Our experience with people has been great so far, and I am told that it is normal. I see taxi drivers tolerating our lack of spoken Chinese and take it in their stride by trying extra hard to get us to our destinations, all without expecting anything outside the meter reading; I see shopkeepers trying hard to find someone who can understand bits of English so that they can answer our English queries. I find numerous instances where people can be dishonest or lazy (or both!) because they do not get anything extra by being otherwise, but still they behave so well with us. When I contrast this experience with that in India (especially north India), this stands out as a striking difference between these two places. I am not sure if I get special treatment because I am a foreigner (because we are supposed to be dumb!), but I suspect this is more because of the general nature of Chinese people to be nice and kind.
Our real estate agent who helped us find a great house and continues to help us settle down with nitty-gritty of living around Chinese people is truly special in this regard. Typical remuneration for someone in her role is to get a low monthly salary coupled with a 1-time commission (which is less than 1 % of annual rent the tenant agrees to pay). Given such a compensation structure, typical behavior should be to spend just enough time with the prospective tenant to get the lease papers signed and then disappear to make more business come their way. However, this lady has spent significant time with us even after lease papers have been signed so that our shift to the new house can be smooth, and continues to help us by paying the bills on our behalf. I am not sure how I can help her, but I definitely feel awed by her service. Her English is enough for our needs, and she more than compensates for any lack on that front with her hard work and sincerity. Superlative work indeed!
Do let me know if you want the recommendation for a good and reliable agent for your next rental house search in Shanghai, referral is the least I can do for her.