Job Opportunities in Shanghai for Foreigners

Many Shanghai expats are faced with the prospect of being sent abroad by their jobs. However, it might be challenging to obtain work in Shanghai on your own. To succeed in today's world, fluency in English isn't enough; you also need a working grasp of the Chinese language and familiarity with Chinese culture. You'll need to have a high level of expertise in your subject.

Working in Shanghai: Necessary Abilities

Competences and Requirements

Recent job postings on the websites of the American and German Chambers of Commerce in Shanghai include a financial controller, plant operations manager, supplier quality engineer, sales manager, and professional translator, among others.

Taking a look at this small sample, it's clear that proficiency in the Chinese language and understanding of Chinese culture are assets, but that expertise in a technical or commercial field is more essential. Degrees in Chinese Studies or Intercultural Communications may not be as desirable as "hard talents" in marketing, sales, finance, consulting, IT, engineering, and new technology, as well as good to great professional credentials.

Essential Language Skills

English is used as a common language in the workplace by many businesses with foreign ownership or multinational corporations. Therefore, Chinese proficiency should not be all-encompassing; rather, it should be tailored to the needs of certain positions. Even though language proficiency isn't specifically requested in the job description, you may have a leg up on the competition if you have it. While you probably won't need them to get by in day-to-day life, knowing how to communicate effectively with Chinese coworkers and business contacts will help your workday go more smoothly. Speaking Chinese also opens up additional employment opportunities.

Linguistic Instruction

You should learn at least the basics of Standard Mandarin for professional reasons. Even though Mandarin doesn't have a lot of intonation or a particularly sophisticated grammar, it nonetheless requires a lot of expertise from its speakers. As a result of tonal qualities, listening comprehension and the ability to distinguish between slight pronunciation discrepancies are of paramount importance. Writing and reading Chinese is also more challenging than in alphabetic languages due to the large number of characters used. You shouldn't stress yourself too much about the challenges of learning Mandarin unless doing so is absolutely necessary for your profession. Just making an effort shows admiration for and curiosity in different cultures. Speaking even a shaky dialect of Mandarin may endear you to your hosts, employees, or contact person simply because it shows you made an attempt to communicate with them in their language.

Common Practices and Protocols for Conducting Business in Shanghai

Most Chinese would not expect you to understand all the intricacies of their culture, just as you can get by in Shanghai's corporate world without knowing how to read.

However, you should be cautious of making a major international faux pas in your business life by not knowing the standards of fundamental politeness. Some of these ideas may come easily to you, while others may need some work to keep in mind, depending on your background.

To begin, keep in mind these guiding principles that are highly valued in Chinese society, the corporate world, and beyond:



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Even if the people of Shanghai's streets may surprise you with their rudeness—they may push you aside, skip the (almost nonexistent) queue, or even spit on the pavement—in a business meeting, civility and decorum reign supreme.

Wear something clean and conservative if you're going out for the evening.

Don't slouch; instead, stand up straight and pay attention.

Don't make too direct of eye contact or point your fingers at someone, even if you're intrigued about who they could be.

When meeting someone, use a soft handshake and a small bow.

It's important to show some deference to seniority during the first round.

Don't get first names and last names mixed up. It is proper etiquette to refer to your Chinese acquaintance as Mr. Yang if he goes by a more formal Chinese name such as Yang Tao. He could have gone by his birth name, Tim Yang, or he might have adopted a more Westernized one. While Yang remains the surname, the names are listed in a more Westernized fashion. You shouldn't call him "Tim," despite the Western influence. In China, many individuals prefer not to go right to using each other's first names.

The Chinese people you meet will most likely provide you business cards when you are first introduced to them. In addition to taking things with both hands and studying them thoroughly, you should always thank the owner verbally and with a little bend of the head. Avoid folding or scribbling on them before putting them carefully in your wallet when the introductions are done.

A round of applause might be the unofficial group greeting or welcome. You should thank your hosts and applaud back if you are applauded, since this is a regular occurrence in such settings.

Congregations for Conducting Business

After you've practiced making proper introductions to Shanghaiese entrepreneurs, you may go on to discussing more substantive topics. Additional guidelines to think about are as follows:

Keep your mouth shut if someone is already speaking.

Don't fill awkward pauses with words, even if you feel like you should.

Don't stray too far from the topic at hand.

Stay off politics during the formal meeting portion, and keep small conversation to a minimum. On the other hand, your Chinese hosts may take a keen interest in your home life and loved ones back in China. Don't confuse their inquisitiveness with rudeness.

Don't probe for direct feedback, and practice picking up on subtle hints instead.

When your Chinese contacts say things like, "we'll consider the problem" or "it's not very convenient," it's likely that they have no interest in continuing the conversation. Never wait for a direct rejection before acting.

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