Dangerous Business: Shanghai
Making the choice to move to Shanghai might have been the scariest thing I have ever done. It's only been a few days but I already feel five times better than I did on day one. Sometimes you just need to dive head first into something in order to get comfortable. If you tip toe around it for too long, you'll never get used to it.
After 20 total hours on a plane, I was ready to finally sleep horizontally with a blanket and a big comfy pillow. Getting used to the jet lag wasn't so bad the first day since it was so easy to fall asleep that night.
The first day, I headed to the supermarket at the local Carrefour. I was surprised by how many food items are the same! It is pretty easy to recognize the different brands that you would used to because it's the same logo, just with Chinese characters! While there are some foods that are ONLY labeled in in mandarin, there are enough that have English written below the characters that you can figure out what you are getting, stress free. It was still a bit overwhelming so I only got the basics: eggs, bread, butter, jam, orange juice, and yogurt. I was told by my doctor that when you move to China, you should get some of the local yogurt (but by a company you are familiar with i.e. Dannon or Yoplait) and eat one every morning so your body gets used to the local bacteria. Kind of like honey and allergies.
What was a little more difficult to get used was people taking pictures of us and how the layout made no sense. While grocery shopping, there were a couple people who would take pictures and videos of my friends and I. I get it. It was probably funny trying to watch us figure out what everything was, but it was different to see people not even try to be sneaky about it! The layout of the Carrefour was logical in the sense that home goods were on one side and the food was on the other. As for what food was located next to another food, that made no sense. Maybe after a few more trips, I will be able to remember what is where.
My first taxi experience in Shanghai was quite a pleasant one! They even took us into the gate and dropped us off right behind our apartment building. So the next one should be as seamless, right? WRONG. The taxi driver apparently did not know where our apartment was and randomly pulled over and told us to get out then drove away. We quickly found out that our apartments are so new that the address we have for them does not show up on maps yet. Luckily, help is just a phone call away. After talking to a friend, confusion over the difference between Jintao and Jinqiao, and 30 minutes of walking up and down the same street in Pudong, we found our way home. I learned where exactly I live on the map and how to read it appropriately! What a great lesson learned.
Then there was the metro. Having ridden the subway in NYC I assumed that it would be fairly easy for me to get acclimated to the metro here. I was right and wrong at the same time. There is this wonderful app that make it extremely easy to navigate the metro station. Once again, everything is written in both English and in Mandarin. The difficult part is the pushing and shoving. I literally could not get off at the right stop because all the people trying to get on the train were pushing into the people trying to get off the train, so maybe only two people got where they actually wanted to go. The lesson learned: always get as close to the door as possible a stop BEFORE you want to get off. Otherwise, there is no hope for you.
After a very long metro adventure, we were able to end the night on something delicious...and cheap! We stopped by a street vendor (it is literally a cart IN the street) to get some freshly made, frying in front of us dumplings. One plate (which had about 7-10 pieces on it) was 5 RMB. That equals out to $0.77 USD. The cheapest and most authentic meal I have eaten since I've been here. My advice: Do it. Try the street food.
In five days, I figured out the grocery store, taxi, walking around, the metro, and street food. Now, after an exhausting few days, it's time for some sleep before the next adventure tomorrow.
Just jump right in, trust yourself to swim.