I come to Shanghai once a year to visit family - this is the first time that I'm staying for two months to take my brand internationally. It's the first time that I get to see the city from a business perspective.
This was a HUGE business move, one that I've been dreaming of making for years and had the opportunity to finally do. I've been here for three weeks and have already learned so much about the business mindset of both foreigners and locals. Here's what I learned so far about how people do business in Shanghai:
1. Foreigners in Shanghai work VERY HARD.
For the simple reason that they have an exit strategy - which doesn't necessarily involve living in China. Foreigners that I've met here come from Australia, Russia, Italy, Israel, UK and their mindset is to work very hard for a short period of time in order to re-locate.
2. People are friendlier
My direct surroundings happen to be early to late 20's and they've all left their homes at 18-19 to work abroad. They've developed such a strong sense of self at a young age so they are very comfortable with outside surroundings. They are independent, eager to connect with others and great at networking.
3. Investing in Chinese Yen is key.
I've been coming to Shanghai every year for the last 10 years (time flies!) and I've seen how the city grows tremendously every time I come back. The first time I was here the exchange was $1 for 12 ¥ where as now $1 is worth 5¥. Definitely worthwhile to own Chinese Yen if you don't already.
Everything and anything is done by WeChat. They're so advanced with their technology that from the corner store to taxis, everyone uses this application to pay, transfer money, and communicate with each other. My WeChat wasn't working for the first two weeks and it was the biggest hassle to deal with. Considering that Facebook/SnapChat and Instagram is blocked here - WeChat is your only source of survival with the Shanghai world.
5. You can get anything on Taobao for 1/10 of the price.
Taobao is the chinese version of Ebay - but on crack. You can get anything you want, for super cheap and if it doesn't fit - they pick it up the next day and return it for free. It's also same day delivery or 24 hours max. Nothing compares to this system and it makes life so much easier once you get used to it.
6. People love to collaborate (once they trust you).
Because people are so driven and business oriented, it's easier to make them collaborate with you on a project than back home. To them, everything is a learning experience. They would rather work 3 jobs and get paid for 2 then just take the 2. Again this has to do with the exit strategy - soak up as much knowledge in the shortest period of time. They are also open to new ideas and concepts.
7. Drinking over business meetings is a must.
Chinese LOVE to drink - it's in their culture. The best way to close a Chinese client is to go out and have fun with them. They have this special liquor that they drink excessively, and if you can drink to their speed they will love you. It's considered rude if you don't drink with them during a business meeting.
8. Chinese love working with foreigners.
Another very good aspect of working in China is they are open to working with outsiders. It's known that certain cultures prefer working with each other, especially with the language barrier but not China - in fact it helps if you're not from here. They see it as an opportunity to enter a different market.
9. Networking is everything.
This city is filled with entrepreneurs and workaholics - which I love. I go out for lunch and I meet the CEO of a huge firm in New York City. I pass by M1NT for dinner, and meet a Honk Kong mogul. The city is filled with over 20 million people, yet foreigners and business people go to the same places. Therefor it's not hard to end up in the same room as a potential client or new business opportunity.
10. Rè shuï
Which means "hot water" in english - chinese people will literally have hot water with EVERY meal. Important thing to know if you want to blend in with the chinese crew, drink hot water after or during your meal - it'll make you feel right at home... China home that is.