Expatriates have never had it easy in China. They have always been subjected to catcalls by the natives. The average expat is always reminded of his origin in some way or the other and made to feel like an alien. They are made to feel like outsiders every day based on their cultural differences and also business ties. Even if one has stayed for a couple of years together, Chinese will forget to remind you that you are an outsider.
The plight of foreigners in China is too much. Children walking down the road often point out to the fact that you are an outsider. Strangers walking passed you will also remark pointedly on your skin color. After a while, this gets to you and it becomes difficult to survive under such conditions. These kinds of stresses and such hostility can build up on the stressful professional situation for expats residing in China for business purpose.
Researches Corroborated the Fact
According to various research studies conducted over the years, it has proved that minority stress gets to you and it manifests itself through physical consequences. In a group of dominant and non-dominant macaques, the dominant ones lived longer and healthier compared to the non-dominant ones which had narrow arteries like sewer pipes in contrast to the dominant ones having clear arteries. This example suits the position of expats in China.
Already there are difficulties setting up business relations in China and such problems add salt to the injury. Situations like Chinese bureaucracy slowing around Chinese New Year and uneasy negotiations appear even more difficult coupled by the problem of nationality and ethnicity. Among the physical consequences, the expats start suffering from headaches and irritable behavioral syndrome.
Chinese business lawyers come across situations very often when their clients complain of such hostility from the Chinese. In fact, in certain cases, the foreign party actually dissolves the business contract because they start believing that the Chinese companies are impossible to work with. There are worse conditions in waiting for the expats when they face extreme difficulty in communicating with the local staff and also get gradually strangulated by the bureaucratic system. Big shot companies often offer compensation in the form of vacation for the expats in China. However, the situation is worse for the staff of smaller companies because they do not receive any of these. Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time in China have experienced the plight of the expats because they always talk about leaving the country.
How to Deal with Minority Stress in China
Resolving minority stress is important and it begins with acknowledgment of its existence. Foreseeing employee burnout and taking adequate measures to reduce the damage is helpful in maintaining peace in the long term. On an individual basis, expats residing in China can enhance their effectiveness at handling such problems by including healthy habits of general stress management. There are steps that the expats can take to increase their tolerance and maintain their peace of mind. Some measures include blowing off steam by getting adequate sleep, eating well and exercising regularly. However unfortunately, these cannot be practiced by the expats because of strict deadlines, long hours of work and long span of social dinners.
Expats’ plight in China is real and it accounts for the unhealthy working conditions for expats in the country. You cannot expect China to be equivalent to what is there back home. There is a hell and heaven difference between the way Chinese behave with their brothers and with the foreigners. In the long run, this leads to failure of business efforts in China which is bad news.