The last week has been a crazy ride. I can’t believe that only three weeks ago I was still living in DC and that so many things have happened since then. And now I’m here: I made it to Shanghai.
I like to call it the never ending city. Whatever direction you look at, from whatever high up floor – you can never spot the horizon. At least not from where I have been so far. It’s just breath-taking, and beautiful in its very unique way.
Honestly, I came with very low expectations. I was not super excited to come to China, was afraid that I wouldn’t like the food or wouldn’t get the culture, was worried about not understanding a word, concerned about always standing out as a foreigner. I expected a tremendous culture shock.
I have been here for exactly one week now, which is obviously not enough time to know a lot about China. But what I can say so far is that it truly surprised me. I was very skeptical, to say the least, if I would even like China at all. I thought it was a great opportunity and I’m always up for a challenge and new experiences, but I actually really enjoy it so far!
Chinese bureaucracy has given us a hard time, that’s for sure. But nevertheless – even though only due to the great help of our hero Chinese friend who helped us out talking to officials and agencies for several full days – we managed to find a nice, affordable shared apartment, settled in, got the required police registration for foreigners over with, registered at school, and so many more little things that took great effort and strong nerves.
This might sound like it’s not a big deal, but trust me, it was. Let me remind you that we are fully illiterate here and barely anyone speaks a word of English. I don’t even remember how many documents I have signed in the last couple of days that were all in Chinese characters.
Now my biggest concern is the course selection. As we are the first students to take part in this new cooperation, there are still a lot of things that need to be figured out. Which courses will we have to take? Will they acknowledge any of the courses I did before? And will the courses be fully booked once I know or will I still be able to choose? Slightly nerve-racking… And one thing is for sure: The workload will be immense. But more on that later.
All the chaos, that will hopefully be solved, aside: It has been a pretty awesome week in Shanghai! It is still very warm (and humid 😦 ), which I, however, still prefer to the cold slowly taking over in Sweden. And finally I get why people are so crazy about authentic Chinese and Asian (in general) food: It is extremely yummy!! My life is evolving around food now, since as a foreigner you just don’t cook here and always need to make a conscious decision to get food. It’s eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you go for Asian and not Western food it is actually really cheap. And so far I don’t only not have cravings for any Western food, I prefer the Asian options, which surprised me. It just somehow makes more sense here. And there are so many different things to try! There are crazy many restaurants right around where I live – and anywhere in Shanghai really. I prefer to go to the places that don’t have English menus because they are usually way cheaper and the food is at least as good. It comes in handy that one of my roomies is a South Korean who studies to become a “Chinese for foreigners” language teacher. Which means that he can not only show us authentic Korean food (yum!), but also taught me the most important Chinese characters to read a menu – baby steps!
There are also shopping malls with food courts everywhere and it really wouldn’t be a problem to satisfy any Western food cravings at all, I think. Walking through any of these ginormous malls makes me feel like I’m in Disneyland, but I will also have to write a separat article on that at some point. Everything is colorful, there are so many really cool things you can buy, bands playing and again, so much yummy food!
The big culture shock might still hit me, but so far we’re good China, thank you for having me!