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As a foreigner, I've been working at a big tech company in Mainland China for over 4 years and I increasingly feel the work culture of this company does not align well with my personal values.
Specifically, I hope to contribute more to open-source and work remotely, both of which are impossible at my current employer and rather unusual in China.
Recently, I sent out some explorative job applications to relevant Western companies and either got ghosted or rejected immediately.

A few years back, I attended a job fair in my home country and after my visit, I had a chat with the organizer of the job fair. He told me that after having worked in China for 2 years, companies in my home country would consider me unrecoverably burnt out and unsuitable for the working culture in my home country.

Even though this scared me back then, I also couldn't really comprehend this. After having lived, worked and studied in my home country for more than 25 years, how can 3+ years of being abroad make me inherently unsuitable for the working culture in my home country?
Besides, I already have some work experience (apprenticeship and several student jobs at university) in my home country, so I also know other work cultures.

Does the above-mentioned sentiment apply to Western companies (European, US, Australian) in general? Is it possible that part of my failed application attempts can be attributed to a "too long" work experience in China? Is this kind of a mouse trap situation where I'm trapped now and unlikely to work outside of China anymore? What are the sentiments of Western recruiters towards a longer work experience in China/far east?

Note: I am aware of the difficult job market in IT because of the recent layoffs, and it's also possible that my job application or resume have issues. But the core of this question is specifically to get opinions as to how a longer work experience in China affects my prospects for job applications in Western companies.

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  • I've certainly hired expats with who have lived in China for positions in the US. The idea that this might be a problem didn't even occur to me and I considered the expat experience a significant strength especially when working in a global context. Worked out great!
    – Hilmar
    Feb 7 at 2:08
  • Worth bearing in mind that the job hiring process in West over past 10 years has become increasingly fast paced and a numbers game (everyone applying to every role they see online). Employers know that the good people applying to them will get other offers so they need to move fast. This means they are reviewing CVs fast. I've applied to many roles I see myself as a perfect for and be rejected ghosted then later get accepted to an identical role elsewhere. Lot of randomness Feb 7 at 5:21
  • "Recently, I sent out some explorative job applications to relevant Western companies and either got ghosted or rejected immediately." How many? I will never forget an acquaintance of mine that insisted it was "impossible" to find a job as a software developer after getting rejected twice and proceeded to give up. Not saying you're doing this, but without numbers it gets hard to evaluate if there's an issue here or just completely normal.
    – Tony
    Feb 7 at 12:22
  • @Hilmar Can I kindly ask how long have they worked in China? Feb 8 at 4:31
  • @Tony My free time is very limited and writing a targeted job application takes time, so not too many. As I said, my failures could as well be attributed to other factors, such as irregularities in CV, not fully matching the expectations, and of course too few samples. With this question, I hope to explore which effect my prolonged working experience in China has on my future job applications. Feb 8 at 4:34

2 Answers 2

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I wouldn't put too much weight into the opinion of that job-fare organizer because what they said just sounds ludicrous.

Consider 2 points:

  • A lot of companies (especially larger ones with an international customer base) would value such an experience.
  • Why should one be unrecoverably burnt out and unsuitable for the working culture in their original country after a specific amount of years in a specific country (in this case China). That's just nonsense..

"Does the above-mentioned sentiment apply to Western companies (European, US, Australian) in general?"

Not that I've ever heard of - especially in IT. We have rehired and hired expats who worked almost for a decade in industrial automatization in China and Singapore. I can't see any red flag but only positive sides in someone who gained international experience in regards to work-culture and living in a different culture in general.

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    Thanks for sharing your opinion/experience. In fact, inter-/multinational companies are the primary target for my future endeavors, but my home country's economy is dominated by smaller middle-class companies. Maybe the experience of the job-fare organizer comes from that market. Feb 8 at 4:40
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I would think there is no general trend concerning China in particular any more than working in SE Asia, India or Africa or a bunch of places.

In the First World overseas experience is usually of lesser value, particularly from those countries known to cut corners & where there is a perception that quality and training are not priorities.

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  • Thank you for your valuable suggestion. Quality concerns might really be a factor to consider. Feb 8 at 10:46

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