My Love-hate Relationship

I’ve been waiting all semester to write about the many annoyances I have encountered. Here it goes!

1. Spitting
2. No personal space
3. Failure to follow rules
4. Traffic/Drivers

Now each of these may seem like general annoyances that any big city might have, but I don’t want to boggle you down with intense descriptions in the first few seconds of reading.

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People have no problem spitting on the sidewalk. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear someone, male or female, hack a loogie and then spit wherever is convenient. Spitting is the most disgusting act ever. I understand your country is polluted and maybe you have constant shit in your throat, but my goodness, please be respectful of others.

I also have major issues with people on the metro and buses. People have no sense of personal space and think it’s totally acceptable to push the person in front of them. “Hello! We are all going to the same place, chill the f**ck out.” I know I yelled that last sentence a few times this semester. Oh well.

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You’re probably thinking why me, Justin, someone who loves NYC so much, failed to adapt to Shanghai’s city life. Well, I hate to break it to you, but adapting to Shanghai is not my idea of adapting to big city life. People in NYC don’t constantly spit, and if there is pushing and shoving on the subway, people are polite about it. Well, most of the time they are polite. There are no manners here! I don’t think I’ve heard of a Chinese equivalent for “excuse me.”

In any city, traffic is an issue. In this city with 23 million people I expected it to be a lot worse than it is. My main problem with traffic is the failure to yield to pedestrians. “I’m walking here! And I have a little green man on the walk sign.” I find myself yelling this to drivers on a daily basis. While I know they can’t hear me or even understand me, I like to think that universally people understand motions and an angry on someone’s face. Just last night I was crossing the street. I had the little green man and of course a car was turning right onto the street. I noticed the driver had no intention of yielding, so I continued to walk and then stuck up my hand in stop form and pointed to the green man with my other hand. He stopped and waited for me to cross. I think he got the message.

Well, the time has come for me to say goodbye to Shanghai. I know I have bitched a lot in this final blog post, but I have had an amazing time in the biggest city in the world. I miss my small town. I miss my family. I miss Davidson. But most of all, I miss Bojangles. Watch out, y’all. I’m comin’ home!


While the Group was Away…

This past weekend I stayed behind while most of the group traveled to Meixian. You know exactly what happened. That’s right, a trip to Han City. This outing was long overdue.

Myself, Shanel, Nicky, and Chai Lu set out early Friday morning. I don’t think any of us had been up so early on a Friday since we arrived in Shanghai. Before we arrived at Han City we made a pit stop at the South Bund Fabric Market. I toyed with the idea of having a winter coat made, but I didn’t like the shop girl’s attitude or price, so I opted out.

The visit to Han City was quite interesting. Maybe I had high expectations for the quality of goods, but many  vendors’ goods failed to live up to my standards. Thankfully, I was able to find a few items I liked. Like always, I bargained until I got the price I wanted. I am especially proud of one item, but again, I can’t let you see it. 🙂

This shopping trip I realized the benefits in group shopping. Nicky and Shanel took us to their friend’s shop. Due to the friendship formed between Nicky, Shanel, and the store owner, Cindy, we made several purchases without much bargaining. I was able to purchase a very nice “something” from Cindy at a price I knew she would never sell to anyone else except maybe family or longtime friend.

While Nicky made his purchases, Chai Lu bought iPhone cases. After she returned and we finalized our purchases, Chai Lu took me to the iPhone booth. With a little reminder to the shop keeper of the price she paid, Chai Lu was able to get me the same price. I found exactly what I wanted for only $3. And of course, I couldn’t leave with just one.

Later on I purchased Converse tennis shoes for 50¥. When Ben decided he wanted a pair, I took him to the same shop. Even though the seller tried to say I paid 55¥, Ben left with 50¥ Converses. I knew exactly how much I paid. Don’t let them play games with you.

I found a few parallels between Han City and Qipu. Bargaining goes without saying. At both places I have my preferred booths or stores, and I don’t feel the need to look elsewhere. Yes, my preferred stores are the ones with the best quality, but don’t worry, that just means more aggressive bargaining.

If I have to choose between the two, I enjoy Qipu more than Han City. Han City is for tourists, and I don’t enjoy bargaining with a tourist price. Qipu caters to the Chinese consumer. You can find a few westerners sprinkled here and there, but for the most part, Qipu serves as a cheaper alternative to H&M, Zara, and UniQlo. I thoroughly enjoy taking advantage of that.

Recently, my mom asked me about the quality of my new clothes and “fake” goods. I told her that if you know where to go, then it’s quite simple to find good quality at a decent price. Always remember to bargain, no matter the store. It doesn’t matter how many times you have purchased items from your favorite store, the sellers will always give you an initial rip-off price.

Believe it or not, this past weekend was not my last visit to Han City. In order to haul all my new clothes and such home, I need a new suitcase. Shocker! Let’s see if I can get the one I want for 150¥.

Visual Memorabilia

Recently, I thought about all the visual memorabilia people have collected during our time in China. Many of us captured this semester’s moments with an iPhone, personal camera, or what I call high-tech cameras, i.e. Chai Lu’s Canon. Two uses of such visual products of our time in China will prove useful for the future. The photo below was taken on our first night in Shanghai.


Our photographs can be used to tell others about the many great experiences we had. Of course these experiences are not limited to the group trips. We have to include the weekend party photos and the everyday photos taken around Shanghai. Without these photos, it might be more difficult for people to understand the unique experience that is studying abroad in China. Some might say that “unique” should be used with caution, and I think in this case, I have done that. This has truly been a unique experience.

The photos will also be used to recall the time spent in China. When I’m eighty years old, I don’t expect to remember everything, and that is when I will use my photos to relive my past. Isn’t that what we all do?

There is something about the visual. While words can tell a story, the use of photos or video can further tell a story for better clarity. This week Benito and I made a video detailing the difference between market shopping in Taipei and market shopping in Shanghai. Just in case I ever forget the differences, I will have the video we created to help jog my memory. Anthropologists use photos and videos to capture everyday life. Tourists do the same. Anyone can snap a quick bit of culture and it’s instantly preserved.

Xi’an and Its Easy Bargaining

The trip to Xi’an was my last group trip before the long flight home. Others will travel to Meixian next week, but I have chosen to spend my last three weekends in Shanghai. I just couldn’t give up the remaining time to any other place. In less than three weeks we will be back on American soil!

Like always, I’m so happy to be back in China’s most diverse city. Even though this trip lasted barely three days, I didn’t need to spend any more time in Xi’an. We went to see the terra cotta warriors and that’s what mattered most.

Our visit to the warriors excited me more than our tour sites in Beijing. While you might think the weather had something to do with that, hold that thought. When we woke up Thursday morning, it was cold and rainy, but thankfully it wasn’t snowing. As the day progressed, the weather improved and so did our spirits.

During the tour, our guide, Alan, informed us that most, if not all, of the warriors we saw were replicas. Bummer, right? The real ones were badly destroyed many years ago. I had not known this, but I didn’t let it clout my experience, at least, not a lot.

Like Shanghai and Beijing, Xi’an has its own fake market. You know me, I can’t resist a fake market, especially when I’m only around for a short time. At the market, one can find Longchamp, Louis Vuitton, and Prada bags, Polo, Paul Smith, and Burberry shirts, and quite the assortment of “pearl” jewelry. Sadly, these fake goods can’t compare to the ones in Shanghai or Beijing. The quality isn’t that great, so I didn’t purchase any bags, clothes, or jewelry.

I had 60 kuai in my pocket, about 10 USD. How could I buy anything for 60 kuai? You’d be surprised. I made two purchases that night, and good ones at that. I found something that intrigued me, so I asked the price. I don’t remember the starting price, but whatever it was, it was too much. Remember, the asking price is always too much, even if you think it’s a cheap starting price. With a little input from Shanel, I bargained the owner down to 25 kuai. Here’s a tip: if you want to pay less, buy more than one. You can always give one to someone as a gift, or keep both for yourself. I decided on two and bargained the owner down to 20 kuai a piece . With only 20 kuai left, I doubted I could bargain for anything else. Sadly, I saw a pair of Vans I liked. White ones. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t have enough money.

As much as I’d love to show and tell, I’m keeping these two purchases a secret. If you see me when I’m home, maybe you can figure it out, but I doubt it. Don’t worry; I still have one more trip to Han City. Wonder what I’ll walk away with this time? Let’s hope I don’t lose my cool with the shop owners.

Brutal Bargaining

There comes a time when one realizes the roughness of bargaining in China. I learned this lesson while shopping in Beijing. This was like a simple trip to the mall, this was the Silk Market. The Beijing Silk Market is well known for its “silk” products and fake goods. Again, you will find Louis, Gucci, Prada, Tory and my new favorite brand, MCM. I use the word silk in quotation marks because Benito informed me that just like most of the goods sold, the “silk” is not necessarily real, or as seen on the label, “100% silk.” While Shanghai offers numerous fake goods, Beijing appeared to offer better quality fake goods, but that came at a price.You know what that means, bad news for me, or should I say, bad news for my wallet–aka my parents’ wallets.

As soon as we entered the lower level salespeople bombarded us with, “Hello, mister. What you want to buy? Bags? Watches? Hello, miss. You need a bag? Wallet? Have a look.” Now, I’ve heard such before, but not this aggressive. If you took a look in a shop and immediately left, the shopkeeper usually mumbled something or gave you a stank face. They expected us to buy something, no exceptions.

While I usually keep my cool during the bargaining process, this day proved an exception. I was not above yelling or flipping off the shop owners when they gave me a price I didn’t like. Now I didn’t start a scene right away. The shop owner had to provoke me. I even called a few of them crazy. Of course, each proceeded to call me crazy. Wouldn’t you think someone is crazy if they asked you to pay almost 100USD for a fake Bottega Veneta coin purse? I don’t think so.

I was also kicked out of one “store.” Sorry, DJ. I hate you lost a buy, but I couldn’t let you pay more than you should for those shoes. During this instance I went off on a shoe-store owner who touched me. It’s one of my rules. I don’t like to be touched when I’m trying to bargain with you.

After reading Fake Stuff, I couldn’t help but think about how much the price goes up when a westerner walks into a booth. I was not about to be outdone. It took a while for me to finally make a purchase, but when I started, I didn’t stop until DJ practically dragged me out.

I ended the day with some good deals. The one I am most proud about–my new MCM book bag. I know I shouldn’t be telling on myself, but I got the deal of the century. At least, I would like to think so. Better quality goods require more aggressive bargaining.