An Average Day of a Chinese Office Worker in ShanghaiOn November 30, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
It’s 8:00am in Shanghai and Li Yi Xuan is just waking up. Li Yi Xuan also goes by the English name, Heather. She’s a 25 year old Chinese woman living in Shanghai and this is her average day. Heather lives in this three bedroom apartment in Jing’an with a Chinese couple and their friend who must all still be asleep. Like many Chinese, she prefers to take a shower in the evening instead of mornings. Heather grew up in Beijing and has been living in Shanghai for just two months. She studied PR and Political Science at Penn State before moving back to Beijing for two years and then deciding to move to Shanghai after falling in love with the city. For breakfast she keeps it short and sweet with a glass of milk. It’s now 8:35am and time for Heather to unplug her electric scooter and drive to work. She lives pretty central in Jing’an district so her commute to work only takes 25 minutes. Like many Chinese, Heather commutes by electric scooter or “E-Bike.” China has roughly 200 million electric scooters on its streets and with a population of over 24 million you can expect a lot of bikes on the road during rush hour. Heather’s office is located in the Former French Concession, which is arguably Shanghai’s prettiest neighbourhood with its leafy boulevards full of old buildings, cozy bars and restaurants. Two minutes late. The office itself is inside an old converted lane house, also known as a Shikumen. First appearing in the 1860’s these buildings are known for their Shanghainese architectural style that combine Western and Chinese elements. Unfortunately, as Shanghai expands and the infrastructure weakens under the pressure of the growing population, many older Shikumen have been torn down. Heather works for a company called Baopals which is not your average Chinese workplace, but one that is very fitting for Shanghai. Baopals is an English language platform that connects users to products from Chinese shopping sites such as Taobao and Tmall with added auto translations and search functionality for non native shoppers. Oh hello. The site has over 52,000 registered users and has had over 3 million orders placed over the last 3 years, that’s a lot of people that can’t read Chinese. Okay, we will persevere, thank you very much. Have a good day, bye bye. Today is November 12th which is the day after China’s biggest 24-hour online shopping event, Double 11. Also known as “Singles’ Day” this shopping holiday first started as an obscure “anti-Valentine’s” celebration for single Chinese in the nineties. It was then adopted by e-commerce giant, Alibaba (China’s equivalent of Amazon) in 2009 and it has now transformed into a day when everyone, regardless of their single status, buys themselves gifts. This year Alibaba broke yet another record with more than $38 billion in sales. For the Baopals team that meant making sure every order that was made on their site was processed by midnight so none of their customers missed the sale. So it goes without saying some of their staff members might be feeling a little worn out today. Heather works in business development and marketing but today it’s all hands on deck so she is starting her work-day by joining the customer service team to answer any shopping related-questions. Sometimes it’s about different sizing charts. The ones customers use and also the ones they use on Taobao. And this one is about do they have this size. Before lunch, the Baopals founders, Charlie, Jay and Tyler are holding a meeting to recap the intense past 24 hours. The three expats first started Baopals in 2016 as a way to make shopping in China easier and now their goal is to bring Chinese shopping and Chinese products to the rest of the world. Every 11.11 has gotten better than the year before. Not just in terms of our growth and our website being better but our teams and our systems being much better as well. Anybody have any guesses on what people were buying or what people were seraching for the most? iPhones. Yeah that was the top search! Finally it’s lunch time but not everyone can eat at the same time, so Heather and her co-worker, Ginger are heading out together. With yesterday being Heather’s day off, Ginger fills her in on what it was like at work. When I arrived at 8 we had like, over 60 messages from people demanding answers. So… I spent all morning trying to answer their questions and a lot of people were trying to buy expensive items and being confused about the price. So there was just a lot of confusion. Heather and Ginger are eating at a neighbourhood vegetarian restaurant called Gong De Lin which is popular for its tofu alternatives to meat dishes. Fake duck is pretty good. Okay. Hello. We want one of these ducks. Crispy duck? Yeah. Alright. Crispy duck. It’s good, right? On the way back to the office, Heather decides to take a photography detour to scout out some local trend setters for the Baopals fashion blog. Can you look at the lens? Being a trendy area for young locals this is an easy task and she even met two Korean sisters. Oh look! There goes couriers with lots of deliveries Fully loaded. Let’s ask Heather what she likes to do on her days off. I just like to go with the flow, doing different things. It’s really nice to have like… a casual hang out at friends places. Playing good music. Have a chat and eat food. Yeah, sounds perfect. Once back at the office Heather orders some milk tea for some of her co-workers before sorting through her photos for the fashion-blog. The milk tea has arrived! now Heather is tasked with the activity of sourcing weird Chinese products for Baopals’ popular monthly blog, The Cool, The Cheap and The Crazy. You can drink water while you wear the mask. Ew! To finish off the day Heather has a meeting with a potential foreign customer looking to sell her products online but let’s not get in the way. Lets just close that door. After a long day work at the office is over but now Heather has to head to another meeting. Bye bye! So Heather is known amongst her friends for her love of African culture, especially after having visited Kenya for the first time earlier this year. Using her skills in marketing and PR, Heather and her friends aim to organise an event to help promote African start-ups to Chinese business communities. Wrong direction! Now we’re gonna turn around. After taking a wrong turn she’s finally arrived at the co-working space for her meeting. Hi! Hi! Actually you’re quite early! Really, I thought I was late. Tell you what, let’s just leave them to it with a sweet time-lapse and just to let you know, while in Kenya Heather was given the African name, Makena Akinyi. Which means “happiness born in the morning.” So she has three names, Li Yi Xuan, Heather and Makena Akinyi. I hope I pronounced them all correctly. The meeting is over so Heather and her friend are headed to a local restaurant to celebrate a productive day. Heather met her South African friend, Kitso at one of Shanghai’s many networking events but they connected further on China’s social media platform, WeChat. I can’t do winter here, like I’ll die. WeChat is used for everything in China from chatting with friends to paying for items and more and more it’s where the majority of business is conducted. In the west I feel like you have to meet someone.. Yeah and then follow up. Or you can have like a WeChat connection for a long time and then only meet each other at some point. The nachos were fast. Be careful, the plate is pretty hot. After nachos and cocktails the day is finally at an end. It is time to go home. Bye bye, good night. Okay, now it’s time to call a cab. Because I had a drink and I don’t want to drive a scooter while I had a drink. So I’m going to call a DiDi. Heather is using the Chinese version of DiDi the ride hailing app. But there is also an English version available. Luckily Heather’s electric scooter is foldable so her DiDi driver can help stow it in the trunk and we’re off! This is a good time to mention that DiDi is the leading ride-hailing app in China and one of the must-have apps for expats and foreigners visiting or living in China, providing hassle free options for getting around the city. Its 10 past 9 and Heather is finally home. Up or down? You can come in, I’m getting out. Oh you’re going out. Careful. And look at that, she’s come home to a treasure of deliveries she gifted herself for Singles Day. And that’s it! I think we’ve bugged Heather enough today so we will leave her at the door and say goodnight. Thank you so much for watching episode 1 of An Average Day. Please let us know what you thought in the comments below. If you’re in China and looking for a comfortable way to get around town be sure to use DiDi. Whether your destination address is in Chinese or English DiDi English version has you covered! Goodnight!