From Dongguan To The Next City

If you’ve been living and working in Dongguan for some time now, moving to another city in China could be on the horizon. However, make sure to consider these key things first.

After three wonderful years in Guangdong, I recently accepted a new job elsewhere in China. This is officially the third city I’ve worked in within the Middle Kingdom. One would think that expat life gets easier the longer one’s in it and to some extent that is true; your confidence, cultural sensitivities, language, work and social skills usually do improve over time. After some time in Dongguan, you may have matured and often things just seem simpler. However, this is now where I’d like to introduce the mildly unsettling “but” and I’ll do this by unpacking it over seven points.

Consider these when you plan to make your own next move:

1) Know the applicable laws and systems of your destination.
As a netizen, use the net. Visit the local government websites and do your due diligence in terms of figuring out whatever documents may be required and then make sure you have them. A tip: These days the laws require that you pretty much have to get all your papers notarized. Of course, nobody likes the schlep of posting things back and forth between countries. Not only is it time-consuming but also very stressful what with translations that may also be required. Needs must however, so get it done as early as possible and tick this one off your list.

2) Ensure the institution you plan to work for actually has a legal license to hire foreigners.
Many people didn’t do their homework and as a result, endured an unpleasant expat experience. Do not make yourself a victim of your own ignorance—do the research.

3) Don’t think but know the culture and customs.
Dongguan is amazing in terms of being a migrant city and expats, when they befriend their Chinese peers, end up somewhat encountering local customs and culture from all around China. Yet, hearing about it and actually living there is not the same. Personalities are just as varied as provincial customs and culture. So yes, read and listen to whatever you can in preparation, but strut into your new setting and accept it as the new city that it is.

4) Negotiate a contract that suits you.
You really only have one shot at negotiating a contract, that being a final face-to-face meeting before you actually sign. All prior video calls and text messages come full circle in such a moment. It also sets the tone for the year or two you intend to remain in your chosen position. A tip: you’re in a country that values networked relationships.

5) Find a doctor, Wi-Fi, a gym, a good translator app and a local community to be part of.
We are definitely lucky in Dongguan to have easy access to whatever we may need at the time, seeing as most places or services are very accessible. However, this may not be the case everywhere one goes. Check with your new employers to help you prepare. Not all cities have publications with maps or directories, in which case you’ll have to search the net yourself. Have fun exploring, meet people and remember Wi-Fi in China is very affordable.

6) Make moving trucks as simple as possible and don’t stress.
I was surprised at how fair the costs were when I checked with four different Dongguan moving companies. Depending obviously on how much you want to move and the number of boxes—and the distance too, of course—you may be able to get it all done for anywhere between 1,500 RMB to 6,000 RMB. Given that some employers will fully or partially fund your move, the process doesn’t have to be as stressful as it may first seem.

7) For those with families, find a good school for your children.
Finding a decent school which is also affordable may be a challenge, yet it is comforting to know that many more international schools have been opening all over the place. Also, with local property developers erecting more family-friendly complexes, malls and parks in various cities, families too can certainly have a good life in China.

The People’s Republic has grown tremendously over the last few decades and has been offering amazing opportunities to foreigners and locals alike. As times changed, so did regulations. Almost nothing is the same as it used to be and therein lies the Shakespearean rub; one chooses to evolve with each change as it comes, but how many more will there be later on?