Salary for Foreign Engineers

I received an email from an Italian Engineer who received an offer from a Shanghai company of 10,000 RMB (about 1,400 USD) per month salary in Shanghai. He asked whether it is high or low for a foreign engineer. I believe this is a very common question to ask for people considering a Shanghai job, so I want to spend today’s blog talking about this issue again.

Before you continue reading, I believe my previous articles on the same topic may help:

  1. Foreign Job Seekers Move to Shanghai Oct 31, 2007
  2. Is 10,000RMB/Month a Ridiculous Offer? Apr 6, 2005
  3. Salary in Shanghai – Part II May 19, 2004
  4. Salary in Shanghai Jan 6, 2004
  5. Find a Job in Shanghai Aug 20, 2003

The Line Between “Foreign Candidate” and “Local Candidate” for a Job

Things change dramatically in the last 5 years since I started my blog. Just I talked in the

article: Foreign Job Seekers Move to Shanghai, more and more foreign people are moving to Shanghai to seek for job. I cannot imagine it when I was a college student 10 years ago, but it is turning into reality.

20-10 years ago, only senior people come to Shanghai, like the General Manager for a business, or those senior managers for a plant. They came as part of the move in of international companies. They receive really high salary, not only by the standard of local salary level, but also by the standard of their peers working in their home country – the hardship bonus is a very big part of their pay. At that time, the gap of salary level between foreigners and local employees are very high, easily 5 – 10 times difference. However, to be fair, the gap is not only because of their foreign status, but also because of their roles in the company. There are not many people who can take those roles when China just started its journey of internationalization, and/or market economy.

Recent years, more and more senior positions are filled by local people since the younger generation have grown up in China, while more and more junior positions are open to foreign job seekers. This changed the landscape of the comparison of local and foreign people’s salary a lot.

Foreign, or Local is not the Key for a Job

Although for some positions, it is still an important factor, but generally, less and less jobs are tied to nationality. Like software engineer position, talented young college graduate from China is apply (as always in the last 20 years), and more and more foreign college graduates are joining the race, as the number of resumes I received and my friends received from abroad indicates… For higher level jobs, like a marketing manager or GM, local MBAs are competing with international MBAs.

In this situation, foreign job seekers have to face one thing that they may not like, that is, they have to face the competition from the local talent. This is not a very good thing since in the competition for jobs, especially for relatively lower end jobs, foreign candidates do not have obvious advantage, especially for the expected salary.

10,000 RMB is a very decent salary package for local engineers (with few years of experience), while it is an Ridiculous Offer for an engineer in London. On the other hand, the quality of local engineers are more and more competitive with the recent educational system.

Accept it or Something…

Now let’s get back to the original question. If 10,000 RMB/month is the market standard for the position, I don’t think a foreign candidate has too much negotiation power to change it, unless it is a position that only foreigners can fill. My friend shared the story with me. She interviewed a candidate for his position, and he is qualified for it. She said, “I am happy to accept you, but I can only offer 1/10 of the salary you are earning now.” That is the cold reality. (For people who are curious, the candidate I talked about finally accepted the offer).

If that is the case, you can only take it or leave it. If you feel that is not acceptable, maybe find another place to apply for a job. I know it is no longer paradise as the early days in Shanghai – backpacker foreigners who can speak English earns much more than local professor or manager by teaching English lessons on their part-time. The good old time just past.

10,000 RMB

What does 10,000 RMB/month means?

It is a decent salary, if not a “impossible” salary for most of people. It is good enough. You can leave decent local life and you can be much better than many people.

This brings in another interesting question: I heard Shanghai is one of the most expensive city to live, isn’t it?

My insight for this is, if you want to live western developed country life here, it is even more expensive than western cities. For example, cars are much more expensive than any city in US, and golf can cost your 10,000 RMB in one week easily….

However, if you go to local good restaurants (not those for expats, which charges more than a whole dinner for a beer), or take public transportation, or even taxi, it is very good for you.

Good Luck

So finally, good luck to you and other foreign job seekers to Shanghai. The good thing is, finally, the job market in Shanghai and China opens to foreigners, but the problem is, as you can imagine, the competition started.

The Wonderful 2008 Meetup

Today, we had a wonderful Wangjianshuo’s Blog Meetup. Thanks everyone for coming!

The meetup was held in the Starbucks Jinyan Store. It is a Saturday afternoon. The helpful and kind staff told me that after Olympics, many people appeared out of their home, and came to the Starbucks. 100 table in the outside area was occupied. We were lucky to have a corner on the second floor, so about 20 of us can gather and had wonderful conversation here.

Who Came..

As expected, Christina Hou, Christina’s friends (sorry, what is your name in written, I just cannot remember it clearly after I am back. :-(), Michelle, and Auastasia (from Moscow Russia) showed up. Then we had Jeremy. This morning, I received a comment from Jeremy Friedlein after I posted the entry stating I am expecting 3-5 people:

3-5? I will bring 14.

He really meant it. He is a director of an oversea training program, and he really brought about 14 of his students from the CET program. His team was a wonderful addition to the meetup since they came from both China and US, and from different states from the United States. Many of them just arrived in Shanghai 2 days ago, which makes it possible to share their really fresh impression of the city.

What We Talked

The talk started with the question, “what is a meetup”. Let me explain it again here. It is a very, very, very (please pay attention to how many “very” I used) causal gathering of my blog reader’s community. I intentionally didn’t do any promotion – just an entry about WHEN and WHERE I will be in from time to time on my blog. The notice is often posted within 10 days before the meetup (not too long lead time), and I didn’t send any emails out about it. The goal is very simple – to have really causal readers of my blog to gather together and to share the excitement of being in this city and being connected through a little blog.

Because of the casual nature of the meetup, I never really know how many people will come for each meetup. Sometimes just myself (as once in San Francisco), and sometimes there are many people coming. I don’t want to control the event by myself (Well. I admit the only way I control it is to decide how long in advance I post the notice, or the expectation I set for the meetup before hand). I am happy that every time, there are some surprise for me, and for my readers who came.

When we talked many topics from self introduction, to live in this city, from the feeling of first few years/few days after coming to this city, to the culture shock, or T.I.C moment, from why I started my blog (The top question in my FAQ list), to what is my plan for this blog in the future (my answer was, no plan except keeping blogging), from places to visit in Shanghai, to the recent Olympic Games.

The Photo

Here is a photo we took at last with almost everyone in it.

Photography by Tang Jinyao

In the photo, I am in the middle – yes, I just had my hair cut and get fatter a little bit. On the right hand is Russian girl Anastasia. Jeremy is at the back and Christina is on the far left end. There are certainly many other people in the photo who I remembered their name or not yet. Looking forward to know each of you more in the future – we have a blog (and comment section) to talk online, don’t we?

Mr. Tang, Mr. Lee, and others from ICS

I left Tang and his team from ICS to the end, but not the least. This meetup is specially, since the program of A Tale of 3 Cities came to the meetup to document what is happening there, and interviewed some of my readers, and me. We shoot some outside city scene from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM before the meetup, and wrapped up everything a little bit after 6:00 PM, longer than expected. If you want to know what is going on during the meetup, tune to ICS (International Channel Shanghai) channel at 9:30 PM on Saturday, Sept 6, 2008, which is exactly 7 days from today. Everyone who came should be able to see yourself on TV then.

Tang is a wonderful person. He is reporter and editor of the program A Tale of 3 Cities. He is very passionate about his program that he spent a lot of time talking with me and took the time to walk along with me in the Wujiang Road. He helped to facilitate the meetup and arranged the TV shooting with the Starbucks (interestingly enough, not as most brand, Starbucks PR does not like their logo to show up in TV program, which they asked as a criteria to let us in. Strange). The whole afternoon was a wonderful experience for me – amazing afternoon. Thanks Xiao Tang.

Mr. Tang Jinyao from ICS. Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang

Next Meetup

If you missed this meetup, don’t worry. I will arrange such meetup in the future. I will post notice in advance, so if you want to be part of it, just pay attention to my blog, or subscribe my RSS to stay up to date. However, don’t ask me to notify you via email or other ways. I’d like to, but I just feel it is not easy to keep track of such commitment and it is very easy for me to fail to notify you. So come back often and check this blog. As my typical style shows, the I often post meetup in last minute (several days before it, instead of planning it way in advance).

I am traveling to the America from Sept 13 to Sept 22, and I will be in San Francisco (including San Jose, Palo Alto, SFO), and Seattle (and nearby places). I will definitely be at Microsoft campus in Redmond in the afternoon and dinner of Sept 17. Maybe I will find some way to notify my readers when I am there. As always, to meet with my readers in person is always my favorite experience.

Thanks everyone for coming! You made my day!

Blog Meetup on August 30, 2008

Tomorrow, I will have a small meetup in Pudong Starbucks Jinyan Store. Now it seems 3-5 people are coming. It is good enough, so we have some time to chat about life in Shanghai. Since it is just tomorrow, let me irritate about the logistics, and a special news. The following is organized in a Q&A format.


Q: What is the meetup?

A: No particular goal, just free chat. Since I many got request for meetup, and my typical answer is, I will arrange meetup from time to time on this blog, so we have some opportunity to meet in person. It also provide a chance for the reader community to know each other.

Q: Who will come?

A: I don’t know. Sometimes just myself, and sometimes, there are more than 20 people. Who knows. People may show up or not. I have no idea before that.

Q: What about the cost?

A: It is pretty AA (go dutch). You may want to buy a cup of Starbucks yourself. I get there in advance, and take seat to sit down.

Q: Where is the Starbucks we are meeting up tomorrow?

A: It is at the south side of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, on the other side of the river – there is a pedestrian bridge over the river.

Q: How to get there?

A: Highly recommend to take Metro. Use Metro Line#2 and exit at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. Then go east or west to get around the museum. You will see a river, and a big Starbucks logo. Cross the river, and you are there. If you take taxi, tell the driver to bring you to the Jinyan Road 锦严路 (near Jinxiu Road, and Huamu Road).

Q: What is the weather tomorrow?

A: Heavy rain. If you cannot come due to the heavy rain, it is absolutely fine. I will be there at 3:00 PM.

Q: What if I cannot find you or get lost?

A: Call my mobile 13916146826.

Special News

I got message that crew of ICS (International Channel Shanghai) is coming to the meetup and they want to interview some of my readers there, of cause under your permission. If you want, you can appear on the ICS.

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.

Dos and Don’ts For Foriengers in China

My reader asked what is the dos and don’ts for foreigners (or America as he is) in China. Here is my answer:

@Pedro Godoi, don’t worry, just enjoy your trip and don’t care too much about the dos and don’ts. Just follow the common sense in America. Typically, people in China, and in Shanghai of cause, are very nice to foreigners, and they tolerate a lot if you cannot use chopstick, or don’t understand many local things. It is OK to be nature as in every where in the world. Most dos and don’ts here are the same as most places in the world.

If you do ask me for one don’ts, that is, don’t always think there is only one correct way to do things. Be open in mind and don’t be too quick to judge the country.

At a second thought, I may want to add the following dos and don’ts for my friends.


  • Do try new things in China. Many people come to see a world different from the world they live, so take the opportunity to try some new things, like walking out of the 5 star hotels to the street to learn what normal people do.

  • Do smile. People in China are generally very kind to visiting foreigners, so be kind to them.
  • Do make local friends. It is through friends that you understand the country better than wandering on the street. People in China love to make foreign friends, especially young people, since it is also a good opportunity for them to learn world outside, or at least learn English or other foreign language


  • Don’t think people staring at you as hostile. Most of the straight look is out of curiosity instead of discrimination, or hate. This is especially true in inner China where people don’t see many foreigners in their life before.

  • Don’t try to enforce your local rules. I saw foreigners yelling at local people claiming to send them to court, or get involved in argument based on the local rules, or laws. Show some respect, since there are other rules locally. Just try to understand it. If people cross the street at red light, give people time (in China, it means decades) instead of yelling at people.
  • Don’t misbehave. This is very general, but don’t misbehave just because you are out of your home country, and you don’t feel the pressure of laws. Or you may find many local people did something, like jaywalking, and you follow. Please don’t do it, since when you don’t know something (for example, you don’t know what is Qing Dynasty, or you don’t use chopstick), it is acceptable, and often welcomed. However, if you do some bad things that local people think is bad (no matter how many break the rule), they will think very badly of you (I do). Try to stay the bar high. I understand that China is still far from a modern country, even after a successful Olympic or enjoying high grow economy, but I don’t want to lower the standard I set for myself. Many local people do the same thing, that is the reason they don’t like people behave differently from the relatively higher standard in public places.

Anything you want to add?

Buy Train Ticket After On Board

My reader asked me whether it is possible to buy D train or CRH train ticket after getting on board.

My answer is, generally, no.

Checkpoints before you get on board

In Shanghai Railway Stations, for example, you have to have a valid train ticket before you get even close to the door of the train. Here are the possible places you need to show your ticket.

1. The Station.

The rule is, you can enter the train station only 2 hours before the train departs. You need to line up and show your ticket to an officer outside the train station. it is the same for the South Railway Station. The reason is, with too much people, without the check, many people may use the train station as a temp home, and enjoy the free air conditioning system. It is fine to have just a few, but as any train station in China, there are many people sitting or sleeping outside the train station, just wait for the 2 hour time to come.

2. The Platform.

After you wait in the waiting room in the train station, you need to line up to show to the person at the checkpoint before the platform to enter the platform. This is to avoid people holding other train ticket to get onto the departing train. This is gate opens 30 minutes before the train departs, and closes 5 minutes in advance.

3. The Train Cart.

Before you enter the train, you need to show the ticket to the train conductor before you enter the train. This is also to avoid people holding normal seat ticket to get into a better class of train cart. They can move freely after the train starts to move, but this check helps to keep the order of the train at the very beginning.

4. On the Train

The train conductor will check train ticket on board to find people who don’t have the ticket. This is routine check, and it is not easy to skip. Actually, this is the real check that prevent ticket slipping. If you are caught, you need to pay for the ticket.

So, if you don’t have a train ticket, it is not easy to get on to the train.

However, There Are Still Ways To Get On Board

Generally, you need to buy a ticket before you get on board, but there are other ways to work around it. The secret is, the Platform Ticket!

You can buy a platform ticket to gain access to the platform. Platform tickets are used for people to accompany their family, friends to get onto the train or those who pick up their friends on the train. The ticket is not valid for travel, just for a short period of time before the train departs, or arrives.

It costs 2 RMB in Shanghai.

If you have a Platform Ticket, you can pass check #1, and #2. For checkpoint #3, you can tell him/her that you can getting back very soon. When you are in the train, stay there until the train moves.

Then either wait for the train conductor to come to you to pay the full amount of the ticket, or you go to the train conductor (who often have office in the middle of the train) to buy a ticket. That is normally what people do.

Do you have any more tips about how to be able to buy ticket on board?

Prepared for Shanghai World Expo

After the curtain of the Beijing Olympic Games falls down, we can expect the other big event in China – the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. This time, the hosting city changes to Shanghai, the city I am living in. I am very excited about the Expo, and looking forward to a great time during World Expo in Shanghai.

The World Expo Site

Unlike the Beijing Olympic, which is still 1400 km away from my home, the Shanghai World Expo site is pretty close to where I am living – it is just about 3 km away. Everyday when I drive to work and home, I will see the construction of the site on the west side of the Nanpu Bridge. In 2010, I am looking forward to walk to the Expo site to enjoy the exihition there. Here is the area of the Expo site on Google Earth:

You can see the area between the two bridges are almost wiped out to blank. That is exactly where the Expo will be held. Their website provides much more information about the site.

Something Exciting About the Expo

I don’t know too much about the Expo itself yet, but as a local resident, I am excited because of several facts:

  • With the hard deadline of 2010, the city construction speeded up greatly. Many metro lines are under construnction and will start to operate before 2010, including the Jinxiu Road Station of Metro Line #7 at the entrance of my residential area.

  • The Expo Site is IN the city. Unlike most other events in which the site is far from the city, aiming to create a new satelite city, the Shanghai Expo site is planned in the downtown area of the city – just beside the Huangpu River. It is already turning the land into another Lujiazui financial center.

Time for the Expo

It has been decided the Expo will start from May 1, 2010, to Oct 31, 2010. At that time, my Yifan is already 3 year old, and will be able to attend the Expo with me and Wendy. I am happy for him because he can start to tough the “world” when he is still very young.

According to the Shanghai Expo official website, there are 617 days to go from today to the opening of the Expo. BTW, will there be an opening ceremony for it? I don’t remember so for the past expo.

The Site Today

I drove the area the other day. Although from the top of the Nanpu Bridge, you already see many high raised buildings still not finished for the Expo, driving on the road in that area is like driving into a village – there are construction sites everywhere, and the roads are generally narrow, and most of the narrow roads are dead ended. The land is just “as it is” these days before the massive construction starts.

Driving on the road is not the best way to see the expo site. It is closed, and not open. Sometimes I used the holes on gates or walls to look inside the site, but most of the time, I just see empty land. The expo site posted some great photo.

Image in courtesy of Shanghai Expo 2010 site

Image in courtesy of Shanghai Expo 2010 site

Stay Tuned

In the next two years, I will be consistently update about the status of the Shanghai World Expo 2010 on this blog. I am trying to share with you the photo I take by myself, things I heard and feel about the Expo, and its impact to me and people around me. Hopefully, it is as successful as the Olympic Games in Beijing. Let me know if you want me to be your eyes and ears in this city. Remember, my home is just 3 km away from the site.

P.S. Wangjianshuo’s Blog Meetup

A gentle reminder, I will host a Wangjianshuo’s Blog Meetup in the coming Saturday. Click here for more information, and signing up.

Goodbye Olympic

Olympic closes with not an not-as-fancy-as-opening closing ceremony, but it didn’t affect my love to Olympic, or my enjoyment of the Games. Several changes to me:

  • It promotes sports. I started to pay attention to sports and get involved more than before.

  • My favorate sports in the Games are: volleyball, table-tennis, bench volleyball, 3m springboard, and running.
  • In the last week, I swimmed, I played table-tennis, and I played beach volleyball. I believe it must be because of the impact of the Olympic on me.
  • I enjoy the whole process of the Game. Because it is the first time in the recent years for the Game to have the same time zone, I can get updates from the game consistently throughout the day, and I am used to tune to TV when I am at home, or tune to the right radio station on the road.
  • The first two days without Olympic are boring. I just feel I am lack of information now.

Looking forward to the London Olympic!

Wangjianshuo’s Blog Meetup

Emm… What was the last time of Wangjianshuo’s Blog Meetup? That is maybe one year ago in Palo Alto (recorded here) in Sept 2007.

I am planning to host another Wangjianshuo’s Blog Meetup 10 days from today.


Time: 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Date: Saturday, August 30, 2008

Location: Starbucks at Jinyan Road, Pudong, Shanghai, near the Science and Technology Museum. I have an article about the place here.

How to get there: Please also check the same article for instructinos.

What is a Meetup?

For my readers who don’t know what a meetup is, you can check the Q&A of my first meetup here: Wangjianshuo’s Blog Meetup. To be short, it is just an opportunity for the readers community to get together. It ranges from one person (just myself) to many, and I don’t know who will show up until that date.

For previous meetups, please see this archive page: meetup. If you plan to drop by, you are welcome to leave a comment below.

Looking forward to seeing you there and then.

Update about Yifan

Haha. This is some update from my cute son – Yifan. Yifan is already 14 months old, and he brought enormous happiness to use, along with many pleasant troubles.

Yifan Starts to Walk Now

Yifan starts to be able to walk several steps by himself. If I grasp his hand, he can walk around for half an hour. The only problem for me is, his walk is very random – completely flows with what he feels interested.

Once he followed a white cat from one side of the residential area to the other, and I followed him.

He loves to walk now, and he especially love to take stairs – up and down.

Yifan has never fall hardly to the ground so far with our perfect protection. Thee consequence is, he is so brave that his walk sometimes can only be possible on the moon. We have to remove out hands from him to keep him independent from us.

“Fixing” Yifan

Yifan’s temper has been worse and worse these two months. He has learned to use some tactics to get what he wanted. Mark said is very well: Kids of this age is expert of observation, and a quick learner.

At the very beginning, he cries to get what he wants. If that does not work, he cries loud…

Finally, cry does not work, since for many dangerous stuff like electricity or sharp things, we won’t allow him to touch no matter how hard he cries. And now, he invented something that is amazingly working so far – he started to knock his head to the floor! No one taught him, but I believe it is just by accident that he found out we care about this most – more than his cry. He also knock his head hard with his hand. OMG!

Recently, we have decided to “fix” his habit, and started to be tough to him. I am the person in the family to implement it. If he is not reasonable (crossing the line too much), I just hold him and bring him outside the room, and let him cry for 5 minutes. When I bring him back, he is much better.

However, I worry a lot that what I did seems to be right, but how hard it is to look at this darling to cry like the poorest kid in the world. I even wonder whether Yifan will hate me for doing that. One thing is for sure, if he has a choice, he prefer to stay with his more better than me….

It seems I need some serious advice about how to deal with kid of 1 year old.