If you’re going to move to Shanghai, let me tell you now that you’re going to need a lot more than just these tips. It’s really an adjustment and while it’s fun and exciting, it requires a sense of dedication; you’ve got to really want it for it to be worth the hardships. I’ve created a bit of a tip list for those of you who are either coming here next semester or visiting in the near future.
1. My first tip is crucial. I mean it. Stay in PuXi, not PuDong. The NYU campus is in PuDong and it’s really quite boring. It’s considered to be the “new” Shanghai and it definitely is but unfortunately it seems that China has really gone all the way with the phrase, “out with the old and in with the new”. PuDong is extremely sterile and lacks any sort of history, night life or really anything good for that matter.
2. Eat Chinese food. Living here as an expat it is easy to get Western food. There is something called “Sherpa” and they deliver almost everything from CPK to Pizza Express. It’s a mix of food, however it’s nothing authentic. I think experiencing a culture really means to go all out and why not try the weird street food, the delicacies and the cult favorites?
3. Don’t let being a foreigner get you down. It’s easy to feel out of place and frustrated, maybe not if you’re just visiting for a short period but definitely if you’ve got some time to spend here. You’ll notice on the subway that people will look at you and your suspicious are probably right, they’re most likely talking about you. This isn’t always a bad thing though, and that’s hard for a lot of people to understand. Many people are just curious about you and where you’re from.
4. If you know any Chinese, or if you’re learning it here, try to speak it! People appreciate even the smallest attempts at speaking Chinese, just as an English speaker would appreciate someone speaking English! In Shanghai, it’s easy to expect that people will speak to you in English but why not practice your skills? Also, people are less likely to overcharge you or rip you off if you speak Chinese. It’s not only a gesture of kindness but also puts you in control.
5. Bargain. If you’re coming here, even for one day, make sure to buy something where you can bargain! It’s such a fun and different part of Chinese culture that it is a must for any foreigner. Instead of in Europe or the States where you can ask for a discount and maybe the stand will give you a dollar off, here it’s an art, it’s apart of the process. The rule of thumb is to ask for 10% of what they originally offer. They will laugh and shrug you off but then you’ve got to take charge! Bargaining is hard but practice makes perfect!