The following is from my sexy lil ebook available now on Amazon about moving to China. Hope you love it!
Everyday life in Shanghai has some major perks, especially when it comes to tech. People still use QR codes here and they use them with a vengeance. Literally everything is linked by QR codes and more than helping you find websites and enter competitions, they help you pay for everything, order anything, and sort your whole life.
Apps here such as Alipay and WeChat can be linked to your bank account and provide you with a QR code that shopkeepers can scan with the scanners they use on their own products. Even tiny Mom & Pop stores who elsewhere wouldn’t be able to afford credit card reading machines can afford to have the app on their phone to scan your QR code. Smart phones can be purchased here for a steal (they’re made locally and the competition is fierce) so there’s no one left out of the system. Your QR app can also be used to pay for bills that once upon a time made you cry with frustration. I use the app Alipay as it’s the biggest, most popular, and easiest for taking care of all my bills.
When the power, water, gas, or internet bills come in, I tear them open and find them written 100% in Chinese and normally I’d shake a fist at the gods and scream, but now I just find the QR code inevitably printed somewhere on the first page. Give the code a scan with my phone and my app produces the bill in English and with one tap it’s paid. I can even set up auto-pay for next time.
This same app recharges my phone, hails cabs, books hotels, reserves restaurants, I can buy lotto tickets, and there’s lots more. It’s like an episode of Doctor Who set one hundred years in the future; I’m just waiting for the alien monster that eats me at the end.
Opening hours across the city are much later than they are back in my hometown of Melbourne, and there’s a lot more choice in every category, which means a lot more competition for your business, which ultimately drives down the prices. This strange and absolutely capitalist model is really confusing for people expecting to come here and find a purely communist state, but that’s not reality anymore. Just stand in the middle of Nanjing Road or Shanghai Times Square, look around and see the proof: McDonald’s, Burger King, Zara, Forever 21, and every other Western mega chain are here. Once it was thought impossible to be your own boss in the country – now Chinese entrepreneurs are making their dreams come true. It’s like New York but with far more people. It’s perhaps a nightmare for lovers of wide open spaces, but it’s a dream for me.
My favorite app though isn’t Alipay, it’s Elama. Elama is a food delivery app that hosts hundreds of different restaurants in dozens of different categories from authentic Chinese dining to rubbish Western fast food and everything in between. There are of course other apps in the same category but this one is my favorite. And once again, due to the fierce competitive prices on the app, the prices are crazy low. In fact, so low are the prices that many restaurants on the app have costs that work out to be cheaper when delivered than if you had trekked there in person. These restaurants can charge normal amounts on the street but when pushed side-by-side on an app? The bidding war for your money is fierce, and you the consumer are the winner.
My Chinese friends do not appreciate the app anywhere near as much as I do – the app is low brow to them. They are used to extremely fast service and competitive prices; they’re used to businesses trying their hardest, and being the fastest and the cheapest. As an Australian who when at home lived outside the Uber Eats delivery zone, paid outrageous prices for pizza delivery, and endured slow delivery and ludicrous service, I am in love with this element of the city.
Accessibility and speed are not only relegated to the dining industry. When I have a clogged pipe, dirty kitchen, or busted light I don’t need to get on my hands and knees, get a ladder, or spare ten minutes away from playing Overwatch. A few taps on the ol’ phone and you can have anyone in the service industry come same day and take care of your issue quickly and inexpensively. Luckily for me my apartment complex takes care of the cost of repairs and cleaning, so I don’t pay anything.
I’ve found nearly 100% of repair people, cleaners, drivers, delivery folks, or anyone else that comes to my place cannot speak English, but so far it’s not been a barrier. Google Translate works great despite Google being banned in China, and if I was specific enough with the order request or delivery instructions there’s never any need for words, just a sincere smile and a thumbs up.