An Average Day of a Chinese Office Worker in Shanghai

An Average Day of a Chinese Office Worker in Shanghai

It’s 8:00am in Shanghai and Li Yi Xuan is just waking up. Li Yi Xuan also goes by the English name, Heather. She’s a 25 year old Chinese woman living in Shanghai and this is her average day. Heather lives in this three bedroom apartment in Jing’an with a Chinese couple and their friend who must all still be asleep. Like many Chinese, she prefers to take a shower in the evening instead of mornings. Heather grew up in Beijing and has been living in Shanghai for just two months. She studied PR and Political Science at Penn State before moving back to Beijing for two years and then deciding to move to Shanghai after falling in love with the city. For breakfast she keeps it short and sweet with a glass of milk. It’s now 8:35am and time for Heather to unplug her electric scooter and drive to work. She lives pretty central in Jing’an district so her commute to work only takes 25 minutes. Like many Chinese, Heather commutes by electric scooter or “E-Bike.” China has roughly 200 million electric scooters on its streets and with a population of over 24 million you can expect a lot of bikes on the road during rush hour. Heather’s office is located in the Former French Concession, which is arguably Shanghai’s prettiest neighbourhood with its leafy boulevards full of old buildings, cozy bars and restaurants. Two minutes late. The office itself is inside an old converted lane house, also known as a Shikumen. First appearing in the 1860’s these buildings are known for their Shanghainese architectural style that combine Western and Chinese elements. Unfortunately, as Shanghai expands and the infrastructure weakens under the pressure of the growing population, many older Shikumen have been torn down. Heather works for a company called Baopals which is not your average Chinese workplace, but one that is very fitting for Shanghai. Baopals is an English language platform that connects users to products from Chinese shopping sites such as Taobao and Tmall with added auto translations and search functionality for non native shoppers. Oh hello. The site has over 52,000 registered users and has had over 3 million orders placed over the last 3 years, that’s a lot of people that can’t read Chinese. Okay, we will persevere, thank you very much. Have a good day, bye bye. Today is November 12th which is the day after China’s biggest 24-hour online shopping event, Double 11. Also known as “Singles’ Day” this shopping holiday first started as an obscure “anti-Valentine’s” celebration for single Chinese in the nineties. It was then adopted by e-commerce giant, Alibaba (China’s equivalent of Amazon) in 2009 and it has now transformed into a day when everyone, regardless of their single status, buys themselves gifts. This year Alibaba broke yet another record with more than $38 billion in sales. For the Baopals team that meant making sure every order that was made on their site was processed by midnight so none of their customers missed the sale. So it goes without saying some of their staff members might be feeling a little worn out today. Heather works in business development and marketing but today it’s all hands on deck so she is starting her work-day by joining the customer service team to answer any shopping related-questions. Sometimes it’s about different sizing charts. The ones customers use and also the ones they use on Taobao. And this one is about do they have this size. Before lunch, the Baopals founders, Charlie, Jay and Tyler are holding a meeting to recap the intense past 24 hours. The three expats first started Baopals in 2016 as a way to make shopping in China easier and now their goal is to bring Chinese shopping and Chinese products to the rest of the world. Every 11.11 has gotten better than the year before. Not just in terms of our growth and our website being better but our teams and our systems being much better as well. Anybody have any guesses on what people were buying or what people were seraching for the most? iPhones. Yeah that was the top search! Finally it’s lunch time but not everyone can eat at the same time, so Heather and her co-worker, Ginger are heading out together. With yesterday being Heather’s day off, Ginger fills her in on what it was like at work. When I arrived at 8 we had like, over 60 messages from people demanding answers. So… I spent all morning trying to answer their questions and a lot of people were trying to buy expensive items and being confused about the price. So there was just a lot of confusion. Heather and Ginger are eating at a neighbourhood vegetarian restaurant called Gong De Lin which is popular for its tofu alternatives to meat dishes. Fake duck is pretty good. Okay. Hello. We want one of these ducks. Crispy duck? Yeah. Alright. Crispy duck. It’s good, right? On the way back to the office, Heather decides to take a photography detour to scout out some local trend setters for the Baopals fashion blog. Can you look at the lens? Being a trendy area for young locals this is an easy task and she even met two Korean sisters. Oh look! There goes couriers with lots of deliveries Fully loaded. Let’s ask Heather what she likes to do on her days off. I just like to go with the flow, doing different things. It’s really nice to have like… a casual hang out at friends places. Playing good music. Have a chat and eat food. Yeah, sounds perfect. Once back at the office Heather orders some milk tea for some of her co-workers before sorting through her photos for the fashion-blog. The milk tea has arrived! now Heather is tasked with the activity of sourcing weird Chinese products for Baopals’ popular monthly blog, The Cool, The Cheap and The Crazy. You can drink water while you wear the mask. Ew! To finish off the day Heather has a meeting with a potential foreign customer looking to sell her products online but let’s not get in the way. Lets just close that door. After a long day work at the office is over but now Heather has to head to another meeting. Bye bye! So Heather is known amongst her friends for her love of African culture, especially after having visited Kenya for the first time earlier this year. Using her skills in marketing and PR, Heather and her friends aim to organise an event to help promote African start-ups to Chinese business communities. Wrong direction! Now we’re gonna turn around. After taking a wrong turn she’s finally arrived at the co-working space for her meeting. Hi! Hi! Actually you’re quite early! Really, I thought I was late. Tell you what, let’s just leave them to it with a sweet time-lapse and just to let you know, while in Kenya Heather was given the African name, Makena Akinyi. Which means “happiness born in the morning.” So she has three names, Li Yi Xuan, Heather and Makena Akinyi. I hope I pronounced them all correctly. The meeting is over so Heather and her friend are headed to a local restaurant to celebrate a productive day. Heather met her South African friend, Kitso at one of Shanghai’s many networking events but they connected further on China’s social media platform, WeChat. I can’t do winter here, like I’ll die. WeChat is used for everything in China from chatting with friends to paying for items and more and more it’s where the majority of business is conducted. In the west I feel like you have to meet someone.. Yeah and then follow up. Or you can have like a WeChat connection for a long time and then only meet each other at some point. The nachos were fast. Be careful, the plate is pretty hot. After nachos and cocktails the day is finally at an end. It is time to go home. Bye bye, good night. Okay, now it’s time to call a cab. Because I had a drink and I don’t want to drive a scooter while I had a drink. So I’m going to call a DiDi. Heather is using the Chinese version of DiDi the ride hailing app. But there is also an English version available. Luckily Heather’s electric scooter is foldable so her DiDi driver can help stow it in the trunk and we’re off! This is a good time to mention that DiDi is the leading ride-hailing app in China and one of the must-have apps for expats and foreigners visiting or living in China, providing hassle free options for getting around the city. Its 10 past 9 and Heather is finally home. Up or down? You can come in, I’m getting out. Oh you’re going out. Careful. And look at that, she’s come home to a treasure of deliveries she gifted herself for Singles Day. And that’s it! I think we’ve bugged Heather enough today so we will leave her at the door and say goodnight. Thank you so much for watching episode 1 of An Average Day. Please let us know what you thought in the comments below. If you’re in China and looking for a comfortable way to get around town be sure to use DiDi. Whether your destination address is in Chinese or English DiDi English version has you covered! Goodnight!

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. This was a great video, really enjoyed it and would love to see more like this format! Your videos are always so well produced!

  2. Really enjoyed that one. What kind of salary would these guys be earning?

    Also, I know you did a recent video on the Sherpas, but a video on a day in the life of an elema driver would be super. Even better would be Matt doing the deliveries.

  3. I really liked this and would like to see more. I'd also like to hear more about expat startups in Shanghai/China in general. How common are they? I thought you had to partner with a Chinese national and give them 51% ownership or something?

  4. ok, but seriously now show the REAL average job. This video might be fun for people who never lived in China I guess. As for me it's really zzzzzzzzzzzz

  5. November 11th is remembrance day for fallen commonwealth soldiers of WWI in France. How convenient that the Chinese under the CCP have made it a day for shopping, turning their heads from inevitability. The God of War may not be pleased.

  6. Fuarrrrrr.. the attention-grabbing pace, the engaging voiceover, the inconspicuous yet ingenious way of bringing out the ad. how many times has mamahuhu disappointed me? 零

  7. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! I know Heather. I met her in Beijing. How cool to see her in a Mamahuhu video!!!!! Great video. Great to see what Heather's life is like in SH. <3

  8. I just saw this episode, looks really interesting and comparable to my average workday at an IT company in Tokyo. Would you guys consider making an episode about the average day of an IT worker in Shanghai/Shenzhen? Kudo's from the Netherlands 😀

  9. Kind of weird question if anyone knows the answer please let me know, I currently have purple hair but I am studying abroad in china soon. What is the current attitude twords colored hair in china?

  10. this is great!! I would love to see more like this. every video you guys make is such great quality and I enjoy watching every minute of them!

  11. Hell, I'm not Chinese, Russian in fact, though I also prefer to take a shower in the evening. Morning shower sucks balls. IMHO. Other than that, Mamahuhu rocks as always!))✌️ You guys are so cool)) Thank to all of you for keeping us entertained in your special way in all imaginable as well as unimaginable formats. Peace.

  12. seriously???? I am at work by 7:50, showering in the morning and walking 30 mins to work…. I worked in her her district as well. Near Xintiandi and Tianzifan

  13. Omg I almost interned for that company. It would have been great if you all showed a video about a foreign student in Shanghai as well as interning and see how their life is like. I’m currently doing both and I met one of your staff once in Jing’an while on my way to work. I love what you guys do!

  14. If this is an average day in the life of a Chinese office worker in Shanghai…I should move to Shanghai :-p. I work for an international software development company in Xi'an and…it's not this nice. Don't get me wrong, it's not hellish or anything (usually), there's a lot to enjoy, but it's also not as nice as this. And Xi'an's weather… 哎。 Don't get me started on the pollution.

    Anyway, this kind of content is great. As always, lots of love for what you guys are doing. I'm all for having both comedy and documentary, and it's actually kind of fun not knowing which it's going to be before I start watching.

  15. 9:56 Woman gets IN to the lift before the occupant can get OUT.
    This is China. Every day it's everywhere. It's bad manners, total selfishness or ignorance…you'll find out after living there.

  16. It appears that people in China can upload content to the internet. How difficult is it for a normal chinese citizen to find information on Youtube that would differ from what China interpret's America's behavior. Are they able to determine that all of the west and the rest of the world support Hong Kong

  17. I used to live in Shanghai from 2000 until 2002 and for a short time in 2011. Please can somebody advise me on this. What is it like living in Hunan for an ex pat these days? I have been offered a job there.

  18. Is it possible to feel homesick when this is not the country where I'm from. I love your videos! I hope I can return to China soon someday

  19. I would love to make an average day of my life in Shenzhen if possible! Life is interesting at the world's largest printing company and I hope I could be an example of a well integrated foreigner. Really great idea guys, as always. ??

  20. I think most people are not interested in saving and investing for the future . While it may seem nice to benefit from your paychecks today, I believe investing in your future will lead to much larger returns and significantly improve the quality of life . =)

  21. Looks so peaceful and happy. Don’t see anyone burning others alive and bashing metal poles over innocent people’s heads.

  22. China’s commerce numbers can’t be trusted. CCP can say and do whatever it wants. Feel bad for its people who are hardworking.

  23. Nice video showing the higher class workers. How about doing a day of a low class worker that works in factories. We want to see how the low class workers are.

  24. Used Didi english version thinking it was like uber… We had to pay for the full fare prior to booking but then the driver tried to charge us more after the ride then reported us for not paying his extra fee, so we couldn't use the app anymore. Dunno if any other people have the same experience? I suspect the chinese version expects you to pay after in which case, isn't it exactly the same as using a taxi?

  25. Notice that she doesn't wear a helmet or have a light on her E bike when driving at night. If you go to China, watch out this, They try to save battery so no light.

  26. This is most definitely NOT the average day in the life of a Chinese office worker. Average in a Tier 1 city perhaps, maybe even slightly above average…but way above average in China. Baopal is located in one of the more laid back areas of Shanghai, especially if you like the feeling of a smaller city in the middle of China's largest. The business appears to be a WFOE (foreigners own and run it) and they found quite a sweet little office space. As run-of-the-mill office jobs go in Shanghai, she landed a sweet little gig.

    Glad to see Li is entrepreneurial and setting herself up for something more than working for Baopal. That is not very typical among Chinese.

    Love me some Didi. Piece of advice for frequent users. Strike up conversations with the drivers….they aren't going to bite you. Connect with them on WeChat and voila….you can land rides with your favorite drivers when you're in the area. I circumvent Didi all the time now unless I'm in a new city. And the driver doesn't have to share jack shit with the company. Ride hailing companies generally treat their drivers like shit.

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