Today was my first day in the JLR Shanghai office. After hearing numerous horror stories about the metro in rush hour, I got up extra early to try and avoid the bulk of the crowds… I think I might have been over-eager, as when I arrived at 7.35 the platform looked like this:
My office is a 45min metro ride from our apartment in the Former French Concession. The metro is really easy to navigate, and is modern, clean and air-conditioned.*
* I may have a less glowing view after I’ve witnessed a true rush hour, I’ll let you know!
My team sit on the 25th floor of the Mitre Asset Tower (MAT), which is on the East side of the Huangpu River opposite ‘The Bund’ in an area called ‘Lujiazui’. Lujiazui sits in the Pudong district (‘dong’ means ‘East’ in Mandarin) – we live in the Puxi district (‘xi’ means ‘West’).
Lujiazui is the area that almost always appears on postcards of Shanghai…..
It’s hard to believe that until relatively recently (a generation or so) this place was not much more than farmland. No shiny glass windows in sight.
In addition to the other office towers, there are two malls within a stone’s throw of where I now work; the Super Brand Mall and the ITC. The latter is crammed full of designer shops that are mouth-wateringly tempting, but eye-wateringly expensive. The malls here tend to have great foodhalls, and today my new team took me for a welcome meal in a Japanese sushi restaurant on the top floor of ITC. It was packed, and was obviously popular with the locals!
As my mandarin is a little…. basic…. I asked my colleagues to order for me, and we ended up with an absolute feast!; different types of sushi & sashimi, raw slices of white and pink fish, ‘hot-pot’ (raw food which cooks over a flame on the table) with tofu, ‘golden needle’ mushrooms, pork & veg. Given I’d not chosen, I thought it best to adopt an “ask what it is after you’ve eaten it” strategy. After I’d eaten one of the more unusual dishes, I asked what it was. “Thick cow tongue” came the answer. Hmmm. The team did reassure me that “Thin cow tongue” is much nicer!
It was a great experience and I really enjoyed the social aspect. In the UK i’d ordinarily bring in a salad and eat it at my desk while reading an article or a few e-mails. The lunch breaks here typically last an hour, and – while that means you work later in the afternoon – it was refreshing to take some time out in the middle of the day.
As it was my first day, my afternoon involved meeting a lot of new people, all of whom made me feel really welcome. I got the impression that the passion that our China colleagues have for our brands is just as strong, if not stronger, than in the UK. While the area of work I will be doing here is the same, the culture and working practices are very different; I got a glimpse into that today and will talk more about it in this blog.
After work I came home to Matt, a Cantonese take-away and a drop of peaty familiarity – we might be in China, but there is no changing some things!!!