Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve in Shanghai

Here we go... I am thinking, Xmas eve, in Shanghai, by myself, this will be boring and kind of sad in the same time. But nothing is less true! Granted, ofcourse Allison, my family and my friends are nowhere close to me, but still, I was very hapily surprised.

This is what the Chinese do. They all get together in a hotel and eat and drink for several hours. They come straight out of work and spend (for their budgets) quiet a bit of money. Also the hotels purchasing department, the engineering department, etc. ask the suppliers and contractors nicely but forcefully to buy a bunch of tickets to the different dinners. This always helps.... "Really you dont HAVE to buy a ticket, but your contract is almost up and you know, maybe we have to look at other suppliers....".... Three blinks and the place is sold out :) In total we sold 1000 tickets for last night's events. The way the evening was organised was INCREDIBLE.

We had different themes in different restaurants and the place was sold out. Packed to the roof! 1000 Chinese people and 3 foreigners :) How ignorant of me to assume that the Chinese don't celebrate Christmas you would say..... I agree, they definitely celebrate. Its like anthing else the westerners do... The Chinese look carefully and then immitate what they like. And they do a VERY good job at immitating, Prada, Gucci, Hugo Boss, and now also Christmas.... The only thing is, they give it a bit of a Chinese touch, in this case....The cheesier the better!

This picture was taken in the bar where we had a Super Heroes theme. This means dress up like superman and catwomen (or something that 'kinda' looks like that and give everyone a party hat.....

The Atrium level was more a place where it was lot more quiet and where the ticket was more expensive. Looked actually very good!

Obviously China is not a christian country, so the only problem is that Christmas is not a holiday here, hence everyone has to work the next day. So in stead of long comfortable gatherings, they get together early and eat for the whole week in 3 hours. In the middle of that they are beeing entertained by a SERIOUS entertainment block. This thing was a massive production with professional MC's and everything. No joking here, seriously, this organising lady had at least 20 acts and they all turned from one restaurant to the other. Clowns, acrobats, musicians, kung fu fighters, singers, you name it, they had it! Unreal! The highlight of the entertainment was definitely the hotel's secretaries though. They sang and wre dressed in cute mini santa claus suits. Very good! They sang English Christmas songs.

These are my two secretaries Annie and Wendy :)

Then the most interesting part for everyone comes: The Luck draw!!! Every ticket has a number on it that you drop in a box when you come into the restaurant. In between the entertainment the MC draws numbers and gives away prices with obviously the big bang in the end.... A CASH MONEY PRICE OF 5000 RMB!!! people are the edge of their seats (not too far, because they really became top heave during the massacre of a food fest that just went on for the past three hours) and are breathless untill the last price goes out. Then... like the fire alarm went off, they evacuate themselves in literally 10 minutes from the hotel. UNREAL!! You really have to be carefull you are not in the middle of the doorway because you will literally be ran over by 1000 Chinese people. 9.30 the place is empty! Good for us, time to have a beer :)

All and all a very interesting Christmas eve and great to have experienced. Today Christmas day was kind of lonely, even though I spoke witn Allison this morning and unpacked the present she gave me :) it is still hard to be away from home at Christmas. Chef cooked a great christmas lunch for the expats and tonight I will be going to the home of the regional GM for a christmas gathering. Still, nothing beats being with your loved ones, something I will not have this year :( Therefore one of my new years resolutions for 2009 i decided today will be: never spend Christmas by myslef anymore, life is too short!

Merry Christmas, HOHOHO (Chinese Santa ;)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Duck Anyone?

Incredible, hanging to dry :) But SOO good

Or the tea, also incredible.... life is good in China :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Management outing, Chinese style

I know, I know, I should have posted a new message a long time ago!! Anyway, here we go... The past two weeks things have continued the way I thought they would. Everyone still very positive, they want to learn and they want to do a good job. Very often they dont know how to do that though.... For instance... One morning I heard some loud noise coming off of the loading dock/ receiving area. So I go and have look and there is this cook standing with a CHAIN SAW in his hand, cutting a parmesan cheese wheel in two!! HA! So can only laugh very hard and ask him what the hell he thinks he is doing?!?! So he is totally stunned and says that the band saw in the pantry is broken and that he didnt know of another way to cut the cheese!! Can't blame the guy, he just wants to get the job done! So funny! Stories like this are happening all the time. Maybe not as radical, but still, they happen. This weekend we went on a management outing. The GM invited all execs, dept heads and managers to go to a city closeby to discuss strategy and do some teambuilding. So we all get on the buss friday morning and we go for a 4 hr drive to Ningbo. All well, we get there and we have lunch first. The noodle station was so cool, the guy is making the noodles a la minute. This is NOT easy, if though it seems very easy.... I had a video, but it doesnt let me upload it, so pictures will have to do it.

So we have the meeting, very interactive, InterCon stuff, same as in the US. After we are done with the training we all go for dinner. Now, here is where the fun starts. We sat down with the Chairman of the two owning companies and we started the dinner. Obviously everyone is watching us how we eat our traditional chinese food and if we like it or not. Then we get introduced to the Chinese "toasting tradition". They hae wine glasses on the table with 1 sip of wine in it. Someone picks up the glass and toasts someone. They both pick up their glasses and empty it in 1 go. The accompanying saying is Kampai, with meas bottom's up! This goes on for about 3 hours and so literally you toast the entire room. It shows respect if you put more wine in your own glass than your superior. Something like I will drink more so i save you from getting drunk. Really, incredible. I must have had 3 bottles of wine during the dinner. Some people got so drunk they started falling and throwing up!! Nobody seemed to care and thought it was cool to do... At the end of the dinner we took a picture and after that we went to the Karaoke bar. The picture is of my team and the GM and Chairman. Then we went to the Karaoke bar and we went crazy with the Music. The last time I sang on a stage was in Savanah with Meghan and Alison and that wasn't a success, so i was kind of nervous that i would empty the room again by my magnificent singing skills. However, this time it didnt matter. Everyone was so drunk, nobody cared! So all and all a good experience again and really, worth the trip. In the morning we visited some temples and had another lunch. Again, traditional Chinese. Very nice, food is amazing. Only sometime they eat some weird stuff, but overall the food in this part of China is very well balanced and they dont use a lot of spice. I dont want to hold back the one picture where we went on the stage and sang and played with the band in the hotel after we came back from the karaoke bar. We must have thought that it was still ok to sing through a microphone. The guy next to me is the director of rooms, his name is Dean, Australian guy... Needless to say, that the hotel guests weren't as understandinga and accomodating as our colleagues in the karaoke bar, so we quickly went on to yet another ping piju (cold beer). Ok, gotta run, will be back soon!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Another day in Paradise :)

Finally some time to sit down and write about the first couple of days in the hotel. As expected, the experience is very eye opening and very exciting! From the referral to VIP guests as "Big Potatoes" to the meetings that are translated into Chinese (or English of course) and therefore take twice the time. Really cool all together and exactly the thing I was looking for!

Monday morning I started work and was welcomed by the Exec comittee in a meeting together with 2 other expats that started the same day as I did. All together we are 5 foreigner now in the hotel and the rest is Chinese. Everyone (95%) speaks English, even though sometimes it is hard to really communicate clearly and quickly because it takes time to explain yourself, choosing the right words etc. Still, THEY really want to learn and are literally waiting for you to tell them something or show them something they don't know.

After the meeting I walked into my office and a girl came to see me and said "Hi I am Wendy, I am your secretary :)" So I introduced myself and went on. 5 minutes later I got introduced to Annie, who claimed to my secretary.... wait, hold on... I thought Wendy was my secretary?.... "right, but you have two secreatries boss, a Senior and a Junior"..... OOOOHHH, OK... duhh, why didn't i get that in the first place. Seems like that kind of stuff is very common here. LOTS of staff. This actually makes it nice, there is a huge opportunity to do a real good job, there is more than enough labor and they are VERY willing to learn. Just take the time to teach and I think we can do really well.

Tonight I went out to Puxi with the chef. Chef has been around the block in many asian countries and knows his stuff. So he took me to a Chinese contemporary restaurant where we had a couple of dishes and a couple of beers. We could have had 10 hookers each if we wanted, but that's besides the point. It was really nice to get out of the hotel this evening and just relax and talk about all kinds of things. We have been doing that this week almost every night. The director of Sales and Marketing is a German guy, very nice (I know, hard to believe, but really, very nice guy ;) and then there is Dean, director of rooms from Australia. Also a young guy, very much fun! I think we can have some good times all together. It will take 2-3 months to really work hard and get our act together, and after that I think we can all get out sometimes and tear it up a little!

Ok, many more impressions, but it is time to go to bed, another early morning tomorrow and a LONG night tomorrow evening. Going to a party at 3 at the Bund, appearantly THE place to be for luxury and high end part... I LIKE IT A LOT! And then Sunday I am meeting Jin and TingTing, which I am really looking forward to. I havent seen Jin since we left the MBA class in '04.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Just Arrived, Shanghai BABY!

WOW!!! How about 16 hours in da plane from the ATL to Shanghai.... you would think it would have been pretty painfull, (especially considering the fact that Allison and I thought it would be a good idea to do shots with the bartender at East Andrews the night before...), but really it wasn't too bad!

I got the upgrade, so my chair was pretty comfortable. To kill the hangover I started off with several glasses of Champagne, as one does 'up-front' :) From there on it all went downhill. Relax, shoes off, comfortable blanket and a couple of good movies while having a, what turned out to be, very decent lunch. Another glass of wine and 4 courses later I passed out. THAT my friends is what made the trip a lot shorter than it could have been! I must have slept for 6 hours or so. When I woke up there were only 8 hours left!

2 Meals and 3 movies later we arrived at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The airport is massive and seems like it is brand new. The arrival process is 100 times more comfortable than it is in the US. The airport is clean and the people are friendly. They even have a little electric survey box with buttons at the arrival where you can select wether the attendant was very firendly or friendly or if you think you had to wait too long or if you are unsatisfied. Never seen that before. After I was screened and let through with a warm smile and genuine welcome, my suitcases had already been unloaded and the driver of the hotel was waiting. PERFECT!

The drive to the hotel was 45 minutes and the manager on duty was waiting at the door. I was brought up to the room and here I am writing down some first impressions.

Some asked for my new contact details as soon as possible... so here is a copy of my new business card. They were waiting for me in the room together with a welcome package from the GM and the HR director. VERY nicely done, made me feel welcome right away! The chef stopped by earlier to introduce himself and see if i needed anything, really all very nice, everyone is very friendly which makes me feel like i will have a great time in Shanghai!!

Anyway, it is definitely time for a beer and a bite right now, it is alost 6 PM and i think i will sleep early tonight. Work starts tomorrow at 9AM and there are all sorts of orientation planned during the week. Should be a great first impression and I am very much looking forward to meeting everyone!

Soon more!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

1 week out...

Packing up the office and saying goodbye... time to go and leave a comfortable life behind... looking very much forward to the adventure!!!