Days before leaving for Shanghai, China, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that I was going there to get my certificate to teach English as a foreign language abroad. That’s it. Everyone I talked to about Shanghai gave me their own take on how it would be. “You shouldn’t have a problem, Shanghai is very westernized”. “Don’t worry, it’s an international city, many people speak english”. These were the most popular ‘notions’ about Shanghai.
I have been in Shanghai for 3 days and I will say that everything that has happened to me has been an adventure. Everywhere I walk people stare at me because I am not Chinese; some even point at me and say things while laughing. If I find someone who speaks English, it is usually so broken that I can’t understand it anyway. I try to eat at places that have pictures on the menu, but if I can’t find one, I just point at anything on the menu and eat it – I’ve had hits and misses (hits include bullfrog, intestines, and quail eggs, so far). The only phrases I know in Mandarin are ‘bu yow’ (I don’t want that) and ‘pee jo’ (beer). I figure that should carry me for my 4 weeks here. When I am not in class, where English is spoken, I have gotten used to going many hours straight of not speaking at all (because no one understands me).
All of this unknown and adventure has led to an amazing experience so far. In fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Although, Shanghai is an international city with whole areas of huge western influence, most of the city is completely foreign from anything American. The incredible mix of traditional and modern chinese architecture and buildings straight out of the Jetsons cartoon show makes Shanghai such an amazing city – especially at night when much of the city is lit up. I look forward to sharing more experiences about Shanghai and about English classes that I will be teaching to Chinese students. Wish me luck. Between the street vendors grabbing me into their shops and the thousands of cars and scooters all driving like maniacs, I will need it.