When traveling in China everything you are served to drink is warm. Ask for ice water and you will get bottled water (warm, not refrigerated), ask for water and you will get heated warm water in a teacup. Hell, even the beer is served at room temperature!
This is why I recommend learning to say ice in Mandarin before your first visit. (it is the only other word I mastered besides hello [both formal and informal] and thank you). Although “thank you”, as in all Chinese words, is highly dependent on the proper inflection – my first try resulted in hilarious laughter from my Taiwanese friend who told me that what I just said was “pee-pee”!
So, thinking I could at least get ice in my hotel room I looked for an ice machine – ah, no. Called room service, no success. Had to call my friend to call room service and ask for “Bīng shuǐ”. And this is what I got:
I must mention that the service at the Royal Meridien Shanghai was absolutely great. This was just a cultural gap in understanding.
At least it was enough for a small glass of ice water and a few cubes for the scotch I picked up at the duty-free shop at the airport.
By the third day in Shanghai, I was able to master the words “Bīng shuǐ” (冰水) (not able to communicate the necessary inflection in words – so important as noted above). Apologies to my Mandarin-speaking friends – this is what I got from Google translate.
That night I called room service and ordered “big Bīng”. Crossing my fingers, of course! When the door rang I knew I had mastered some sort of success. I received a huge, old Budweiser bucket FULL of ice – enough for a party!! Wish I had taken a photo of the bucket…