shanghai roundup – sharing your happiness

It’s over. My time in Shanghai came to an end. It has only been 4 days since I left China but it feels like months. Ok, maybe I can blame Bali for that. Right at this moment, I’m starring at the Indian ocean, next to me an exotic cocktail. Non-alcohol of course. So I guess it is more a smoothie than a cocktail. Whatever, I think you got my point.

Still, I would like to give something like a Shanghai roundup. I cannot believe it is already over. I still remember how excited I was when I heard about going to Shanghai. So how do I think about it now?

It’s not that simple to answer. Some of you might have heard about my challenges. It was tougher than I thought. I already mentioned that I lived quite far outside from the city center. Yes, that was a little bit annoying. On the other hand, it gave me the ‘real’ China experience. I never saw a foreigner, in that case Western people like me, in a public bus. Taxi drivers declined more than once to take me somewhere. I don’t know if it was because of the distance or if they simply did not know the address. Who knows?! So yes, it was a challenge. BUT, I was proud to have handled it that well. In the end, I always got where I wanted to go.

The biggest challenge of course was the cultural difference. I am someone who values good manners especially when it comes to eating. It is not a secret that there is a huge difference between the Western eating culture and the Chinese one. I knew about these differences. I knew, that smacking and slurping was common and especially
used to demonstrate the enjoyment of eating. Knowing something and experiencing something are two totally different things.

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…what I couldn’t eat

In addition to the smacking, there is the spitting. And I totally get it. While we (Western people) are spoiled with boneless tender chicken breast, the Chinese chop the whole damn chicken. And when I say whole chicken, I mean whole chicken. If you don’t want to grab into your mouth after every bite to get out every little piece of bone (or whatever else you don’t want to eat), then spitting is the only way to go. At least if you’re planning to finish your meal within the next hours.

I want to make clear that this is not a judgement. Every culture is different, which is great and I totally respect that. I just want to point out HOW different cultures can be and how easy it is to underestimate even the smallest things.

Another thing that fascinated me is the relationship between Chinese and their smartphones. It already annoyed me back in Germany. Friends sitting next to each other and every one is starring at their phone. Sure, I am not an angel and it happens to me too. But I also don’t like that behavior on me and I try to avoid it as much as possible. When I came to Shanghai I had to realize that Germany is NOTHING compared to that. People were watching TV shows on their smartphones. Not necessarily with their headphones on. And if they don’t watch TV shows, they were talking into their phones. Dictating messages to their friends. So when I will be back in Germany and see people playing around on their smartphone, I will simply smile and think back to my time in Shanghai.

 Of course, I also should mention the city itself, not only its culture. Restaurants over restaurants. Nothing you cannot find. Amazing skyscrapers. Lights. Everywhere are lights. Huge shopping malls. Luxury stores. Have I already mentioned restaurants. Crazy traffic. Scooters. People. People. People.

I know that this post probably sounds more negative than I want it to be. It is a different culture and that’s what I want to make clear. At least, that’s what I realized for myself. I definitely learned a lot during the past three months. Not only about my patience, but also ‘to share my happiness’. Every time, a colleague got married, became a parent or simply came back from vacation, he or she brought presents for the others. I got a present from someone who became a father and from someone who got married. I have never met these colleagues. I still don’t know them. But they wanted to share their happiness with everyone. That’s the tradition. I couldn’t help myself but to compare it with Germany. Sure, it is not necessary to bring EVERYONE a present. But wouldn’t it be nice to change our general mindset a little bit? Just imagine, you’re on Facebook and you’re looking at beautiful pictures from your ‘friends’ who are obviously enjoying their life right now. I am pretty sure that your first thought was not ‘oh, how nice. They want to share their happiness with me (and probably a thousand other Facebook users)’. It is more likely that you had negative associations with these photos. Maybe you were even blaming them of making you jealous. I had these thoughts too a couple of times. And I didn’t like it. Who knows, maybe all they wanted to do is sharing their happiness. Ok, let’s assume it was not their intention to share their happiness. Maybe they were not even happy at all. I know I will be. Simply because I like the idea of ‘sharing your happiness’. It takes away my negative thoughts and give me some free capacity for being happy 🙂

…Ok, ok. I admit this is easy said while starring at the Indian ocean with a non-alcoholic-cocktail-like-smoothie on the side…more about that later!

the magic of disneyland

On 16th June 2016, the first Disney park in mainland China opened its doors to the world. With 4.9 billion EUR it’s one of China’s biggest foreign investments. Of course, Disney hopes to attract lots of people – already 330 million people are living in the area around the park. The price of 499 RMB (68 EUR) for one ticket did not shock me. I mean we are talking about Disneyland. But considering that the average monthly income in China is around 250 EUR, it is quite a high price. Still, I can assure you that lots of people found their way to the park. I saw it with my own eyes…

2nd of August, 2016. A date I was very much looking forward to. As an old Disney maniac, I was going to the newly opened Disney Resort in Shanghai. Every day I checked the weather hoping for a magical cool down. Heads-up, there was no magic. The weather stayed hot and humid. But that shouldn’t keep me from conquering Shanghai’s Disneyland! Together with two German colleagues and their daughter, I entered the world of Disney. The first thing we did was buying some traditional Minnie Mouse ears – for 95 RMB (13 EUR). I’m pretty sure Disney almost make no money with these. Ok, maybe a little bit. But come on, they are REAL Minnie Mouse ears! Oh, I can smell your jealousy from here 🙂 Right after entering the park, you can see the beautiful castle. This one is really really magical. Especially for the little princess in us!

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Thanks to the weather and millions of other guests, we only made it to four attractions. Ok, let’s say two ‘real’ attractions and two little ones’, like the ‘Honey Pot Spin’ and the ‘Fantasy Carousel’. Better than nothing. The waiting time for the most famous attractions always was around 130-180 minutes. No, thank you! So we walked around the whole park and I probably sweat out 10 liters. I felt so sorry for all the artists who had to walk around in their costumes all day. No idea how they survive that. Probably with some Disney magic.

Within the park you can find different themes like Fantasyland, Adventure Isle, Mickey Avenue, Treasure Cove and Tomorrowland. While walking through these theme parks, you can really feel and enjoy the Disney spirit. My favorite ride was in the Tomorrowland park – the roller coaster ‘TRON’. The official waiting time for that one was 90 minutes. But thank god, this ride also offered the ‘single rider’ lane. So we chose that one and passed hundreds of people waiting for their turn. The number of people in front of us? One! Minutes we waited for our ride? Five. Of course, we did it two times in a row. I don’t know if the Chinese were not aware of the ‘single rider concept’, if they simply like to wait for hours in a queue or if they are afraid of the word ‘single’. Probably everything.

It wouldn’t be Disneyland if the food would not be served in form of Mickey Mouse. In our case, we had a Mickey Mouse Pizza. I also found some cute Mickey Mouse muffins that I’d really like to copy as soon as I live again in a place with a well-equipped kitchen. Hopefully in a few weeks.

Another thing, you cannot miss while visiting Disneyland is the parade in the afternoon. Amazing costumes, songs you simply have to sing along, crazy wagons, one Disney character after another, etc.

As this was not the first time I’ve been to Disneyland, I could not help myself but to compare it to the one in California. Sorry Shanghai, but you cannot keep up with that one. Maybe it was the crazy amount of people or the hot weather. I don’t know. Or maybe it’s simply because Walt Disney was born in America. Who knows?

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Anyway, I’m glad to have made that experience and I do not regret it. Disney will always be a part of me 🙂 Hakuna matata!

Talking about my trip to Disneyland, I start to ask myself why I am so fascinated with the whole Disney thing. Of course, most of the movies represent the concept of true love and though that is a nice thing to believe in, it is not what keeps me a ‘Disney girl’. Maybe it was 20 years ago, but not anymore. I think what really catches me is the idea of living in a totally different world. A world full of adventures, speaking animals, friendship, and yes okay, true love. A world only your imagination can take you. I am 27 years old and I still need this world. A place to escape from reality. Especially from our world today. Even if it’s only for 90 minutes or a few hours in Disneyland. Not to mention the feeling to watch a Disney movie with one of your best friends 🙂 It connects people!