A City of Opposites

Ryan Dondalski
April 23, 2018

You may be tempted to think that those two photos were taken in Shanghai and, perhaps somewhere in Europe, respectively(if you didn't see the Chinese ads or flags, of course). But in reality, these two places are both in Shanghai, and are not separated by continents, but by a river. In fact, I took these two photos while standing in the exact same place.

The European style buildings are a reminder of Shanghai’s time as an international port city about a century earlier, when European and American merchants settled in the city, erecting large buildings each in their country of origin’s style. The western influence of this time still remains in Shanghai, where districts such as The Bund(photo on left), or the French Concession, still feature much of the same architecture and often western culture reflective of it’s development.

As a result, Shanghai still maintains it’s status as an international city, offering food, shopping, and even a job market that has ties to both the East and the West. But in addition to it’s variety of culture, Shanghai also offers a cultural span reflecting tradition and modernity. China’s rapid economic and technological development in the last several decades are very apparent in Shanghai, one of its largest cities. One look at Pudong(photo on right) is enough to make the case for Shanghai’s advancement. And yet, the city also features hole-in-the-wall restaurants, craft shops, traditional Chinese medicine shops, all things rooted in more traditional Chinese culture.

These two simultaneously present contrasts of life in Shanghai are not unrelated: the Western districts of Shanghai are often very modern and hip areas, where the Chinese districts of Shanghai retain much of China’s older culture.

For this reason, I find that I cannot help but love the city of Shanghai, whose cultural, geographical, and populous vastness result in practically unlimited exploration opportunities while maintaining it’s international cultural heritage. Although I’ve spent a significant amount of my time in the city and have been to many of it’s famous landmarks and outstanding features, I still believe there is much more to see, and truly I could never get bored. I’ve been to Disneyland, to a Confucian Temple, to the world’s largest Starbucks, to the fake markets. If you want it, Shanghai probably has it. However, in this same manner, it can be easy to get caught settling into familiarity rather than familiarization. That is, with such a strong Western influence in Shanghai, it can be easy to eat the same food and pursue the same attractions that one can find back home. But you didn’t go abroad to do the same things you were doing back home. Pursue new adventures, whether it’s trying a new food, speaking a new language, or treading a new road. In Shanghai, this can mean going to the pet markets and the one-room restaurants, the parks and the museums. In the same token, it can also mean going to the modern art districts, or to the top of the Pearl Tower. The West is part of Shanghai’s composition, so don’t avoid it, but also don’t cling to it.

In any city, and in any trip abroad, take courage. Every adventure needs it.

Ryan Dondalski

<p>My name is Ryan Dondalski, and I am a Mechanical Engineering major at the University of Tulsa. I love automobiles, building things, and most of all, people! I hope you'll find my posts enlightening, and thank you for stopping by!</p>

2018 Spring
Home University:
University of Tulsa
Fullerton, CA
Engineering - General
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