‘We do what we must, because we can.’ -Portal 2
Assimilation into Chinese society has been expectedly challenging, interesting, and exhausting for me this first week. While some things have gone smoothly, I have found that the language barrier has produced some problems as well. I look forward to learning more Mandarin so that I’ll be able to navigate a plethora of situations in the future. Because so much has happened this past week and a half, I’ll break down my experience into a few categories.
Firstly, THE HEAT:
The thing that caught me most off guard was how hot Shanghai is. Staying in San Francisco for a week in 60 degree weather was a huge jump to the 100-106 degree days I experienced the first week in Shanghai. The humid heat drenched our arrival group as we clumsily navigated our way through the city’s metro system, and I must’ve lost 5 pounds in water weight alone. Per some of my coworkers, this past week has been the hottest week in Shanghai in something like 80 years. Talk about bad timing! Fortunately, the underground metro and EF headquarters were air conditioned and water is 2-3 RMB (About 30 cents), so I was able to find relief eventually. Without the heat, I feel that Shanghai wouldn’t feel like another world, the way it has so far.
The first week of my life in China began with orientation with my company, English First (henceforth known as EF). EF helped our arrival group of around 30 new teachers with some basics about living in China, working for EF, and teaching English to Chinese learners. The orientation was helpful to me as far as familiarizing myself with my new employer, but I get the sense that my main support will be coming from the people who arrived with me, as we’ll be going through the same struggle together.
July 19th Arrival Group:
On our first day of orientation, our orientation manager told us that our arrival group would become like a family to us. A diverse group of people from a myriad of professional backgrounds, cultures, and personality types all mashed together, left to experience our time in China as we see fit. And I can see this happening already. We’ve gotten lost together, ate together, drank together, and we’re all entering completely new territory, with only EF and each other to lean on. There’s no doubt that I’d be able to complete this journey on my own, but having a group to support me feels less lonely and more fun.
Apartment hunting is a bitch, regardless of where you’re living. Shanghai is no exception, but with the added obstacles of a weird tax break system called a fapiao, and the fact that many landlords don’t speak a drop of English, meaning that we have to rely heavily on real estate agents as both an agent and a translator. This can make negotiations favor the leaser, and is something you should keep in mind if you ever find yourself apartment hunting in China. Also, China negotiates harder than America, so you should be prepared to stand your ground on price and what you’re looking for. I finally found a place after much tribulation, but have yet to move in to my new place as of writing this. I’ll be living near the line I take to work, but also near city center, so I should be able to experience a lot of Shanghai with such a prime location. The living standard is slightly lower than what you would normally see in the States, but rent is much cheaper. Being a relatively low-maintenance guy, I was able to find what I needed with relative ease, but to adhere to a higher standard of living means having to pay a bit more to get it. Here are a couple of shots of my new home for the next year:
Finally, the FOOD:
Has been decent. The first night I had a bowl of very questionable noodles, but everything since has been fine, and even good! I’ve been staying away from American chain food like Burger King and McDonald’s, and have had something different everyday I’ve been here this week. But that’s not to say I’ve eaten anything completely new yet. Most of these foods remind me more of childhood and Chinatown fare from back home. But everything is so cheap! You can fill your belly with good food for anywhere from 15-30RMB ($2-3) on average. I’m excited to try a lot more local food, especially things that are unique to Shanghainese cuisine!
My first week in Shanghai has been full of challenges, excitement, and stress. I’m at a point where I just really want to get started at my center, get settled in my apartment, and wait for the reality of my time here to start to sink in. The sooner I get settled with everything, the sooner I’ll be able to focus on how I really want to spend my year here, but this coming week will probably be finishing the beginning phase of this journey up.
Before I go, check the pics below for some of what I’m seeing in Shanghai. Have a great week!