I have lived in Shanghai for 1 year! There are moments when I think it has been the fastest year of my life and of course the opposite. It has not been easy, comfortable, or without frustration. Would I do it again knowing what I know now? I would not even hesitate to say yes. On my 1 year anniversary in China I decided to create a top 10 list on my likes and dislikes of living in Shanghai.
Chopstick Skills– My chopstick skills have greatly increased. They must unless you want to starve. I am so good now, I can eat peanuts with them. Next up catching flies.
Ayi– Ayi means auntie in Chinese and housekeeper. I think my Ayi is the worst Ayi in all of Shanghai. She can’t iron, cook, and she barely cleans. She destroys my undergarments for she doesn’t use the washing machine you would think this is a good thing but hand washes everything on a washboard and wrings them out. I bet she thinks I am no longer wearing underwear for anything I don’t want ruined I hide from her and wash myself. To set expectations with her would require me to speak Chinese. I currently leave her notes from Google Translate when I need her to go take clothes to be ironed or do other minor chores. She does change my sheets once a week and washes my dishes (no dishwasher). What she does do, costs me $11 a week. I find value in that. I know I should look for another one but I feel bad she probably needs the work so why she is still here due to my conscious. I am waiting for Todd to come over and he can take control of the situation or we hire a head Ayi who is bi-lingual to some degree and my current one can report to her. I will have a household hierarchy.
Airline Status– Shanghai is really far. 8,058 miles (12968 km) from Orlando. To fly anywhere back to the US or not in Asia is a haul which involves days due to the time travel. This can be considered a dislike as well but I am being positive, having to fly so far to get anywhere I have airline status. I can pick my seats, I am on the plane first, my bags are off first, and I can go to the lounge pre-flight for snacks and beverages. I like it!
Fabric Market– If I left Shanghai tomorrow, the fabric market is one of of the things I would miss. You can go in with a photo of anything and it can be copied exactly or changed as you would like. It then is made to fit you. It is incredible. The best part if you get a shoppers high 2x! When you go and play Project Runway and pick out your fabric, buttons, zippers, etc. and design the item and then a week later when you go and pick it up. It is addicting.
Massages- If I were to move back I would miss massages as well. I can get a foot massage for what some people spend at coffee places. At home they were a treat, a luxury, a splurge. Here they are a part of life, usually a weekly part of life and that is not uncommon. The prices are so reasonable compared to back home and the service is much better.
Parks– The parks are so much fun they are full of activity. You have the men who brought their birds to the park. You see them walking with their bird cages or biking them to the park. I don’t know who they are “socializing” the birds or themselves. You have the middle aged doing their group exercises, tai chi, fan dances with their boombox blaring music (I am tempted to start singing along when I hear the Carpenters). You have the people walking backwards for they believe doing so as Cher sang to Turn Back Time. Folks playing cards or mahjong. It is an overload of activity. You are unable to drink it all in for there is just so much.
Fashion- My friend in Beijing once told me “the Cantonese will eat anything the Shanghainese will wear anything”. Shanghai has the cultural bonus of wearing PJs in public. I asked about this and told it is a status thing. Wearing your Pjs in public is a statement of I am so well off that I don’t have to work and can wear my lounge wear all day. I heard this is the same reason why men grow out their pinky finger nail so long (here I thought it was a nose picker) it is a status symbol of they don’t do manual work. Then you have the ladies who wear large eye glass frames with no lenses in them, leg warmers, high heels on scooters, prints on prints, there are no rules of fashion other than anything goes, wear everything and anything. I do enjoy the sayings on t-shirts. My latest favorite and John don’t think I am not tempted to buy it off the man is one that says I (then the recycle symbol) boys. I love it!
Delivery Service– Once I figured out how it all works it is an incredible service. I can have groceries and food delivered to my door and I can do so without having to talk to anyone! You can even have McDonald’s delivered, which I haven’t done I believe if you are going to eat McDonald’s you should have to work for it, meaning walk or take the metro to go get it. You also can’t order online so that would require talking to someone I would rather not put myself through that. I have ordered lunch in to work and also ordered dinner before I left work and walked home to reduce my wait time. Very convenient.
Transportation– The metro system in Shanghai is clean, pretty easy to navigate and can take you so many places for around .50 cents. Just avoid around 9am and 6pm and it is not a problem. Taxis are also plentiful (just not in the rain or around 9am and 6pm again). They recently have a price increase so start around $2.15 for a ride around town. You just need to be able to say where you are going in Chinese, have a business card of the place, or use an app that shows a taxi card, I like the Shanghai Taxi app.
Fast-Paced– Shanghai is fast paced and always moving and changing. The city is rapidly developing. I leave for a week and stores and restaurants have closed and new ones opened in its place. There is a blend of the ancient and the modern which is beautiful. Shanghai has a culture of its own, even its own dialect Shanghainese only spoken here. I will try to learn Mandarin first. It is fascinating and I am fortunate to be in the middle of it all.
Todd– It has not been easy being away from Todd this long. I have always thought I was an independent woman (throw your hands up at me) I am not as much as I thought. I like being married and I miss my best friend. It SUCKS. I also miss my dogs, my family, my friends, did I mention it SUCKS? Hopefully Todd will be relocated soon and we will be back in Orlando in January 2012 and going on a family cruise which I am looking forward to.
Great Firewall of China– I don’t enjoy the internet censorship of the PRC. The Internet speed is also a problem, I am unable to stream video or radio so I have no idea about new music since Sept 2010. I am sure I am missing at least 2 new Black Eyed Peas albums.
XXXL– I have come to accept I am an XXXL when I shop for clothing in local stores. I now get upset when I go into a store and they don’t have size XXXL.
Crossing the Street- Another thing I have gotten use to but I don’t like it. Why are there not traffic laws? How is it possible cars and bikes can go whenever they want and honk at pedestrians in the cross-walk as to say darn you pedestrian, don’t you know I am driving here, get out of my way! Why is it a free for all, a survival of the fittest? How does it make any sense? I think I am in my own game like Tron, it is a human like Frogger game set in the streets of Shanghai and I have survived 1 year on my grid. Suck it drivers!
BYOTP– Bring your own toilet paper. Many bathrooms do not provide toilet paper. You have to bring your own or go without. I have learned to always carry tissue in every bag I carry for such occasions. The other strange thing.. the toilet systems are very sensitive, you don’t flush paper down them, instead you thrown your used paper in a trash can (which IS offered inside the stall where there is no TP). If not attended to, it can get gross and smelly and burning incense does not make it smell any better as some places believe. Many bathrooms also don’t provide hand soap. I just don’t understand. People rinse their hands with just water. What does that even do?
Spitting- The spitting on the street is just gross. I have been told, it is natural, it is something bad in the body, why would they not get rid of it? The same point of view has been shared when it comes to public nose picking or snot rockets. I still don’t like it and it makes me have to watch where I walk.
Sidewalks– I appreciate there are sidewalks. They are not for walking, bikes ride up on them, folks sit and watch the day go by on them, brush their teeth, set up tables and eat, bikes are parked on them, they are bathrooms for pets, children, and even adults. I understand diapers are expensive but can’t a rag be used like in the old days with diaper pins, do you really need to hold you child up over the sidewalk while sitting on a chair to do their business or show little boys how to aim in the street? Actually walking on the sidewalk is dangerous and why shoes are removed before going into houses or temples.
Price of Import Goods– Import items are crazy high. I pay $4.50 for greek yogurt. The western style restaurants are all more expensive (exception McDonald’s but who can eat or show eat McDonald’s all the time). You can go broke if you only buy imported goods.
Food- I was asked is food is called Chinese food in China, or just food. That is a good question. I call it local and then there is Western. I don’t care for the food. It is not like Chinese food at home, there is a rumor however Panda Express is coming to Shanghai… I wonder if it will be like in the US or a local version of it. I appreciate nothing goes to waste and that chicken feet, duck tongue, duck blood, and cow stomach are all consumed, I can’t do it nor and I going to try. No can do. I don’t enjoy cleaver chicken (looks a cleaver was taken to to it to cut it up) with all it bones or the highly marbled meat. When asking local colleagues if they like Western food they say no, I don’t get offended by. So I am no longer when asked if I like local food afraid to say no, I don’t care for it. I do like dumplings however and will occasionally eat them, I don’t think about them or how they are made in the little kitchen on the street or on a bike.
Banking- Banking is a pain. To transfer money to the US, I need to show my passport, show my residency permit, bring my labor contract, prove I earned the money (paycheck) and that I paid tax on it to the PRC (tax form I receive 3 months later, I will received my tax statement for December end of March if lucky but probably beginning of April sometime). There are times they don’t have money, it is a bank? And times when the only person who can help me is out to lunch and will be back in 2 hours. Also the bank is open 9am-5pm but what I need to do can only be done up until 4pm. It is a headache and I would rather put forks in my eyes then do banking.
Overall is has been a great year. I have 2 years and 4months to go! I look forward to the next when Todd is finally here and we can go out and explore more of Shanghai, China and Asia together.