How to work in Shanghai as a designer?

Published in: Medium@dollyshlin


As an UX Designer from Taiwan who have worked domestically for years, I decided to take an adventure to Shanghai this year.

Even though Taiwan and China share similar culture and backgrounds, we are different in many aspects, not to mention the living behaviors and working style. Because there are many culture shocks to me at first, I would like to share my experiences for those who also want to join in the wars. There are some suggestions based on my personal experience, you can take for reference but may not be comprehensive enough and suitable for everyone.

1. Overcome sanitary and living issues

Before starting to work, you have to settle down first. When I decided to move to Shanghai, some friends ever reminded me that the accommodations here may not be as satisfactory as those in Taiwan at the same price. That means you may spend more money or time to find a suitable and standard ensuite or share room. Also, it is quite usual that the photos on Chinese rental websites are fake.

When I started searching for an apartment, I suddenly realized my friends’ reminds. Even though the interior of a room is decorated and acceptable, the public space is common to be full of cigarette smell, dusts, stains or even urine. Living environment might influence our decision on staying in a city, so you might measure your tolerance of living environment when considering to work in China.

Good interior doesn’t mean good outside. (from my photo)

2.Get familiar with Chinese IOT services

Second, if you want to survive in China, it is necessary to get used to Chinese IOT services. Though they are quite convenient but might be different from those you are used to in your country, like Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, Line, Snapchat, etc, which can be surfed only by “crossing the wall (VPN)”.

To summarize, I put together a list of useful Chinese IOT services as below.

Useful Chinese IOT services. (from official websites)

There are two major telecommunication companies in China, 中國移動ChinaMobile and 中國聯通ChinaUnicom. Generally you pay around RMB$100~ a month (based on the speed and traffic you choose) to get connected, but the quality of connection is not so smooth from my experience. Moreover, the use of mobile number is quite widespread in this country. Chinese use it for IOT service registration, rather than google or facebook account. Without owning a Chinese mobile number, you cannot login most of the websites and apps or even open a bank account. Therefore, the first thing to do when you arrive in China is to apply for a Chinese mobile number, which is real-name authentication, if you want to survive in this country!

58同城: It is the most commonly used rental and life service website originated from Beijing. Its slogan is “Be Magic site”, which provides a wide range of services from property sale and rental, car rental, second-hand auction, to recruitment. Though it is a good entry site for accommodation, you’d better concern about the authenticity of the property’s photos.

鏈家LianjiaIf you don’t want to find a room one by one by yourself on the internet, you can find an agency to help you. The most famous estate company in Shanghai is Lianjiawhich also comes from Beijing and now covers 24 cities in China. They serve from property rental to purchase too. However, the commission fee is high to 35% of the house rent.

自如Ziroom: Due to the uncertain quality of rental houses in Shanghai, nowadays it is popular to rent a shared room through O2O apartments, like Ziroom, a subsidiary brand from Lianjia. That is, the apartments are under proper management by the housekeeper and there will be monthly house clean. The room quality and price generally reach a more acceptable standard.

There are many IOT companies you can find here in Shanghai on Chinese job boards like 獵聘同道 and Boss直聘, both founded in Beijing. Generally, there will be more startups on Boss直聘, while more hunters and branded companies on 獵聘同道. The steps to find a job on these boards are similar to LinkedIn. You can first register for an account and upload your resume. Based on your experiences, there will be relevant positions recommended to you.

[Social network]
WeChat微信People in China cannot use Facebook, Google and Instagram for social networking without VPN, so they use WeChat instead. It is surprising that they use WeChat for almost everything. They share photos and status on “Circle of Friends (like FB timeline)” and follow “Public Platforms (like FB fanpages)” to get update news and discounts. Digital transaction also can be performed on WeChat via QRcode or red envelopes. It is a synthesised O2O platform from social network to daily life services.

[Digital Pay]
Alipay支付寶Alipay is a third-party payment platform from Alibaba Group, which can only be opened by combining with a Chinese bank account. Every time you pay the bill, from food, electricity, traffics to rents, you only need to scan the QRcode or pay directly on Alipay. I like the service quite a lot since you don’t need to bring cash anymore and it is convenient to check monthly consumption with infographics and statement on the app. It is easy to ignore other accounting apps I ever used.

For sure food is important to survive. It may be hard to decide what to eat when you arrive a new place that you are not familiar with. If you don’t cook by yourself, you may eat out or oder takeaway. Luckily, there are 百度外賣 to oder takeaway and 大眾點評 to find satisfactory restaurants nearby. There will be a variety of food with evaluation and feedbacks on these platforms, from Chinese food, salad, pizza to Indian food close to you. Once you order food on these platforms, it will be delivered within one hour. It would be a good service when you are tired to eat out.

3.Be direct and make sense

It is well known that people in Shanghai may be somewhat fierce. I’m not sure whether it is true or not. From my personal experience, most Chinese people, no matter their genders, are more pushy and aggressive. It might be related to the huge population and booming economy, boosting people to pursue a better way of life.

Wolf (from Pixabay)

That is to say, most Chinese are not like those from well-developed countries who may be more relax and well-mannered. Instead, they are pushy and straightforward in talking about their thoughts or taking away things they want. The insecurity and pressure of living in such a crowded country also makes people somewhat like wolves. When you work with Chinese, sometimes you have to fiercely defend your ideas with reasonable points of views. Otherwise, they may be hard to persuade by a tender response.

4.Be good at English speaking & writing

Even though it is a mandarin speaking country, English is so crucial in the capital city, Shanghai. It is quite easy to encounter foreigners on the street, not to mention in a company. If you want to smoothly express your opinions when working with people from different countries, like Koreans, Indians, Americans or Europeans, you’d betted be good at English speaking and writing. For example, I usually have to communicate with Korean colleagues with many paper works and present my research and design in English. If you cannot speak out your thoughts in English, it may not be efficient enough in discussion and teamwork.

Above all are some points of view based on my personal experience of living and working in Shanghai. Of course, people from different countries would have their own opinions and feeling of surviving here. I think it would be a challenging but worthwhile experience working in China, because you can learn about Chinese market and their unique culture. If you want to start a business, career or cooperate with Chinese people in the near future, you can come to travel first to be aware of their behaviour and life style before making a big change of your life.

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