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Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Post your trip reports, travel experiences, and updates abroad. Or your expat story if you already live overseas. Note: To post photos and images, insert the image URL between the tags [img]and[/img] after uploading them to a third party site.

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Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Postby drealm » Wed Mar 25, 2015 9:11 am

After I got back from Queretaro Mexico some unusual scheduling occurred and I needed to fly to Shanghai the next day for work. I stayed in Shanghai a total of seven days. This was my second time in Shanghai and I have new thoughts.

My first thought is that Chinas’s moral code is dictated by speed. If something is fast, it’s good. If something is slow it’s evil. Whatever you end up with doesn’t matter, all that matters is how quickly you got there. Americans intuitively sense this when buying made in China junk. They chalk this up to a byproduct of greed. But my deeper realization is that speed isn’t just a short cut to make money, it’s actually a virtue in itself. Chinese worship speed even when there is no obvious benefit or many harmful side effects.

For example Chinese love eating fish filled with bones, grit and other questionable artifacts as long as it’s cooked in world record time. The concept of waiting for fish to be filleted in an edible fashion where you won’t choke to death is frowned on. At first this obsession with speed feels refreshing coming from America, where things are neither fast nor reliable. But in the long run this short cut mentality starts to wear you down. You start expecting things not to work or you expect things to break quickly and inevitably. When I walked into my hotel room the first day I was impressed because it’s a luxury hotel, but I realized this is only a quickly manicured facade. The windows don’t open or close well without having to slam them one way or another. The lights blow a fuse if you flick them too much. And shower pressure is random every day.

Architecturally speaking this creates a society with no cohesive look. The idea of building places in a synchronized fashion that integrate into a greater whole is an impossibility here. For starters Chinese cannot even master building a beautiful side walk. When you look at the ground it’s a pathetic mish mash of several different ugly concrete tiles quickly shoved together. This is a microcosm for why Shanghai will never be a world class city. Shanghai is only capable of being is big and flashy. Shanghai will never have a distinctive home grown theme that it can call it’s own. I’m left with an image of large glittery piece of trashy.

I had a funny exchange with my Chinese colleague that shows even communication is brute speed with no pleasant nuances. I asked him how do you say “no thank you” in Chinese. He took this as an insult. His gag reflex was to say “there is no such a thing!” then he continued… “there is thank you and there is no… you say one or the other”.

Do I still prefer China to America? I think so. But it’s certainly far down on my list. Last time I came here I was on the fence about whether Mexico or China is better. I now clearly see Mexico is better. China is a high stress society with no redeeming virtues except the ability to get things done fast. This is an incredibly pushy society. Honking from cars is so excessive that in high end gated communities there are signs telling drivers not to honk their horns to train people to be more civilized. Shoving people out of your way is considered noble. Yelling in public places is customary. Dodging scooters that will gladly run you over is a daily hazard.

Since it’s a sin in the Chinese psyche to cook anything using an oven or other elaborate preparation, the majority of dishes you end up eating are some vegetable. I felt wanting for more protein here and was bored quickly. It would almost be fair to call Chinese vegetarians if it wasn’t for the occasional lump of flesh you see thrown in. Chinese don’t eat fruit at all. They consider it too sugary and I think don’t like the soft textures. China’s dairy products such as milk and cheese are probably the worst in the world. When you buy a Starbucks café mocha here it tastes strange.

People here have new money, which is the worst kind of money. It means they’re insecure about looking poor but have enough to look stupid. Clothing brands that are fairly normal in the US will be outrageous status symbols here that people show off. The malls are extremely gaudy, they’re like Las Vegas on steroids. The whole shopping district around the bund is tailored completely to women and leaves men bored. They are purely for shopping and don’t have any socializing or seating areas like in Mexico. In comparison to Mexico, most clothing shops are mom and pop stores on the corner. If a young Mexican girl wants to buy new clothing she’s more likely to go to a place down the block then some big fancy department store. In Mexico there aren’t big brands that dominate whole blocks. Nor are people as brand sensitive. The shopping malls in Mexico are less of a shopping experience and more of a hang out spot to chat or bring the family. Most big brand stores in Mexico probably lose money.

Shanghai women don’t have any fashion sense. They either dress like tomboys or try really hard to wear western stuff. There’s no sense of presentation here. I would go so far as to say Chinese don’t have a concept of a mirror to imagine an external image of themselves. Mexican women by contrast aren’t the best dressers in the world either, but they’re more sensitive of how men look at them and as a result doll themselves up more. Mexican women also don’t feel a need to look “western” like Chinese women, so they look more comfortable in their own fashion.

Towards the end of my trip my boss hired a young Chinese female translator to show me around town. This was an up close experience with a Chinese woman. This young lady spoke fluent English and had lived in Australia for a short time. Dealing with her was like dealing with a more pleasant non bitchy American. I didn’t sense any accent and she was very cosmopolitan. She usually works in booths at trade shows to interface between Europeans and Chinese. She’s a perfect example of what every Chinese girl wants to become and what will happen to every Chinese woman who’s brought back to the states. Her female companionship was nice but I wasn’t attracted to her personality, it still felt very American.

She didn’t act very deferential. When we were walking places she would try to lead by walking in a very assertive way instead of following me. This bothered me. In a relationship she would probably want to be an “equal”. The difference between a less westernized Chinese girl and a more westernized one is just exposure multiplied by time. All Chinese women lack immunity against being impregnated by a foreign influences since China has zero authentic internal culture intact. Given the choice all Chinese women would rapidly Americanize.

For me China doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because I don’t care about how fast things are done. I like things to be done right the first time. I see value in waiting longer for things to be done well. In China I’ll be aggravated every day by short cut induced problems. Presentation is also important to me and China is too practical to care about how things look. If I was serious about giving Asia another try I would go to Japan.
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Re: Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Postby xiongmao » Wed Mar 25, 2015 10:02 pm

Nice report. I didn't really like Shanghai much, not after visiting the cultural chaotic melting pot that is Guangzhou. It wasn't just me, my Cantonese gf felt out of place in Shanghai - we were both foreigners there.

I'm enjoying Barcelona, the slower pace of life is something I need more of at my age. Shanghai had a European feel. But here's the real thing - with witty, spontaneous art on every street corner, shop windows that look like art galleries and of course unbelievable food. It costs around the same to live here as it would in Shanghai.

Most shops close here on Sundays, including all shopping malls. Can you imagine that in China?

The food here is the best in the world by some considerable distance. Sometimes food takes a while to arrive, but when it does, it is exceptional. There is even a ham museum here. Olives, ham, cheese, wine - big flavours are what people like here.

And yes, Japan is great. The only problem there is that it can be hard to fit in.

Oh well, keep travelling!
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Re: Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Postby Ghost » Thu Mar 26, 2015 1:27 am

I haven't been to Shangahi (only the airport), but it's not where to go if you want to discover the real China. I still think you'd benefit a lot from exploring it more thoroughly. Though telling you where to start would be virtually impossible. And if you tried, you could probably skip dating. For example, if you could find parents who want to marry their daughter to a man, they might ask you about your job, your house, a car, etc. And then you could find a bride without having to date. Would be difficult as an outsider, but possible. I think you would like that more than dating.
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Re: Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Postby Cornfed » Thu Mar 26, 2015 5:27 am

Ghost wrote:I haven't been to Shangahi (only the airport), but it's not where to go if you want to discover the real China.

Yeah, the thing about Shanghai is that it is really an international city. I thought it was good that they mostly spoke English, the cops were mostly polite to whiteys and they seemed proud to be the entry point of Anglo culture (the non-fucked up side of it) into China. But hardly a place to gauge typical Chinese culture by.
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Re: Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Postby momopi » Sun Mar 29, 2015 6:40 am

...if drealm went to Japan, is he going to comment that the Japanese don't like to cook at all so they just slap raw fish on top of rice? ;)

Last I checked, Peking duck is cooked in an oven, China's fruit consumption is 88 lbs per capita, and Chinese do not dislike texture of mangos and lychee. Well known shanghai regional dishes like lion's head is basically a big meat ball.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion's_head_(food)

http://travel.cnn.com/shanghai/eat/40-shanghai-foods-we-just-cant-live-without-964251


P.s. foodies prefer meat on the bone, fish collar (kama), pork cheek meat, etc. When whole fish is served, go after the meat around the neck area of the fish.

Jester -- have you tried Carrillada?
http://spanishsabores.com/2012/06/12/recipe-carrillada-braised-iberian-pork-cheek-with-port-wine-and-honey/
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Re: Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Postby Bao3niang » Sun Mar 29, 2015 8:56 pm

I have been to Shanghai and it is far from my ideal place. Shanghai isn't different in vibe to Western cities.
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Re: Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Postby drealm » Sun Mar 29, 2015 9:14 pm

Bao3niang wrote:I have been to Shanghai and it is far from my ideal place. Shanghai isn't different in vibe to Western cities.


Yes, it feels like America. If you were blind folded and put in a random bar or restaurant you'll wake up to American music and Americans and American stores.
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Re: Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Postby Cornfed » Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:41 am

One thing I liked about Shanghai was the remnants of the old International Compound, with the impressive colonial brick buildings and the walled compounds with broken bottles set in mortar on the tops of the walls, and this within a short distance of modern skyscrapers. So cool.
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Re: Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Postby Jester » Mon Mar 30, 2015 3:59 pm

momopi wrote:...if drealm went to Japan, is he going to comment that the Japanese don't like to cook at all so they just slap raw fish on top of rice? ;)

Last I checked, Peking duck is cooked in an oven, China's fruit consumption is 88 lbs per capita, and Chinese do not dislike texture of mangos and lychee. Well known shanghai regional dishes like lion's head is basically a big meat ball.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion's_head_(food)

http://travel.cnn.com/shanghai/eat/40-shanghai-foods-we-just-cant-live-without-964251


P.s. foodies prefer meat on the bone, fish collar (kama), pork cheek meat, etc. When whole fish is served, go after the meat around the neck area of the fish.

Jester -- have you tried Carrillada?
http://spanishsabores.com/2012/06/12/recipe-carrillada-braised-iberian-pork-cheek-with-port-wine-and-honey/


You guys have got me started thinking about Spain.
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Re: Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Postby Jester » Mon Mar 30, 2015 4:04 pm

Cornfed wrote:
One thing I liked about Shanghai was the remnants of the old International Compound, with the impressive colonial brick buildings and the walled compounds with broken bottles set in mortar on the tops of the walls, and this within a short distance of modern skyscrapers. So cool.



Interesting.

My only exposure to pre war Shanghai was the opening sequence of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom".

But anyway I too salivate over old historical structures, where you can see the skill of workmen, and feel the visionaries who caused them to be built. I loved Hoover Dam for this reason. And I would like to see Malta, and Krak du Chevaliers.
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Re: Shanghai China Trip Report 3.17.15

Postby Jester » Mon Mar 30, 2015 4:05 pm

Thanks to Drealm and all commenters here for a high-quality thread.
"Pick a point and go to it."
-- Dr John Hunsucker, speaking about canoeing on Georgia's Lake Lanier, with its irregular shape, and 1000 miles of meandering shoreline
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