Debunking the Myths about China: What Expats Need to Know

When coming to a new country - namely China - or even just when being interested in one, it is normal for expats to have prejudices. Our education, the media, the History, the work from scholars that have penetrated common knowledge, etc. All of this contributes to help us build a general idea of a given country’s culture.

The hard part begins when one tries to overcome preconceptions to acquire a more genuine understanding of the host country. For business purposes, by curiosity, or simply because it eases the integration process, the reasons of such an initiative are numerous.

As a newcomer on the Chinese soil, or even if you have been here for several years, it is always interesting – and useful – to challenge your believes and to explore more about local psyche.

Cultural Awareness: Why Has It Become Essential?

Two groups are interested in the concept of cultural awareness: expatriates and companies.

  • The former do because being familiar with local customs and way of thinking help them living a balanced life, avoiding conflict, and predicting the general people attitudes' toward a given situation. Being able to accurately predict someone’s response to an event is essential for individuals to build stability in their life.
  • The latter do because the well-being of their employees often means more chances of them being more productive, more easily integrated in the company, and more smoothly transitioning to their new tasks. Expatriation failure (when an expatriation ends before its term or is considered not fully achieved) is most of the time linked with poor employee’s integration and great costs for the company.

As put by Kate Hutching in her article Cross Cultural Preparation of Australian Expatriates in Organizations in China: The Need to a Greater Attention to Training:

"The removal of national protectionist trade policies, de-regulation of international fiscal and monetary markets, and rapid advances in communications and distribution channels, has contributed to the increasing numbers of organisations that have decided to expand their operations across international borders in the last two decades.”

What could be overlooked in the past decades, i.e. cultural awareness, has now become essential as international assignments – or more broadly international mobility - are getting more common.

How to Increase One's Knowledge and Cultural Awareness?

Tons of means are available to increase one’s knowledge about Chinese psyche: reading the news, watching documentaries, looking for scholars’ works, meeting locals and discussing with them, attending training programs or conferences, etc.

Yet, the most important, apart from exposing oneself to this information, is to stay open to whatever could contradict one’s believes, past experiences, or what has been previously learnt. Open-mindedness is key when it comes to understanding your host country and effectively grasping what traits make up its personality.

Debunking the Myths

If one agrees with continue down this path, then the Harvard Business Review article "China Myths, China Facts" written by Erin Meyer and Elisabeth Yin Shen would be of great help. They identified 3 common myths that have been “perpetuated informally through stereotypes, and formally through management-training programs”.

  • Myth 1: China is a collectivist country. Even Hofstede’s works state “At a score of 20 China is a highly collectivist culture where people act in the interests of the group and not necessarily of themselves.”
    In this article however, the authors state that Chinese people, especially the younger generation, are more on the individualistic side of the spectrum. One of the interviewees argues that “as a child, I was punished for stepping out of the box and told to be ‘average’. But we have left this mentality with passion. In China, we are so eager to move ahead. Westerners often feel our style is pushy and aggressive”.
  • Myth 2: Long-term deliberation is preferred. However, for whoever has been working in China, or has simply followed the past decades’ economic growth, it appears obvious that Chinese psyche now tends to “real-time reaction” as stated in the article, and quick decision making. This tendency is in accordance with the government aiming at fostering innovation.
  • Myth 3: Chinese people are risk averse. However, given the decision process is usually quick, risk tolerance is nowadays quite high in China. One of the interviewee stated that the country’s growing GDP is a proof that “the level of entrepreneurship and risk taking” is high.

Understanding the ever-changing psyche of China is key when it comes to not being lost in the Middle Kingdom. Debunking myths as the Harvard Business Review did is very useful for expats aiming at being at ease in the country, and being successful socially and professionally.

At ASI Movers, we aim at making your relocation process the smoothest possible, and this is aligned with providing you the best insights on the country’s state of mind. After more than 10 years operating in China, we are aware of the challenges one faces, and work hand in hand with our customers to provide them the best services and support possible.

Being a Foreign Entrepreneur in China: a Guideline

If you are to come to China or are already here, there are great chances that the vitality of the business environment plants the seed of entrepreneurship in your brain.

Why not start a company in China?

Chinese Government is well aware of the potential entrepreneurship represents, as well as the role it played in the country’s development.

Accounting for 60% of the nation’s GDP, and providing 80% of the jobs, the private sector is essential to Chinese economy. Even though some argue that it has been the consequence of the Middle Kingdom’s development rather than its cause, entrepreneurship remains key.

The truth lying in one or the other of these two causality chains, it still remains that many foreigners have had the envy to try to make it in China.

ASI Movers is aware of this tendency. Having moved thousands of expats throughout our 10 years of activity, we have decided to introduce you the Chinese entrepreneurial environment and the opportunities of founding your own business here.

The Entrepreneurship Landscape in China

Background

For many years, China bore the image of a state-owned economy for observers outside its borders. It is still true that entering an industry dominated by a state-owned enterprise is quite risky since. The latter will indeed benefit from financial advantages, and connections ensuring its quasi monopoly on the market.

Yet, the reforms initiated in 1978 and which developed in the 1980s paved the ground for an economy based on private companies and entrepreneurship.

The 1990s have seen the rise of the Internet entrepreneurs. The 2000s saw the emergence – apart for the stable growth of the Internet and mobile technology sectors – of entrepreneurship in sectors such as energy, healthcare, financial services, or consumer retail among others.

Nowadays, China is the second largest host of so called unicorns i.e. non-listed companies valued at over USD 1Bn.

Entrepreneurship Culture in China

The entrepreneurship culture in China is different from the one in the West, firstly because of the environmental and institutional context. China’s economy being driven by the state, young innovative companies having connections bear a huge competitive advantage compared to their peers. Investing in political connections and network is thus as important as securing monetary investment.

It mainly came from the urban youth raised in the 1980s and 1990s in the midst of the economic reforms.
Young entrepreneurs are partisans of the “trial and error” technique and do not consider a failure as the end of their promising career, but rather as a step in their journey. They are less risk averse and more opportunistic than their peers, they also focus largely on personal success.

An aspect that might be considered as a drawback by foreigners is the education system. The latter shaped the locals' mind: rote learning is the core of their school life. One might thus think it can undermine Chinese entrepreneurs’ critical thinking spirit.

Not only is the entrepreneurial spirit different from the one in the West, the projects developed also bear specific features:

  • Integrated Innovation i.e. adapting an existing (often Western) business to Chinese market is huge.
  • Answering unmet needs in, specifically, Chinese society is the main focus (mainly due to the the relative closure of the Internet, some Western businesses did not make their way into China, leaving an empty space for Chinese companies).
  • Monitoring and acting in accordance with the government policies and interventions is important in China. Entrepreneurs should target industries defined as key by the latter as to benefit from the current environment.
  • Combining online commerce and marketing with relevant infrastructures and forwarding system enables the products to be delivered anywhere in a very short time. This feature is key in China.

Foreign Entrepreneurs in China

As China is becoming more and more interested in welcoming foreign talents, the environment for foreign entrepreneurs is warmer and warmer. It also participates in giving a positive image of China overseas.

Some local governments such as the city of Hangzhou even provide incentives for foreign entrepreneurs to come: in 2018, the city of Hangzhou offered subsidies ranging from RMB 200,000 to RMB 5 million to foreign entrepreneurs bringing projects fitting the city development path.

One of the first advice one could give to a soon to be foreign entrepreneur in China is to not blindly see the Middle Kingdom as a huge market of 1.3 billion people of which even 1% market share is profitable.

To successfully start a business in China

  • Learn about your customers: Chinese habits, tastes, mindset is different from the one in the West. Ensure there is a market for your potential offer, and adapt your practices and products if necessary.
  • Take advantage of the barter economy i.e. non-monetary reciprocity, which recent resurgence is mainly due to insecurity, the rise of the Internet and the importance networking has taken (especially in China where the concept of Guanxi dominates).

How to Set-Up a Business in China

If you are a Laowai eager to sell your products or services in China, you can choose between 3 kinds of businesses:

  • Joint Venture
  • Representative Office
  • WFOE or Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises

The landscape for entrepreneurship seems paved with gold for the ones keen to really understand the peculiarities of the Chinese economy, get inspired by the local features of the private companies, and explore the opportunities, them being obvious or less visible.

Starting a business in China is a definitely a worth it experience. For you to focus on this life project, ASI Movers is here to provide you the smoothest moving process possible. Focus on what matters, we take care of the rest!

Telethon 2018 organized by Shanghai Accueil

Yesterday, Shanghai Accueil organized a charity dinner-aperitif for the benefit of the Téléthon 2018, the occasion for ASI Movers - who happily joined forces with Madeleine Bakery of this event - to raise awareness on this cause. The Téléthon is a French charity event aimed at raising awareness and money to fight against rare illnesses.

Since the FIAFE (Fédération Internationale des Accueils Français et Francophones d’Expatriés - International Federation of the Welcomes of French and French Speaking Expatriates) committed to support and raise found in favor of the AFM Téléthon, Shanghai Accueil (whose mission consists in welcoming French and French speaking expatriates in Shanghai) followed suit.

Shanghai Accueil organized a series of events with several partners:

  • A dinner cocktail on Nov. 30th with the UFE Shanghai;
  • A partnership with Epermarket from Dec. 1 until Dec. 8th.
  • A dinner aperitif at Madeleine Kerry Center in partnership with Madeleine and ASI Movers. Yesterday's profits have been fully recontributed to the Téléthon.

These events and operations demonstrate the commitment of Shanghai French and international communities to such important causes. The mobilisation is indeed very important in Asia, and more particularly in China.

Christmas Abroad – How to Make the Best of It

As more and more Christmas decorations are appearing in Shanghai streets, stores, and restaurants, ASI Movers has decided to anticipate a bit on the festive season and explore what it means for an expat to celebrate Christmas abroad, more precisely in China. What are the challenges? What are the pros? How to make the most of this season even though one is likely far from many family members? How to recreate the cheerful atmosphere we enjoy at home?

Here are the answers!

Christmas Abroad: How to Make the Best of It?

Festive season, especially Christmas, is a friends & family moment. You gather around good food and dive into the warm atmosphere coming with the end of the year and its traditions.

However, when you live miles away from friends and family who stayed home (and it might be the first time for you to be away from them) the celebrations can be a bit bitter.

Moreover, you might have ended up in a country where the traditions are way different from the ones you are used to and which comfort you (if there even are!).

How then overcome the spleen that can arise from such a situation, and make the most of living festive season abroad?

  • Call your close ones back home but avoid drowning into nostalgia. It is important to schedule phone calls and skype sessions with your friends and family back home. It is essential to feel that you are part of the events that are happening there, see the people you haven’t seen in a while, and get some of the vibe you are missing in your location flowing through your phone or computer screen. However, do not let yourself completely absorbed by nostalgia, that’s our next point.

  • Live the foreign experience. Take advantage of being in a foreign environment to explore what celebrating Christmas there, even if the actual celebrations are very few. In most cities in the world, there is a Christmas market where you can not only feel the original atmosphere of the season, but also where you can experience different culture’s way of celebrating the end of the year.

  • Gather with the foreign community. Chances are you are not the only expat in the city you live in, not even in the neighborhood. Many local expats associations and organizations offer you the opportunity to celebrate with other people like you, who might go through the same hardships. Social media groups (Facebook, WeChat) are also a great way to connect with people.

  • Try incorporate new rituals with each destination you relocate to. If you have been or are likely to experience living in several places through your life try collecting Christmas traditions the same way you do with objects. It is a great way to remember your past experiences but also explore and thus get more familiar with the place you now live in.

Celebrating Christmas in China

Harbin (see picture above) hosts an Ice and Snow Festival which lasts 2 months (Dec. 20th - Feb. 28th) and which great opening is scheduled on Jan. 5. It features impressive ice sculpture (the most famous attraction of the city), fireworks, ice lanterns, winter swimming, fishing, skiing, sledding, and more related activities. From Dec. 24th-30th, you can enjoy a 50% discount to access the ice sculpture exhibition as it is still in trial period (90% of the snow craving is finished). Even though Christmas and New Year's Eve are less popular in China than in the West, the city is decorated accordingly.

 

 

Only 1% of Chinese people is Christian and thus is traditionally celebrating Christmas. This community is very active in preparing Jesus’ birth, which counterbalances the fact that most of the remaining population do not know the meaning of the event. There is no public holiday on this period and people work on December 25th.

However, as for many other things coming from the West, Santa Claus made his way in the Middle Kingdom.
He even has a Chinese name: Shen Dan Lao Ren (圣诞老人) literally Old Christmas Man. In big cities, Christmas trees, decorations and markets are blooming, in rural areas it remains uncommon.
Giving apples on Christmas Eve is becoming more and more popular as the latter's translation - Ping'an Ye (平安夜), literally peaceful evening - sounds like píngguǒ (苹果), apple.

Another take-off from the West is family and friends gatherings at someone’s house, cafes, KTvs, etc. Family reunions cannot be compared to the big family reunions we are used to in the West but the tradition is slowly making its way in China. Young couples associate Christmas it with a romantic event, exchange gifts and date.

Celebrating Christmas in Shanghai

  • Shanghai being the vivid city it is, with many malls, fancy shops and restaurants, as well as a place where the West meets the East, Christmas is visible in the streets (light garlands, Christmas trees, etc.) and the occasion for shopping opportunities. Open-hours are extended during the period in many shops, Christmas sales are held (Nov. and early Dec.).
  • Several Christmas markets are organized around the city, selling Christmas products & gifts, food and drinks. Search Paulaner's Christkindlmarkt, Jing'an Christkindlmarkt and Jiashan Market for more information.
  • If you are Christian, check local churches for Christmas mass, many of them even hold English religious services.
  • Book a table in an international hotel or restaurant to enjoy a great Christmas dinner, or gather with friends in a bar for a more festive atmosphere surrounded by fellow expats.
  • If you prefer to stay at home, e-markets and stores dedicated to expats will provide you the ingredients necessary to reproduce the traditional dishes you crave during this period.

Even though far from being the major event it is in the West, Christmas is gaining popularity in China. Some elements have been adapted to local tastes and sensibility, while other will really give you the occasion to experience an atmosphere reminiscent to home. Go around the city, enjoy the decorations, taste good food in one of the Christmas markets and gather with friends for nice dinners and drinks, that's the Christmas recipe!

Global Mobility: a Shift Towards Employees’ Wellbeing

While the demand for skilled employees is rising in developing countries, international assignees tend to be more demanding regarding the quality of the employee mobility program companies provide.

Simultaneously, companies need to implement effective mobility management programs. The focus is on assigning the right people and providing them the right incentives and assurances to make the project the most fruitful for both parties.

Expatriation is defined by a lot of uncertainties

Having met and helped many expats in their moving and thus relocation process, ASI Movers is aware of the problematics one faces when undertaking the “expatriate adventure”, and has thus put together a summary of nowadays trends in Global Mobility.*

Which Profile Is More Inclined to Move Abroad?

On the one hand, married people or people in the middle of their career are the least likely to accept a job that would change their life and career plans.

On the other hand, young actives, senior executives/decision makers, and unmarried business owners are the ones keener to undertake the international experience.

The latter see the expat life as an opportunity for starting a new business, give their career a new impetus, develop their entrepreneurship spirits. For young actives, working abroad is often seen as a set-up / pay-off mechanism. They might give up a higher salary (the golden package which are becoming rarer and rarer) and the comfort of a stable life in their home country for a more thrilling job, with great of opportunities of evolution.

A person's country of origin also influences one's propensity to accept an expat status. Employees from Latin America, Middle East and Africa are more likely to temporarily relocate to another country for up to two years with a minimum of 10% increase in pay.

Which Incentives Should Expats' Employers Provide?

As stated by the 2017 IPSOS report, employers need to be more flexible regarding the incentives they provide.

Employees demand more than just an increase in pay. Income only ranks 5th in terms of how impactful a criteria is when making the decision of going abroad.

Effectively managing employees' expatriation means - eventually - retaining international, culturally flexible ad knowledgeable talents. It appears essential to focus primarily on the repatriation process: going abroad is often only a step in one’s career.

Nevertheless, as the Harvard Business Review found out, many repatriates end up filling temporary assignments once back. The latter compared to the one abroad is a demotion. They lack opportunities to put their foreign experience to work.

How to Manage Expats Effectively?

  • Focus on knowledge creation and global leadership development rather than on filling immediate business needs, and rewarding or punishing an employee by making him/her move to a specific place. Expatriation should be part of a defined and global strategy.
  • The employees' technical skills should match or exceed their cross-cultural ability. Even though performing very well in their job at home, they will need to adapt to the new country’s culture, communication, management practices etc.
  • The following qualities should characterize them: a drive to communicate, broad-based sociability, cultural flexibility, cosmopolitan orientation; collaborative negotiation style.

  • End expatriate assignments with a deliberate repatriation process.

Managing expatriation has become more complex for corporations as the challenges for employees sent abroad pile up. It requires a thoughtful employee mobility program and an effective management to make it work. The common issue is often resides in who should oversee the relocation process: The Global Mobility Team? The Generalist HR? An external Party?

The answer is all of them, in cooperation.

Because of all these challenges coming along with relocation, moving should go smoothly for expatriates. That is the reason why ASI Movers has been providing expats stress-free and tailor-made moving services for  more 10 years, never failing to comply with our clients’ needs.

 

 

 

* This article is based on the following resources:
  • “Perceptions of Employee Mobility in a Climate of Change”, Mobility Report, BDO, IPSOS, Sept. 2017
  • “The Right Way to Manage Expats”, Harvard Business Review, J. Stewart Black & Hal Gregersen, March-April 1999.

Relocating With Children: Why Your Child Could Become a TCK

Being a parent is not always an easy task, but being an expat parent comes with a whole new kind of challenges.

When relocating with your children you might want to know more about what they are experiencing and how it will shape their identities, hence if you change home on a regular basis. Your lifestyle has indeed an impact on how they see and interact with the world, but living it, it can be hard to clearly see which one.
ASI Movers has thus decided to provide you detailed insight into the notion of TCK i.e. Third Culture Kid.  Scholars have been working on this concept for more than 50 years, a term specially designed for expat children, not only describing what personality traits they are more likely to develop, but also what it can bring along in terms of opportunities.

What Is a TCK?

Introduced in the 1950s by the sociologist Dr. Ruth Hill Useem, the term Third Culture Kid refers to those “who [have] spent a significant part of [their] developmental years outside their parents’ culture”, who neither have fully adopted the local customs nor completely kept their parents’ ones, yet who have built their own, at the intersection of the two or more cultures they experienced.

What Are the Characteristics of TCKs?

The way they have built their cultural references obviously affected their identity. Because they do not recognize themselves in neither of them, they often feel they do not belong anywhere. They thus can develop a feeling of loneliness, eventually bringing them to a state of “cultural homelessness”.
For the same reason, they are keen to develop more tolerance towards others, their set of values and habits. They display a higher degree of open-mindedness because they have been exposed to several cultures from a young age.
They often are more creative, and the school you are going to choose should take full advantage of this personality trait (Lee and Bain, 2007).
They tend to submit themselves more easily to authority figures.
Studies also show that TCKs comparatively enroll more in college and tend to have more advanced degrees than their non-TCKs peers.
A large portion of them will also embrace a nomad lifestyle further in their life.

What Are the Advantages of Being a TCK?

While having been exposed to a foreign culture from a young age or moving regularly can represent a huge challenge for your children, it is also important to discuss with them and stress the pros of their situation.  The life they are likely to live being as peculiar as unique.

They will be more open-minded and culturally aware than their peers. Not only will it enrich their way of thinking and general knowledge, but it will be a decisive advantage in a more and more multicultural and globalized world. Scholars call this ability Cultural Intelligence, a skill that is sought by HR all over the globe. People who have cross-cultural experiences are cherished by employers and their peers as they already acquired the skills needed to live in nowadays society.

Their view of the world and its mechanisms will be more complex and thus more accurate than many people. They will learn languages more easily. Their interpersonal sensitivity will enable them to understand the codes of a given group and adjust to them instinctively. More generally, they adapt more quickly and understand the complexity of situations easily.

ASI Movers is aware that children can be disoriented and overwhelmed by the challenges of living in a new country or having to move on a regular basis, thus not ready to see the positive aspects of being a TCK.
That is the reason why we feel entitled to make your relocation the smoothest and most stress-free as possible.

The inconveniences inherent to relocating should not overshadow the benefits of moving abroad, meeting other cultures and people. Let ASI Movers take care of your belonging, and allow your family to focus on what matters and take full advantage of the experience!

Expats Retirement: Going Abroad Again

When an expat plans his/her retirement, three options arise: going back home, staying abroad in the country he/she is residing in, or choose another country. Many elements come into play when it comes to making this decision: from proximity with family, to lifestyle, including the cost of life and the tax one can be subject to.

As expats’ best relocation partner, ASI Movers has decided to explore what are the trends shaping expats’ retirement choices, as well as the key elements one needs to consider when planning before leaving the working life.

The Elements to Take into Account Before Retiring

First, it is essential to estimate your savings and the cost of living you will target in your new residence. Some countries require you to prove you own a certain amount or earn a certain revenue to settle down within their borders, which makes it essential to prepare and gather these information beforehand.

You will then obviously have to decide where you want to retire in terms of personal preference. As already stated, you will have to pounder upon different criteria: the lifestyle you can expect there, the scenery, the climate, the proximity with your family, the activities you can enjoy once on site, the expat community, the safety, etc.

Finally, you will have to determine when you want to retire.

Taking some time to think about all these elements and gather information is crucial to make your retirement project a success.

Retiring in China: Is It Possible?

Unless your spouse is Chinese, there are little chances you will be able to spend your retirement years in China. As a matter of fact, if you are not employed, your only way of staying in China long-term is a reunion visa: Q visa if your relative is a Chinese person or a foreigner residing in China with a permanent resident permit; or S visa if your relative (spouse) is residing in China for work or study. Even if you can plan of being a consultant (and thus work) or study Chinese for instance, these are not sustainable solutions if your aim is to enjoy a peaceful and constraint-free retirement in the Middle Kingdom.

If you have spent – or are planning to spend - several years working in China before exiting the labor market, remember to check if there is any agreement between your home country and China in terms of pension plan. French people for instance, will not see their years worked in France and the ones worked in China add up, if they want to receive a full pension once retired, they should contribute willingly to the French pension system.

The Trending Destinations for Expats’ Retirement

Since spending one’s retirement in China is very unlikely for people not married to a Chinese person, many expats who have lived their life traveling choose to follow suit for their years of retirement and settle abroad.

According to International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index (2018): the most popular destinations among retired expats are:

  1. Costa Rica: for its beautiful sceneries, its excellent rankings in Buying & Investing, Entertainment & Amenities, Health Care and Healthy Lifestyle criteria.

  2. Mexico: for its vivid culture, the climate as well as an good to excellent health care system.

  3. Panama: for the benefits & discounts retirees can expect there, and the ease with which one can obtain residency.

  4. Ecuador: for its good rankings in Benefits & Discounts, Fitting in, Entertainment & Amenities, Healthy Lifestyle and Climate criteria.

  5. Malaysia: for its low cost of living and its top ranking in Entertainment & Amenities.

  6. Colombia

  7. Portugal

  8. Nicaragua

  9. Spain

  10. Peru

 

One destination our clients seem to target lately is Thailand. Its sweet climate, inexpensive housing and cost of life, rather cheap healthcare system, welcoming expat community and beautiful landscape have convinced them.

If that is your plan, know that a so-called “retirement visa” exists, whose official name is non-immigrant visa. To obtain it, you will have to give the proof of having enough funds (a revenue ≥65,000 BHT / month, or a Thailand bank account with 800,000 BHT for a period of 3 months before applying for the visa, or a total revenue and saving accounting for more than 800,000 BHT the day you apply).

You will then obtain a one-year resident permit, the latter is renewable, and can be completed by an extension-stay notice and a re-entry permit.

Prolonging your expat lifestyle by retiring abroad comes with the planning required for relocating in a foreign country, with the additional preparation necessary when you choose to settle somewhere for good.

Even if the path will not necessarily be problem-free - with many aspects you might discover by searching more about the country or the specific legislation - planning in advance is the best way to ensure the process runs smoothly.

At ASI Movers, we are dedicated to providing you the moving service you need when choosing to retire back home or abroad. We take care of your belongings from packing at departure to unpacking at destination, you just have to focus on you!

 

Resource:

Annual Global Retirement Index 2018 by International Living

Expatriation in a VUCA World: Dealing with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity

Expatriation – as a concept and as its embodiment – has greatly changed over the years: from imposing best practices from the organization’s home country vertically, to merging the latter’s culture with the local practices; from offering all-inclusive relocation packages to cost-sensitive MNCs; from assignees and companies knowing what to expect beforehand to individuals and corporations left to deal with a VUCA world daily.

Aware of the challenges one might face when going or sending an employee abroad nowadays, ASI Movers has decided to explore what being a global company or an expat in a VUCA world means and what are the best practices in such an environment.

A VUCA World

The concept of VUCA appeared in the late 1980s, and was first used by U.S. Army War College students to describe the Cold War era:

  • Volatile: changes occur fast and suddenly;
  • Uncertain: these changes are hardly predictable;
  • Complex: a lot of factors need to be considered if one wants to understand the causes and consequences of such changes as the countries and the world are more and more inter-connected;
  • Ambiguous: misinterpretation can easily occur.

One can then easily see why the concept of VUCA is used today to describe our environment. Seeing it as such is a great mean to anticipate how to face the challenges it brings along and implement policies able to cope with its side effects.

Organizations in a VUCA World

The volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity of the environment force MNCs (Multi-National Corporations) managers to face great challenges:

  • The legal framework changes often and in unexpected ways, making the procedure necessary to send an assignee abroad evolve on a regular basis, and sometimes even making it more difficult and costly.
  • The countries' political orientations constantly swing between isolationism and openness (which affects the degree to which a country is likely to accept foreigners).
  • Countries’ economic stability is volatile, which makes expanding an organization’s activity to a new region risky: will the investment of sending an assignee abroad be worth it?
  • The success of an international assignment heavily relies on the employee’s wellbeing: how to ensure it in an uncertain world?

The most visible consequence of such a trend is the cost-sensitivity companies are more and more prone to display (the latter being less prone to offer all-inclusive relocation packages).

However, to manage international assignees and operations effectively, relying on hold practices originated in the Industrial Era is not a solution, while developing adapted policies would have positive effects:

  • Keep updated on your environment and be eager to learn;
  • Provide trainings and formations to your employees for them to be the most effective possible;
  • Develop segmented relocation policies and management practices to employees sent abroad as to adapt to their specific situation;
  • Increase the communication between the different entities in charge of the relocation, as several variables need to be taken into account (the well-being of the employee, the legal framework and tax environment on-site, etc.);
  • Be more responsive, reduce the decision-making process as some argue rapidity is more important than perfection.

Being an Expat in a VUCA World: the Trends

Since responsiveness is key for companies in a VUCA world, one can assume having international assignees could be a great solution: no need to train new staff and, if an individual is mobile, it is easier to assign the right employee to the right place at the right time. However, expats have seen their situation change over the years:

  • The job market is more uncertain for expats eager to find a job once on-site.
  • The environment - as a whole - is more challenging, especially when one lives in a foreign country, is unfamiliar with the culture, the habits, and is not fully integrated into the society, making the relocation process more complex.
  • The cost-sensitivity of the organizations (rooted in the uncertainty of the market) make it harder than before to obtain extensive expat packages and many even tend to reduce the number of international assignments.
  • At the same time, companies pay more and more attention to the employee’s wellbeing outside of work, as they know it affects their performance and can have an impact of the success of the assignment. As such, they provide more personal support.
  • The assignments rarely exceed 3 years, short term missions are very common to meet the organizations’ short-term needs. This can enter in contradiction with the employee’s long-term career plan (and its social life).
  • Employees sent abroad are now considered as talents – as it is no longer the privilege of top-management and seniors.

 

Expats can thus feel lost, being confronted with a brand new paradigm.

Nowadays, relocating abroad comes with challenges expats and organizations had never been used to deal with. However, managers are more and more aware of the latter, and are eager to take action, while the attention to the employees’ wellbeing outside of work is rising (since it affects their performance).

Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity can also bring opportunities as they demand more mobility from the employees, the elaboration of new processes (which can be exciting for young staff), and also more curiosity and taste for learning. A VUCA world can thus appear thrilling if one figures out how to manage the challenges it brings along effectively as to turn them to one's advantage.

ASI Movers accompanies you in your moving process from, to, and within China with the aim of making the transition the smoothest possible by providing you comprehensive and tailor-made relocation solutions.

Expat Women: Challenges & Opportunities

Being an expat as a woman can come in two circumstances: either you moved to follow your partner or you pursued your own career objectives. In both cases, adapting to your new life and seizing the opportunities it brings along do not come easy.

Having helped expats for more than 10 years relocating from, to, and within China, ASI Movers has been discussing daily with women facing this kind of challenge, and has thus decided to explore what being a global woman means nowadays.

Following Someone: How to Built a Life of your Own

80% of partners are not employed during their spouse’s overseas assignment, which makes it more likely for women following their husband abroad to not have a job when relocating.

Women in this situation face several challenges, the main ones being: integrating, finding a purpose and finding occupations. These three aspects are indeed linked as having a job for instance makes it easier to merge into the local culture, socializing and having a goal.

What to do then when ending up in this kind of situation?

  • Find local groups, associations, and activities you can join. Not only will it enable you to meet people, but it will also enable you to appreciate your new environment quicker as you discover popular places, local culture, and meet like-minded individuals.

  • Take that time to go over your career objectives and re-build your CV. A new place is often a fresh start, and it also enriches your perspectives and insights. Career opportunities and practices you had never thought about might emerge, and even if it is not the case, take advantage of this time you have to focus on yourself and what you really want.

  • Learn new skills, including the local language. Knowing the idiom is the best way to feel at home and – bonus part – to take your international experience and knowledge to another level.

What To Do If You Want to Find a Job On-Site

 

  • As stated before, take time to evaluate your objectives and expectations.

  • Compare the latter with the local market’s opportunities and trends, and reevaluate your prerogatives in accordance with them.

  • Rework your CV for it to be consistent with the country’s standard.

  • Ensure you are present on the social networks one uses in the country (for instance WeChat in China).

  • Network: expats associations and chambers of commerce are both very handful when it comes to meeting professionally active individuals and finding job opportunities (chambers of commerce often have CV and job opportunities sections).

  • Take care of the paperwork to comply with the local requirements in terms of employments.

Being a Professionally Active Woman: What Are the Trends

If you are a female international assignee, then you are part of the minority as this category only represents 20% of the expat assignee population (RES Forum, 2017) and 97% of all organizations have more males sent abroad than females (even though there are more women than ever before taking international assignments). You might also have found a job on your own once on-site, without relying on your previous job’s proposition.

In both cases, professionally active expats women face specific challenges that their male counterparts do not. It indeed appears that women are culturally more prone to balance their family and work life (as they do at home). In addition to having to deal with new cultural and professional environments, they are more likely to take care of the family’s well-being in the new home.

Still according to the RES Forum survey, women are also less likely to benefit from their international experience in the future than their male counterparts: while 39% of all international assignees are promoted or were offered jobs opportunities after one year of returning, respectively only 26% and 35% of women do.

However, if you chose to be a married/partnered woman abroad, it’s not all bad news. According to Yvonne McNulty – senior lecturer at Singapore University of Social Sciences, specialized in expatriates and human resources – couples in which the husband follows the wife abroad are more likely to complete a “successful expatriation” i.e. an expatriation that went as planned. The main reason given to explain such a trend is that – traditionally, and as already evoked – women tend to take their family more in consideration, while “family related issues” account for 33% of assignments failure. She also argues that women are less prone to put pressure on their husbands to follow them abroad: if the decision is made, then the two of them are 100% on board, otherwise the relocation is turned down.

While the first moments of your mobility as an expat woman can be hard, it often becomes easier when you take initiatives to familiarize with the local practices and to become more active socially and/or professionally. Around the world, and on social networks, many initiatives made for expat women for expat women are flourishing, providing you a networking opportunities but also emotional and professional support.

Whether you are a man or a woman, single or married, already have a job or not, relocating to another country is always a challenging. That is the reason why, at ASI Movers, we do our best to ensure you a peaceful moving process.

Environmental Protection in China: What Lies Ahead

As winter is slowly approaching the Middle Kingdom, locals and expats get more and more concerned over the air quality, and more broadly the environment. During the cold season, centralized heating is switched on in Chinese cities, them being fueled by coal makes the air quality drop significantly.

Nevertheless, China has been switching toward a new attitude regarding the environment, aiming at a “Greener China”, which should contribute to a brighter winter sky. Following our introduction to China’s Green policy in our article “Chinese New Economic Orientations: What You Need to Know”, we will now go in more details into what you need to know about the topic, exploring what lies ahead in terms of policies, outcomes, and also the opportunities one could take advantage of in the near future.

The Current Situation

For many years, economic growth has been China’s first priority, focusing on its GDP and people’s standard of living. However, it is no longer the case, as it appears pollution represents a threat for Chinese economy and as Chinese population gets more and more concerned over the danger pollution represents for its daily life and the one of its children.

China is famous for being the 2nd world’s greatest polluter, factories and power plants are held responsible for major part of the country’s air, soil, and water pollution, which most noticeable consequences have been heavy smog and tap water being unhealthy.

Objectives & Measures

4 main objectives have been highlighted by the Chinese government:

  • Reduce the weight of coal industry to reach better air quality, which translates into dismantling coal-fired power plants, and cutting particulate-matter emission rate.
  • Better regulation in the implementation of the following policies thanks to relevant government's administration being more powerful than before.
  • Foster and invest in greener companies, thanks to an environment tax and thanks to attracting foreign green investments.
  • Make the Belt and Road Initiative – China’s greatest economic project – green.

In 2015, the new Environment Protection Law came into effect, whose main measures are:

  • Allowing environment protection department to seize, impound or close facilities that cause serious environmental pollution, penalties and punishments for non-compliance have also been made heavier. In 2016 the Ministry of Environmental Protection set up the Central Environmental Protection Inspection as to monitor the implementation of the policies previously listed resulting in 1, 140 officials to be disciplined. Factories have been moved away from big cities as to reduce air pollution, and even private households in the North of the country have been demanded to switch from coal heating to natural gas.

  • Fiscal advantages are granted to industries complying with the government’s agenda, as well lenient borrowing policies. The solar panel industry has been one of the main beneficiary of this policy, to the point that without the government’s support, a majority of the companies would have to cease their activity.

Economic Opportunities

As we evoked earlier, China is - and plans to continue - investing heavily in the environmental industry, investment in the environmental sector is projected to exceed RMB15 trillion during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020).

Which industry could one invest or develop a business in?

  • Provision of equipment and services for environmental pollution control;
  • Removal of pollutants;
  • Water treatment;
  • Energy conservation;
  • Clean production;
  • Collection, safe disposal, recycling and recovery of waste resources;
  • Services related to the protection of resources and the natural ecology.

Pollution is an issue China targets heavily, even making it an economic orientation as the country is aiming at becoming an international leader in this particular topic.

In the meantime, ASI Movers knows that expatriates are still concerned about the air quality as well as by how to avoid suffering short or long term pollution side effects. Here are few tips one should follow as to minimize the effects of current Chinese environment:

  • Wear a mask: as to prevent yourself from absorbing harmful particules, wearing a mask is a good option. However, make sure to choose a qualitative one: too often people wear surgical masks or simply one made out of cloth, both not protecting you efficiently. As such, make sure yours features a carbon filter, that its rating is good, that it fits your face securely, and that you can easily breathe in.
  • Buy an air purifier for your home, the best always being having one in each room.
  • Surround yourself with plants as they are natural air purifiers.
  • Exercise regularly: people doing so enjoy a better respiratory system which regenerates faster.
  • Check the air quality before leaving your home: many Apps having this feature are available, which can help you plan your day accordingly (if the air quality is too poor, outdoor physical activity for instance is not recommended).

 

ASI Movers has been helping expats relocate from, to, and within China for more than 10 years, we know the problematics and concerns expats face on a daily basis and try our best for your experience in China to be the smoothest possible!