Right before I arrived to Shanghai, I asked a friend who had moved to Beijing just a month before me how things were going. She had just arrived for a few weeks at that point, and she responded, “China in unreal.” Now that I’ve been to Shanghai for a few weeks, I can absolutely concur. China, or at least Shanghai, is so unreal in the best and the worst ways. Unreal incident #1 – flat hunting: I’ve been fortunate to have a family who took me in for the past few weeks. While I would love to keep having home-cooked meals, their daughter who comes home once a year is coming back for the holidays, so it was time for me to move on. In the US, especially a place like New York, finding an apartment is a serious pain in the butt and then some. One devotes at least 3-4 weeks to scouring Craigslist, begging people, visiting, etc.
I have heard that Shanghai has more real estate in abundance, so I figured that I’d give it 1-2 weeks. Two days ago, I mentioned the idea to my host mom. Now, we are all aware of the Asian, especially Chinese, efficiency. But boy, I have never quite seen it to this level. I merely mentioned the thought, and after lunch, she said she’s spoken with the real estate agent down the street, and they have 3 places to look at. Whoa.
We went to look at them, and they were pretty crazy crappy. I love the idea of living in an old Shanghai flat (you know, like the ones you see in the movies from the 1920s), but I would’ve preferred the walls to be repainted and furnishing updated. So, after dinner, we begin to peruse through listings that are the Craigslist equivalent. In this case, being able to read Chinese is a huge advantage. Any listing in English requires a hefty premium.
After spotting a few good ones, my host mom started calling and before you know it, an agent agrees to show us a place. Mind you, it was now 9pm. No matter. If there is money to be made, there is someone willing to get things done. We saw the flat, and it was 10 times better than the selections from earlier in the day for the same price. Sold. Just like that, flat found in half a day. Amazing.
Unreal incident #2 – tutoring appointment: I signed up with a tutoring agency here to make some quick cash on the side. Last Friday, I received a call at 3pm for a potential client. I told the agent to keep me informed, and then I went to a yoga class. Two hours later, I had 6 messages and 4 missed calls. She wanted to know where I was and if we can do a demo class at 6pm. She sent me the message at 5pm. Naturally, I didn’t respond, and she later said she rearranged it to the next day. Then, she asked why I wasn’t answering her calls. One-hour notice? Apparently I need to have my phone glued to my hips, even when I’m in downward facing dog.
Unreal incident #3 – job application responses: One of the reasons that propelled me to make the move to China is the job market in the US. Somehow, it is now okay to not only ignore applicants, but also interviewees you didn’t like. Typically, in the US, getting a call after putting in an application takes at best one week. Here? I have heard from most things that I applied for within 24 hours. The sense of urgency is really incredible. This means I need to be constantly on alert and ready to go. Interviews so far have been scheduled within two days of contact. One incident, I had someone that called and launched straight into an interview, caught me completely off guard! Be prepared!
I am sure many more unreal incidents will happen until I get used to them. It is really quite something how quickly things can get done here. Maybe it's all these people. If you don't do it quickly, someone else will do it faster than you. It can all feel rather chaotic, but it absolutely is this sense of organized chaos. Before I can wrap my head around things, I have found myself a flat, have had all these interviews, and hopefully soon, a proper job!