Today we have a post from Brandon King, who helps students and recent graduates obtain internships and entry-level positions in China with his company SmartIntern.
While running an internship company in China and writing about career building is something I love, I sometimes forget what attracted me to China in the first place- the language. Studying Mandarin is an exercise in patience, curiosity, and dedication, as true fluency takes years to achieve. Sites like Written Chinese are excellent sources of information and language hacks, but if you really want to accelerate the language learning process, combining online resources with in-country experience is the way to go. With that in mind, I want to take you through a day in the life of a white-collar office worker (白领, bái lǐng ) in China and introduce you to some common day-to-day workplace vocabulary to help you become a White Collar Baller.
In China, the “old 9-5” is usually more of a 9-6, but with a 2-hour lunch break. Workdays are typically Monday through Friday, although many Chinese companies still operate on the Monday through Saturday schedule established by SOEs (State-owned enterprises) decades ago.
Whether walking to the office on a Monday or a Saturday, the first order of business for most westerners（洋人, yáng rén） is going to be getting some coffee (咖啡, kā fēi). If you are working in a Tier 1 or Tier 2 city in China, you’ll be able to find a Starbucks (星巴克, xīng bā kè) somewhere in the city.
The pace of work in your office will depend largely on whether the boss (老板, lǎo bǎn) is present. If he or she is, expect a lot of furious typing and feigned work, but if they aren’t, you may find that some of your less intrinsically motivated colleagues use QQ, a popular chat application, to chat (聊天, liáo tiān) with friends. Around 12 PM, it’s time for lunch.
For lunch, you’ll need to find a restaurant that can deliver food (送饭, sòng fàn). Thankfully, most restaurants in China have a small army of deliverymen who can bring you whatever you desire via electric bike. In most office environments, lunch will be a boxed lunch (盒饭, hé fàn), a meal which consists of rice, a meat dish, and a few types of vegetables. It’s not glamorous, but at 10-15 RMB a pop you can’t beat it. While waiting for your food, feel free to proclaim that you are “starving to death” (我饿死了, wǒ è sǐ le）to convey to everyone in the office just how hungry you are.
#protip: Don’t ever bring stinky tofu (臭豆腐，chòu dòu fu) into the office. I know, I know, “it tastes better than it smells”, but just don’t do it.
You might follow up lunch with a nap, or a TV show on China’s most popular video sharing site, Youku (优酷, Yōu kù). Eventually, it’ll be time to get off work (下班, xià bān) and you may be reminded by HR to swipe your time card (刷卡, shuā kǎ) on the way out. Unless, of course, you are working overtime (加班，jiā bān- literally “add work”), in which case you won’t.
At some point, you’ll return home (回家, huí jiā), perhaps after unwinding with some beer (啤酒, pí jiǔ) or