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Sorry, did you think Shanghai was part of China?

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Our internet unexpectedly stopped soon after my last post, and in the time it took to get it sorted out again, I can not relate how out of touch I felt with the world. It’s somewhat depressing to realise how much we think we need, (or really need) the internet!
Having got that fixed, I can now post about my Shanghai trip 🙂

First off, I’d definitely say that I prefer Beijing to Shanghai; I would not like to live in Shanghai. However, I can’t articulate the reasons for this. Whether it’s because I am living in Beijing and only visited Shanghai for a few days as a tourist, or because Beijing genuinely is a nicer city, I’m not too sure.
To be fair, I suppose I haven’t seen much of the city centre in Beijing yet, whereas we did pretty much go all over Shanghai. I saw many, many more beggars on the streets of Shanghai, and despite the stories you’re told of the numerous frauds, the sight of a man hitting his head on the ground until it bleeds is enough to make you forget.

I can safely say we came across more Halaal places to eat than I have seen in Beijing, but that’s not to say there are definitely more in Shanghai. Again, it could be that I still haven’t seen as much of Beijing than I have now of Shanghai, ironically…

The food in those restaurants is growing on me; I can’t say the same for my chopstick skills. Rice is definitely much easier to eat with chopsticks than noodles, because when you manage to pick up a noodle, you’ll in fact discover, that the whole plate in front of you is just ONE single noodle. Plus, how can you cut a noodle with chopsticks??

Back on topic, Shanghai is often called the “Paris of the East”, and the people there seem to think they are above the rest of China. Today a classmate was saying that while in Shanghai, he asked someone if they were Chinese. Their reply? “No, I’m from Shanghai”. Not too different from a large proportion of Londoners, I suppose…

I recall asking the price of a piece of clothing I saw, and when I commented that it was too expensive (it was more than double what it would be in the UK), the shopkeeper proudly replied to me, “This is Shanghai!!”

With its skyscrapers by the river, a high-speed train linking the airport to the city centre (the Maglev, which I initally thought sounded somewhat Russian, is actually short for Magnetic Levitation… Yes, alright, it was just me), and impressive infrastructure (roads, bridges, and the Metro running a flawless service, incomparable to TfL), Shanghai definitely seems modern. However, I felt that there was something off about the westernisation of the city; the general friendliness that I’ve gotten used to in Beijing was lacking in Shanghai. Admittedly there are more people compared to in Beijing, and the city life is busier, but I felt generally unwelcome there.

One thing that wasn’t missing about Chinese culture: the lack of privacy! It was just as prominent in Shanghai (if not more) than in Beijing. While waiting for the train, you may see a parent casually holding their daughter over a bin on the platform inside the station to urinate, not forgetting the many more out on the roads too.

I don’t mean to make it sound all bad though. Possibly my favourite place in Shanghai was People’s Park – a green haven in the centre of a bustling city. Standing inside, you can see the park all around you, with trees at the edges, but behind the trees, tall buildings of the city. Overall, the parks of the city were all nice, well-maintained places, seemingly popular among locals and tourists alike.

There’s more about Shanghai to be said, but I think I’ll spread it over a few posts!


About Ibtehaal

I graduated with a degree in Chinese and Economics, which involved spending a year studying Chinese in Beijing. This turned out to be the hardest but most rewarding thing I think I have ever done. I've now returned to China for another year, to study in Shanghai and figure out my next steps.

One response »

  1. salaams, its interesting reading every time new events and different experiences
    you go through! that will definately make you stronger, take care.


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