Shanghai: Entrepreneur Mike tells us about Culture Shock

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Published 2019-09-12 11:00

Ahead of the Expat Show Shanghai which will be on from the 20th to the 22nd of september, Expat.com has met entrepreneur Mike. After four years of living and working in Shanghai, Mike decided he wanted to offer visitors a unique way to discover the city. In 2015, he created Culture Shock- a company offering bike tours to visitors but most importantly, a complete immersion in the day-to-day life of this vibrant city.

What made you move to Shanghai in the first place?

I had been working for four years in Cambodia and could feel it was time for me to move to a more dynamic environment, with a really booming economy. My company at the time, a travel agency present in 11 Asian countries, was looking for someone to run their Shanghai office and that is how I got offered the opportunity to transfer to China.

What do you like the most about China in general? 

China is infinite in terms of potential for discovery, exploration, business development, etc... I don't see how you can get bored in any way with China in general. The Culture, the language, the history... it would take many lives to scratch the surface and that is what I like about China. 

I also feel that everything and anything is possible here, this is a place where you can hear people say every day "Ok, let's see how we can make it happen" and that is the positive thinking that allows people to move forward.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to settle in China from abroad? How does one make the most of being an expat in China?

My first advice would be not to hesitate, there is more to win than to lose if you are ready for the adventure! Settling in China is a sign of open-mindedness and as long as you are ready to get familiar with this new culture, it will make everything easier. Being an expat in China is easier if you get to know and to love China, if you learn Chinese and are not afraid of change. To make the most of being an expat in China, I strongly suggest to get out of the "expat bubble" and dare meeting locals all along the way to create interactions and learn from them, share with them.

What made you start Culture Shock?

 Culture Shock Tours was born from a very simple idea: we realised that when we had family or friends visiting us in Shanghai, we did not want them to visit on their own and at the same time, we did not want them to jump into a bus with a more "mass tourism" concept. We came to the conclusion that there was a niche market, for foreigners who want to discover China far from the crowds. And this was first with a great majority of expats, living in Shanghai and realising that they did not know their own city. It also came to our mind that in order to answer their wish & expectations, we needed to offer a multi-theme kind of exploration, including content about history/architecture/food/religion/local traditions/etc...

Why did you choose to offer bike tours?

 First because there was only "touristy" bike tours in Shanghai, while foreigners are also looking for more "authentic" experiences, with interactions on the way in order to meet and chat with locals. Second, because the city of Shanghai is perfect for that: safe and flat, with many bike lanes. And finally, because with a bike you can ride to places that you cannot explore with a standard vehicle, you can see more in a short duration of time and it allows you to get closer to the local communities to get a better understanding of the place and the people you discover on the way.

You have quite a few expats on your team. How important is the expat outlook in an experience like the one you offer at Culture Shock?

The initial idea was to create an experience for foreigners by foreigners, with the main   justification being that a "Culture Shock" is "a feeling of confusion felt by someone visiting a country or place that they do not know". It is, therefore, much easier for a foreigner or an expat who is living in Shanghai and who experienced this feeling of confusion upon arrival to share his/her own experience with others, to highlight the differences with Western culture, to serve as a "translation tool" between the two worlds. But later on, we realised that many guests could also benefit from the experience and personal touches of Chinese tour leaders, with their own characters and anecdotes about the Culture Shock they are familiar with. As a consequence, now it is not about the nationality of the team, it is about their passion about China and how much they enjoy sharing it with guests.

How easy was it as a French national to set up your enterprise in Shanghai?

There is no major difficulties for a foreigner to setup a company in Shanghai, as long as you are familiar with the process, can provide all the documents necessary and obviously with a great purpose. If you look at Culture Shock Tours, we aim at showcasing the best of China, Chinese Culture & Traditions. We do our best to attract more visitors to China and at the same time, we help expats for a smoother integration into a World that feels sometimes hard to understand. What better purpose could you aim for? 

What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur in China?

Without a doubt: the opportunities to meet such a dense network of entrepreneurs, both Chinese and foreigners, who are eager to share their experience, their successes and mistakes, who are happy to share the contacts they have in order to help out. Moreover, being an entrepreneur in China allows you to be part of a bubble of effervescence, of a dynamism that is a wonderful source of motivation!

And what advice would you give to someone wanting to open a business in China?

A good advice would be not to rush too much. Taking the time to meet other people who did it before, who are happy to share their experience and their contacts... that will make it quicker and smoother than learning everything from your mistakes. In addition, study the market and adapt to the market: there is very little chance that simply copying what works abroad will work here in China: it is a totally different world and you need to be humble when you step in China: you are not here to teach anyone, you are here to learn.

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