: Be prepared for a lot of curious locals

Westerners in China are still somewhat of a rarity, so if you have classic Western features – such as blue eyes, light hair and fair skin – be prepared for a lot of curiosity. Sometimes, it can feel flattering, because there is still a certain amount of prestige associated with hanging out with Westerners. But it can also be a bit stifling – some expats report being mobbed by photo takers, almost to the point where they feel like they are celebrities and every Chinese local with a camera is trying to take their photo.

Tip #5: Pack enough warm clothing for a surprisingly cold Chinese winter

When people think about the coldest nations in the world, China is usually not at the top of the list. However, many northern Chinese cities get very cold during the winter, and most Western expats find that they have significantly under-packed. That leaves them scrambling for the right warm clothing at a time when most quality goods from the West are still very over-priced.

And one more factor at work here is the fact that many Chinese buildings are not properly insulated in the first place. Buildings are not heated to the same warmth as in Europe and North America, and the poor insulation only compounds this problem. Sooner or later, you might even have to buy a portable electric heater.

Tip #6: Get ready for culture shock when interacting with local Chinese

Many of the stereotypes of Chinese people are, however uncomfortable it might be to admit, largely true. Coming face-to-face with these stereotypes while in China can cause culture shock. For example, many Westerners will joke about the rudeness, selfishness and just plain ignorance of many people they encounter.

But you have to see the big picture here. Remember: China has had a very turbulent past, and that has led to a lot of behaviors that many in the West might perceive as just “bad manners.” Examples include people pushing in lines very aggressively, being dishonest when engaging in basic transactions, and even random people (including old women) screaming at you if you’ve done something wrong.

That being said, China is a wonderfully complex and diverse country and one that has a lot to offer even the most jaded traveler. Whether you are traveling to China for an extended vacation or moving there permanently for work or school, it certainly pays to have advance knowledge of what to expect and how to get by. Using these six tips above, you will be well positioned to survive – and even thrive – in China as a foreigner.

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Why you should get LinkedIn Premium

LinkedIn now has more than 500 million users, but only a relatively tiny fraction of them are taking full advantage of everything that LinkedIn offers, such as its new LinkedIn Premium offering. Whether you are looking to change jobs, give your career a boost, find new clients or hire new employees, there are several important reasons why you should get LinkedIn Premium:

Reason #1: LinkedIn Premium makes it possible to communicate with people not already in your LinkedIn Network

One of the most compelling features of LinkedIn Premium is something known as InMail, functionality that enables you to message people that you do not already know and who are not already in your LinkedIn Network. Thus, say that you are in business development, but are not currently connected to anyone at a company that you’d really like to contact as part of a new business proposal: you could use InMail to message that person directly. Depending on which tier of Premium you are using, you get anywhere from 3 to 30 messages a month as part of this offering.

Reason #2: LinkedIn Premium gives you access to advanced data analytics and tools

If you are a regular user of LinkedIn, you never really know who is viewing your profile. Well, if you sign up for LinkedIn Premium, you get access to a whole new world of data and analytics, including salary information. You can also see who is viewing your profile, and in some cases, you also get real-time insights into how your business outreach efforts are doing.

With the “Sales Navigator Professional” version of LinkedIn Premium, you also get access to enhanced lead building tools, and with the “Recruiter Lite” version of LinkedIn Premium, you get access to automatic candidate tracking and integrated hiring tools. Both of these have the potential to make your business life easier and more streamlined. Once you’ve landed a major client, or hired an important new executive for your team, you’ll realize just how powerful these tools can be.

Reason #3: LinkedIn Premium opens the door to new training opportunities

LinkedIn Premium is particularly powerful because Microsoft is working hard to combine its Lynda.com acquisition (which has now been rebranded as LinkedIn Learning) as part of LinkedIn Premium. This makes it possible to take training and educational courses that simply aren’t available anywhere else. Given the new emphasis in the business world on lifelong learning and up-skilling, this is a valuable new resource.

In many ways, you can think of LinkedIn Premium as a type of exclusive club, with specific product offerings geared to three different “power users” of LinkedIn: people looking for a new job, business development and sales professionals looking for new leads, and recruiters attempting to hire the best and brightest. So if you are thinking about ways to advance your career, it’s definitely worth considering how LinkedIn Premium can be part of that. If you have specific questions about how to optimize your LinkedIn presence and combine it with what you are already doing online, a professional social media agency can provide important feedback and advice.

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Blogging in English For Non-Native Speakers

For many non-native speakers, the very idea of blogging in English might seem to be completely insurmountable. Coming up with unique ideas and concepts for blog posts might be easy, but how can you convey these thoughts and ideas online if you are not fluent in English? Fortunately, there are many different solutions to this issue.

Opt for images, not text

Perhaps the most popular solution is to focus on images and video, and not text. This simplifies matters considerably, because you only need to provide a few basic captions to the images. And, if you opt for video, you might not need to provide any text at all. You could simply embed a link to the video right within your blog.

For example, let’s say that you are a restaurant owner based in Houston, Texas. Your business specializes in authentic Mexican cuisine, and your primary customer base is the city’s Latino community. You are now looking to expand your presence in the city, and that means launching an English-language blog. You could use this blog to showcase examples of menu items with a series of beautiful photos. For each photo, you’d simply include a brief caption of the name of the dish. Or, you could use your blog to introduce visitors to the various members of your team – such as your new celebrity chef or your “employee of the month.”

Use online tools to edit and translate text

Another solution is simply to write in your native language and then use an online tool like Google Translate to translate the most difficult parts into English. This can often produce a working translation that you can then edit with a tool like Grammarly. Or, if you have other team members (or family members) who are fluent in English, you can ask them to review and edit what has already been written or translated.

Another option is to provide two versions of a website blog, one in your native language and one in English. In Europe, for example, it’s quite popular to provide multiple versions of a website for people speaking different languages. There will often be a button that toggles on/off between English and another language (German, French, Spanish, Italian, etc.). You could adapt this same solution for your blog.

Use short-form content that’s based around lists

Finally, another option is to limit the type of text-based content that you will be creating for the blog. A blog doesn’t have to be a long, rambling essay. It can just be a “listicle,” which is really just a brief list of items. This is a very popular form of content made popular by sites like BuzzFeed. For example, if you are a restaurant owner, you might post a list of “Top places in the city to buy fresh, organic food.” This type of content provides immediate value to the reader, but is easy enough to create without the need to be completely fluent in English.

While it’s possible to set up your own blog and provide content for it on a regular basis, it’s preferable to hire a professional blogging agency or other expert who can help to set up your blog and post content on a regular basis. It really depends on how comfortable you are with your level of English proficiency and how much it matters to your core audience.

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