Life in China has been great so far, and fairly random at times. For example, I’ve enjoyed a lot of local food in Jinshan, and in one restaurant I had the owner request a selfie with me (above), and if I could be in a photo with him and his children. I imagine this was due to the location of the school being fairly out of the way and him not seeing many westerners, but it was still pretty head-scratching.
The weather’s been picking up recently, so checking out the beach in Jinshan is on my imminent to do list. I’ve had a great couple of weekends in and around Xuhui, part of the French Concession area in central Shanghai – the place really springs to life in the sun. Even in the centre of the city you can see koi and turtles swimming around in the little streams. There’s a real blissful vibe, with people scattered around painting, playing badminton, and practicing tai chi throughout the city’s parks.
However, with living in a new country, you can expect to encounter some problems. One issue I had was with my mobile number being linked to my bank account incorrectly. This isn’t a huge problem, but as Alipay and Wechat cross reference your details with your identification, any issues, however minor, will render you unable to use those services. That, in itself, isn’t major. Everywhere accepts cash, so you can get by without having to use those payment methods, although there are exceptions.
I tend to get a taxi to and from work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as one of the schools is an hour walk away, and it’s inexpensive (¥25 a day, £2 or so, which the company covers). Didi, China’s primary taxi app, is easy to use and extremely convenient. The drivers will call you to confirm your location, but most don’t speak any English. I simply tell them I don’t speak Chinese (in Chinese) and they presume I’m in the location I booked from. But ensuring you entered the taxi you booked can be difficult with the language barrier, and on one occasion I entered the wrong one. Cancelling after booking will hit you with a minor fee (¥2 / 20p), which is fine in itself, but you cannot pay this fee without one of the aforementioned payment methods.
So, the fee essentially rendered Didi unusable on the morning I was trying to get to work, and finding a taxi that isn’t looking for a Didi user is difficult – I ended up having to walk, and missed my first lesson. My coordinator helped me relay what had happened to the school and they were very understanding, and the issues have since been resolved, so no real worries. But if you do ever find yourself living in China, I’d suggest to check that all of your details are correct when setting up your bank account, ensure you’ve linked a mobile number and have authenticated it so that you have access to the nation’s preferred payment methods as soon as possible.
I’ll focus more on the students next week. I plan to have a couple share some of their thoughts on this blog. Until then, 再见!