Show of force
Premier event for Shanghai expats returns to city
From September 8 to 10, the 10th annual Expat Show was held at the Shanghai Exhibition Center. Started in 2007, the event has become Shanghai’s biggest gathering for expat communities seeking services and information about the city.
Around 10,000 visitors and 150 exhibitors participated in the show this year. Covering different sectors of daily life including education, health, insurance, tourism, lifestyle, food and beverages, and finance and investments, the event has become a favorite among expatriates.
Data released on its official website shows that, in 2016, the event attracted over 11,000 visitors, among which 35 percent were Chinese and 31 percent Europeans. Newly arrived and experienced expatriates aged from 20 to 35 (37 percent) and 35 to 50 (51 percent) constituted most of the attendees.
The show has become essential for local businesses targeting foreigners as well as foreign-owned companies hoping to do business with Shanghai’s big-spending Chinese. Thus, the Global Times recently interviewed several exhibitors who shared their stories about working in Shanghai.
Frederick Leclercq is the general manager and co-founder of Inktale Translation & Consultancy, a joint-venture started a year ago which provides language services, business consultancy, exhibition services and training programs. He said that about 75 percent of his customers are transnational companies based in China.
“One of the reasons that we are here is expanding in terms of expats and Western companies that we work with to develop our business,” said Leclercq, adding that this was the very first exhibition of his company.
Food and language
Leclercq masters a key skill for doing business in China: He speaks and writes fluent Chinese. He studied in Beijing for three years and then returned to London. Two years later, he came back – to Shanghai – with his new company, co-founded with Sabrina Zhang, his Chinese partner.
Aurora Tai is a ChineseAmerican who has been working for three years at epermarket.com, a Shanghaibased online grocery store which provides both local and imported products from all over the world. She said that their platform offers about 7,000 food and non-food products from fruit and vegetables to small appliances.
“Some expats who are not familiar with Shanghai yet choose to come to the event to learn more, so we would like to reach more potential customers here,” Aurora told the Global Times.
Her company has already attended the exhibition several times in the past. “We meet about hundreds of customers at this exhibition every year, among which 20 percent are regulars checking out our new products,” said Tai, adding that most of their customers are expats, but locals are increasing.
Education exhibitors take a large share of space at the venue. It was easy to find schools and training centers of all varieties. Joe, a program manager at Hutong School, which teaches the Chinese language to foreigners in Shanghai, Hangzhou, capital of East China’s Zhejiang Province and Chengdu, capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, said that the company was established 12 years ago by two foreigners from France and Belgium.
This was their second time at the show. “It is useful for us. Of course we can communicate on WeChat or Weibo,” said Joe, adding that face to face is better. “We met a lot of foreigners who are enthusiastic about studying Chinese these days.”
Tourism is also a product that Chinese and foreigners crave. Emelie Chaudouard, founder of Travel-Stone which provides tailor-made and group tours in Asia, flew to Shanghai from Beijing to join the exhibition with her colleagues.
“More and more foreigners are becoming interested in the Silk Road, so we now have tailored trips to northwestern cities like Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for them to explore,” said Chaudouard.
While most companies attending the Expat Show are selling products or services, some are there to offer a way to actually pay for such things. Yassine Regragui is a product operation lead at Alipay, one of China’s most popular payment apps.
“We are not here for advertising, but to help our users to fix problems they meet when using our app,” said Regragui, adding that he welcomed several hundred customers during the three-day event, most of whom already had Alipay accounts installed on their phones.
Regragui said that Alipay now provides similar services overseas. “Alipay has 520 million users globally, and most expats living in Shanghai are now using Alipay as their payment method and mobile lifestyle enabler,” he said.
(From top) Employees perform at the event. An employee chats with visitors. Employees introduce products to visitors at the event Sunday.