Wow, it’s been a long 3 days! Hard to believe so little time has passed since we landed. My worries about flying in with a keyboard and various bits of fragile music equipment were largely unfounded, and furthermore I sailed through customs without a second glance. Some online forums had suggested I would have to pay tax on large electronic items on entering China, and having already paid tax when I bought them originally in the UK, I’m relieved I avoided this expensive double whammy. Other colleagues arriving from the UK were less lucky with their luggage, with several bags going missing in Russia from a connecting flight. I’m glad we chose to fly with Virgin directly from Heathrow for this very reason and would recommend this as a safer bet for anyone thinking of travelling here wth expensive items. There have been lots of highlights so far, but the Korean barbecue last night was one in particular, where you grill your own food at your table (see attached image).
Early observations and myth busters about Shanghai so far (*please bear in mind I am no expert after 3 days!*): –
1) It is very Western looking, but most signs and labels in the shops are entirely in Chinese.
2) Most people don’t speak English…..at all.
3) There aren’t many Westerners in our ‘expat area’
4) There is nonetheless a possible expat bubble emerging, and this is something I’d like to try to partially avoid if possible. Many of the expats get by speaking close to no Chinese, even after several years. I hope to at learn at least some basics.
5) Crossing the road feels a bit suicidal. They are wide, busy and with lots of lanes. Traffic lights are optional and zebra crossings ignored. Jay walking works. Cars tend to stop more than mopeds. Time your crossing carefully. Expect to be beeped at
6) Western food is expensive. I refuse to pay 5 pounds for a tub of butter, 7 pounds for a large cheese or 8 pounds for some instant Nescafe (ground coffee seems non-existant). I would much rather adapt. So far, we’re eating Chinese, and I’m loving it (oh, and Korean!). Fortunately eating out is also cheaper than cooking a Western pasta dish. It would obviously be good if we could learn how to cook properly with cheap Chinese ingredients too
7) The medical centre was efficient and relatively modern. I wasn’t impressed by the sight of someone else’s blood stain on the arm of my seat when I had my sample taken though.
8) Some people told us that it’s easier being a white foreigner here than black, and early indications are that this unfortunately may be true, although I’ll report back when I know more. The one black person in our queue through customs, a well dressed business man with an inoffensive looking small hand luggage, was abruptly pulled aside for a search, in contrast to everyone else, including me with my giant metal keyboard case.
9) In certain situations it’s clear that Chinese people don’t have the same concept of manners as we Brits do (queuing / spitting etc.), but that aside, most have been incredibly friendly so far, especially in shops and supermarkets, where they have been unbelievably attentive. So far, apart from on the roads, we feel safe here, touch wood.
10) You can still access the internet in full – VPNs work well, but ExpressVPN works far better than the free ones so far.