As the mystery shopper from the warmer climes of South East Asia, this is my perspective….
- Shanghai airport is very easy to navigate around, so visitors don’t need anyone to meet them if they are going to take a taxi. Signposting is good.
- BEFORE leaving the airport, change foreign currency into RMB. Easy as anything there, but a mission of note once in the city, where it took 58 minutes and much patience before being able to finalise a simple transaction.
- My hosts organised the most spectacular snow display. In fact, their planning was so good that I awoke on my very first morning to the most beautiful winter wonderland imaginable. For those visitors who are not used to the weather, they even supply gloves and scarves. But no earmuffs. Or nose protectors. My ears and nose almost froze off.
- Their patience in the post office melee was exemplary. I was afraid that the post office sortie was going to strain our friendship, but nothing of the sort. It didn’t help that every Chinese gentleman and his wife were posting Chinese New Year parcels to their families in the provinces. I wonder if they will get there? Talking of which, I wonder if MY parcels will get there?
- Finding taxis was one of the most frustrating experiences, but 2 years of living in Shanghai meant that it didn’t bother them at all. You can’t call a taxi [Ed: you can call a taxi, but the times when you need it the most usually happens to be when everyone else wants one too: dinner time, raining, snowing, etc!] – you have to go onto the street corner and just wait patiently until one with a green light comes along. It may take 5 minutes, but it may also take 30 minutes, so plan ahead if you have an appointment. And beware the electric bicycles that come straight for you while waiting. Especially at night, as they don’t see the need for lights for some reason.
- Do not venture out without your Chinese speaking host. After 2 short years of living there, she is amazing, and can hold a conversation with taxi drivers and everyone else. And not just giving instructions – when they ask questions, she UNDERSTANDS them!! And ANSWERS them! [Ed: It’s an illusion – but thanks for the encouragement] I did learn one word whilst there – Lu means road. (I don’t think anyone else was, but I was pretty impressed at my language acquisition skills …) My host had no problem reverting to her mother tongue when cheated by an unscrupulous taxi driver – if he wanted, he could have learnt all sorts of choice English words that would have made a sailor blush. [Ed: hmmmph – not sure I am happy with this remark!] No, it wasn’t so bad:)
- Get used to squatty-potties, because that’s all one finds in most public places. And perfect your aim, or get used to stripping down out of the 15 layers that you are wearing for the sub-zero temperatures.
- And try and drag yourself away from the markets to do some sightseeing. Shanghai is a stunning city, and awaits the opportunity to show off her delights.
I will be back. Here’s hoping my hosts can face some more of me…… [Ed: You are welcome back any time – even for shopping! Thank you for your contribution to this blog.]