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, their 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.
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!