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.
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!