being a tourist for a weekend

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Studying or working abroad implicates the risk to miss out on being a tourist and do some sightseeing. Before going abroad I always like to buy some travel guides to be fully prepared for my new destination. I had two for San Diego and now I have one for Shanghai. I also wanted to buy a travel guide for Slovakia but the lady in the book store told me that they don’t have them in stock, but that I could have one for Slovenia instead. I still try to understand why I should buy a travel guide for Slovenia when I was going to Slovakia. Very strange sales approach. Anyway, I just love to look through those guides – to feel my excitement rising with every page. Then the day of traveling comes and the guide is hidden somewhere save in my suitcase. Unfortunately, it stays at that sacred place for far too long.

Going abroad for studying or working usually means that you will spend more than a couple of days in a new country. In my case, it was one year in San Diego, two months in Slovakia and now 3 months in China. So what happens is you arrive at this new place and decide to settle in first before doing all this crazy (and exhausting) sightseeing stuff. Then, you suddenly realize that you only have a few days left and you have to admit that you barely saw a thing. At least not the things you were reading about in your little travel guide. That’s usually the point when I start to panic a little bit and dig out this little book. The best thing that can actually happen in such a situation is to have a very good friend visiting you. This time I got lucky! Not only my friend was planning a 3 day stopover in Shanghai, but also my uncle was coming for one day, as he had some business in another town close by. Small world, right?  So, I had 3 three days to fill with Shanghai’s hot spots. Oh, and HOT is the keyword here. That weekend was the hottest weekend since I’m here. No, I think it was even the hottest weekend in my whole life. The temperature was somewhere around 38°C, which feels like 45-49°C. What doesn’t burn you makes you stronger, right?

Another advantage of having a friend over is to have a reason to sleep in a nice hotel in the downtown area. We chose the Radisson Blu Hotel at People’s Square. Just a few steps from the subway station. Oh, I’m still dreaming of their breakfast buffet and their beds. We ate and slept very very good. But the most impressive part of the Radisson is the Skybar in the 45th floor. Unfortunately, we discovered it on our last day, so we did not get a chance to see it at night. It must be amazing! This is my insider tip for everyone who is looking for a nice view over Shanghai. From there, you can see EVERYTHING! And the restaurant is turning. How cool is that? Ok, enough about the hotel. We also did some other things besides eating and sleeping. Practicing our negotiation skills at the fake market is only one example. We also went to the ‘Shanghai Circus World’ to see one of their acrobatic shows. Unfortunately, taking pictures and making videos was strictly prohibited. The show was just incredible. Not sure if incredible good or incredible insane. I think I go with the latter. Let’s say, there was more than one moment where we had to look away because we were too afraid of people getting seriously injured.

 

Check out the pictures below to get an impression of our little sightseeing adventure 🙂

Shanghai Tower: with 632m the 2nd highest tower in the world. The entrance fee was 160 RMB which is quite high. There are better places to enjoy the view for less money.

Tianzifang: area with lots of souvenir shops, bars and restaurants.

Xintiandi: small boutiques, restaurants and modern art. It also locates one of the famous Paulaner.

Vue Bar: famous and exclusive sky bar (Hyatt Hotel on the Bund). Of course, exactly on that day, Shanghai decided to save some energy and switched off the Pearl Tower.

Yu Garden: classical garden with traditional pavilions, old tea houses, little lakes full of koi-carps, and not to forget a lot of tourists.

Skybar within the Radisson Blu Hotel: very much recommended!

It was an awesome weekend and it meant a lot to me to show my friend where I spent the past two months. I really appreciate her visit.



Living in another country has a huge impact on one’s personality. At least I believe it does have on mine. Today, it is so easy to share photos and to stay in contact with your friends and family while living in a different country. Of course, that is a great thing. Still, you cannot communicate all the experiences you make – good AND bad, the places you see, the people you hang out with. This is why it is kinda big of a deal to visit your friends and family abroad. At least if you really want to understand what they are going through – why they come back as a slightly different person. This is something facebook, instagram or snapchat simply cannot do for you. And not to mention the fact that it gives you a great opportunity to explore the world! Take that chance! You will not only make your friend/family very happy – it will also enrich YOUR life!

 

language barriers

In my last article, I gave you an overview about my arrival in Shanghai, my first impressions and challenges. Challenges. That’s exactly where I would like to dig a little bit deeper. As I mentioned before, the language barrier is one of the biggest challenges. I already faced that challenge during my time in Slovakia. There is one common behavior people show when they do not speak the same language. They start to speak very slow, very clear or/and very loud. What they do not realise is that they can speak as slow and clear and loud as they want, I will never understand them as long as I don’t learn their language. Ok, I admit that Romance languages have some similarities and there is a chance to communicate by speaking slow and clear and loud. But I’m talking about Slovak and Chinese. In this case, body language/pantomime is the key (or google translator, but hey, where is the fun in that?).

One example from two days ago. I wanted to unlock my bike (it actually belongs to my colleague). Suddenly, a Chinese man stand next to me and started talking to me. He choses the loud way to communicate. As I just explained, the volume did not change the fact that I was not able to understand him. He kept talking in Chinese. I kept talking in English. It was anything else but an efficient conversation. I had no idea what he wanted from me. Then he pointed at the bike. Then I pointed at the bike (no idea, why I did that). He started nodding his head and showed two fingers. Ah okay. A number. So that can only mean one thing. Money. I showed him my purse and he nodded again. I could feel that we were getting closer to an agreement. Then he went to his little security house and I followed him. By the way, he is the guy that opens the gate for the cars. What I did not know, he is also the guy who takes care of the bicycle park. I also did not know that it costs money to park my bike over there. Anyway, I paid him 20 RMB and our conversation was over. This is just one simple example between two people that do not speak a word of each other languages but still were able to communicate somehow.

Something I’ve already learned about the Chinese culture is that the louder they talk the more they appreciate you. Talking loud is considered as being polite. As a professional bus taker, I can tell you they appreciate each other a lot. Thinking back to my experience with the security guy, it was actually a very polite conversation.

There are two words I always try to learn right in the beginning:

THANK YOU
Slovak = Dakujem
Chinese = Xiè xiè

welcome to shanghai

60 days. Since 60 days I live in Shanghai. One of the biggest city in the world – and I have no doubt about that. In this blog post, I would like to share my very first impressions and experiences. I’ve never visited China before. During my time in San Diego, I’ve met some Chinese students, so I thought that I’m at least a little bit familiar with their culture. And come on, we are talking about Shanghai. One of the most western cities in China, so it won’t be that big of a deal, right? Oh boy, was I wrong. I remember getting out of the plane and fighting myself through the security checks at the airport. It felt like hours since I finally got through. People in uniforms standing everywhere looking at me with – how to put it in words – let’s say anything but a welcoming face. Great. Let’s just get out of here, and I did it. I passed the exit and saw the driver with my name on a sign. I was save. Until I got in the car. The drive to my apartment only took around 40 minutes. 40 minutes of pure astonishment while watching the traffic. Nobody cares about rules, thIMG_1403eir cars or even their lives. That’s at least the impression I got – and still have. Unfortunately, they also don’t care about my life, so here is my first advice: keep your eyes WIDE OPEN. Thankfully, I arrived at the apartment as a complete human being without any accidents.

After checking on the map where the hell I was, I had to acknowledge that I’m pretty far away from the downtown area. It takes me at least one hour by public transportation to get to the other side of the river where all the action is. If you have been to Shanghai before, you might already have guessed that I am located in Pudong. And not the part of Pudong with all the futuristic skyscraper you know from all those touristic photos. One good thing about my location is that I only need 20 minutes by walk to the office. If you can actually reach something in Shanghai by WALKING, it means that you are damn close. Thanks to my colleagues who met me on the next day to show me where the next supermarkets are, I made it through the first days.

I still remember how afraid I was to take the bus. I already found out that the bus driver don’t speak any English (or other language beside Chinese) and all the bus stops are written in Chinese. The next subway stations are 2-3 km away from my apartment, so there was no other option but taking the bus to get at least to the subway station or the supermarkets. After one week (and a lot of walking), a colleague showed me how to take the bus and it changed my life. Now, 61 days later, I consider myself as a professional Shanghai bus taker. Basically, all I had to do was buying the ‘Shanghai Public Transportation Card’ and get in that bus. With this card, I finally could say/scream/sing ‘Shanghai, here I come’. You need load some money on that beautiful little purple card and you can start exploring Shanghai. Public transportation is extremely cheap. Though I need at least 1-1.5 hours from my apartment to downtown, it only costs me 6 RMB (80-90 ct). Taking a taxi or Uber is also very common and cheap (though it might happen that a taxi driver kicks you out, but that’s a different story). I’ve used both and never paid over 7 EUR from downtown to my apartment (ca. 20-25 km). BUT, you need the address in Chinese. Taxi driver only speak Chinese. The challenge you might face with taking Uber is that the driver calls you and wants to know where you are. Usually, they also don’t speak English. So what I did was simply running to the next Chinese and pressed my phone against his ear. They will do the talking for you.

Yes, the language barrier is one of the biggest challenges but definitely not the only thing that drags me out of my comfort zone. More on that later.

 

IMG_1252
view from my room on a rainy day
Three words to the weather: humid  – hot – rainy.
Months not recommended to go to Shanghai:June – July – August.
Months I’m staying in Shanghai: June – July – August.

See where I’m going here? 🙂

Anyway: NEVER STOP EXPLORING!

about me

Hi! I’m Maria. A 27 year old German girl. Born and raised in Iserlohn. Moved to Hamburg in 2015. During my studies, I got the chance to live in Americas Finest City – San Diego in California. And once again, thanks to my job, I got another chance to travel and live in different countries and explore different cultures. Thinking about all my experiences and little adventures, I felt the need to somehow capture and share those memories so I created this blog. There are still tons of things I need to cross from my bucket list and I will take you with me. So here we go…

Never stop exploring!

 

I chose to write this blog in English, though it is not my mother tongue. But it is the language that reaches out to most of you. My apologies for possible mistakes.