Starting Work

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:

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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’).

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Mirae Asset Tower (MAT)

Lujiazui is the area that almost always appears on postcards of Shanghai…..

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Lujiazui – and the MAT building

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!!!

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Nihao Zhongguo (Hello China)

We made it! We arrived at our apartment yesterday morning after an epic plane journey via Dubai, a 7 hour stay in a hotel, and something like 14 pieces of luggage.

Someone had kindly put a notice on the door which our estate agent told us meant ‘Lucky Marriage’.

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“Lucky Marriage!”

“A bit presumptuous”, we thought, “but a nice gesture nonetheless”

After a few minutes of ringing the door bell and our agent calling the landlord, it became apparent our actual apartment was 8 floors above us. Hopefully we didn’t ruin their lucky marriage celebrations.

 

Our apartment is in a complex called Ambassy Court, within the Former French Concession (FFC). I’ll write more about some of Shanghai’s history in future, but this area is one of many in Shanghai with a strong western legacy. The French Concession was previously governed and occupied by French colonists as a trade port during the Concession Era, and so the architecture and culture has a European influence (there are lots of bakeries, artisanal coffee shops with the word ‘Maison’ in the name, wine shops and French people). It’s one of the most desirable places to live in Shanghai due to it’s leafy tree-lined streets and ‘hipster’ Soho-like lifestyle. Ambassy Court is so called as it was built in the 80s as dwellings for Amassadors (the FFC is the where a lot of the foreign embassies are located).

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A typical European ambassador spoiling a guest with some traditional European delicacies during the late 1980s.

 

 

The apartment itself has been recently refurbished and is owned by an investment company.While we might have to put a hold on our cat-swinging hobby while we’re here, we are living in seriously nice pad. They’ve kitted it out really smartly, and we have a clubhouse on the site with a Gym, shop, coffee shop, creche and a couple of pools.

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Our pimped crib [minus pimp, plus Matt]
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The Former French Concession, from our balcony

If you were to try and buy this place, (a 2 bed flat with 2 bathrooms and a small balcony) it would set you back something like £1.5m – which reflects the cool address and luxury accommodation in one of the world’s richest cities. We were chatting to one of our neighbours who mentioned that most Chinese living nearby didn’t have showers or toilets in their flats, they’d typically share those kind of facilities which put in stark contrast the comfort we are enjoying.

Our first day we spent getting some of the real hygiene factors sorted.

Firstly, the internet (getting hold of a VPN so I can google ferrero rocher ads)

Secondly, a kettle so we can begin our mission to drink all the tea in China

Thirdly, water. You’re not allowed to drink the tap water here without boiling it, so our flat comes with a water dispenser. Sourcing the bottles for the dispenser was interesting;

Standard work instruction for getting bottled water in Ambassy Court

  1. Go down into the basement car park to find a smoky little management office
  2. Pay a deposit for bottles, depending on how many you need
  3. Keep the receipt- because when you check out (in 3 years) you’ll need it to get your deposit back.
  4. Go to some other reception desk on the compound
  5. Buy some water tokens. Buy as many as you want but you can only get two delivered at a time (because you only have paid a deposit for two)
  6. Go back to your apartment and wait for water man
  7. Give tokens to water man.
  8. Receive water.

From an efficiency point of view, it would give an industrial engineer post-traumatic stress. However, as soon as we got back to our apartment (about a minute later) there was a guy waiting for us with two big bottles – which was actually pretty amazing.

Finally, having drunk all that water and tea, it became pretty obvious we needed toilet paper. That proved hardest to find of all (especially with the pressure on) so our next challenge is to work out where to buy some of the living essentials…..