Lessons from Shanghai: Ditch the Stereotypes and Learn for Yourself
From Colombia to Germany and all the way to Shanghai. What I’ve learned about the megacity – and China – during a work assignment.
Through studies and work experience, I’ve had the opportunity to be in multicultural setups. Nevertheless, it’s only when you change your usual context that you learn how valuable it is to open your mind to new ideas and different ways of seeing the world. It challenges you to be a better version of yourself.
Nine months ago, I joined adidas in one of the coolest positions in my area: as the first – and so far the only – Functional Trainee in Sustainability. As part of the traineeship, I would also work abroad. My mentor and I decided on Shanghai, which is not only one of adidas’ Key Cities, but in general, China represents one of adidas’ biggest markets.
This was an opportunity to experience first-hand some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in the environmental and social sphere. What’s more, I ended up embarking on a journey that taught me to get rid of stereotypes and always keep my mind and heart open.
How China is leading the way
Traditionally, China is not seen as a benchmark in terms of the environment. Given the high economic and population growth, there is some truth to it. But on the grassroots level, a lot is happening. Every day I’ve encountered groups and individuals who are constantly creating smart solutions to tackle existing challenges. A great example is the informal waste management sector that collects and sells waste to recycling plants and reprocessing centers.
From fighting climate change to spearheading digital payments, China is showing the way forward. Never before have I felt so technologically-savvy as I do in Shanghai. Apps give access to almost anything, allowing you to pay for goods and services without ever reaching for your wallet.
In China, mobile apps take the shopping experience to another level through a simple three-step process: take a picture of the item you want to purchase, upload it to the app, and choose the best deal. Your new item will get delivered right to your door.
Moving around has never been easier
I’m used to commuting by bike. However, I never imagined that in Shanghai, with over 25 million inhabitants, biking would be even more convenient. Almost every street corner has bikes with barcodes ready to be scanned. Anyone can hop on 24/7 for less than 1 RMB (€0.13) per ride.
How about hiking in China? I fell into this misconception when packing and deciding to leave my beloved Terrex hiking shoes behind. Soon I realized my mistake; three days after I landed, I joined my team for the first of our many hikes.
During my hikes I’ve discovered that even in the smallest village in China locals will do their best to communicate with you if you only meet them halfway. A friendly smile, a handshake, or an unsuccessful and funny attempt to pronounce a foreign word are universal signs for making an effort and showing respect.
Endless possibilities for work and play
“Shanghai offers unlimited options for your free time; fitness activities, festivals, markets, and groups to join.”
One thing is certain: you will never get bored in Shanghai. The city offers unlimited options for your free time; fitness activities, festivals, markets, and groups to join. Food variety is massive and amazing. From award-winning restaurants to local street food, you will always find an option for all tastes and budgets. Handy hint for vegetarians: keep a note in your phone saying “Méiyǒu ròu” (“no meat”).
Leaving aside the excitement and culinary inspiration, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned has been in the office. Huge activation events, social initiatives, employee engagement activities, sustainability movements – you name it! China is doing it all, and it’s hungry for more. My colleagues in Shanghai truly believe that, through sport, we have the power to change lives, while committing to sustainability every step of the way. Their dedication has made me feel connected to a bigger purpose.
Spending time abroad is not only a great opportunity to expand your network, but it also challenges you to be more flexible, to connect the dots, and to understand reality from a different perspective.
Don’t just take my word for it – wouldn’t you rather pack your bags and experience Shanghai for yourself?
Now it's your turn!
Check out the current openings in Shanghai via adidas’ career site and apply if you meet the criteria. Good luck!Apply Here
I'm glad you like my post. Indeed it has been an enriching experience both personally and professionally. Shanghai - and China in general- has so many things to offer and it's a great opportunity to further develop your career.
Happy to hear about how you've experienced Shanghai so far.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
I'm glad you liked the blog post. Thanks for your feedback as well, the funny thing is one of my Chinese colleagues was the one who checked for me. When I just joined the team I told them I am vegetarian and one of the wrote a little not for me to help me when I go alone to a restaurant.
Thanks for your comment. Indeed Shanghai is quite special and it has been so far one of the most gratifying experiences I had. I was only for a short assignment however, I am most certain that I would have the opportunity to come back many time (work-wise related), but also I got to meet incredible people I would like to stay in contact with. And definitely I would like to learn the language to be able to explore more and deep dive into the culture.