Wow…. one month in China. It’s hard to believe that I’ve already been in China for a month. Actually, it’s hard to believe that I have only been here for a month. Shanghai feels like my new home. I have my favorite food spots, the 服务员 (waiters) remember my order and know me by name, and the security people smile at me every morning when I go to the 地铁 (metro). Shanghai feels just like the Tri-Cities and Parkland to me.
It’s a special feeling when you get acclimated to a new place. I consider myself to be gifted directionally. The moment when I begin to be able to able to walk around without a map and always know where to go is huge for me. It means that I have been able to explore and wander around and really get a feel for the place that I am in. It means having the ability to not pay attention to every turn and just go to my destination because it’s my routine. Having a routine, being able to make this city my own, and making it home have really been a game-changer for me. It makes me get lost in the city and almost forget what it’s like other places. Sometimes you need to pinch yourself and remember that it’s a finite journey and that this doesn’t last forever.
So far one month is gone and dang it’s been a loaded month. I’m a third of the way through this trip and there’s so much to recap. I’m going to cover some of my adventures so far and reminisce over the first third of my experience in China.
College in China is very interesting to say the least. We have Chinese classes at Jiao Tong University everyday Monday through Thursday for 3 hours and normally a couple hours outside of class time spent on homework. Homework consists of field homework and dictation. Field homework takes the most time. We have to interview locals or go to certain locations and ask prices. Then report back the next day to the class using pictures, audio, and video as well. The experience can be challenging at times, but fun at the same time.
The other portion of our homework, dictation, is made up of a couple sentences in characters and then a couple of vocab words. We have to remember all of them and then get quizzed and have to recite them from memory in only characters. This was particularly challenging for me early on because I had only taken one previous semester of Chinese and my character knowledge was very limited. Being in China and really studying my characters has made this part far easier though. The characters start to get easier and easier every day as I acquire new characters and start to remember the patters of the words.
I have business classes at Fudan on Tuesday and Wednesday which takes about 45 minutes to get to school by the 地铁(metro). The business classes are also differently than a class in the United States would be taught. When professors lecture (all the classes are lecture based), they don’t include their own opinion and perspective on a given topic that they’re talking to the class about. They only use references and 3rd party materials during lectures which is very different from my classes at home where a lot of the professors include many of their personal anecdotes and even base classes around their opinion on the class topic.
Classes overall are pretty interesting and it’s definitely remarkable to get taught subjects like supply chain management and marketing from a Chinese perspective. The differences in how the marketplaces work and how people view the global and domestic markets is very different from a foreign perspective. I’m excited for what the rest of the semester has to offer for my business classes and to continue to make great strides in my Chinese language learning.
Meals have been one of the hardest adjustments. I have gotten really used to home cooked meals and family style dinners at college with my roommates. In China we have eaten out for basically every single meal since we have been here. It’s particularly difficult to make food in our apartments and we are limited in what we can cook with the appliances available to us. Granted China is fairly inexpensive to eat out at, but it’s still eating out.
I have eaten some interesting things while I’ve been here to say the least. Duck is very popular in China, so I have eaten that many times. I’ve also eaten
bullfrog, various kinds of tofu, and a lot of mystery meats that I’m still praying aren’t rat, cat, or dog. Some of the foods are normal foods that you would eat in America if you went to a Chinese restaurant. You can find dumplings, fried rice, noodles, wontons, and more.
One of the most popular food trends in China right now is called Hot Pot. Hot Pot is this style of food that is based from the Sichuan province of inner China. You order all types of meat and vegetables and cook them in the center of the table in a boiling pot. It is really tasty but also has varying degrees of spice depending on what you can handle.
Getting around in Shanghai is very easy. The most common modes of transportation are bikes, buses, cars, and the 地铁 (metro). My favorite is the metro because the lines run everywhere through the city and it almost never cost more than $.50-$.75 USD for a roundtrip. Multiple stations make it a very brief walk once you get off and come back above ground. The metro also isn’t as packed as everyone would think. It really isn’t any more congested than a subway in a typical Western city.
The roads are also very open. Most people don’t drive in China unless it is a moped. Getting a license is difficult and expensive. Getting a license plate for your car is even more expensive (approx. $13k USD). This makes it so cost-prohibitive that many people prefer not to drive even if they have the means to. Also, even if you get a license, you are only allowed to drive on certain days of the week or weekends and at certain times of the day. These restrictions are put in place to combat pollution and traffic. Due to all of this, most of the cars are used for ridesharing like Didi. Didi is the company that Uber sold all its market share to in China. The metro closes at around 11 PM so if we are going across the city late then we must take a Didi. Didi is also very inexpensive, running around $2-$5 USD max per Didi.
Nightlife has been an interesting experience. Bars are relatively comparable to Western prices, except slightly lower. Many of them have specials, especially for students. Students will get discounts on drinks and even food in most places. Shanghai is also so large that there’s a deal for almost every single night of the week at some bars. Whether it’s buy one, get one burgers, 20 RMB (about 3 USD) personal pizzas, or 1 RMB wings, there’s always some place to go out to eat and get a couple drinks at on the cheap.
Night Clubs are a whole different story. For one thing, the clubs are open every single night of the week and free for foreigners. Going to the club is kind of a task at first, until you get the hang of it. In China they have these people called promoters. The promoters get paid for attracting foreigners into the club while people from Asia, China predominately, have to pay to get in. The more foreigners you get to the club the more you make. The promoters put foreigners in these groups on WeChat and send them what’s going on for a given evening and pitch all the different options to everyone. When you get to the club, you say their (password), so the promoter can get credit for the foreigner being there.
The first time in a Chinese club was an astonishing experience for me. The clubs are littered with second generation wealthy Chinese kids that are dubbed the “Foo or Die”. These kids have bodyguards for everything. One example was a teenage kid who had 2 body guards with him when he went to the bathroom at Fusion. One of the body guards was massaging his shoulders while the other was feeding him gum, all while he was going to the bathroom. This is typical behavior of these kids. They’ll spend around $7,000 USD a night on getting these tables, to hang out with foreigners to look good and take pictures to have a “status boost”. All the while some of them have barely hit puberty. It is so far-fetched that all these teenagers are spending thousands upon thousands of dollars at the club in the middle of the week. Like do they have school? Do their parents care that their teenage kids are out binge drinking? It’s a very foreign concept to America and how our society has taboos about drinking, but here there will be kids in restaurants or at bars just drinking a beer or two with their friends after their long day in middle school.
All in all, the first month here has been great. Shanghai does truly feel like home now. It feels like I’ve been here forever and it’s hard to remember what home is like sometimes because of how different my daily life is here compared to home. I’m excited for the next two months and the trips to Beijing, Guilin, and Shenzhen coming up these next couple weeks.
See you later!