Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chinese Giveaway

Usually when you win something, it's not as if the person giving it to you bought it, it's part of an advertising deal. It's a way to get people in the door and, hopefully, create a repeat customer. Pretty obvious, right? But in China it's as if businesses can't get past the fact - GASP! - we're giving our services away!

James won a RMB500 voucher to a mid-range spa for filling out a survey for a delivery service. Great, we thought, that ought to be about enough for a couple's massage. So this afternoon we headed over. 

We walked into this place that looked like an old timey whorehouse - ruffly curtains, gaudy sofas... We presented our voucher and were given two cups of tea and told to take a seat.

Then the manager comes over.

"So which of you is going to get the facial?" she asks.

"What? We want massages."

"Only one of you can use this voucher and it has to be for the facial, which is 390 kuai. And the rest of the voucher is non-refundable."

"So really when it says RMB500, it should say 390 kuai facial?"

"Well you can get some additional treatments too, maybe like this pedicure service - but no massages."

[Yeah right, like there's anything that's only going to use up RMB110]

"This is bullshit."

Poor girl kind of smiles and nods, it's not like she made the policy.

We wound up walking out [we didn't want facials, you see] and going to a cheapy massage parlor near the house where for RMB130 a lady sat on my thighs and drilled her thumbs into the knots in my lower back. Hurt so good.

We aren't really spa people, so it's not like they lost big business by insisting we get a facial, but obviously I wont recommend it to anyone.

Other annoying China biz-nass: When my mom was here she kept complimenting my clothes and I kept saying, "Thanks, you bought them," until she finally said, "So what do you just not buy any clothes ever?" which made me feel like a cheap bastard. This morning (before spa misadventures) I went to the mall and gave myself permission to go crazy. The world is your oyster, Leslie! You just got a raise!

I wound up walking out with one (one!) pair of black leggings to place my worn out ones because I couldn't find anything else that both I liked and could fit in. The styles are wrong, they're fitted for different body shapes and usually the one thing I find that I like is just a wee bit too small. 

Oh Nordstroms, where are you when I really need you. I'm going to try and do a Marks & Spencer run during lunch this week. We'll see.

Despite all that, and the fact that the particle count was so goddamn high this week that everyone got the sneezes and/or a hacking cough, I'm actually having a delightful Shanghai weekend. This morning we got import groceries delivered (FO' FREE), biked all around Jing'an because it was sunny and the weather was perfect, and we're about to go to a big Sichuan dinner with Jess and her French boyfriend and his bizarre father who doesn't really speak English but delights in affecting a whiney American accent (her description, not mine). Should be entertaining!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So wrong

PR people inviting one to dinner on a Saturday night and explicitly saying you can't bring a friend. Hello, that's what weekdays are for and way to not endear me to your blah-blah-blah.

I would probably be really excellent in PR, because I have a treasure trove of anecdotes on what NOT to do (pretend that you have personal relationship with editor, edit email chains to make it appear editor has promised you something she hasn't, send a really beggy email about how much you want coverage and then not provide complete information, send your info in power point so editor has to flip through 20 slides to find basic info, front pad your cold call with a bunch of contrived cheese about how excellent the magazine is...on and on)

I guess that's why it's such an easy transfer to journalists to make. Well, and the pay hike helps...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Nameless Cleaning Lady

Ayi: Is your roommate named Jack? 
Me: No, his name is Sam.
Ayi: Oh. Someone called me and said they were a friend of Jack, they must've been talking about Bald Head
Me: Yeah, I don't know a Jack

'Bald Head' is a guy she works for who doesn't speak any Chinese and has a giant dog (my ayi is very talkative, so I know these things).

Most of us expats employ an ayi (Chinese word for aunt, but in this context basically means cleaning lady or nanny). They come in, wash our clothes, pick up all our stuff, but often - probably more often than not - we don't know each other's names. 

Usually we just call our ayis 'ayi.' This isn't so weird because in Chinese you can call someone by their job and be polite, like "excuse me, skilled worker!" or "service person, we want the bill." But then it also does seem weird because here you have someone you're trusting with everything in your bedroom and bathroom and everywhere else and you have an anonymous relationship.

I know my ayi's name. She also works for a few of my friends and she loves to gossip about who broke up with who and who moved in with who and who has a lazy roommate who can't get a job... Still, it's difficult to know what to call her, so mostly I just use her full name, family and given. Often if you're speaking to someone older, but especially someone who is educated or in some sort of position of authority, you might call them "Teacher So-and-So." That wouldn't be appropriate, but she is 15 years older than me and has two kids, so calling her just by her first name might be too personal. Simply calling her 'Ms Wang' seems weird too.

But, like most Chinese people, her full name is only three syllables so it's not like it's a mouthful. 

Monday, October 17, 2011


Woke up at 4:30am in order to GTFO there. Glad to be home. Still have oodles of work to do, but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel (i.e. next weekend, my first weekend at home in four weeks).

Nothing else to report. I wanted to upload a picture of a really cool piece of art I saw up there, but y'all know how they do the Internets over here...

Picture from mom's visit to come eventually!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


It's official. I'm now second-in-command of the great and glorious That's Shanghai editorial department.

The announcement was made Thursday. On Friday James got a promotion too. They're calling him "project manager" at his design firm now, 25-years-old and we both somehow hoodwinked our way into middle management - onward and upward! We each got a little salary bump and figured if we combined forces and punched our money-making rings toward the sky together a la Planeteers we'd almost be making one professional salary!

Time to go blow it all at the race track.

p.s. Don't buy Gucci kids. If your handbag costs a grand, the pregnant lady who made it should've at least been allowed to have a snack and a pee break on the assembly line.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Two co-workers left at the end of September, which now makes me the second longest-standing employee in editorial, how terrifying. Ma blew threw for a week, leaving her summary judgement on my fair city ("If Leslie weren't here I wouldn't ever come back"). Then I survived a 100mph highway night ride to Huaxi, China's richest little big village. Friday I'm flying up to Beijing for work, get back Monday - am so looking forward to a full weekend in my own apartment.

Usually when people leave our company they send out mass goodbye emails, thanking the relevant colleagues in the proper order to give the right amount of face...When our arts editorial assistant left she just blasted off a poem to everyone. I thought it was very sweet and decided to share:

Very quietly I take my leave,

As quietly as I came here; 

Quietly I wave good-bye,

To the rosy clouds in the western sky.

-Xu Zhimo