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General Business Projects in China by Dorothee Garth

Four weeks ago I started working for a Hong Kong based company called "Shui On Land Ltd". It is a development property company, which runs lots of projects in Shanghai and China. The company also runs a little area here in Shanghai called "Xintiandi", where "yesterday and tomorrow meet in Shanghai's today", as one of the seniors explained to me on my first day. Xintiandi, is comprised of ancient Chinese buildings called "Shikumen" which have been restored into a museum, bars, restaurants, clubs, a hotel and a shopping mall. It's definitely a tourist place and you can see plenty of tourists at any time of day.

"Yesterday and tomorrow meet in Shanghai's today"

Back street

On my first day I was told that my future task was working for the Xintiandi Operations Department. I didn't have any idea of what to expect, but I found out soon enough that I wasn't there to prepare the coffee. My boss told me about a new project, serviced apartments with a fitness and spa club, which are under construction next to Xintiandi and about to be opened in September 2006. He had a rough idea of what kind of facilities he wanted to be included. I was briefed on the rough structure of the project and it was up to me to sort out the details. That meant a lot of research and collecting of information as well as editing it all, giving it a nice layout, putting it all together in a folder and finally calling it a concept paper. Sounds simple, I know, but it took me three and a half weeks in total and I was very proud when I had the final result in hands and my boss took it to the director, who actually liked it a lot.

At home in Germany I'm still at university, which is very theoretical and really boring most of the time. If when the club in Shanghai opens I recognise structures that were put in place due to the research I produced - that would be huge! My boss and my supervisor both promised to keep me up to date with e-mails and pictures about how things are going. So I really need to come back some day!

I really have a strange feeling, leaving Shanghai and the project at this point now where there's so much more work to do!

"It's like playing in another league"

The biggest difference between here and a company I could work for in Germany might be, that here, everything is just a little bigger, more sensational and way more posh than at home. It's like playing in another league. Although I spent large amount of work time in the smallest cubicle on earth, working for this prestigious company made me feel like one of the big players. My boss told me several times I should be aware that this was one of the best and most promising areas to work in, in Shanghai and that it would be an excellent recommendation for a possible future career. Funnily, he always mentioned that while handing over tons of new tasks to me and hundreds of pages to work through!

The Old and The New

The most exciting thing about my work was that I was so deeply involved and that Xintiandi is such a hot spot in Shanghai! During my four weeks, we had several VIP events with local celebrities as well as government officials from China, Sri Lanka and Denmark. The best thing about working for this company was, that my boss as well as my supervisor always involved me and took me to any business meetings, receptions, tours or whatever was scheduled for that day, so that I made far more of this internship then I ever thought I could.

I did not have any internship experience at home prior to this, so I cannot really compare, but nevertheless I have to mention how comfortable I felt working in Xintiandi, thanks to the big support of my work colleagues and supervisor, and the responsibility, trust and motivation my boss Jan gave to me.

The most exciting thing about Shanghai for me is hard to put in words. When I read through guidebooks before coming here I read things like "...there's not much to see..." or "...not many special sights..." over and over. I disagree though; this city has a special feeling about it. I never experienced a city with such an intense atmosphere that immediately catches you right from the beginning. It is the unique mixture of old and new, of eastern cultural heritage and western modernity that clashes together melting into a remarkably colourful fusion. You walk through the streets with all the shining impressive skyscrapers everywhere you look, and see people standing amongst flying, Chinese kites. You see people in Gucci and Armani bling (albeit fake) while others stick to the old custom of going to the supermarket in pyjamas.

View of central Shanghai

When I finished work I was often very tired. Leaving the office after work, I sometimes crossed the road to the Taipingqiao Park. The park contains a great artificial lake. Most of the time, my feet were burning from having run around in high heel shoes all day. The best feeling was putting my feet in the water and taking in the beautiful atmosphere for a while!

Since Dorothee returned to Germany she has decided to go back to Shanghai with Projects Abroad to work on a journalism placement for six months.

Dorothee Garth

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