03 Feb Get ready to live vicariously through me
If you have read my other blog you would have known that I have had a prettttty amazing first weekend; having the Orientation breakfast, Mandarin lesson, going to SML, having a new intern family dinner, visiting the Bund and Nanjing road, eating at a Cantonese restaurant and going to an Australian bar for Australia day. However my last blog did not even aim to explain how amazing everything is here in Shanghai. So that’s what I’ll be doing now – get ready to live vicariously through me.
Firstly I will tell you my reaction to the city- “OH MY GOD!” That was it. But multiply that by 163561. In the taxi ride from the airport I was overwhelmed by how huge the city is and by how tall everything is! Perth city has about 5 visible skyscrapers. In Shanghai, my hotel and its multiple towers could easily replace and expand Perth City.
The SML shopping centre, across the road from our hotel, is ridiculously large and ridiculously good. There are many floors, e.g. one floor is dedicated to women’s clothing and another floor and a half dedicated to restaurants. It is really easy to get lost in there!
The Bund provided a breathtaking view of the city, including the Pearl Tower, paired with the river. Nanjing road however was my favourite place we have visited so far. It is full of amazing shops including H&M, Nike, Forever 21 and Haagen Dazs. It is also packed with beautiful restaurants and busy people. With all the lights on at night it looked almost like Broadway.
The city itself is very clean (probably due to the work of the people hired to clean the streets), organised, safe, yet full of history and life! I could not ask for more from one city.
I mentally prepared myself to accept the different ways of the Chinese people so that my Western ideals did not clash with theirs. So I wasn’t very shocked by some of their habits, such as spitting on the floor. It is so common to spit over here that I’m not even fazed by it. For example when a man on a bike rode past me at the traffic lights, I did not hear the sound of a bike chain spinning, but the sound of him collecting spit in his mouth, i.e. “heeeeeehhhhhhckt”. Not fazed at all.
Inside the airport Tom saw a man blow his nose and then throw the tissue on the floor. But it doesn’t matter over here because the cleaners will pick it up! I did however expect more locals to be able to speak English. It is quite rare to have a taxi driver or retail assistant who can speak English, which has come with some difficulties. I had to not purchase a jumper because the cashier did not understand me when I asked to press credit on the eftpos.
One thing that shocked me was how carefree and generous Chinese people are. They are very selfless people and I feel they are highly misunderstood in Australia. However they can be serious when they need to be – I think I may be a wanted criminal. I touched the back of a small train carrying people on Nanjing road and it stopped. A passenger at the back of the train freaked out because I touched it. I also said ‘ni hao’ to a security guard and received the evil eye in return.
I have learnt a lot in this past weekend about Chinese culture, mainly from Will, the Program Director. We learnt some valuable tips at our Orientation breakfast about etiquette. It is rude to point at people, you must address the eldest person in a family first, chopsticks are to not be left standing up in your food, you must finish all the rice in your bowl, you must receive and give objects with two hands and you must read the information on a business card before putting it away. It is also good to give your boss a present on your first day of work. We also found out it is offensive to tip in China – can’t say I have a problem with that!
I have also learnt a lot about Mandarin in the past 5 days. I learnt basic words and numbers in the Mandarin lesson I scored for free. I also learnt Mandarin has no tense or plurals, which is pretty interesting! The weather has been quite warm for a Shanghai Winter apparently! Of course it is still freezing, however the sun has been out and there have been a few days over 10 degrees Celsius. So it is not what I expected!
Now for a report on my battle with public transport… I’M ACTUALLY DOING REALLY WELL! The metro is incredibly easy to catch, cheap and fast! There’s a metro every 3 minutes! Taxis are ridiculously cheap- the average fare being $4 AUD. Something I found cool here is that the traffic lights have a countdown on them, so you know how many seconds until the light goes green. Something not so cool is that cars can always turn right/left, even over pedestrian crossings when I am in the middle of them! So yes I have had a few near death experiences.
Finally, food, glorious food! I am in food heaven here in Shanghai. Never have I been so happy in my life. The food is so cheap, delicious and the portions are large. What is odd is that food served here is very different to what we call ‘Chinese food’ in Perth. I’ve only seen a few dishes that are similar. So I have not been eating the stereotypical Chinese food. I have tried other foods such as lotus root, frog, black mushrooms and duck. Although I was tricked into eating the frog – I was told it was fish and it was only until I pulled out the bone of a frog toe that I knew. I have been living off pork dumplings and I am still not sick of them. Having to use chopsticks 24/7 was a bit of a shock too. However I now prefer chopsticks and find it weird if I see cutlery in a restaurant. The only expensive parts about meals in Shanghai are coffees. They are almost more than in Australia. Finally, Sherpas, Sherpas, Sherpas, Sherpas. A gift from the heavens….otherwise known as a website where you can order almost any food you like and have it delivered to your door!
So I hope you now understand why my time in Shanghai has been simply superb. I hope you are sufficiently jealous.
Until next time my friends….