From the 12th floor of a certain office tower about a mile from the Bund, you can see some of the most quintessential views of Shanghai. Shanghai’s futuristic Pudong skyline — from the Oriental Pearl Tower’s shining space needle to the Jin Mao Tower’s steel pagoda — rises just above the buildings before us, out the East-facing windows. From the West-facing windows, the manicured greenery of People’s Square is bordered on one end by the ding-shaped Shanghai Museum, and, on the other, by a melange of fin de siecle and contemporary archecture on Nanjing Road. And just to the South is the Yan’an Road elevated highway and tunnel, restlessly pumping a neverending stream of traffic East and West, from Pudong to Puxi and Puxi to Pudong.
The view I cared about the most, however, was in the meeting room, where I had an interview for a copywriting position — an interview I had imagined for over a week, and spent hours preparing for, even down to my tangzhuang jacket, skirt and upswept hairdo. Now I sat at a black conference table, surrounded by a bevy of bright young Chinese women in lipstick and suits — the leaders and managers in this progressive multinational company. They weren’t another top-down management relic like my old Chinese Internet company; these women were China’s future — and China’s future was smiling on me.
From the moment I entered the room, after writing a “test” sample, I felt welcome in this women’s world, even when the questions came.
“So, tell us about your experience.”
“Why do you want to work here?”
“What value do you bring to our company?”
Speaking frequently in Mandarin, I wanted them to get a perfect view of my real value — and to believe I was meant to be a quintessential part of the landscape of this office. We laughed together, smiled together, and with each passing word, I could feel the potential for my own place in the skyline that was this team.
The most beautiful woman at the table, a thirtysomething manager dressed in a black suit, stilettos, and fire-engine red lips, rose from the table, at the end of the conversation. “Will you excuse us for a moment?” Her stilettos, along with the rest, left the room momentarily and huddled before the front desk just opposite this conference room, chattering away in Mandarin for several minutes. Then she and the others returned, sitting down with smiles and folded hands on the desk.
“We’d love to have you. So, when can you start?” Full benefits. A salary that exceeded my expectations. A new workplace.
Just like that, I began my career in Shanghai. And my own personal view of Shanghai would never again be the same.
What experiences helped change your own view of living in China (or another country)?
Memoirs of a Yangxifu in China is the story of love, cultural understanding and eventual marriage between one American woman from the city and one Chinese man from the countryside. To read the full series to date, you can start at Chapter 1, or visit the Memoirs of a Yangxifu archives.