Month: August 2017

A murder mystery dinner

A murder mystery dinner

On Wednesday I went to a murder mystery dinner which was organized by someone we met through InterNations. The story we played was called “Murder in Manhattan”. After signing up we each got a character and some information about our background, some instructions and gossip on the other participants.

I played Helen, a fashion designer, so my instructions were to wear something avant-garde and unusual yet tasteful that I can say I designed myself. Right … Though I brought many clothes nothing really fit that description so I just went with a black dress. Not very avant-garde but tasteful and I guess me wearing heels and lipstick can count as unusual 🙂 Thorben had to go out of town, so Pearl took over his spot. That meant she was playboy Chester but she pulled it off with one of Thorben’s ties and a little eyeliner beard.

The scene was that we were at an anniversary party of a successful New York businessman and he would make a special announcement at midnight. During the first act we were all talking to the other guests to find out their stories and exchange gossip but had to be careful not to reveal our secrets. Of course there was also some yummy food. Then suddenly the power went out and we discovered someone had been murdered!

In Act Two we got new information on our characters, had to look for clues and figure who the murderer was. It was really fun looking at the clues, coming up with theories and yelling out accusations. I was stuck between two and guessed wrong but hopefully I’ll be a better detective next time. We decided on a story set in the 1920s so I better start looking for an outfit 🙂

Random Facts: How the Chinese drink

Random Facts: How the Chinese drink

We’re starting a new category with just some interesting, random and/or funny facts, stories or pictures we come across. The first one is about drinking in China.

How the Chinese drink

Some of you might find it surprising to read about Chinese drinking habits in a post by me. I am a little surprised myself, but being sober when everyone else isn’t, gives you a certain edge for observations.

So here it comes.

To me it seems like you never drink by yourself, it is always through a drinking game or together with another member of your group. I have watched several drinking games being played all over the place. In bars, on private events, even in clubs.

Tiger, Tiger, Chicken

This is quite similar to rock, paper, scissors. There are: Tiger, Chicken, Stick. On the ‘count’ of ‘Tiger, Tiger, Chicken’ you say one of the three. Tiger eats chicken, chicken ‘destroys’ stick, stick beats tiger. Makes sense, right? I have heard there used to be four: Tiger, Chicken, Worm and Stick. Chicken eats worm and worm eats stick, but that would be to complicated for a drinking game, I guess. And the most important rule: The loser drinks.

Four x Five Fingers

Both players hold their hands behind their back. On the count of three, both players show their hands, either showing zero, five or ten fingers and have to guess the total number of fingers shown. Zero, five, ten, fifteen, or twenty. Easy enough. If you guess it right, the other person drinks.


We have not really been clubbing, but we have been inside a few. And literally everyone was playing with dice. They were all sitting at small tables, having loads of alcohol on the table and a cup with a hand full of dice. You roll the dice, not looking at them, and say something like:

There are at least three dice showing two pips!

The next player can either increase the number of dice or pips:

Hmm, there are three dice showing three pips!


There must be at least four dice showing two pips!

At some point, you call the bluff by checking the dice under the cup: if the claim stands, you lose. If there are not enough dice showing the pips, you win. Loser drinks.

This game is usually played by younger people, while the finger-game is played by older folks. A lot of people in clubs spend the whole night drinking, that’s why on some occasions we have been offered free alcohol – hoping to get us to dance and encourage others.


Gānbēi is the Chinese word for ‘Cheers’, but it can imply all kinds of things. Here are some of the observations I made:

  • Make eye contact, say Gānbēi, and you both drink
  • Make eye contact, say thank you for something, and you both empty your glass
  • At a large table, say Gānbēi very loudly, everyone drinks.
  • At a large table, make eye contact, say Gānbēi, you both drink. Life saving tip: touch the table with the bottom of your glass to encourage everyone else to drink as well, otherwise the others will take turns to make you drink.

Disclaimer: The behavior is not very consistent. I have seen all kinds of combinations, depending on the size of the group, where the people are from, how big the glasses are, what it is you are drinking… The most important thing is to not drink alone. You are also never wrong to empty your glass, because first, it is supposed to show respect, and second, that is the literal translation of Gānbēi: empty glass.

The day we deep fried everything: A Chinese cooking class

The day we deep fried everything: A Chinese cooking class

On Saturday, the unthinkable happened: We cooked for the first time since moving to Shanghai! It was at a cooking class, but it still counts 🙂

The class we took was called “Saturday Chinese cooking class + wet market visit” at Cook in Shanghai. After signing up, we got to choose a recipe from the website, the other 2 participants chose another one and when we met at a metro station, we chose a third recipe together. With the plan to make Kung Pao Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork Tenderloin and Long been fried with Eggplant we went to a wet market.

Our guide Amanda explained to us that wet markets are where Chinese typically get their meat and vegetables. They have the freshest products and usually you go there every day to make to buy what you need. The one we went to had fish and meat on the ground floor and vegetables at the second floor. They had a ton of vegetables I’ve never seen before so it was interesting to go.

Buying meat there is not for the faint-hearted. Most of the fish and sea food is still alive, there are whole chickens (dead and plucked) and just generally lots of animal parts that are not as pleasant to look at. Hi, chicken feet! I was a little scared we’d have to take apart the entire chicken but thankfully we only bought chicken breast and pork tenderloin.

The cooking class was very home-style as it took place in someone’s apartment. First Amanda served some Jasmine tea to us (look at the cute little cups!) and then we got outfitted with some stylish aprons and chef’s hats.

The chef at the head of the table demonstrated everything, Amanda translated if necessary and we each prepared our own dishes. After everything was cut and marinated, each dish was first prepared by the chef and then we got to make it ourselves in a wok.

The first step for each dish was to deep fry everything: the veggies, the pork strips and the chicken cubes. I was glad that the chef did that for all of us because I found the whole “lots of oil boiling over a big open flame” thing a bit intimidating. After that, for each dish we fried some garlic and ginger (more oil), and depending on the dish added some spices, soy sauce, vinegar, cooking wine, sesame oil or chili oil.

While definitely none of it was healthy, it all tasted really good and we had a fun afternoon cooking and eating. Thanks Jacqueline and Til for the voucher!

Top things to bring when moving to Shanghai

Top things to bring when moving to Shanghai

After two/three months of living in Shanghai, here are some of the things we are glad we brought. In a huge and increasingly international city like Shanghai, a lot of the things on the list you can also buy here, though they might be more expensive or not the exact same thing/brand you’re looking for. In our case we were lucky our company paid for 25 boxes of air freight and we were also able to bring 3 suitcases each, so space wasn’t too much of a problem.

1. Personal items

By personal items I mean framed pictures of family and friends, decorations you love (like the awesome owl my mom made), some good-bye cards and letters from friends … I also brought our bathroom rugs and flower pots. Of course I could have just bought some here but they made our apartment feel like home really quickly. Almost the most important thing for me were our pillows, blankets and bedding. Next time I’m packing my pillow in my suitcase, so I never have to live without it again :).

2. VPN

If you want to access Google and Facebook and some other sites you might be used to, download the apps and set up your accounts from home so you can be sure it will work right away. WhatsApp works without VPN some days and other days it doesn’t. While it was just important to have an account before, Apple actually removed the major VPN apps from their store here – so make sure you have the apps on your phone!

3. Clothing and shoes

Before moving, we both decluttered our closets which was quite a big undertaking for me, I gave away 9 laundry baskets full of stuff. Then we packed everything that remained because whatever we weren’t going to wear for 3 years, will most likely never be used again. While you can find lots of international brands, they are expensive. After import and luxury tax, a lot of the clothes and shoes are much more expensive here than at home. Now I know why the outlet malls in the US and Germany are always crowded with Chinese tourists 🙂

Also, if you are really tall, have big feet or need bigger sizes, it might be more difficult to find things. However, there is always the fabric market where you can get things made (still need to try that).

4. Personal hygiene products

Of course you can buy shampoo, soap and toothpaste here but if you like particular brands and are a creature of habit like I am, bring it. Things like facial moisturizer often have whitening in them. Though you can find deodorant in Shanghai now (from what I read that was not possible 10 years ago), the selection is very limited and it’s 2-3 times more expensive. Same goes for tampons. I also brought the make-up brands I like because it’s more expensive here and again, you can’t find every brand.

5. Medication

There are international hospitals and pharmacies in Shanghai, so I’m sure you can get whatever you need when you get sick. I like to be prepared and I know what usually works for me so I brought the basics (painkillers, cold medicine, stuff against nausea, an upset stomach and diarrhea, band aids, disinfectant wipes, insect bite cream, mosquito repellent). The first time we had a stomach bug (3 and counting …), I was glad I had medicine at home and didn’t have to worry about looking for stuff. We also brought all the vitamins/supplements we take.

6. Food items you love

I love herbal tea and here it is mostly green and black tea, so I brought my favorite ones. My mom’s jam is also a big one on the list. I love baking so I brought some things that I wasn’t sure I’d find here like almond flour and food coloring (for making pretty macarons). My suitcase was also full of chocolate because the Milka and Lindt selection is not as big here and also, like most imported goods, it costs almost 3 times as much. If it wouldn’t have been so hot already I would have also brought some cheese (again, expensive here). In general, I’ve been able to find almost everything on epermarket, the online expat supermarket we shop at.

7. Tools

During our info trip, one of Thorben’s coworkers, who has been living in China for 8 years now, recommended that we bring a tool box. He said the typical handyman here usually only brings two things: A screwdriver and a silicone gun (so far that as been true). So we brought our Ixo and a toolbox, both have already come in handy.

8. Computer / Laptop / Stereo / Camera

It’s a myth that electronics are cheaper here (at least the international brands), so if you plan to use it here, you should bring it with you.

9. Kitchen equipment

I brought all my baking supplies (muffin pan, cake pan, hand mixer, small blender, mixing bowls, kitchen scale, silicone macaron pads). We also brought pots, pans, knives, silverware, tupperware, cutting boards, plates, bowls and glasses. There are 3 IKEAs in Shanghai so you can pretty much get anything you need for the kitchen. The only thing recommended to us was a good set of knives as they are more expensive here. We had the space so we just packed the entire kitchen (8 boxes in total).

Things we didn’t bring

  • Furniture: Most apartments come already furnished and we didn’t want to deal with a huge move and waiting three months for a sea-freight container. The few little things missing can either be negotiated with your landlord (Hello, bigger couch!) or you can just get them on Taobao or at IKEA
  • TV: Same as furniture – the apartments here already have a TV in them (though Thorben thinks its not big enough), some even have a DVD player
  • International SIM card/phone plan: we both got a local contract and SIM card on our first day. If you only come for a short time and just need data, they sell pocket WiFis at the airport.
  • Power adapters/converters: While the outlets look different, all the plugs still fit. The voltage is also the same as in Germany (220V).
  • Books – Except for maybe 10 books (cook books, guide books and our Chinese books) we didn’t bring any because we both use a Kindle. Very light, easy to pack and it takes 30 seconds to get a new book from Amazon.
An Internations Brunch

An Internations Brunch

Having brunch on the weekend seems to be a favorite activity in Shanghai. A lot of restaurants offer brunch specials and many hotels have brunch buffets, often with free flow champagne. The brunches at fancy hotels often cost 100 and more. Though we can eat a lot, I’m not confident enough in our abilities to eat food worth this amount of money in one sitting 🙂

On Saturday there was an InterNations event to have breakfast at Wanda Reign on the Bund, a (self-rated) 7 star hotel that opened at the end of 2016. They have a breakfast special going on until the end of the year, so for 150 RMB (19 €) you can eat as much as you can manage and tea, coffee and juice are also included. The hotel lobby is pretty impressive and so was the breakfast buffet.

InterNations is an expat community we both joined when moving to Shanghai. There are different groups which organize events so you can meet people. Once a month there is a newcomers event, there is an event at a different bar each Friday night and now we are also members of the Brunch and Lunch Group which regularly meets to eat, so of course we had to sign up 🙂

We had a lot of fun at the breakfast talking to people from all over the place, for example we met someone from New Caledonia (had to look it up on a map first: it’s a French territory in the South Pacific).

On Sunday we went out for brunch again and had 3 delicious courses at Le Saleya, the French restaurant close to us (I already wrote about it but the food is just so pretty). Yes, we also went to the gym that weekend 😉