Some days, I forget that I’m living in a foreign country where I don’t know the language and I don’t know the city.
Some days, I feel like I’ve been smacked in the face with China telling me “YOU ARE A FOREIGNER. WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE”
And most of the days, I somehow get by, pretending I know where things are, miming my way through the city.
It’s been a month since I left everything I know, travel thousands of miles, and set up my life in Shanghai. I’ve somewhat settled into my new apartment and I’ve somewhat settled into my new job. I’ve started setting up habits, looking at my old and bringing in new ones with my new surroundings.
I started working at my new company the 2nd day I was in Shanghai. It’s a great company, a great culture, a great office, and a great role. But the first week was rough due to jet lag. A lot of meetings, and I was just trying to hold my eyes open to get through the day. Thankfully, I got through jet lag fairly quick and was able to spend more time learning about my new company and how I fit in. I’ve jumped industries in the work I do with the move, but I still have the same role (although almost every company does the role slightly different). I’ve got a great team who have all been with the company for 4+ years, so they’ve been really helpful when I have to ask what feel likes dumb questions (“Where do I find this documentation? What should happen when I click this?”). I’m hoping to keep picking things up quickly, so I can move from the ‘learning everything’ phase and transform into the ‘doing’ phase. My Gallups strength finder #1 strength is “Achiever” if it wasn’t obvious.
It’s been a little difficult meeting folks and building a friend group. I’m lucky to have strong connections home as well as have Boyfriend in real life here. I’ve been going to different meet-up events and inviting people to go out for dinner or drinks. I even somewhat formed a lunch group @ work to eat lunch in the canteen. Almost all of the laowais (chinese for foreigners) go out for lunch, and the chinese folks mostly go out, order from meiutan(will get to it in a second), and a few bring their own food. My entire team usually goes out (and some…dont eat lunch? I havent seen a few people ever eat), so I made friends with some laowais on a different team who did bring their lunch to work. I dont have anything against going out for lunch, but I just love cooking and would miss it if I always went out. I’ve gone out with Boyfriend’s coworkers a couple times and that was fun. Friday will be my first time out with a few of my coworkers and am looking forward to it.
Speaking of which, eating out is fairly cheap in Shanghai. No, its not dirt cheap, but it is pretty comparable to buying food and making it yourself (hence why a lot of people go out to eat). Boyfriend and I spent my first few weeks here trying out new restaurants for dinner. Now, we’re back to light dinners at home with the occasional meal out.
I haven’t learnt Chinese besides how to say ‘this one’, ‘pork bao’, ‘thank you’, and ‘hello’. The only word I’ve really learned is ‘this one’ since i knew the other words before coming to Shanghai. And somehow, this is all that I’ve needed so far to get by. Boyfriend and I live on the 3rd floor of a 3 floor walk-up lane house, where the 1st and 2nd floors belong to 2 different old chinese couple who I say hello to everyday. I say thank you to the ayis who work in my office (the literal translation is “aunty”, but they’re essentially these older women who clean-up. they’re apparently really cheap in Shanghai and many laowais have ayis come to clean their place on a weekly or monthly basis). When I’m in a rush and know I’ll miss the free breakfast provided by my office (and did I mention they also offer free workout classes and have showers onsite?), I’ll get a pork bao from the local street vendor. And when I’m at a restaurant and want a particular item, I point and say i want this one (and point up my fingers of how many I want).
I’m proud of myself in that I’ve mastered some of the ‘chinese only’ apps (i.e. the entire app is in chinese). I’ve got meituan (the app to order delivery from almost any resturant), taobao (the better version of amazon for china), and my chinese bank mobile app (b/c its nice to see how much money I have without having to go to an ATM). I next want to master ela..something, as this is another version of meituan that has some other restaurants on them.
Shanghai has a plethora of bike sharing apps and bikes all across the city. I’ve had to deposit an amount of money and then have to ‘pay’ every time I use a bike. But to date, I haven’t had to pay when I use the bike. Not sure what the logic is to get charged, but I am not going to dive into it any more
My apartment is great. It’s a small studio loft in a little courtyard right off a big street, meaning I live close to a lot of restaurants but I don’t have any of the sounds. There are some interesting things to it (such as the 0.5 – 0.75 inch gap between the floor and the sliding door) which we’ve tried to fix. That gap thing was the bane of my existence for a bit and all I could think about was how to fix it. I found a solution. And it’s been working out pretty well! Now the place don’t get as a bad draft from outside in and there’s less dust in the apartment! Last weekend, I went to the huge flower market out by the honqiao airport. It was the size of my local home depot in my home town, but just cut flowers, potted flower and plants, and succulants. SO EXCITING. I bought a bunch of plants and brought them home to spruce up the place. I’m really excited about the place and still have little things I want to fix or enhance, but one step at a time.
Maybe I’m still in that honeymoon phase of this move in this new city, but, its been pretty nice so far!
I guess I did learn the Chinese word for foreigner