Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Week 15

@Kenneth from Turkey, thanks for your comments and for keeping in touch! We are definitely going to take up your suggestion of going to the Tea Houses, we've been by a couple but have never stopped and had tea. Those places do seem like a great place to relax and enjoy one of China's greatest commodities. @Allison from Georgia, as promised, below are some photos of real estate offices for your reference. The second place is close to Luwan District, and I've also included some photos of the actual listings. Though you may not be able to read Chinese, you may be able to infer what is being offered (i.e., 3200RMB/month, 3rd Floor/2nd Floor, etc.) The first set of photos are from a real estate agency that sells properties, and the second set is mainly a rental agent. Some agencies do both, but I think this should give you an idea of what to look for when you guys arrive.

Allison asked me an interesting question about a similar dilemma that we had before we came, so I thought I would share it in case anyone else is interested. Before we came, we tried doing A LOT of research up front about places to stay and renting an apartment. I tried contacting several agencies beforehand to get quotes, inquire about space and availability, etc. Unfortunately, I got one of two responses: I was either quoted a ridiculous amount and couldn't get pictures of the actual apartment for rent, or else no one got back to me at all. The question we struggled with, and Allison's question to me was, "Do we try and rent an apartment before we get there, or would it be better to get a hotel for a few days and beat the streets looking for an apartment when we arrived?" Because we wanted to see the place we'd be staying in for the next few months, and because we couldn't get good service from the rental agencies we contacted, we were forced to book a hotel (through a very nice friend who speaks Chinese, thanks Belle) and beat the streets. We were lucky to find a great apartment on the first day we got here. Rental agencies are everywhere here, and they look like the pictures above, we think it's a great idea to book a hotel for a few days and try finding an apartment after you get here. Unless you work for a company that might arrange all this for you, we think this option gives you more freedom to negotiate and confirm that all of your appliances work, you like the area, etc.

Last week was my birthday, and it was a great day. I had to work but my coworkers surprised me with a cake and sang Happy Birthday to me in Chinese, which was pretty cool. It was my first birthday outside the U.S., and being in an exciting new place helps me reflect on what a great year I had being 30 -- it definitely was not "just another year." Tiffany and I had a wonderful evening going out to dinner by ourselves. She took me to a fantastic restaurant called M on the Bund. It is located at No. 5 on the Bund, Guangdong Road, and it has a spectacular view of the Huangpu River and the Shanghai skyline. Awesome atmosphere, great view, even better food. It's a bit pricey, but it's the kind of place that people go and take pictures of themselves to remember the occasion. Every table we sat by was asking the next table over to take a picture for them, so we did, too.

The last week of work for me has been a really good experience. I'm learning a lot about web development and getting know more about the way things are done business-wise here in the China. One of the more difficult things, as I am finding out, is dealing with clients and colleagues that are in totally different time zones. For example, one of the company's partners works in San Francisco. He is awake and working while we are getting ready for bed, and vice versa, so coordinating our communication can mean one person is talking business while at dinner, going to bed, or else waking up super early to take a call. It seems like turn-around time for projects is slower with this type of schedule, and this problem is compounded by the language barrier and the miscommunication that can happen as a result. The other thing that has come up is Chinese New Year. Because many of our clients are in other countries, they don't acknowledge what a special time of year this is for the Chinese. They are expecting their projects right away, of course, but don't seem to understand that we are going through a holiday schedule that is similar to Christmas for many places.
Contracts in China are also part of the deal when it comes to employment for expats in China. Unlike the U.S., where many jobs allow someone to leave (or be fired) at will, there seems to be an expectation here of signing a contract with terms and conditions. The bad part about this is that some contracts bind you to work for a specified time (i.e., one year), while others may prohibit you (upon termination) from working for/with a competitor in the same industry or starting your own company. I'm not keen on signing that type of contract, especially when the conditions are overly intrusive on my decision making. But Tiffany has a story about contracts she'd like to share.

I found renegotiating a contract in China to be very different than similar experiences I’ve had in the states. As many of you know, my contract was up at MADA a few weeks ago. However, I kept working, waiting for my review and renegotiation of my contract.  Well, when it came time, I received the news that MADA would not negotiate on salary and they were not going to budge from a number that was well below an established market rate.  For a few days, the process went back and forth, me asking for more money, them saying they wouldn’t budge from their number but they didn’t want me to leave, my supervisors fighting with the company to give me more money so I would stay, etc. The process was a complete chaos for a few days.  Finally, I realized they couldn’t or wouldn’t budge.  They had many other people in my same position who were told the same thing and they were afraid they would find out I had received a higher number than them.  So we ended up not being able to renegotiate and, as a result, I am currently looking for other opportunities here in Shanghai.  I don’t know what’s going to work out for me but I’m very excited to see what China has in store for me next.

There is a place I've been frequenting for lunch called, Yang's Fried Dumplings, and it's somewhere I go to get utter happiness. For those of you who don't know, dumplings are really popular in China, and there are many different kinds to choose from -- steamed, fried, boiled, etc. One of my favorites is Sheng Jian Bao, or fried dumplings. They are cheap, fast, and totally delicious. Yang's Fried Dumplings is one of the more popular places to find Sheng Jian Bao, and some of you may have read about this place in your Lonely Planet Guide. Yang's is really close to the office and I've gone probably three or four times since I started working, haha. Last week I took Tiffany down there so she could try these amazing little treats, and we took a video in case you people want to see what Yang's is all about.

It is Chinese New Year today and everyone is very excited. Many people have left the city to go back to their home towns, so the streets and subways have been much less crowded over the past few days. The general spirit of people around the city feels a lot like Christmas in the U.S., and the fireworks have already begun. We've been told to expect getting very little sleep tonight, as the fireworks will be going off all night. We are going to take the scooter on a little journey tonight around 12am to get a feel for Shanghai on Chinese New Year, so expect that next week's post. Until then, Xin Nian Kuai Le!! (Happy New Year!!)

Things To Do in Shanghai

10. Ladies, Get A Wax!
So I wouldn’t just trust just anywhere with waxing! However, Strip: Ministry of Waxing, ( is one of the places you can trust here in Shanghai. The atmosphere inside is “modernly industrial” and very clean.  The staff is extremely friendly and all speak English. With four locations around Shanghai, there’s bound to be one that’s convenient for you.

Maybe It's Just Me

My friend Mike and I (yes, I know both of our names are Mike, and yes, that is funny) were walking to lunch last week, minding our own business, walking through a green-lighted crosswalk. Just as we approached the sidewalk, a car started honking at us and sped through the little space between us and the curb.  The guy got so close to Mike that the drivers side mirror hit Mike in the arm. He stopped almost immediately, because Mike tried to quickly get out of the way and hit the back of his trunk. This idiot gets out of his car and starts yelling at us, as if we were the ones who did something wrong. The guy has the audacity to grab me on the arm and start pointing up at the crosswalk sign (which had now turned red after all of the commotion), saying it was our fault because we walked through a red light! I threw his arm off of me and, for the first time in a while, felt like knocking this guy out. Instead of apologizing for hitting Mike and seeing if he was okay, this guy tried to lay blame on us!! Maybe it's just me, but are people really this stupid?

1 comment:

  1. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about that. In most places in Asia (except Singapore and maybe KL), there are only traffic recommendations, not traffic laws! No such thing as pedestrian right of way, so be careful! :) -- Christina