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Working at a Chinese Company: A Foreigner’s Perspective

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Moving to a new country every two years

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Let me mention this first, these are just my personal experiences!

I’ve worked at two different Chinese companies, and it has been an incredible and unforgettable time. I made so many friends and met a lot of nice people. I’ve experienced some very, in my eyes, funny/interesting/remarkable things that I will never forget.

One company where I worked at organizes big electronic dance music festivals and it was located in Shenzhen. I worked there for 6 months. The other one was (probably) the biggest club in Shanghai called Club Master. I was an employee there for 1 year.

These are my 7 remarkable experiences working at a Chinese company:

Table of Contents


Right after I signed the contract, which was fully written in Chinese (And I can’t read Chinese..). I  had to be introduced to the boss.

We went all the way up to the 11th floor which had a nice view over the beautiful skyline of Shanghai. I was with my Chinese friend Dexter and the level 3 boss (which I’ll explain later!). We walked into the room and there was the big boss, a.k.a. the level 2 boss.

He was sitting there in a bright green Balenciaga trainings outfit, with a huge golden necklace. I felt like I walked into the scene of a mafia movie! He motioned me to sit down and gave me a bottle of water.

Then the level 3 boss started to talk about how I’m part of the family now, that I’m good friends with his friend and that I’m a famous DJ from The Netherlands. The big boss was nodding and listening. Then he said he wanted to go to Amsterdam one day and asked me if I could arrange to go to some festivals. Of course, no problem! I replied. He told about the company, about the territory they own and how much clubs they have. More than 500 clubs and KTV’s in Asia…

After around 15 minutes the introduction was done and (apparently) I did a good job.

So yay I had a new job! My tasks or role in the company? I had absolutely no idea.

Yay I got hired! And fired and hired again…

The most interesting job was working at Club Master. I met someone in Beijing (who became a really good friend) who invited me to come to Shanghai because he might had a job for me. Long story short, after some meetings I signed a contract and was hired. The thing is, the staff changes very often and so people are fired very quickly.

If the club hires a new boss, he will want to hire his friends to come work in the club so they can make money. But before he can hire new people other people need to be fired. This happened quite often, and with me as well.

And when your fired, there’s not a performance review or anything. It’s just a text message in a WeChat group saying, these five people are fired (!). At first this might sound so strange, and it kind of is, but! Most people that I’ve met had multiple jobs, sometimes even four jobs at the same time. It’s a much more, free job market than where I’m from in Europe. Getting fired is just part of that and most of them will quickly find a new place to work at.

So, yay I got hired, and then fired. Now what? Well let’s try to get hired again at the same club of course! My Chinese friend had a talk with the boss and explained why they couldn’t just fire me because I was sooo super important… After some meetings and dinners, they hired me again.

Then, one more time I got fired. Well, not really fired, I stopped working there and the salary stopped… I had to DJ in the club once a week. So, every week I would receive a schedule with the line-up and timetable. At some point I wasn’t on the schedule, and the week after that and so on. But I still received salary for a ew months! Nobody knew why this was happening. It was fine for me, but just so strange! Later it turned out that they hired a lot of new DJ’s and there was just no time for me to play in the club! But they still paid me for a few months without me doing anything, nice!

Working at a chinese company: a foreigner's perspective - china id card picture

Scanning finger

Every day I had to go to the club to scan my finger. They had this small machine where I had to register my fingerprint the first day I started to work at the club. I had to scan it twice on one day, then I would get paid the amount of that day. A simple and very effective way to make sure that every one is at the office.

But this system wasn’t flawless. It’s a very common thing at Chinese companies. Even the local coffee shop has this system.

What I’m about to tell is one those things that makes me love China. It’s truly fascinating.

A friend of mine was working at a coffee shop where they had the finger scan system. But, obviously, like most people, nobody wants to work all day right? So what she did was, she installed the same finger scanning system at her hairdresser, which was a close friend, next to her house and registered the finger of her friend.

Every morning when her friend the hairdresser went to work se scanned her finger so that my friend could come to work later that day and didn’t have to get up early! It worked for quite some time but her friend the hairdresser some times came late to work. So, at the coffee shop they noticed that she wasn’t always on time. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted!

Like I mentioned, I had to scan my finger twice a day to get paid. At some time that year, me and my wife wanted to go on holiday which made me realize… I will not be able to scan my finger! I was talking with my Chinese friend and told him about the holiday plans and that I cant scan finger then.

I will never forget what he said then; “We can just make a copy of your finger and I’ll scan it for you” Wait whut?! A copy of my finger what do you mean? Yeah, we can buy a special kit online to copy your finger bro. It’s only a few euro’s he said. We went on Taobao, which is an online store like Ali Express, and searched for the finger copy kit. And there it was. A simple kit, with some skin color like plastic fluid to make a copy… unbelievable!

Unfortunately, this story has a bit of an anticlimax, I got fired before I could even try it out…

Level 1, 2 and 3 Bosses.

I’m not sure if this is the case at every Chinese company but at the club I worked in Shanghai there were Level 1, 2 and 3 bosses.

A Level 3 boss is a guy who is on the work floor everyday, incharge of all operations. He was the first guy I met and I talked with him about my contract and salary. Above him there is a level 2 boss, a big guy always wearing expensive outfits. He was there occasionaly, just walking around. I only met a level 1 boss one time. This is more like an investor.

One time when he came, my friend send me a text message, you have to come to the club the level 1 boss is coming! I was thinking, whait whut haha. Obviously, I went to the club right away, I didn’t want to miss this! We were in the empty main room of club in the afternoon waiting for him to arrive. Then the doors openend and 10 security guys in suits came walking in, surrounding one guy wearing just regular clothes. That’s the level 1 boss my friend said.

Even the level 2 and 3 bosses were acting different and nervous. He was walking around and at some point the level 3 boss told me to go to him and give a hand. I said ‘it’s nice to meet you!’ in Chinese. He thought I could speak Chinese and started talking, but I had no idea what he was saying. So I just smiled and waved…

After the level 1 boss left we had to go into a meeting with the level 2 boss. H wanted to make some changes in the building. On the 5th floor was the club, on the 6th floor there were huge karaoke VIP rooms, each with a different interior and styling. Us and a team of employees had to follow him while we walked through these rooms.

The first thing he mentioned was the main door that openen to the outside, he wanted to change that to a door opening to the inside, which makes a better entrance. A guy said, but that’s a fire exit, it has to open to the outside. Nope, didn’t matter, just change it the boss said!

In the next room we went to there was a guy working. He was sitting on the floor scraping small parts of concrete off the new tiles. You could see he had been working on it all day and was almost finished. Then the boss said, you can stop with that, we will put in a new floor next week… Omg! All his work was for nothing.

It was interesting to see whatever the boss says, will happen, even tho it was not the smartest of ideas. And above all, he could change his mind next week entirely.

But I don’t even speak Chinese!

The funny thing is, I can’t speak or read Chinese. I can say a few things, understand some basic stuff but that’s about it. And 90% of the company couldn’t speak English. But it didn’t matter! Just being there was enough. Being a Dutch European DJ was interesting enough to attend meetings, be there and get paid. It was such an epic and also bizar experience. Luckily there is WeChat, which was a life saver It let’s you translate messages instantly and it does a fairly well job.


I just love how easily people in China can talk about money. Where I’m from, in The Netherlands, it’s something that you don’t really do. Money is something we don’t really talk about. But in China, someone can just ask you, how much money do you make? Or, I have an idea; do you want to earn some money? Or, if you do this, I’ll do that, and we both take 10%. It feels so free to be able to speak so easily about such a topic. And because you could talk so easily about it a lot of things were possible.

All my friends were like “self-employed” businessmen in a way looking for opportunities. And because of this, everyday new opportunities occurred. Opportunities like these came almost every week which I just loved because I’ve been self-employed all my life:

  • I have a friend who has a car shop, he needs a foreigner to come to a presentation to make his brand look more European, want to make money?

  • I can recommend you for an assignment, if the boss hires you, let’s share the fee.
  • Can you make me a dance song? I will get you a show in a club.
  • If you move to Chengdu (I was living in Shanghai) you can work at our club.

These message just came in without any introduction what so ever, it was like bro come to Chengdu to work here.

One time I was on my way to Shanghai to talk about a new job someone sent me; “Hey bro move to Qongqing you can work at Tencent as a music director for games”. I was thinking, but I’m on my way to Shanghai to talk about a new job, this is crazy!

Including the meetings at the company. The boss would just say, “this year we made 100 million, next year our target will be 200 million, allrighty then!


It’s been such a unique experience with so many great people. I was lucky to have a good friend who helped me with everything and explained all the Chinese ways of working and interactions.

I made a lot of friends at the company and in China in general and I already miss them. And also the city and opportunities the country had to offer me.

Just before I left China we celebrated my birthday which I’ll never forget.

A man standing on top of a sand dune with his arms outstretched.

About the author

Chris Oberman is the founder and author of Moving Jack and has been traveling the world for over 20 years to 40+ countries.

He lives in a different country every two years which allows him to gain unique in-depth insights and experiences in new places abroad.

Quoted on Gritdaily.com, NRC Newspaper, Vice,and Feedspot.

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