There are a couple of things that I’d like to have known before working in China. First of all, there are jobs, though more and more competition to get them. Especially in Shanghai, foreigners are not exactly a rare commodity anymore – actually, I have heard locals complaining about the high numbers of those in the recent years – so just your pretty face won’t get you that far. Whether you work in an international or Chinese office, you’ll have a few extra points for being a native speaker of English. This is very important, because then you will, of course, be delegated all the proofreading jobs on the planet.
Naturally, knowing Chinese is essential in certain positions (like, you know, if you are a translator), but otherwise it’s just considered to be an extra bonus for you. I would say that companies in general are comfortable employing people with conversational level of Chinese, thus avoid additional mafan (‘troublesome – 麻烦 MáFan) from your part.
But, I’m telling you, the looks are what matters the most. You have to look foreign and act like it – especially the smaller companies will enjoy the prestige that comes with having a foreigner on board. If you enjoy teaching, teaching English would be the easiest way of finding a job – especially if you are into kids. For a while I worked in an establishment that focused on teaching business English, cross-cultural communication – you know, English for adults – but lo and behold, we were handed kids, preschoolers even, who were, of course, already on their way to achieving mastery in Business English and international success. At least that’s what their parents thought (and we charged for).
According to the law, one is supposed to work 8 hours a day (plus the extra lunch hour), 40 hours per week (the so-called ‘standard working hours ’ – 标准工时 BiāoZhǔn GōngShí). That’s what they will tell you, even write down and hand over to you in your employment manual. They are lying. You can’t possibly avoid working overtime (加工工资 JiāGōng GōngZī), even during weekends and national holidays – which are pretty little liars themselves. Yes, you do get a couple of days off, even three sometimes, only to then have to pay them off by working weekends. Altogether China recognizes 11 national holidays (法定节假日 FǎDìng JiéJiàRì), which then, counting weekends, amounts to 250 working days in a year, or averaging 20.83 per month. This, of course, is on paper only. Your boss may/will ask you to work more days, and more hours, and though overtime should be paid extra, that sometimes just cannot be done. If you do manage to get paid, these are the rates: in Shanghai you would be paid 150% for overtime work during workdays; 200% your normal salary for overtime work during rest days; and 300% for overtime work during national holidays. You wish.