Mixing work and family life is a complicated business – it’s difficult to complain about your colleagues when you are related to them! On the other hand, there are others who like to keep it in the family. Partners who can successfully manage to live and work together always have their own secrets.
by Casey Hall (originally published September 2012)
Wei Xie & Cheng Xie
The haute Shanghainese cuisine and eclectic art studio feel of Restaurant Art Salon have made it a favourite among diners looking for something a little different. And the whole thing is a family affair, with brothers Wei and Cheng Xie opening the restaurant after Cheng returned from a stint living in Germany. Both of these siblings had an interest in both fine food and fine art, so they decided to combine these passions into one special restaurant where patrons can buy anything from the chopsticks, to the furnishings and, of course, the contemporary Chinese artworks adorning the walls.
According to the brothers, their relationship has remained unchanged, even though they work together every day. “We work together pretty good, I can’t think of anything bad to say,” Wei says. “There is six years between me and my brother and I trust him to make decisions. Our family is quite traditional and we never fight about money.”
Zhu Weibing & Ji Wenyu
This artistic couple collaboratively create soft sculptures, toys made to represent China’s contemporary culture. Ji Wenyu and Zhu Weibing were born in 1959 and 1971 respectively, and both are graduates of the Shanghai Art & Crafts School. Their delicately balanced works owe much to Zhu’s training as a fashion designer and art professor, while Ji previously worked as a painter. Their social and political critique of China’s command-consumer economy is plain to see in their works, which have been exhibited all over the world.
As the two tell the tale of how they began working together, their closeness is obvious as they finish each other’s sentences. With their artistic enterprises and an 11-year-old lovely daughter, Ji says their collaboration never stops. “We are at the studio together and at home together and in both places we are always busy. When we are at home, we always discuss the arts, and sometimes also our daughter will participate in our discussions while she is doing her homework. We are immersed in this lifestyle and for us, it’s completely natural.”
Lexandra Chen & Matthias Lind
This married couple together run Shanghai’s three Lind Bakeries, an extension of Matthias’ family business back in Germany, where they have more than 30 outlets. Although he never intended to take over his family’s 107-year-old business, and originally came to China in order to study martial arts in the late 1990s, Matthias and Lexandra decided to take the plunge together in 2010.
According to Lexandra, being partners in business as well as marriage carries with it the huge advantage of trust. But there is a downside. “The worst thing about working together is that the business penetrates into every detail and moment of our family life, it is almost impossible to control,” Lexandra says. “The time spent with our kids is also very restrained due to business obligations.
At the end of the day, the benefits outweigh the negatives. Lexandra says the best thing about working with Matthias is that she can “absolutely rely on him” and they are able to spend a lot more time together than other married couples who work in separate industries.
Lu Yi & Bao Lei
Lu Yi and Bao Lei are the most famous actor couple in Shanghai. Born in 1976, they were classmates at the Shanghai Film Academy, where young love blossomed, and they finally married in 2006 after 10 years of dating. Lu has played parts in television shows and movies as well as trying his hand on stage, as a singer, and advertising products, including BMW, alongside his comely wife. Bao’s career has been put on hold somewhat since the birth of their daughter, Belle, but her background as an actor in television series and films means that she knows exactly what kind of professional pressures her husband faces. According to Bao, there’s no such thing as sharing too much with the one you love. “I believe that whether it’s good or bad, happy or sad, you would always want to share it with the other person. That’s how you know you want to spend the rest of your life with that person,” she said.