Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Shanghai Diary: A Little Preparation

I like doing research. Before I came over to Shanghai I tried several avenues to get an idea of what to expect. Some of them were more successful than others.

As I mentioned a few posts back, I listened to the Two White Chicks in China podcast and I can't say how invaluable that was. I had some amazing listeners to The Projection Booth podcast respond after I put out a brief "I'm going to Shanghai and I'm not sure what's going to happen" announcement. I also read a few travel books and scoured the web for travel blogs. I even visited a Reddit and Facebook page maintained by "expats" living in Shanghai.

The person who wasn't very helpful was one of the people from my office. My biggest questions before coming over here involved 1) getting Andrea here (she arrives November 2) and 2) getting some kind of per diem so I don't have to worry about credit cards. I was concerned about that as I kept being told that American credit cards are not honored here in China.

My contact person "researched" my per diem request and came back with an answer that "Yes, American Express is definitely workable here in Shanghai."

The truth is that a few places -- even in the more "Westernized" area where I'm staying -- take AMEX but the majority do not. The most prevalent form of payment that we've seen thus far is using one's phone and either AliPay or WeChat Pay. There's also something called Union Pay which is based right here in Pudong. Cash is still accepted, of course, though it can get a bit bulky.

The other night, Laura went over to a nearby massage parlor and when she went to pay she found out that they didn't take AMEX or Visa (the same thing happened at a restaurant the same day. Fortunately, I was with her and able to pay cash). The owner of the parlor followed her back to her hotel and waited while she got money for him.

That said, I hope she gives my contact person an earful about payment methods in China.

One of the things I heard on Two White Chicks in China was about Mobike -- the bike rental service. They're around but nowhere near as plentiful (on my street anyway) as Ofo. It seems like I have connected my US AMEX to their app and will be able to rent a bike for a measly 1 RMB (about 15 cents) per trip (so one way to the grocery store is one trip, coming back is another trip so thirty whole cents. I'm looking into these electrified bikes I occasionally see, too.

Electric Bikes for Electric Youth

I'm not above riding the bus here (once I get a Metro card) though I have to say that taxis are fairly inexpensive. And, there's a thing I have yet to get over about tipping. Let's just say that Mr. Pink would be very happy here. "He don't tip." It's difficult for me to have restaurant and not leave a few RMB for a tip.

I'm looking into buying a scooter -- either like a "scooter scooter" one of those ones with the two little wheels and the long handle that I can fold and carry or something like a Vespa. Of course, I'm worried about the "Vespa" being stolen but I'm more worried about being hit by a car. I've been WeChatting with some people who I've found on that are selling their stuff. Like me, they're "expats". I've got an appointment set up for Saturday morning to see one bike (kind of pricey but legal) and maybe will me another one tomorrow (cheaper but illegal -- no license plate).

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