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Lady on business trip, is eating alone in restaurants OK


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Hi I'm coming to Shanghai next week for a business trip from UK and will be out on my own eating in restaurants, will this be OK. Also are there meet up groups of Ex-pats in Shanghai at all. Would be good to connect up with people. Thanks Sharon

 

Oh, I have just thought do I need to bring a lot of cash or are credit cards widely used?

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You're fine eating out on your own, but if you're working  with Chinese at all, I wouldn't be surprised if you were often asked out for dinner. It certainly would be good to meet up with other people, at least they might be able to take you to some decent places you might not otherwise have known about. 

 

Suggest you get plenty of cash. Granted it is Shanghai, China is still a pretty much cash based society. You'll see paying for dinner with several 100 RMB bills rather than a credit card most of the time.

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I don't have any feedback on most of your questions, but in case it helps, check out any one of these sites:

MyLanguageExchange.com

ConversationExchange.com

LanguageForExchange.com

SharedTalk.com

iTalki.com

Each of these sites has many people who speak Mandarin natively, and desperately want to practice their English with a native speaker. Not sure you're interested in this sort of thing, but in case you are, I'd almost bet money that you could find someone you felt comfortable with, who lives and works in Shanghai, who'd jump at the chance to accompany you to whatever degree you're comfortable with. A lunch or dinner partner? Or someone to minimally answer some of your questions? Thought I'd mention these sites, and the idea, just in case it helps. Good luck. And be safe.

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Oh, I have just thought do I need to bring a lot of cash or are credit cards widely used?

 

Credit cards are not widely used  and may incur a foreign transaction fee according to the terms and conditions of the issuing institution. I would only use them for large-ish expenses, for example paying for several nights of lodging at a high-end, western-tourist-oriented hotel. Do not use them in restaurants and stores.

 

Best strategy is to carry some cash in the form of large bills from your home country. If your home country is the US, this means $100 bills that are in reasonably good shape. This is your emergency stash. You can convert it to local money if needed. Best rate will be at a large bank, such as Bank of China. Take your passport along to the bank, since it is needed for changing money in China.

 

Take two debit cards to use in withdrawing Chinese money from ATM's after arrival. Most machines will give you 2,500 or 3,000 Yuan at a time. (RMB and Yuan mean the same thing.) You can withdraw several times, back to back, if need be. The 24-hour limit is set by the bank that issued your card back home.

 

I suggested debit cards instead of credit cards, although both will actually work. Foreign credit cards used in Chinese ATM's are often treated as "cash advance" short-term loans and incur a high rate of interest, whereas debit cards don't. Do not expect to be able to use AMEX or Diners Club. Visa and Mastercard are best for China.

 

Be sure to let your home banks know you will be using your cards in China, so they don't think your account has been hacked or hijacked. The reason for taking two cards for ATM use instead of one is because if things get fouled up and one card is mistakenly frozen by the "security and fraud" team of the issuing bank (despite your having advised them in advance) it can be difficult to straighten out while you are in China.

 

Edit: I see now you are starting from the UK. Some large denomination GBP notes will be fine as your reserve funds. Don't need to convert them to USD. Might add that there is no need to try to buy any CNY (Chinese Yuan) before leaving the UK. Do it after arrival in Shanghai.

Edited by abcdefg
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Of course it's okay to eat dinner in a restaurant alone! I'm a woman and did this all the time.

 

I noticed, for whatever reason, if you have beer with your dinner, it may happen that some guy will feel encouraged to get up from his table where he was dining with his buddies, walk up to your table and practice his English on you, while his friends are watching in awe from across the room. I guess to brag, or whatever. But only in maybe 1 time out of 5, and in less formal restarants anyway. I was going to say inexpensive but that is not true, I just remembered that my favourite restaurant in Beijing was actually quite pricey.

I don't think this will happen in posh restaurants though. And anyway, it's really nothing, compared to the hassle guys can give you as a woman in Europe or America (and I'm not even mentioning India and other places I've been). Chinese guys are quite civilised, so you have nothing to fear :wink:

 

Do by all means bring cash for a few days. My card wasn't working for almost 2 weeks, or to be more specific, only working with certain banks but I didn't know at the time, and noone could give me correct information. I would have been seriously screwed if a lovely person - you know who you are :)  - hadn't helped me out. If you get into larger branches of banks, there will always be someone who speaks English, but until you found that branch and that person - and until they can get things sorted for you - you can get quite hungry and tired.

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Not sure what you mean by "OK". If you mean whether you'd be in any danger, it's very unlikely (i.e. probably a fair bit safer than in the US or UK). If you mean whether it's socially acceptable to eat alone, I don't think there should be any problems. Personally I go by the rule that if it's a downmarket, "hole-in-the-wall" type of place, I can eat alone there without feeling weird, and many Chinese people do the same. I'd feel a bit weid if it was a high-end restaurant, though (like I'd been stood up on a date).

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Biggest problem with eating along is you don't get to try enough of the dishes....   :-)

 

Internations (www.internations.org) is a very active Expat organization in Beijing, with quite a few events they organize to connect people, I suspect their shanghai chapter is busy too.

I've seen visitors to Beijing come along to the Beijing meetups during business trips or whatever.

 

Otherwise, try any western style bar in the French concession and I suspect there will be plenty of expats.

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Biggest problem with eating along is you don't get to try enough of the dishes....   :-)

 

Yes. I definitely agree. Plus in the case of someone new to the city, if you go with locals they can probably clue you on good places to go and what to order.

 

All that being said, the Original Poster should read up on People's Square scams.

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