Arriving In...Shanghai

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Fraser Clarke

Making a career move overseas can be a daunting prospect, however we’re hopeful that we can be of help. In our latest Odyssey Exclusive series, ‘Arriving in…’ we’re going to take a look at your journey to a new life abroad.

We’ll aim to cover all the basics to make sure that you’re as prepared as you can be for the move, and get the most out of life in your new homeland.

Part five of our exclusive series will look at Shanghai in China, a location where we’ve recently started seeing a notable increase in interest from Western medics.

Getting there: Despite being in the Far East, getting to Shanghai for the UK is relatively straightforward. The city is a major hub for business in Asia, and as a result is a busy route for those involved in a range of different industries.

British Airways and China Eastern Airlines both operate direct flights from London Heathrow, whilst other carriers such as Lufthansa, China Southern Airlines and Swiss Global Airlines all offer flights with layovers.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport itself is located to the very east of the city, and offers a direct rail service into the heart of Shanghai. The journey time for this is around 45 minutes, rising to an hour if you choose to travel by road.

Accommodation: The price of accommodation in Shanghai reflects the city’s new found wealth and prosperity. Most expats will live in modern high-rise blocks, which have plenty of facilities on offer - but can feel small at first.

A modern, furnished two-bedroom apartment in a good area will cost between £1500 and £1800 per month, however this figure can fluctuate dramatically depending on how close to the city you want to be. Some employers will include a contribution towards the cost of rent, and we’d always advise speaking to someone with local knowledge before signing a deal on a property - to make sure the area is right for you.

Keeping in contact: It can be difficult to reach home from Shanghai, with a lengthy time difference and strictly controlled internet making communicating tricky.

Messaging service WhatsApp is currently banned in the country, however communicating using Skype is still possible. Social media networks like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and search engines like Google and Bing can only be accessed by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

For mobile phones, China Mobile offer quick data access speeds, and faultless coverage countrywide, whilst China Unicom can offer more attractive deals, however their coverage isn’t as strong in more remote areas.

Basic rules: China is still a Communist country, and as a result there are still a number of rules to be aware of. We’ve compiled a quick list of five to know before making the move:

  • Avoid criticising the Government in public, this could land you in serious trouble.
  • Keep greetings formal, a handshake is more than enough even for a close colleague.
  • The rules of the road are totally different! Giving way is seen as a sign of weakness, and so we’d recommend employing a driver, or jumping in a taxi to get around.
  • Don’t attempt to take in any potentially controversial literature, this can be confiscated at the airport - and could even lead to deportation.
  • Contracts are written in both English and Chinese, however only the Chinese version is legally binding. Make sure to get it translated by a trusted friend or colleague.

Getting around: Shanghai itself is a relatively easy city to explore, despite being absolutely colossal in size. The city has a highly efficient public transport system, making it quick and easy to get about by train, metro, ferry or bus.

If you’re looking to explore the rest of China then air is the best option. Shanghai Pudong International Airport offers a range of daily flights throughout the country - often at appealing prices. The flight time to Beijing is around two-and-a-half hours.

Things to see: Despite having a cutting-edge facade, Shanghai is home to some stunning historical monuments, and plenty of fascinating sights that give you a unique insight into Chinese culture.

  • The China Art Palace, is one of the biggest art galleries in Asia, and attracts more than two million visitors annually.
  • Yuyuan Garden, located in the old part of Shanghai is a beautiful oasis in an otherwise bustling, modern metropolis.
  • Jade Buddha Temple, you can’t visit China without knowing more about Buddhism, and the Jade temple is one of the most beautiful in the country.
  • Shanghai Museum, a striking looking building that is home to a large collection of ancient Chinese art.
  • The Shanghai International Circuit, hosts the Chinese round of the Formula 1 World Championship, with a party-like atmosphere evident city-wide all week.

The working environment: The Chinese working environment is unique, with tradition still playing a key role in the formalities of business:

  • Be prepared to be a leader. As a Western trained medic your opinion will be taken very seriously, so arrive with ideas, and be prepared to be asked plenty of questions.
  • ‘Saving Face’ is a uniquely Asian concept, whereby you have to keep your ‘honour’ by acting in a way that shows respect and humility. We’d recommend reading up on it prior to a move.
  • If you’re handing over a business card, do so with both hands.
  • Personal questions are often asked at the start of a meeting, to try and establish common ground and make both parties feel comfortable.
  • Always refer to someone by their title, unless they ask otherwise. It is seen as respectful.

Don’t forget:

  • Organise your finances before making the move, have you converted enough money, do you have an overseas bank account, should you be paying any tax at home?
  • Will your credit/debit cards work abroad?
  • Is your airport pickup sorted, and do you know where you’re staying when you arrive?
  • Do you have a phone that will work in your new location?
  • When is your official start date?