Work in Shanghai: Day Two

August 3rd, Changning District

So I saw some of Shanghai. It was time to get to work.

The plan as I knew it was that my boss would be picking me up for the first day. I’m in China for work, which is how I got a visa and flights and living accommodations.

I still hadn’t heard back about how I would be arriving to work, so I made my own plans to use the subway to get there. It seems every city has its own name for mass transit on tracks; Shanghai calls their system the metro. Work was only two stops away, with one change in between. Supposedly it would take ten minutes to get to work that way. So to get there by 8, I was on my way out by 7:35. I would have to find the station, buy a ticket, wait for trains, and then walk to work from the destination, so that was cutting it a little close.

Just as I was getting to the door to leave, my room phone rang. The driver was downstairs and ready to pick me up. It turns out my boss had tried to contact me with more details but the email didn’t make it through. That sort of thing has happened surprisingly often here. Now I’m prepared for it, but then I was caught unawares.

Anyways, my boss picked me up and we were driven to work. My company, Weir, doesn’t let its foreign employees drive in China (more on why that’s the case tomorrow).

And I figured out my true purpose in China. I won’t be talking about work except in general terms, but as a result of my assigned tasks I would need to be traveling to a plant in Suzhou a few times each week.

Suzhou is a city outside of Shanghai that’s about an hour and a half of driving away from the city. I’ve heard there are other ways to get there as well.

I got set up at my station, which required getting a new power cord from IT. Power in China is half-amperage/double-voltage compared to the U.S., which would normally require a transformer (Optimus Prime preferably) to convert. Looking at my devices’ power cables, the transformer is built in to most, which is extremely convenient and idiot-proof. However, the plug is a different shape here, so I still needed a different cable to get power.

Lunch time quickly arrived. It turns out there is a service that delivers lunch to work from a set menu (very convenient to have 17th floor food delivery available). I missed the ordering window in the morning, so I went downstairs and tried out the cafe on the first floor, “Ten Past Ten Coffee.” Thankfully the menu had English as well, and a lot of options I recognized. I had a smoked salmon quesadilla and coffee (recognizable but different nonetheless). Good food. I got up to pay, and they refused to take a non-Chinese card. Good thing I had cash on me, as I was still able to pay for the meal. I heard later that this is the case at many establishments; most take a card, but some do not accept foreign credit.

I finished out the work day and caught a ride home with my boss. I hadn’t picked up any dinner food at the store yet, so I asked the front desk for a recommendation. They suggested an Italian place that was on the first floor.

So I dropped my stuff off and headed back down to a very awkward dinner.

If you haven’t dined out alone before, you have not lived. It’s great, really. Can’t really look around because you’re the loner who’s staring. Could be on the phone, but why order dinner in a restaurant when you could have take-out?

I was shown in to my table for two occupied by one as part of a row of what obviously were dates. On a Monday night I hadn’t expected this, but hey, it’s Shanghai. When I sat down, I was facing the window. Super. So to order or continue the meal, I had to turn around and signal the waitress, who barely knew any English. I spent about ten minutes, no joke, just waiting for her to stop back by to see what I wanted to eat. At that point I realized I had to flag her down, even though she was literally standing right there with my table the only one assigned to her. Don’t get me wrong, very attentive service. Being used to restaurant service as it is in the U.S. caught me off guard.

I got through the fiasco of ordering and receiving a meat ravioli, which was decidedly not to my liking. My palette for pasta is not what you might call advanced, but the ravioli was either very al dente or very overcooked, my guess being the latter. So the meal itself not that great.

In the end I did see something worth ordering, though. I escaped the restaurant with a to-go order of Tiramisu (my go-to dessert if anyone is wondering). Got back up to the room and realized that to-go meant no utensils, and I didn’t have any yet. The choice was either to go back down to the restauarant to see if I could get a to-go fork, or just dig in. I made the obvious choice.

And then I was done. Long first day.

Next day, Suzhou.

Until next time.