Shanghai is China’s most international city and the one with the highest number of expat residents. Thus, your employers and colleagues will probably be well aware of the potential cultural differences and will not expect you to fit in perfectly with the local ways. However, it is definitely a good idea to get to know about local culture and etiquette to limit the number of your potential faux pas.

The workplace etiquette in Shanghai

Job interview

The first step in experiencing Chinese work culture is the job interview. And while the interview process will be mostly the same in all major Chinese companies, it’s good to keep a few things in mind.


Being late is really looked down upon in Chinese culture, and it is best to arrive at your potential employer’s office at least 15 minutes in advance. Note, however, that there is often busy traffic in big Chinese cities and addresses can be quite difficult to find.


Modesty is an important aspect of local culture. Thus, when talking about your professional qualities and experience, it is best to not exaggerate and let your CV speak for itself.

Typical questions

Though you will definitely be answering some specific and field-related questions during the interview, there are also some general queries to expect. Some of the typical questions you may be asked during the interview may also include personal matters relating to your family life and housing situation ‘ the purpose of these for many interviewers is to determine the seriousness of your intentions and how long you may be staying in China.

Workplace etiquette


Due to China’s deep-set Confucian traditions, workplace rank is more pronounced in Chinese companies than in western ones. There is, thus, a particular code of conduct when interacting with your managers, supervisors, department head, etc. These social rules are in place even outside the office walls.

Dress code

There are typically no dress code rules defined in a work contract and, unless it has been specified otherwise, you will be free to dress as you please. However, it’s generally a good idea to observe what your colleagues are wearing daily and not wear anything too revealing.


While efficiency is usually the main priority in a western workplace, interaction and communication prevail in a Chinese workplace. This translates into frequent inter and intra department meetings and gatherings that may seem counterproductive to foreign employees.


Lunchtime is very important in a Chinese workplace. Lunch breaks can last from one to two hours, and it’s best not to schedule any formal meetings close to lunchtime. After lunch, most of your Chinese colleagues will probably take a short nap ‘ napping is a typical part of the lunch break, and most office workers will have a pillow or even a folding chair in their cubicle just for the occasion. The lights in the office will typically be dimmed, and the air conditioning will be turned off. While a tradition in Chinese offices, taking a nap during the day may be uncommon for foreign employees. If you are not napping after lunch, however, make sure not to make noise or disturb your sleeping colleagues.

Working hours

While your working hours will typically be stated in the contract, it is customary for most employees, especially in management and higher positions, to stay in the office a bit later. Leaving right after the clock strikes six (even if you have completed all your assignments) can be looked down upon by your colleagues and superiors.

Other related Blogs

Social networking in Shanghai

Professional networking in Shanghai

Discover Shanghai