We’ve had people ask what our typical day or typical week is like living here in Shanghai and I don’t really know how to answer. I can’t say we have “typical” here. Our weeks are pretty busy normally with several things going on, not unlike in the U.S. The biggest difference is that the girls aren’t up early getting ready to leave for school, so mornings are more relaxed. Also, David goes into the office later than in the U.S. because most things, including offices and stores, open later in China.
David is usually up early for a bike ride. The girls and I are up between 7 and 7:30am. They normally have breakfast and start schoolwork for that day between 8 and 9 am. David typically leaves for work about 8:15am. I often work while the girls are working on their assignments. Laura has weekly school assignments and sets her schedule each day. Jenna has daily assignments.
On Monday evenings we have mandarin class at 5pm. It’s interesting, but we aren’t learning fast enough to be of much help day-to-day. And the funny thing is, when we do use something we have learned, the person we’re talking to is so surprised, they aren’t sure how to respond!
On Tuesday afternoons, Laura has violin. Her tutor comes to our apartment and they work for an hour. Her tutor is from Georgia and is studying at a university here in Shanghai. On Friday afternoons, she has French with Margaux, a young lady from France.
Jenna has dance on Friday evenings. Our driver picks us up about 4:15pm to take us to the studio for her dance class. Right now the studio is on their winter break, but will start lessons again in March.
Every other Wednesday, the girls have Girl Scouts from 3:30 to 5pm. Their troops are through one of the international schools here, so our driver takes us to their school campus for the meetings.
In between those scheduled activities and schoolwork, we have the typical daily stuff of grocery shopping, cooking, dishes and laundry. Our apartment is a “serviced apartment”, so a couple of times a week, the ladies come in to clean up the bathrooms, change out the towels and washcloths, and once a week they change the sheets. They are very nice and friendly, but speak no English, so conversations are limited to ni hao and xie xie (pronounced nee how and shay shay), hello and thank you. Laundry takes a long time because the washer and dryer are so tiny, so it takes 2-3 loads to do what requires one load at home. Many apartments do not have dryers at all, so clotheslines are extremely common in Shanghai. On most apartment buildings you can see clotheslines stretching out the windows even on the upper floors of high-rise apartments.
We’ve developed a routine of getting fresh fruit from the “fruit people” on the corner by our apartment. The vendors are a couple of families that park on the corner and sell fruit from their vans. Until a couple of weeks ago, they parked on the sidewalk. Recently barriers went up, so now they park on the street. They are usually there from mid-morning until at least 9 or 10 at night, 7 days a week. They are very nice and we always leave with more than we buy. Even if we aren’t stopping to buy that day, they will give the girls bananas. We have tried to tip them or let them keep the change, but they never let us.
Our apartment complex has nice walking paths through beautifully landscaped areas around a pond. Sometimes we take walks around the pond and stop to feed the ducks or swans. We can also go into the clubhouse to relax, play table tennis, swim or bowl.
We try to get out to sight-see once a week or so. Last week we visited the Shanghai Museum. It’s a very nice museum in People’s Square. They have areas devoted to bronze, porcelain, coins, furniture, etc. It was very interesting and gave us some insight on China’s history. We learned they were the first to print paper money. And we saw some very interesting, though uncomfortable-looking pillows.
In the afternoon, we went to Shanghai Department Store No. 1, which, like many companies in China, is owned by the Chinese government (They are called SOEs, state-owned enterprises). Built in 1936, it had the first elevators in Shanghai. When it opened, people did not come to shop, but instead to ride the new “contraptions.” We went to find Laura an outfit for the Father-Daughter dance. As with most places in Shanghai, they build up, even in 1936. Each floor was devoted to different merchandise. Jenna was somewhat disappointed to find they had modernized elevators.
China-based department stores are a bit different from those we are used to in the US. First of all, they are organized into little “shops”. Items are primarily on shelves or racks for display. If you find something you like, you can try it on and if you wish to purchase it, they will retrieve one from a storeroom for you. I needed gloves and the display had one glove for each style and size. When I found what I liked, they retrieved a pair for me. To pay for the item, the sales clerk fills out a slip of paper and you then go to the cashier’s station in a central location on that floor. Once you pay, you take your receipts and return to the sales clerk to pick-up your item. While you were paying, she has nicely wrapped and bagged it for you. We’ve only seen this system in the China-based department stores. In the malls or big box stores, they operate like western stores. It’s a labor-intensive system. Every department store we have been in has an abundance of sales clerks and we rarely have any wait time for assistance.
Our days usually end with dinner around 6pm. Since David has a driver and leaves the office about the same time every day, he usually doesn’t get home early or late. After dinner, we are usually reading or spending time on the computer. David often has calls in the evening with the US (Shanghai is 13 hours ahead of US Eastern time), so he is doing email and talking to his coworkers as they arrive to start their day. We do have several channels of satellite TV (which our apartment provided even though it is illegal in China!) to watch occasionally.