10 Aug Shanghai Culture
If you’re walking around Shanghai and you hear music, follow it. Yes, keep walking. You’ll come across a small crowd eventually. They’re watching transfixed as a small group of elderly ladies slow dance to a resonant lament. A female Chinese voice swoons from a large speaker mounted from a moped. A few onlookers see how fun it is. They join in. Their friends come too. Everyone’s smiling or hiding a smile.
I love finding these activities in Shanghai. I was looking for the park and came upon this outdoor dance instead. Once when I picked up my train tickets at the station, I walked around and found the outdoor karaoke scene.
In Nanjing, a friend and I were walking down the street at 2am when I realized I was hungry. A few steps later and we ran into a lady standing in the middle of the sidewalk with a tiny mobile kitchen and a kiddie table nearby. That was the best fried rice I have ever eaten.
On the train back from Beijing, I sat exhausted, ready to sleep. The girl at my side asked about the Mandarin textbook I had brought with me. We stayed up the entire overnight trip talking about language and growing up in our respective families and why education is important.
In Zhujiajiao, my friend and I walked along a footpath looking for a hotel to spend the night in before the streets darkened. I happened to glance inside a building and noticed one muscular guy working out alone in a traditional looking gym. This in the middle of a water town. Of course I walked in. My friend still has the video of the guy teaching me how to kick box.
And so on.
Shanghai is an amazing city. It is not for everyone. For the rest, you will love it.
There is much to do. The transportation system: top-notch. Food is great-whether cheap or expensive. People move with speed and purpose, at least those who are not chatting with friends, glued to their phones, or getting lost in the crowds.
The city center is a jungle of skyscrapers. A walk down a busy commercial street gets you used to the sound of horns honking, office workers conversing at outdoor cafes, and the sound of thousands of shoes wearing down the pavement.
Temples? Yeah! Up to five, I think. A lot more parks as well. The karaoke is also super fun. Nightlife is busy, crazy, and varied. Historical buildings are lined along the Bund for you to snap pictures of and earn up to 50 likes on Facebook.
Look up Shanghai on Google and you will be treated to the image of a gleaming city on a river. All the towers shine bright. Their lights reflect from the river.
On the surface, this enormous city may not seem to exude culture. Maybe not if you just stick to visiting the malls and snapping your profile pic at Shanghai Tower and going to the park to admire some scenery. Do that of course. But that’s just sticking to the surface.
You can see Shanghai in the street vendors by your work that sell those really good, really cheap dumplings. You’ll see it in families joining their kids in a game of soccer at the park while a street violinist delights tourists with a folksy tune. And you’ll see it in the thousands of moped drivers weaving through crowds on pedestrian sidewalks to make their deliveries on time.
Shanghai is everywhere and the trick to noticing is simple.
Just follow the music.