So I’ve been in Shanghai for about two weeks now, with the first week sort of a ghost town since it was a week long holiday for most people. I hadn’t planned to stay the second week but it was good to see the city in full swing. This is definitely a modern city hellbent on getting ahead in the rat race. Shanghai is like a big beehive, full of people constantly producing more stuff and going somewhere in a buzzing cacophony of activity. Cars honk like they’re breathing, and ceasing that honking would kill them. No one has the right of way ever and everyone acts as if you are in their way constantly. This gets amusing when multiple people assuming they have the right of way block each other, you can see the visible annoyance and anger.
Some things I just had to get used to and stand out a little bit. I noticed that I always seemed to be less cold than people in public places. I overheard multiple comments about how in a room full of people in sweaters, I was often in just a t-shirt. I also had a bit of a problem because I speak enough Mandarin that people I dealt with often gave me the confused or dirty looks when I didn’t know how to read. This was extra noticeable as service in the city is already lacking at best.
I do appreciate some of the things the city did quite well. There seem like there are fruit shops on every block. I wish buying fruit was this accessible everywhere. The subway system is pretty easy to use and like the street signs, everything is labeled and announced in both English and Chinese. I’m not sure why they couldn’t hire someone with a better accent though. Shanghai reminded me of LA in the sense that everything has a district. Want some lightbulbs? Or some incense? There’s a district for that. Not as great as the piñata district, but maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough. It also reminded me of home because a lot of Shanghai’s cultural strength (particularly the food) is drawn from assimilating other cultures around it and making it their own.
I’m really glad I spent the extra week in Shanghai. I had time to look around a few of their art galleries and although I found their MOCA disappointing, I found some cool stuff in the M50 gallery complex. I enjoyed seeing the old man practicing Tai Chi with a huge historical sword in a random park. It let me see that it’s a big, modern city full of people just trying to live their lives. I don’t think I want to live there but it’s certainly a livable place.