working in china

hello there!
i need some advice:
for more than a year now i’ve been working as a designer at a company that develops accessories for the fashion industry. recently i got an offer from another company to work as a designer/buyer/agent/representative/whatever in china.
could anyone give me an advice as for what should i ask/take concern of before i go into this episode?
the salary is something i also don’t have a clue about - how much is the common?
and what about the social conditions?
i don’t really know that many people in this industry and would really appreciate some help…
thanks in advance

Timf recently made the move. posted some things about it. might look up his posts to find what he’s said.

kabby recently moved to China as well. You may want to PM him.

Yes, I have been here (Hong Kong) for 5 weeks now.

Observations (I am sure these generalizations will get me in trouble):

  1. People are always running around and working many hours. One reason is because they do not want to have systems in place with their name as the owner of a part of that system, because then they could be blamed. Therefore a lot of time is spent being incredibly inefficient. Always re-inventing the wheel.

  2. Two is that the culture still has, as a major component, the idea that when your boss asks a question, you immediately work on that answer and drop what you were working on. Also a quick answer seems to be more important than a right answer. Again, completely inefficient and disruptive.

  3. The Upper Management does not expect you to stay around longer than two years. They believe that Hong Kong is an entrepreneurial breeding ground and that you will go off on you own as soon as possible. This is especially true in the Design and Product Development areas.

I will try to pass on more observations as I discover them.

hey hong kong is not the same as china main land per say. working management is very different between hong kong , taiwan and china.

depend on where you work. but i can tell you in main land china the designers work extra hard and yes people in management dont put their name on anything because they fear being yelled at or fired for it later. the only way i work thru that is to convince the owner what to do and let the shit roll down the hill.

however some companies the designers would go home and every one goes home at 5:30 and if you ask some of the designer to stay long they will gave you the evil eye.

Hi guys!

I am also looking for information on salaries practiced in china. I was also contacted about a job proposal in Shangai, and will need to send a income proposal, along with my cv and portfolio.

Thank you very much in advance.

Frederico Correia

Be careful if they offer you a “local salary package”. The salary packages are very low in China, but they are off-set by provided housing and meals. Depending on the company these are pretty minimal.

There are a lot of Chinese companies hiring western designers because innovation is the weak link in China (for now…). In order to compete in the world market they need western designs.

Collectively as designers we need to make sure China doesn’t develop a sweat shop attitude about design. There are plenty of curious, out-of-work designers who may jump at an opportunity to go to main land China to check-out the country. BE CAREFUL!!! Hong Kong is VERY different from mainland China!!! It’s like comparing New York City to Kazakhstan, there’s opportunities in all of these locations, but I sure as hell would rather live in HK or NYC!!

I’ve been working with Chinese companies for the last 20 years and could write 3 books about the cultural differences and product development methodologies. The simple answer is: they are very different.

Ask lots of questions so you don’t get lots of surprises.

Good luck.

Agreed that comparing Hong Kong to China, is like comparing New York City to rural Mexico. I wanted to make sure people knew I was speaking from the Hong Kong perspective.

I have heard good things about Shanghai. I have heard lots of people speak English, and historically Shanghai has been a bit seperate from the rest of China (like Hong Kong). I know a designer who works for a big plastics company, who just moved to Shanghai. Haven’t spoken with him yet as we are both busy with the relocation thing.

I don’t know any western designers who are living in China. Most live in Hong Kong or Shanghai and commute to their clients. Living outside of the very major cities is tough unless you speak the loacl language (or at least Mandarin).

You are right about Shanghai. It’s a major financial hub in China and has some very western sections to the city. I’ve been there 3-4 times, but always spent time either in the boonies at factories or in the center of the city (The Bund). I really liked Shanghai during those brief visits, but I didn’t “live the life”.

If you are thinking about moving to China and working in the mainland as vs. Hong Kong make sure it’s near or in a major city unless you speak the language or you will have problems getting around. Your best bets in order of probablity of success are:

  • Shenzhen/Dongguan/Guangzhou (major manufacturing area just outside of HK)
  • Shanghai (mixed area)
  • Beijing (not a lot of industry - mostly government)

After these there is a steep fall-off of westerners.

Hope this helps.