Sunday, 18 December 2011

impressions of shanghai

the first thing that struck me when i got off the plane in shanghai was the light. it was just so bright, despite the haze. i've noticed that in more northern countries, the light is kind of white and cold (and i don't mean the temperature), whereas in singapore for example, it's more yellow and warm. this, together with the cold (this time yes, the temperature), made me feel a bit like at home.

it was cold and sunny when i landed. or as sunny as it can get with the extremely polluted air and heavy haze. the gorgeous day reminded me of all the things i really love about being in a cold country - scarves, tights, boots, hats.. and the amazing feeling of having a cup of warm tea when you're absolutely freezing, lighting candles, being able to go for a walk without melting away, actually enjoying the rare sunshine instead of trying to escape it, the christmas feeling spreading when hearing a familiar christmas carol on the radio and smelling the glögg. the list is long.

i guess the simple truth is that i am a nordic person. i enjoy differences between the seasons (and i am not just talking about more or less rain). there is nothing like that first day of spring after a long winter, the first swim in the freezing sea, the leaves changing colours and even the first snow.

but.. after a few days in shanghai it started to rain and i also got reminded of all the things i hate about the cold, rainy, windy autumn/winter - cold and wet feet, hands and ears so cold it actually hurts, feeling reluctant to even go out, the fact that some days the sun doesn't even seem to rise. this list is long as well. after some time on my little nordic bliss cloud, i realised there are pros and cons of everything and the most important is to look at things from the bright side and enjoy the pros of where you happen to be at the moment. perhaps easier said than done though, i have an ability to think the grass is always a bit greener on the other side..

of course shanghai was not all about the climate. the weather was just about the only thing shanghai and sweden had in common. here are some of the differences.

traffic - the traffic in shanghai was absolutely mad! no one seemed to care about red lights or green lights or yellow lights for that matter. they were just driving. and honking the horn. all the time. if someone wanted to change lanes, he wasn't let in. if not stuck, the taxi drivers were just zigzagging between the five or six lanes on the motorway. you couldn't use a seatbelt because they were all stuck under the seats.

the worst thing i saw was a man on a motorbike, holding a small baby with one arm and a phone in the other hand, just driving through a red light.

language - it's really weird being in a country where you don't understand anything at all. i couldn't even take a taxi without a note in chinese with the address i was going to. when i went to the pharmacy to get some pain killers, i communicated using one of my two words (hello) and a post-it note. they even translate brand names, which is normally a big no-no for other languages.

openness and transparency - facebook, twitter, blogspot and god knows which other sites are blocked in china. to me it's strange (and upsetting) that they are trying to and most likely succeed to control the flow of information and oppress the freedom of speech through blocking this kind of sites.

Monday, 12 December 2011

useful phrases in chinese

before leaving, i thought it would be a good idea to buy a phrasebook to learn some useful phrases. here's what's considered useful in the book i found:

singapore meets shanghai

back from shanghai. it was really nice to meet my colleague echo that i have never met before. while i was there, the london office had an update meeting and they wanted us to make a video to play during the meeting. so we made this one:

Saturday, 3 December 2011

it's raining... halleluja, it's raining...

for the ones who realise which song i refer to in the title, i can tell you that it's not raining men. just a lot of water. all the time. we had such a nice plan for today - to chill out by the pool in clara’s condo. judging from the amount of rain over the last few months, it might have been a somewhat over optimistic plan.

it looked bright for a bit though. didn't even start to rain until about five minutes after we got there. so after wasting the part of the day when it was not raining shopping for a winter jacket (which feels like a very odd thing to do when it’s 32 degrees outside, but just realised it's like 7 degrees in shanghai and a cardigan may not be sufficient to keep me warm), we spent some time by the pool, in the rain - watching the lightning and listening to the remarkably loud thunder.

i realise that my perception of singapore as a sunny place might have been so strong that even when i read the climate section in my guidebook, i just blanked out that 'rainfall is highest' could actually mean it would rain all the time. only now when i had a look in the guidebook again, just to (hysterically) laugh at and condemn its unreliability, it became clear to me it actually did mention it would rain. i hereby quote the guidebook:

"Singapore's temperature remains fairly constant throughout the year, with an average high of 88° F (31° C) and relative humidity of 85%, Rainfall is highest from November to January and lowest in June and July."

looking back now, i think i was fooled by the mention of constant temperature and humidity. probably a normal beginner's mistake for someone who's from sweden and has lived in the uk for a couple of years. in both countries rain normally equals cold. at least i have now learned to never leave the house without an umbrella wearing other shoes than flip flops.


despite the chinese characters in the title, i have of course not learned any chinese while being here. the only things i can say so far are 'hello' and 'thank you'. i use it quite frequently though. like every time i go buy my fruit juice from the nice little chinese man at the hawker centre. considering that everyone here speaks english (or at least singlish, which i am gradually starting to understand), i haven't had that much use of it though.

buuuuuuuuut.. next week on the other hand, it will be much more useful as i am going to shanghai!
it's my first time in china and also my first real business trip so i am of course very excited. not only about going on a business trip, but about the whole going to china thing. i hope i will have time for some other things than just work too. will stay from sunday to sunday so should be alright.

main things planned are to see my colleague as well as some of our clients.
won't be able to fill a whole week with meetings so will also work a bit from the shanghai office. after spending all this time as the only freedman person in the office here, i am really looking forward to sitting in the same office as someone else, just being able to shitchat about simple things like work or rant about someone that we both know (i.e. hate).

i also meant to do some research about things to do in shanghai, but the last couple of weeks have been hectic and i haven't really had the energy when i had the time and vice versa. now when i do have both time and energy, i'm spending it writing a blog post. sometimes i wonder how i prioritise. well, i have all day tomorrow too..

anyway, all tips on things i shouln't miss out on while in shanghai are most welcome.

i'll finish off with a funny photo from
starbucks in australia. apparently, they are not very used to people called elin (like every other country besides the scandinavian countries..).