After spending one entire week in Shanghai, China, I have observed and absorbed a lot so far. First of all, this city is enormous. The sheer size of Shanghai is incredible, and no U.S. city comes close to rivaling it. Being an America, I've grown up thinking cities like New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. were heavily populated cities, but with a population of approximately 25 million people, China easily dwarfs these American cities. Of the many things that have stuck out to me, the following features of this city surprised me the most upon discovering them.
-There’s no breakfast food, at least in the traditional American sense
-There is food EVERYWHERE
-Everything is dirt cheap in comparison to America
-Never buy authentic brand name commodities, just go to the Chinese market for fake goods and bargain for marked down items like shoes, purses, sunglasses and headphones
-Chinese people are very blunt and personal in their mannerisms
So the biggest shock to me was waking up on my first day in Shanghai and looking for somewhere to eat breakfast at 9 a.m. When I passed by every restaurant, I saw every person eating hot noodles, hot soup and dishes I swore were reserved for lunch or dinner. I quickly learned that breakfast in Shanghai, at least, is not distinguishable from lunch or dinner in terms of the type of foods one eats. I have since gotten very used to eating fried pork and vegetable dumplings in the morning, among other things. This was a big dietary adjustment for me because breakfast is my favorite American meal. I’m a daily visitor to McDonalds or Dunkin Donuts, where I always pick up an iced coffee and breakfast sandwich. But for now, I’ll have to say goodbye to that until I return to American soil.
Furthermore, finding food is never an issue in this city since there is legitimately food everywhere. From nicer restaurants, to tiny stores, to street stalls that cook right in front of you, there are enough places to eat that you would never have to eat in the same place twice for a few years if you wanted to (as long as you’re willing to eat all around Shanghai). On top of that, the prices of everything in Shanghai are absurdly cheap. From food to clothes to any other good, you can usually find cheap prices (dependent somewhat on the area you’re in). I can eat a hearty meal for sometimes less than $1.50. This makes living on a budget very easy since you don’t have to spend nearly as much as you would in America for the equivalent good. This makes the cost of living in certain areas of this city very affordable, making this city a hotspot for tourists and new residents.
Another advantage of having cheaper commodities in Shanghai includes having even cheaper rip-off goods that can be found in Shanghai’s legal fake-goods market. I actually went there just today, and after being quickly taught the art of how to bargain with these Chinese store owners, I successfully bought a pair of wireless studio Beats (headphones), a NY Islanders jersey and solid sunglasses all for about $70. In the U.S., I would roughly be paying over $350 for those goods. Unless one is closely examining these items, it would be hard to tell that they’re fake. Needless to say, I walked away from the market today pretty happy about the ability to find decent quality goods at a much lower rate than I’d find in America. It really makes you feel like you’re winning at life when you pull off something like that!
One of my last observations/impressions about Shanghai was the mannerisms of its people. The Chinese people I have met and conversed with so far have all been very kind people who are super eager to talk and meet foreigners, but there are slight differences between their mannerisms and Americans’. They tend to be very blunt and say some things that may be a little too forward in America. For example, amid conversation, they have said “you are very handsome” to me and my friends in our program. While we certainly welcome this compliment, it is not so common for people to be so forward in their comments toward one another in America. It has been odd to get used to because Americans don’t always say what they mean while Chinese usually literally mean everything they say. Another biproduct of this behavior is that they do not really pick up on sarcasm. I have tried many a time to joke around with them and be sarcastic, but my jokes sometimes fall short because they take a lot of what I say very literally. When I explain to them how sarcasm works, then we both laugh as they finally understand the context of my joke.
Overall, I am really taking to this city very quickly. It is phenomenal and offers a lot. But then again, I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. With school starting tomorrow, it’s time to really dive in. Zàijiàn!