Working Life in UK and China

When an Englishman moves to China, they will face two types of difficulties. Since the latter has spent most of history isolated from the rest of the world, one of the difficulties would include the Englishman learning the Chinese language. It has been often said that Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn. That means, a conversation is out of the question unless English is a common between the two.

The second of the difficulties someone from the UK might face in China concerns the Chinese culture. If you think the cultures could not be that different and life in China would be akin to living in the UK, then you have got another think coming! Among the cultural differences are some that may be grasped immediately. However, there are also others that will take years to be mastered. Thus, the British might be risking offending the Chinese citizens and vice versa!

Let us look at some of the differences when it comes to life in China versus the UK:

Working Hours

Working hours in both countries differ! While in the UK, you might be used to working for a fixed number of hours. This means that most employees will not be found working beyond those hours. Even if they do work on rare occasions, they will be paid overtime for it.

This is similar to China where the specific contracted hours do exist for the employees but as an English teacher, the working hours might be slightly different from Chinese citizens. Find out more information about working hours; please visit our website:

Communication Styles

The difference in the way people from the two nations communicate can also be a cause of many misunderstandings. The Chinese are a sensitive people, which means they do not like disagreeing with someone else’s opinions straightforward. Therefore, even if the other person is wrong, most Chinese people will simply nod their heads. They consider confrontations, debates, and other ways of upfront speaking very rude. Even when someone from the UK is not being rude to them intentionally, the Chinese might take it that way. They think honouring the opinions of others is important. Therefore, all kinds of blunt communication will lead to discomfort on both sides. If the Englishman is not able to decipher the subtle, indirect ways that the Chinese use to express their thoughts and opinions, they might be inconvenienced. The same is true for Chinese struggling to fit in the British society.

Management Styles

The two countries manage employees using two different management styles. In China, the management will have the authority to make decisions. There is almost a paternal quality to how the management will act towards the employees. On the other hand, in the UK, management style is based on a democratic and participative approach. It requires employees from all levels to be a part of the decision making process. The management will even prefer their subordinates a particular section that they have to make decisions for. Therefore, being a part of the management in China or working under a Chinese management might be difficult for someone from the UK who does not understand the language. The reverse would be as true. Fortunately, the Keyword Education had set up a department called foreigner education management centre who will concern the opinions of the foreigner teacher and give the feedback to the headquarters.


In the UK, business deals follow a strict code that doesn’t involve forming a relationship with a client. It is considered that business should be separated from social interactions. This is not the case in China where relationships matter. In fact, before a Chinese does business with a client, they will want to get to know them better. The Chinese culture encourages the building of social networks. Knowing that the Chinese will not proceed with the business until they trust the other party can slow things down. The subtleties of this process might be lost on someone from the UK or China, especially if they do not speak the local language.

Duration of Employment

Another difference is concerned with how long an employee will work for a company. In the UK, nobody expects you to stick with the same company. Therefore, if an employee gets a better offer or a learning opportunity with another firm, it is not concerned bad if they switch jobs. The same isn’t true for employees working in China. In fact, you might even come across many cases of lifetime employment over there! You will find that it is a common practice of the Chinese people to keep working for the same company for many years. Thus, a British employed in China making this gaffe by switching jobs could endanger their career.


If you have been wondering about who has the most authority when it comes to China, you only have to look at the hierarchy. Whether it is family or the workplace, it is the hierarchy that defines how the Chinese people will interact amongst themselves. At home, the eldest family member has the highest authority. The order of birth decides whom the siblings will listen to. The same system applies to both immediate and extended family members. The older relatives have more authority.

A similar hierarchy is also applied in the workplace. That means, whoever has the highest position in the company will make the final decisions. The social structure dictates that anyone and all below that person must accept the decision once it has been made. They must also obey the person without question. On the other hand, when it comes to parenting in the UK, things are a little different. The same goes for sibling and work relationships. Most decisions in such relationships are made together. A final decision is often arrived at after family members and employees and the management debate and discuss all possible solutions to a problem.

The differences mentioned above only highlight that a person from either culture will need to work to understand the other culture. One of the things that can make their job much easier is removing the language barrier. Since none of the languages is easy to learn, it seems like a better idea that we, who knows English or Chinese should share our language skills to others not only for the language but also for the cultural exchange. We believe that things would go much more smoothly because the Keyword Education provides free Mandarin class. We believe in the power of the language, you have the key and why not to join us to kick off your unique career path?