What is a smart entry strategy for a westerner who wants to live and work in China?

If you are serious about it, to enter China is a major investment. It will take you at least several years and will change you forever. And there is one rule : the more you stay, the more the competition with local Chinese will intensify.

To be a westerner confers a temporary advantage that may get you hired, but accessing higher and stable functions of society is much more complicated. There seems to be a virtually unlimited supply of talented Chinese people that have been to the best schools, speak multiple languages, and have extended connections in China - or even Parti membership.

That being said, here are my tips.

If you want to work for a foreign company, just reach out for them online or show up at their office. Most foreigners get homesick, tired or scared for their babies after some time, so there is a large turnover. If your visa allow you to wait long enough, you will end up finding some work.

If you want to understand more about Chinese society, you will first need to learn the language and get some mastery of the local culture. To understand what is happening around you, you need exposure to the daily life of Chinese people. My advice will be to settle in a small city, far from the coast. Life will be cheap so you have time to observe, learn, discuss with people and travel around.

If you want to start a business in China, you will need to make solid friends and connections. The problem here is that most important organisations are unavailable to foreigners. For instance, universities in China have separated programs for foreigners. You can get a job at a Chinese company, but smaller ones can not hire foreigners and major ones usually forbids it. Your best chance is to build on existing networks of foreigners, meet returnees that are more open to help foreigners, organise events, go to meetings, treat people dinners, i.e. spend time and money to find some support.

One good strategy will be to do all these three things. Go to work for a foreign company in a smaller city, then you can move to a bigger, more foreigner-friendly place to develop your own business.

Also don’t think that to marry will provide any help - apart from the support of your loving spouse. Family is not an “entry strategy”. I have seen people trying that and their life ended up being miserable. Please don’t.

Hope it helps!

This text was originally published in quora.

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