While we were technically expatriated to England and the US, we didn’t really feel like ‘foreigners’ in our host countries. Here in China we just can’t blend in as easily due to the language, physical and cultural differences.
It is the same for most ‘expats’ and as a consequence the expat community tends to congregate (and find some kind of ‘refuge’ and home-comfort) – sooner or later for shorter or longer periods – in western-style cafes, bars, restaurants, super-markets, at the school gate and on-line.
Shanghai is a BIG city but what sets it apart from other big cities is the mix of very old and very new (the haves and the have nots ………at least in material terms) right next to each-other. Here is an example from a lane which we walk through each morning on our way to school:
Here an enormous 2-storey mansion with garden behind gates and wall and then just 20 meters away from this… a 2×4 meter home (below) situated next to the rubbish bins.
The speed of change is also remarkable…. Below are some scenes from a street fabric market that will no doubt disappear shortly …..
Expatriation has it’s share of ups and downs….here is an EXtract of my EXperiences:
EXploring: one’s curiosity can only be whet by the smell, sounds, sights, tastes of a new country…..
EXpressing: there’s a certain freedom in what you do, say, wear….after all anything ‘weird’ that you do/say/wear…. will be explained by you being an alien (foreigner)
EXpanding: one gets to meet people from not only China but from all over the world, many of whom have branched out and turn their hobbies into businesses. There are many examples but I really like the business ‘FINCH’ which recycles plastic into fancy raincoats suitable for using on bicycles. I recently met the owner who said that she is now branching out into swimwear!
EXciting: Especially in such a huge metropolis that is Shanghai, there is no chance of getting bored.
EXpectations: …can be high, especially in the workplace and in International and Chinese schools where children are expected to be fluent in several languages and to do many hours of home-work (our kids are happy not to be in this situation)
EXasperating: differences in culture are great…….but can be very frustrating at times.
EXiting: people come and go at regular intervals….. 3 of Blanche’s classmates have left the country in the last 3 months……..
There are surely many more things to comment on but I’ve run out of ‘EX’s’!
‘Shanghighs‘: Our friend Jerome generously extended his Chinese business trip and paid us a visit. It was a pleasure to see him again (the last time we saw him and his wife Christelle was in Santa Barbara). Here he is enjoying a yogurt (yes yogurt is a drink here!)
‘Shanglows‘: We are going down…….to the 3rd floor 😦 To keep things as simple as possible, we have reluctantly ‘agreed’ to move from our current apartment (20th floor) to the 3rd floor rather than start house-hunting all over again. See my last post for an explanation for moving!
‘Shangunusuals‘: Jerome was seriously over-charged by a taxi driver – which was the first time I’d heard of this type of crime in Shanghai until I read this in the latest ‘CityWeekend’ magazine; “Last month 400 Shanghai taxi drivers were nabbed in a sting for overcharging foreign passengers”. Just for information, the flag fee for a taxi in Shanghai is 14rmb ($2.00), the driver may or may not smoke and/or spit, he/she will most certainly have a flask of green tea sitting next to him/her and as long as you can name the cross-road closest to your destination (and it’s not raining) he/she will get you there quickly (whilst narrowly missing pedestrians along the way).