China: Challenge Accepted!
I came to Shanghai 23rd of August 2013, one week before classes commenced at Shanghai Advanced Institute for Finance (SAIF).
I had not arranged a place to live prior to my arrival besides a hotel for the first week. We were three exchange students from Copenhagen Business School that were going to live together, one arrived the day after me and the last roommate one week later. Hence, the two of us started one unpleasant and sadly elongated apartment hunt across Shanghai.
The hunting days were long and filled with nothing but walking, taking metro, taxi and riding real estate scooters to see apartments that were either inconvenient in terms of location, too expensive, too degraded or not able to fit all three of us.
We must have travelled more than 7-8 hours a day, sometimes with Chinese real estate agents, who English skills and our non-existing Chinese was the root to quite a few misunderstandings. My roommates and I had estimated a four to five days long apartment hunt, but we were grossly wrong and by the eighth day we were exhausted, tired of seeing over-priced apartments, meeting with what we felt were devious people that were trying to cheat us and mounting misunderstandings added a great level of frustration and agitation.
It was a testing period not all bad, as I got to know the city pretty well.
At one point we had decided on an apartment just by Yuan Garden, we arrange to meet with the representatives of the landlord. We showed up that morning with the expectation of a quickly resolution so we could move in and be done with this search.
However, it turned into a negotiation experience that I will never forget, we spent six hours in the real estate offices, where the representative would call the landlords constantly and with each call some terms of the contract would have been changed.
Luckily, we had a patience and understanding Chinese person with us (friend of friend), who was a tremendous help and we got out of this mess with no problems. Retrospectively, I now come to understand this method of negotiation it was a good experience in that sense but that day I wasn’t happy at all.
I can only recommend to be introduced to a Chinese person in China through a friend before you leave whether the visit is for business or studying as having a Chinese connection can be an incredible source of information and help.
You will be glad to know that the apartment hunt ended well.
We found an amazing apartment at the 31st floor near Jiashan Rd, great location regarding getting to and from SAIF. The apartment is probably the best place I have lived in China so far I vividly remember the fantastic view of the Shanghai concrete jungle. Also, I can easily say we had the best landlord in Shanghai, most likely in China. The payment terms were cash deposit and then one transfer for the rest of the rent, however it took over 4 months to complete the transfer, during which we never got worried call or email from our dear landlord.
For newcomers I would highly recommend to research on the areas where you would like to reside and contact people over social media to hear about their experiences and get their advice, moreover, reach out to real estate and landlords’ prior to arrival, websites such as www.smartbeijing.com www.smartshanghai.com or www.thebeijinger.com can be a great starting point.
With the apartment sorted, we could finally settle in, explore Shanghai and focus on our studies. SAIF was a great place to study! and Shanghai is a great place to live! I should mention that I decided to stay in China prior to my arrival. Hence, I travelled to Shanghai on a one way ticket with an expiring visa. The pressure was on and I had to make it happen somehow.
SAIF had allowed us customised our schedule over the course of the exchange, I had arranged that I the whole of October off, where I intended to explore and travel across China.
As it would happen when you are outgoing, a bit cheeky and seeking opportunities they tend to find you, and so I found an opportunity in Beijing. Resulting in my October travels were out the window and it was time to work hard at a boutique investment and advisory firm and so started a time with continuous commute from Shanghai to Beijing.
It was a fantastic experience working as the right hand of the managing partner and as I was the only employee in China that is, I saw how networking works in China at all levels, moreover, working with cross-border investments projects between China and Europe.
The attentive reader would have deduced that I travelled to China without speaking Mandarin, so landing such an opportunity was really something. You can therefore understanding that I was super excited when my boss asked if I wanted to stayed on after my exchange programme at SAIF ended.
I moved to Beijing in January 2014 and that moved commenced a crazy busy year. First half of 2014 was comprised of two major undertakings 1) working at the boutique investment and advisory firm and 2) 4 hours of Chinese studies a day. Second half of 2014 started with being appointed Chief Representative for small European Medical Technology firm, who were seeking a China partners, investor and method of entry, this was an incredible experience as well.
With these experiences I am currently pursuing to develop my own business, whereby I help foreign businesses in China. I nearly forgot that I also completed the small task of writing my Master dissertation, which studied the key factors in cross-border mergers and acquisitions in Sino-Danish environment.
I could speak about my experience in China all day and night as I am sure most people can when they have spent a considerable time in completely different culture. My overall stance on China is hugely positive and the greatest advice I can give you if you are considering coming here or are coming here, is that, have a very big bag of patience with you, try to leave your embedded paradigm of thinking at home and don’t try to understand or “convert” Chinese into your way of thinking, then you could do nothing but and it is simply a waste of your energy that surely turns China into a negative experience for you.
Just go with flow, be open and enjoy all the great things that China has to offer.