Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Week 25

Hello Everyone! I know it's been a few weeks since our last post, so sorry for the interruption. I hope you guys haven't forgotten about us!! It's a little crazy to think about the fact that we've been in Shanghai for over 6 months now,  and yet we're still feeling like we just got here. We've made a lot of friends, eaten lots of tasty food, and gotten familiar with many streets in Shanghai. Our Chinese is still a long way off, but we are definitely starting to use the language in some basic situations, such as, "What is your name?", "Where is the toilet?", and "Please do not include the fish head in my soup, not that there's anything wrong with that." Even though we were nervous before coming out here, our adjustment has been a very pleasant experience thus far. We're still crossing our fingers that we don't get sick from the food/water, or any other reason for that matter, especially as the summer humidity creeps in and dampens the city. The weather over the last three weeks, however, has been absolutely beautiful. Though I haven't been here for summer, I am beginning to think that the weather in Shanghai is at it's best in the Spring. For example, today it was 75 degrees with a slight overcast. Totally comfortable, and perfect for walking around in just a T-shirt and jeans. It actually feels a lot like southern California.

So enough small talk, I wanted to update you guys on a couple of things we talked about in our last few posts. First, on the last post we started looking at apartments with an agent and put up video of our findings. We were originally going to make it a two-part series and have the same agent show us apartments in the $400-$500 price range (last time you'll remember seeing places that went for $500-600). Unfortunately, the agent "couldn't find" apartments in that price range for us, and essentially gave us the old we'll-keep-your-file-on-record routine. I think she was worried that we couldn't move in right away (since we would have to put in a 30-day notice with our current apartment), but either way we haven't been out to see apartments in that price range. So our hoped-for two-part series is now going to be a shortened, one-part, fantastically interesting video that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the moment.

Also, a couple months ago I promised to keep you guys informed of the issue we had with our electric bill, because in December-February it doubled each month even though we were consuming pretty much the same amount of electricity in our apartment. It got to the point where we were paying 1000RMB+/month (approx. $150-$175) in electricity, which is outrageously high according to a lot of expats we talked to. After we got that bill, I called the landlord to see if she would look into the matter because we suspected that someone might be stealing our electricity (apparently that happens here in China). So she called the building manager and the electric company, and then came back to us saying it was our fault. I mean, there wasn't really much we could do after that, and it was really annoying because it doesn't seem like there is a way that we can prove someone is siphoning our electricity. Miraculously, the month after I called the landlord, our bill went down to 200RMB (approx. $30)!!! We just received our latest bill, and it's 250RMB!!! Throughout the entire time we've lived here, we've used the same appliances and lights, and all are generally on during the same times of the day. It totally baffles me. We did learn one interesting thing though: During the hours of 10pm-6am, each day, electricity in Shanghai is half-price! We started getting excited for our electrical happy hour each night, and are delighted to huddle up next to our single fluorescent light bulb when 10pm rolls around (occasionally we break out the incandescent bulbs for nice occasions).

What else can I tell you. Oh, last week we joined a gym. It's actually a very nice facility called Will's Gym, and they have locations all over Shanghai. So we purchased a 6-month membership for 2000RMB, which comes out to be about $50/month. Not bad for a two-story gym with swimming pool, spa, sauna, boxing equipment, lots of resistance machines and free weights. Best of all, it's super clean! So clean in fact that some maids actually clean the treadmills while you're running on them, which is a little awkward but it's cool. With our new gym membership in place, we needed to hit the fake mall once again for some gym clothes. I happened to catch another Tiffany-negotiation on camera.

Tiffany has some news to share:

A couple weeks ago I started a new job here in Shanghai. I'm working for a importing and exporting company designing a new line of prefab homes. I'm loving my job and it's been such an amazing experience so far. Working in Shanghai, I've started to realize the importance of the culture and traditions around business cards here in China.

Business Cards are a big deal in business transactions, as well as daily life in China. Everyone from the lady selling bottles of soda on the street corner to the men and women in business meetings have business cards and hand them out like they’re candy. The culture of the business card exchange is extremely important here in China. The business card will be handed to you by the giver with both of their hands holding the card with their thumbs on the top side of the card. You are expected to accept the card with both of your hands and your thumbs also on the top side of the card. It is considered a rude and unforgiveable offense if after accepting the card you put it straight into your wallet. You are expected to take some time to look at and really analyze the card before putting it away. Here in China, the more gold that is on the card the more prestigious is a person. During your stay in China, you will undoubtedly rack up an unbelievable amount of business cards and have no idea what to do with them all. It’s all just a part of life here in China.

Ikea China is the newest entertainment complex in Shanghai. Chinese people go to Ikea to hang out, take naps, get decorating ideas, eat lunch, and maybe do a little shopping. As you walk through the ALWAYS crowded aisles, you find families just enjoying the afternoon. Ikea tends to be a little too expensive for many local Chinese and too crowded for middle income Chinese and foreigners. So Ikea becomes a bizarre playground full of non-shoppers and bargain seekers.

 The entry of IKEA. From this point on, it was a very long, painful day.
 I couldn't tell if this family was intended to be part of the display,
or whether they were simply enjoying the livingroom as if it were their very own.
 I'm sure it's a very nice bed.
 A view similar to the entry, but unfortunately it's a picture from the third floor, where the crowd was a little thinner.
My beautiful girlfriend just outside of IKEA on Caoxi Road.

One last piece of news before we leave you until next week. We have decided that, since we're going to be in Shanghai for a while, we are getting a dog!! We've put a lot of thought into the idea and we just decided to go forward with adopting a new puppy. The process is a little complicated, but we're really excited to go out and find our new friend. We've been looking in a few places around the city but haven't found the right one for us yet. I'm going to start taking some video and hopefully we'll put it up on the blog so you can follow along. Thanks for coming back to the blog, see you guys next week!

Things to Do in Shanghai

Happy Hour at Morton's The Steakhouse
The best kept secret in Shanghai is Morton's weekly happy hours at the IFC Mall in Pudong. Every week day (Monday-Friday) from 5-7pm, Morton's served FREE all you can eat filet mignon sandwiches and 38rmb Mortini's. The list of included Mortini's includes: Appletini, Cosmopolitan, Gin Martini, Vodka Martini, and a Chocotini! While you eat your free sandwiches and sip on your "tini", soak in the gorgeous view of the Pudong skyline, including The Oriental Pearl. If you can make it there after work, or a long day of sightseeing, this is by far the best happy hour deal in Shanghai!

Morton's, The Steakhouse
Shop 15-16, 4/F, Shanghai, IFC Mall, 8 Century Avenue,
Pudong New Area, Shanghai, 200120, China
Tel: +86 2160 7588 88                                          

Maybe It's Just Me

Back in the day, when I was still a college student, I would walk to class and notice an Asian woman riding her bike on campus. I know it was the same woman because she was covered head-to-toe in garments; I couldn't even see her face. At the time, I couldn't understand why someone would want to be covered like that, especially on hot summer days in Los Angeles. Since living in Shanghai, however, I have noticed that a lot of people wear masks as they are riding around the city on their bikes. A friend tells me that many Chinese people have a phobia of breathing bad air, and will run air-conditioners with their windows wide open because they don't want to breathe the air that comes out of the air-conditioner. Maybe it's just me, but it seems a little strange that people would be afraid to breathe bad air in this country, especially because these people smoke like chimneys!


  1. Hi Mike and Tiffany - still enjoying your write ups, and 6 months seem to have flown by although life has a tendency of doing that. I can see from the video that Tiffany is getting especially good at bargaining like a local, good job on those sweat pants. You look like you got it down to a tes. I couldnt believe the electricity story, the price surely functuates, i reckon someone had as you had yourself noted been streaming a little off for themselves. I havent been to Shanghai but if Shenzhen is anything to go by the summer is going to knock you for six with its high humidity, you should start looking for those little hand helf fans. Stay safe and keep well.

  2. Glad to see you're settling in well! Ikea is crazy wherever you go I think. It's just such good value! :) I have been thinking of travelling to China myself, who did you travel with? I'm looking at directline-holidays and directline flights , I've heard good things and they seem to have some good deals on!