Friday, July 28, 2006

Reflections After One Year in Shanghai

I've been in China for more than a year now, unbelievable! It hardly makes me an expert opinion but I'll use it as an excuse to ramble on some about some observations:

- Chinese is difficult. I work on my lingo skills very hard and I thought after a year I would pretty much be talking it fluent. Instead my level is casual conversation, and I couldn't dream of understanding the newspaper.

- Food is boring. I eat out every single meal, the bland food has gotten so tiresome. When you do get a good meal it's a matter of luck - go to the same restaurant and order the same dish the next week, and it'll taste half different. It's not a question of meeting American tastes, I flat out think the Chinese food in Oakland's Chinatown was better. With the caveat that I would miss all the street foods and snacks.

I should mention that unless I'm meeting friends I eat entirely meals that sell for a dollar or less, or fast food when I'm jonesing for something non-Chinese. May sound stupid, but the more expensive restaurants aren't any better to my mind. Oh, and the non-Chinese style food in Shanghai is terrible and wildly over-priced, although sometimes I eat at this one Thai place that is OK.

- People are pretty chill. I don't think I've chatted with anybody who I didn't think was at least pleasant. I would definitely say that some of the people I've met are really cool and very friendly and a lot of fun to kick it with. On the other hand, meeting new people is difficult, the language barrier is no small part of that. And people here are unlikely to have a wide range of experiences and interests.

- Shanghai's night life is sorry. Despite Shanghai's reputation as a crazy decadent city, there is a serious lack of luxury money being spent. The music scene is incredibly small, for instance, and the best bands would be lucky to open a show in the US. The bars are very boring and entirely oriented towards foreigners - nothing wrong with foreigners obviously, but a larger range would be fun.

- The streets are something druggish. I don't get it. I realize on an intellectual level that they're busy, but in reality I just slough my way through without noticing. All the same I can't imagine going back to the empty sidewalks of the US. All the hustle and activity excites my dopamine receptors on some subliminal level.

- Shanghai is either a lie or a desperate gamble.
How can a city that is a majority wildly poor and doesn't seem to have a strong capitalist streak or a particular economic reason to exist also seem to work so smoothly, to be growing so quickly, and to have areas that are so obviously impressive? I'm not qualified to do more than observe and wonder.


Oaktown Crack said...

"Shanghai is either a lie or a desperate gamble"

You really wanna know how far the rabbit hole goes?

Jeff Rutsch said...

I looked down the rabbit hole...and it was looking right back at me!