#26 Emma-Tiffany Durr – A young professional’s tips & tales from the Cartier sales floor
Emma was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. She came to China after receiving a bursary from winning a foreign languages competition. She currently works as a sales associate for Cartier in Shanghai. Tune in to hear Emma’s take on life in China as a young professional and listen in for her tips and tricks to successfully launching your career in China.
There’s so much substance to this culture that requires you to respect it, study it and honor it.
How she got to China
It was her dad who recognized Emma’s gift of learning languages and he advised her to study linguistics in university. She ended up studying three languages concurrently but it was Chinese where her talent really shone. Emma’s teacher entered her into a Mandarin competition in South Africa, which she won, and that landed her at the finals in Beijing and with a proper scholarship to study Mandarin in China. Tune in to hear what drew her to Shanghai in particular!
Tips for a young professional to find work in China
Identify what you’d actually like to do first. Emma stresses that it doesn’t have to be what you want to do forever – especially as a young professional just starting out. Then, once you have that in mind, start in your home country and look for organizations that have reach into China. Emma talks at length about the importance of having a foreign HR team behind you.
Emma works on the sales floor of Cartier – all in Chinese, all with Chinese clients. As a ‘laowai’ this is incredibly difficult from a language perspective but also from a cultural perspective as well. One evening, a mere five minutes before closing, a woman came in for some after-sales service on a watch. Emma talks candidly about how the language she chose to communicate with to this woman had them both up in arms.
Although it may sound odd, Emma talks about how a small victory like a Chinese colleague shoving past her without an apology is actually counted by her as a victory. If they’re willing to treat her like that, it signifies that they consider her a part of the family as opposed to a stranger (to whom they would feel obligated to show more courtesy). Emma shares that it’s these smaller instances that build her up and help keep her motivation high.
How important is Mandarin?
Language helps, but it’s all about culture in Emma’s eyes. Her fluency is a language thing, but to this day, she still doesn’t fully understand the culture. Read history books, cultural books, anything! Fill yourself up with as much knowledge as you can about psychology and thinking and you’ll go far in China.
Tips to balance work and life
For Emma, spontaneity is out the window in China so she plans, plans and then plans some more. She advises to be wise if you choose to go out during the week – it can affect your work life, for sure. Also, you can think about it as balances your mind, body and soul. Sleep is essential. Make sure you carve intentional time to see people. Don’t be alone for too long even if that means reaching out to friends and family back home until you make community here.
Connect to Emma
Email Emma @ email@example.com