Thursday, June 30, 2011

Crossing the line of openness

Sharing food -fine! Sharing salary info... I don't think so!

Back in a hot and humid Shanghai. I would lie if I said I don’t miss Sweden’s blue skies, green fields and fresh air, but then again, I only have another 2 or so weeks at work, then I’m going back to Scandinavia on a holiday, so I’ll manage! In fact, it’s kind of nice to be back, especially since I’ve missed all the everyday craziness (or whatever you should call it? Charm?!) about China. Such as yesterday, when I went to the ladies room (which is located in our office building, rather than inside our actual office, so you have to head out to the elevators to visit the loos) at work.

While I was washing my hands, the ayi who cleans the toilets every day came in. We have a friendly kind of relationship: We greet each other with smiles, hold up doors for each others, small talk about the weather and so on. However, yesterday she took our “relationship” to a whole different level when she asked:

-So you work over there? (pointed towards where my office is located).


-I bet your salary is high.

-Excuse me?

-You salary.

-Eh, yes?

-How much do you make?

-Eh… you want to know how much people in my office… earn?


-It’s different… we all earn different salaries.

-So how much do YOU make?


-What’s your salary?

-Eh… actually… I don’t really want to tell you that. It’s kind of private.

-I bet it’s a lot.

-Eh… not really… eh… I’ve got to go. Bye!

Whoa! What’s that all about? Sure, I know that people in China are open about their salaries (in fact, soon after I started my job I found out that one of my Chinese workmates had gone to our accountant and asked to see my pay-slip. Right. As you normally do. Eh….), but to me, this is taking it a bit too far.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Midsummer in Sweden

Idyllic Nordic summer shot -how it's supposed to be (this shot is actually from Savonlinna in Finland)

Sorry for the lack of updates -I'm in Sweden on a business trip. But I took today off in order to celebrate Swedish Midsummer -a traditional festive day that I haven't celebrated in Sweden for 10 years! As usual, this day comes with a bit of a wind, some chilly temperatures and rain, but that's Swedish summer in a nutshell, and especially on this day! I'm soon heading over to one of my old childhood friends for a traditional Swedish midsummer feast. Happy midsummer everyone!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bruised shoulders after a painful rub

Lately my back has been feeling kind of stiff, so yesterday after work I decided to skip the gym and head for a massage. Massage for me is something I often talk about, but seldom do. Every time I have visitors in town and take them for massage (and they ohh and ahhh over the low prices and the quality of massage) I think to myself: “Damn, this is good! I should do this on a regular basis now when I actually live in a country where it’s good and it doesn’t cost a fortune.” However, as soon as the friends depart I forget all about my promise to myself and my shoulders.

Since my sleeping pattern (still) is a bit off, I thought that maybe a massage could help me relax. So, I went to a place and told the masseuse (a young, Chinese guy) to focus on the stiff areas and knots of my shoulders and back.

-Don’t worry about doing some kind of massage routine where you massage every single part! I added, maybe a wee bit too confidently. I just want you to focus on the problem areas!

Fifteen minutes later I was on a massage bench, head facing down, tears pouring down my cheeks.

-Tell me if it’s too much pressure! I'm just focussing on the problem areas! The guy whispered.

I tried hard to endure it, thinking that “sometimes pain is necessary” and “maybe this is actually good for me? Who said that a massage should always be pleasant?” but then after a while I thought I was going to faint of the pain and had to tell the guy to be a little bit softer.

-Oh, haha, well, you’re so stiff…

(Ya, just rub it in will you?)

-Do you work a lot in front of the computer… he went on.

-I… I’ve actually had some problems sleeping lately, and I think it’s because I’m too tense… I started, and once I started it was as if I’d open a tap. It all just flowed out of me.

The guy listened carefully, while he kept rubbing my shoulders, making it really hard for me not to scream out loud out of pure and utter pain.

-Well if you have sleeping problems you shouldn’t do shoulder massage, you should do foot massage! He finally said.


-Really! It can help!

Thirty painful minutes later it was over, and the guy asked me to sit up.

-Here, he said, and handed me a pair of slippers. A gift to you. I hope you can sleep tonight. If not, come back tomorrow for some foot massage!

-Eh, thanks.

As I walked home, slippers in hand, my shoulders felt as if they had been abused. This morning they are actually bruised, shifting in the colours of red, purple and blue and they still hurts as h***.

But… I fell asleep last night! Without the help of any melatonin and without tossing and turning for hours. So who knows. Maybe that painful massage did help? I’ve already decided not to do it again though. Not worth the pain. I mean, I can forget about body pump tonight. Just the thought of putting a weight bar or any kind of pressure on my shoulder makes me shiver. Next time I’ll try a foot massage. Has anyone with sleeping issues ever had any experience of that being able to help?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The horrible flat hunt

Finding a new apartment in this city is a nightmare. We have been looking for a month now, and so far we haven’t seen anything we like. If it’s not too dirty, it’s too expensive or too far away from the areas where we want to live.

For a long time we were looking for something in Luwan, but since our budget is far from unlimited we’ve given up on that area. With what we could pay we couldn’t get anything decent anyway. Most of all I wish we could stay where we are now, but with the noisy nightclubs below our complex, it’s a no can do. I’m already sleeping with double earplugs (and I still hear the music!) and now I’ve started getting problems with my ears. We HAVE to move, but there are so few good places out there… ahhh, headache!

During the month of hunting we’ve seen some of the most disgusting places ever. I seriously cannot believe how some people are living over here. Especially one apartment, that could have been good, but that was occupied by 3 foreign ladies when we visited it, was so dirty, smelly and disgusting that I felt like throwing up. They were literally living in their own filth. Yuk! It didn’t matter that the agent reassured us that the flat would be cleaned throughout when they moved out, that image of stains, dirty underwear and piles of unwashed dishes still lingered in my brain for days.

We’ve had some real interesting encounters with agents too, simply by making the mistake of using too many. At one point we went with one agent in the morning, and had another appointment with a second one at midday. However, the first agent ended up taking us to the apartment that we were supposed to see with the second agent (who was downstairs waiting for us!). When I realized the mix-up I called the second agent and explained, and he was furious! He came upstairs and started a fight with the first agent, and then started yelling at us that if we were to rent this flat, we HAD to use him. Eh…. Right. Not the way you get customers if you ask me. We ended up turning away from both agents, as they both harassed us with phone calls for days after the incident. Funny that none of them even thought of blaming the landlord, who had obviously contacted several agents in order to get his/her flat rented out.

Anyway, we still have another month or so on our current lease, and now I’ve gone back to my old agent from when I first moved to Shanghai from Suzhou in 2010. He still calls me “Youla” and he’s still the best agent I’ve come across (honest, straight-faced and with a no-bullshit attitude) over here, however, the fact that there is not much decent stuff out there is an obvious problem, so let’s see how it goes.

I’m keen to find a clean, simple and quiet place where I can stay for a LONG TIME so that I don’t have to do this all over again. Flat hunting is simply horrible.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Greediness shows its ugly face

I had dinner with an old friend the other week, a Chinese girl surnamed Wang that I haven’t caught up with for ages.

After the usual chit chat (“your hair is longer/you are not fatter than before –haha!! Note that it has changed!-/do you still not cook any food at home?/how high is your rent?”) we got down to some serious business when my friend told me about her worsening family situation.

Wang’s mother has got three siblings. When Wang’s mother’s mother (so Wang’s grandmother) passed away some months ago, one of the sisters was living together with the mother, taking care of her and the house chores.

Wang’s grandma left her family an apartment but no will, obviously hoping that her children would split the assets evenly between all four of them.

However, since the aunt lived with the grandma, and had been pulling the heavy load by herself for a long time, she decided to simply declare that the apartment should be hers and hers only.

In fact, do you know what she used as her main argument? That she has a son. The other ones all have daughters. She claimed that she needs the money for the apartment to give to her son, so that her son eventually can buy his wife-to-be a new apartment. Otherwise no one will want to marry him. Or so she said.

(But who wants to marry someone who only says yes if you own property?! Jesus, what happened to “I want someone intellectual with a great sense of humour?!” Well, actually, maybe those were never the usual requirements on the Chinese meat market anyway.)

And what happend then?

Well, obviously. Some serious family dramas evolved.

The siblings started fighting.

Their children stopped talking to each other.

The siblings husbands/wives tried to meddle.

Everything escalated and nothing was going to get solved easily with a real estate market that
is so overheated that house prices are rocketing in the sky.

-Now my father tells my mother to simply forget about the apartment and that we should not fight anymore. But it’s hard for my mother. She thinks it’s so unfair. And all that money could be such a great help…

-Do Chinese people not have wills?!
I wondered, astonished of everything I’d just heard.

-Not really. This is a very common problem in today’s modern society. Many families have problems like ours.

Then we looked up the word "will" on my Chinese dictionary and nodded in union.

-Maybe this is something that Chinese people should consider... Wang said.

I don’t know what I find the saddest: the broken family bonds? The greediness? The fact that the aunt feels that she has to do this in order for her son to ever get married? Or, the fact that everybody in Wang's family have been so busy fighting over the apartment that they forgot to mourn the grandma?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Table Tennis Festival in pictures

Persson playing a Chinese rising star (he got to play some professional kids in a knock-out tournament and then the winner got a game with him. Some of those kids were pretty good!).

Here playing against the winner of the men's tournament: a 60 year old guy from Ericsson. He was so happy, and I believe so was Persson. A joy to watch their last game.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Jörgen Persson -约尔根·佩尔森 in Shanghai!

Yes, it was Jörgen Persson that was in China for a China Sweden Table Tennis Festival that we arranged in order to celebrate the Swedish National Day! Some 200 players from different Swedish companies battled in an elimination tournament throughout the day, and then the winners (one man and one woman) got to play Persson in the final game. A long day of great fun, Persson proved to be not only a great player, but also a great person, open and happy and up for posing for photos, signing shirts and rackets and answering questions from media as well as random spectators. What a great athlete! I admire someone that can be so professional and high level, and still so friendly and down to earth.

Also, I got invited to the Table Tennis: 2011 China Open - that takes place in Suzhou in the end of August. Can't wait to see Persson in real action (no offense to the competitors of today's tournament, but I think he has more to give). Being 45 years old this year, Persson should have retired many times around but he's still playing, he's even qualified for the London Olympics in 2012. That will be his 7th Olympic Games. 加油!

Some videos of Persson in action to come soon!

Guess the athlete game

Anybody recognize this iconic athlete? Probably much bigger in China than in his native Sweden. Anyway, this is who I will be spending Sweden's National Day with. Thumbs up if you -despite the bad photo- can tell me his name (and if you're not Swedish!).