TL:DR Shanghai is awesome, Mobike > Ofo, Chinese Street Food is YUMMY, Frisbee & Friends

Welcome to my final blog post. While I feel like I could write a 100 page novel about all of my experiences, I know that 1) No one wants to read that much and 2) more importantly, that would take lots of motivation that I am now lacking at the end of finals. Anyways, I hope you enjoy the following.

Shanghai has been a very enlightening experience. Coming from a relatively small town in the US, I have never had to adjust to city life. Despite the slight language barrier, I think Shanghai was the perfect first city to live in. The public transportation is fantastic, the people are friendly, and most parts of the city are fanatically cleaned. Compared to New York, Shanghai excels in all of these categories. Specifically, the subway system throughout Shanghai is extremely well kempt. There is no trash on the ground or on the rails themselves. In addition to cleanliness, the subway’s intercom also speaks in English as well as Chinese. This made the transition to China much smoother as I didn’t have to constantly ask for directions.

(Some friendly Shanghai residents)

Rentable Bikes. Let me first explain how these work. You download an app corresponding to one of the multiple different businesses (Mobike, Ofo, or Alipay) and then make an account that is linked to your banking card. After getting approved, you can rent that company’s bike by using their app to scan a code on the desired bike which in turn unlocks the back wheel. While riding, you get charged by the hour. When you have arrived at your location, you can park the bike wherever you want (but make sure you lock it!).

In America, I have seldom seen rentable bikes anywhere. My first encounter with them was actually on Davidson’s campus. I think a large part of this comes from the fact that bike lanes are hard to find on any road…and we are lazy. In Shanghai, and China more broadly, people ride bikes all of the time, and there are always bike lanes. I do not intend on going into the politics of this issue; however, being able to rent a bike when running late to class or just to get somewhere in a quarter of the time has been wonderful. I must say though, the quality and availability varies between companies. I’ll compare the different companies to cars in America to make the comparison easier to understand.

Ofo = your neighbor’s clunker or Bumblebee in the 700th Transformers sequel (yellow and dilapidated). While they are pretty prevalent around the city, oftentimes the chain or the brakes are broken. Even more frustrating, the app will randomly stop working, which makes it extremely frustrating use. In addition, Ofo charges 3 kuai per ride (This is less than 50 cents, however compared to Mobike, it’s a rip-off). Analogously, they work once you get them started, but are keen to never start/ break down.

Mobike = a new or slightly used sedan. Like Ofo, they are everywhere throughout the city. However, I have personally had much more success with them than Ofo. You can almost always rely on successfully renting a bike when you see one as they are seldom broken. The app is easy to use, reliable, and only charges you 1 kuai an hour. They have even introduced a ‘new model’ (Cadillac-ish …?) that comes with an extremely adjustable seat. Overall, the preferred choice.

Alipay = a friendly Bentley. When you rent them, the bike says hello to you (hence the “friendly”). Sitting on an Alipay seat is like sitting on a deep, leather couch. They rock nice blue and white colors for a sleek and easy ride. The app is easy to use; however, just like Bentley’s in America, they are hard to find. (hourly rate MIA)

(The Bentley store of Shanghai)

Apologies for the length of that rent-a-bike breakdown, but I thought it was necessary. On to the street food, Shanghai provides a wide variety of options that are CHEAP. This includes jianbing (crepe/egg base, crunchy fried bread, peanuts, lettuce, sweet sauce, and whatever else you want all wrapped in a burrito-like fashion), shengjian (pork dumplings fried in a giant pan) and pork buns (seriously the juiciest and tastiest pork I think I’ve ever tried inside a crisp bun) which are probably my favorite three. On average, you can eat one of these filling options for less than a dollar. I am going to include Bubble Tea on the street food list as you do in fact find it on the street. I thought Bubble Tea stores were highly overrated after arriving in Shanghai, but their accessibility, chewy bubbly goodness (tapioca pearls) and assortment of drinks has changed my mind.

(Jianbing, Fried Dumplings, and another Jianbing lady)

In terms of actually getting involved at Fudan, after a month in China I joined Fudan’s Ultimate Frisbee team (aka the Crazy Saints) and found a few language partners. To begin with, joining the Crazy Saints was probably my favorite choice that I made in Shanghai. It allowed me to not only play frisbee (great sport btw), but more importantly utilize my Chinese in a completely different setting. The culture around Ultimate Frisbee is also slightly different in China. While it still has the weird energy and silly cheers of its American counterpart, there is much less contact and more foul calling. Also, at the end of games, everyone circles up and compliments the other team. This was a quite the unique experience, especially given that I hardly understood a word they said.

(Ultimate Frisbee Tournament)

Finding language partners was probably my second favorite choice as it allowed me to both practice my Chinese and get to know Chinese students of all ages from all over China. I participated in some Master’s research as a foreigner that was learning Chinese, got treated to meals, learned some calligraphy and helped translate/ correct grammar in some of their assignments. Hopefully they all will remain my penpals in the future.

Finally, the usage of phones. Everything seems to be digitalized here. No matter where you go, even if it’s a small street vendor who only works twice a week, they have either WeChat or Alipay. You can use both of these simply by scanning the appropriate QR code with the corresponding app. This has made purchasing extremely easy and efficient throughout my stay in China.

Shanghai was, overall, a wonderful experience abroad.