Mistakes expats make in China

Hello everyone,

Did you make any mistakes when you first moved to China? What were they?

How did you address your mistakes? Did you learn anything from them?

With hindsight, what would you do differently?

Are there any tips you could give future expats in China to help them avoid these kinds of mistakes?

We look forward to hearing from you!


The biggest mistake I made was not researching my employer. I was employed by a real bunch of cowboys. I was stranded in Hong Kong for two weeks becuase they put the wrong informatiion on my visa application. I now work for a company which was recommended by 4 of their employee's and I am very happy.

Are there any mistakes you made when you first moved to China?

Do not jump to quick, visit the place you intend to move to several times,  weather changes, pollution changes, try to shop, most of the things you want will not be available or if they are the quality will be poor and the prices high.  Do not expect the East to function like the West. in the East the victim is wrong until enough pressure is brought to punish the perpetrator.  courts seldom side for a foreigner.

What did you do to address your mistakes? What did you learn from them?
I withdrew at considerable cost.

With hindsight, what would you do differently?
I would not do business in China.
What advice would you give to help future expats avoid these mistakes?
Do not go. If there was a golden age it is gone.  Money now rules China and every Chinese wants it badly.
We look forward to reading your thoughts on the forum!

Hey folks,

The single biggest mistake I made is allowing myself to become attached to material goods and expecting nice things to stay nice. Cars, bikes, shoes, clothes, heck, even your cellphone. People care about themselves (not so much in a selfish way), they know that there are so many people and realistically in the end, you can't help all. But you can always help one...yourself. Someone dings your car, you will never find out unless well, cameras or witnesses. You will never find a witness were there. Even when you think you have China down to a science, you don't. Don't confuse pessimism with realism. 

The single biggest mistake ANYONE could make before coming to China is having expectations or preconceived notions of ANYTHING. Dispel ANY forethought of China and just be there. Live in the moment, play it by ear. If you are fortunate enough to speak to someone you trust and know well who will be going there or has been there then you can begin to develop an IDEA of what it may be, AT BEST.

Mistakes are best addressed as, "Money comes, money goes.." or "Well, that was an expensive lesson in life..." AS WELL AS MY FAVOURITE--> "Time for a beer."

In hindsight I would store all personal possessions in a safety depot back in whatever home country and return to it when necessary. Otherwise if living here, dispel all worldly goods cause it will only slow you down. Decorate accordingly, cheap out on cars, or better yet, use public transit. Never carry more than you need to.

Tips to future expats, don't listen to me or anyone; live in the moment, tread lightly but travel far. Most important, open mindedness.

Yours truly,
Former Idealist, CB.

When and how Chinese negotiate and compromise and when and where they don't doesn't seem to have a discernible pattern for most foreigners; that said, much depends on presentation.  Keeping cool and trying to do things behind the scenes will be much more effective than calling people out, especially in public. 

It is normal to feel that one is being cheated because one is a foreigner, but you'll quickly discover you are being treated just as well as the average Chinese, perhaps better in some situations.  Services are poorer for foreingers in circumstances such as getting train tickets, at banks, or other places which require identification and the only automated systems only accepted Chinese identification.  Be prepared to be told that something is impossible at someplace where just yesterday it was.  Realize that rules are there to be followed, and often one will be told there is "no-why" as to some protocol or process which must be followed to the letter, no matter how absurd they may seem. 

Customer service is seemingly seldom on the mind of most service providers/workers.  Complaining or asking to speak with a manager seldom helps.

I've made many but the biggest one was not being gentle with myself when China got to me to the extent that it did! I'm a traveller; resourceful, independent, capable, and with a great attitude, so when I found myself to be depressed and weary, I was surprised ... and mostly, well, just hugely disappointed in myself! I am SO sorry I did that to myself. China is DIFFICULT. It really is.

There is so much that can be frustrating (the air and noise pollution), inscrutable (lack of good information, signage, or MAPS - let alone ones with pinyin!), unfathomable (the spitting and the pushing and shoving) and just generally spirit dampening stuff ... but there's also SO MUCH good stuff.

I've learned to give myself a break. I'm also giving China a break ... and a chance to show me her wonders!

my mistake,

on one fine Sunday morning(my first weekend in china), I get up, take my brush , started brushing and walk outside my door for some fresh air. that's it :( , door has been locked.
am outside the house without key, mobile, proper dress, money and I don't speak Chinese.
I am so much frustrated try picking up the lock and failed.
Later, some how I have a expat neighbor, I knock their door and seeks their help.
and they helped with some key maker and he charged 200RMB.

after few months, I read somewhere, if it happens like above, just go to police, they will open it for you free, but we need to show our passport for identification inside the house.

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