Arriving in Shanghai, China

Although the internship required me to visit multiple countries in East Asia, the arrival in Shanghai, China was definitely a memorable experience. Shanghai was my first stop in China. While I had already spent the prior week in Hong Kong and a few more in other East Asian countries, Shanghai’s reality was quick to adjust all of my prior expectations. Recalling some Chinese stories from my textbook, I decided to take the overnight train from Hong Kong to Shanghai. I figured that being in a room with at least three other travelers or locals for about 17 hours wouldn’t be that bad. Besides, the textbook highly advertised this option of getting around as a great way to explore Chinese culture and practice language skills. The reality, however, was me sleeping for all 17 hours in the room all by myself. As I later found out, unless around the holidays, in modern China people prefer flying rather than sleeping overnight in a room full of strangers. Although I was a bit disappointed, I was also very glad to catch up on some sleep.

Getting onto the train in Hong Kong

A look inside the room on the train









About half an hour before the arrival in Shanghai, the attendant lady knocked on the door. She said something that sounded like a question, but since I had not come across that phrase in my previous four semesters of studying the language, I mumbled something along the lines of “Sounds good” and started to get ready. My plan was quite simple: arrive at the train station, exchange some money, eat some breakfast, book a room to stay, and enjoy the high-paced, 23-million-populated city while getting all that done. Well, things did not really go as planed.

First view of Shanghai

After arriving at the station, I headed straight for the exit into the city. I was a bit confused on my exact whereabouts on the map, and was very glad to see a McDonald’s sign not too far away once I stepped into the street. My first wrong move was betting on the public WiFi. In order to use it anywhere in China, you have to first purchase a Chinese phone number/sim-card for authorization purposes. Even at a McDonald’s. After countless attempts to get online by using phone numbers of strangers around me, I decided to postpone the whole internet problem and grab a quick bite to eat. I was not trying to practice my Chinese with the sales person right that moment, so I opted for the machine to take my order. After clicking around and selecting what I wanted, I finally got to the payment options. Among them there even was Face Recognition, but the only one I knew how to use was Apple Pay. It was only after several failed attempts that I remembered that normal card providers do not work in China. As I found out shortly, it was also not that logical to have a bank around the train station, as I might have expected. So far it has been about an hour in Shanghai, and so far the knot of issues just kept on getting tighter.

I’m not kidding about the Face Recognition option

How did I manage to untie it you might wonder? Well, I ended up finding a random lady on the street that quickly agreed to exchange some dollars for me. The rate was awful, but I figured this was the simplest, if not the only option I had at that moment. After a long conversation with a clerk at some restaurant, he helped me finally get online. To my surprise I had zero problems booking myself a room in a very nice area of Shanghai, and in a bit over an hour, I was already unpacking my clothes.