It can be really daunting to launch a business or consider starting a new life in a country on the other side of the world. Even if expats tell you that Hong Kong is a fairly easy place to live and work for foreigners, mainland China itself still seems difficult and a bit scary for many prospective companies and entrepreneurs.
Nevertheless, as the opportunities for foreign businesses increase in China, more people are trying to find out about the essential Chinese characteristics of living, working and relaxing in the country.
So it’s fortunate that there are now a number of practical guidebooks to help you along the way: from considering the pros and cons of living in China and Hong Kong, planning and executing your move, setting up home, coming to terms with culture shock and daily life, to doing business in China.
LIVE AND WORK IN CHINA & HONG KONG
One of the very best of these books is Live and Work in China & Hong Kong by Jocelyn Kan and Hakwan Lau, published by Crimson Publishing in 2008 (available on Amazon).
This essential guide covers different areas of the country, including the special economic zones of north, central and southern China, and is particularly detailed about setting up in Shanghai. Everything you want to know about property, food and drink, media, education, women’s issues and transport is included.
There is also a fascinating overview of Chinese industry, the business culture of various regions, and an entire cultural section on Chinese people, history, politics and religion. A similarly exhaustive guide is offered to doing business in Hong Kong.
But watch out: the book is thick with detail. You can’t carry it around with you. You’d have to keep it at home as a kind of reference manual and dip into those sections that directly affect you when the need arises.
CHINESE BUSINESS ETIQUETTE
Much easier to handle (and digest) is a fun little pocket guide called Chinese Business Etiquette, by Stefan H. Verstappen, published by Stone Bridge Press in 2008 (available on Amazon).
You can slip into your suit pocket or briefcase for a quick crib before meetings or dinners or any other occasion with your Chinese counterparts. It’s easy-to-follow sections apply to networking, introductions, meetings, negotiations, presentations, entertainment and gift giving in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Common phrases in Mandarin are included as well as hand gestures and tips on reading body language. The author even slips in a quick overview of Chinese culture and of modern attitudes towards foreigners.
Many guide books to living, working and doing business in Asia are rather heavy going or are littered with bullet point lists of what to do and what not to do. The end result is that you’re likely to become hopelessly self-conscious and/or confused.The joy of this little book is that it is extremely easy to read, and is interspersed with amusing ‘Curious Facts’ and ‘True Stories’ sections.
Did you know, for example, that giving gifts with green on them (such as baseball caps with the company’s logo) may show your commitment to the environment, but in China ‘wearing a green hat’ is a euphemism for being a cuckold!
This may not be essential information for launching a business, but it shows that a little knowledge is not necessarily a dangerous thing.
DEVELOPING BUSINESS IN CHINA AND HONG KONG?
Are you thinking of setting up or further developing business in China and Hong Kong? Are you new to the region and still lack confidence because of the different customs and ways of doing business? If so, I’m here to help you.
I’m opening up some spaces on my calendar to discuss your specific challenges so if you’re ready to take action now, complete your details below and we’ll be in touch.