Last weekend, new bike tour company Culture Shock invited me for a four-hour morning ride around Shanghai. Officially open for business later this week, the long-term French expats have been running special media tours in order to work out its kinks.
As of now, the company runs two tours: one in the morning (9am-12:30pm) and one in the afternoon (1pm-5:30pm). Both begin at the Eclair Cafe in the Xintiandi Andaz Hotel, where you receive a complimentary croissant or pain au chocolat and coffee/tea, and end at the same place. The tour gives a pretty good feel for the surrounding area ( approx. 10km), as well as some insight into Chinese culture. Here’s a look at my experience:
Having been an expat for quite sometime, whenever I visit the States, I’m always taken back by how easy things are. How convenient things are. And during my six weeks at home this summer, I became pretty spoiled.
Coming back to Shanghai has taken some time to get settled. It’s been a month and I’m just now getting on a proper schedule. I’m finally stocking my fridge and pantry. I’m realizing that eating street food for every meal isn’t the best idea.
Thankfully, after one too many dumpling dinners, ready-to-cook meal delivery service, Xinwei Cook, contacted me to see if I could review a couple of their dishes.
I’ve always considered myself a city girl. The sound of buzzing neon lights, the energy of people as they crowd the sidewalks, the ability to get a slice of pizza at 3am on a Tuesday. As someone who grew up in Small Town, U.S.A, the thrill of moving somewhere bigger–somewhere better–was not only a dream, but a necessity.
So here I am, in what seems to be the world’s largest city–Shanghai. Population 25 million. Complete with humming motorbikes, all-night street food, and subway cars resembling the inside of a sardine can.
I’ve lived in quite a few apartments over the years–thirteen to be exact. I’ve lived in studios, junior one-bedrooms, a house, even a sorority house. I’ve rented places in Florida, Washington, D.C., Seoul, and Bogota. So I thought finding a place in Shanghai, especially after living here for a year (in school housing) would be no different. I was wrong.
Shanghai is a bustling city, with a population of 25 million. That’s right, I said 25 million. People come here from all over the world for business, as it’s a global financial center and a major transportation hub. Needless to say, hotels are always booked, and realtors make a pretty decent living. There’s some hefty competition for apartments, though, and they go fast. I learned this the hard way. In fact, I learned a lot of things over the last few weeks–about Shanghai, the housing market, and myself. But don’t worry, I’ll save the lessons on personal growth for a phone call with my mother.
I love living in a big city. There’s no need to own a car, there’s always a new bar to try, or art exhibition to see. But most importantly, there’s the opportunity to participate in Restaurant Week.
Restaurant Week is a concept that originated in New York City by Zagat Guide founder, Tim Zagat, and late restauranteur, Joe Baum in 1992. In brief, it’s 1-3 weeks of prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus, offered for a fraction of the price. Not all restaurants participate, but many do, and it’s an opportunity to get a 3-course meal for as little as $20. It’s most well-known in New York, but the idea has caught on globally, and now takes place in many major cities around the world.
Earlier this week, my friend Matt, a reporter for China Daily, asked me to provide some quotes for an article about life as an expat in Shanghai. I gave him my views on the easy transition and the similarities and contrasts from my time in Colombia. I thought nothing of it and assumed he would weave a line or two into his text; but apparently I was quoted heavily enough to warrant a picture in the paper. Not having any solo pictures of me galavanting through the streets of China, I scrambled to get something together and asked a coworker, Maja Kelly, to take some photos after work, around the neighborhood.
It’s been five days since I landed in Shanghai; and let me tell you, it’s been a whirlwind.
Living abroad isn’t easy. You’re forced to pack your entire life’s possessions into a few suitcases, learn a new language, a new culture, and make new friends to combat the inevitable homesickness. And while you’re busy doing all these things, Facebook reminds you of everything you’re missing back home. At times it can get lonely, but most of the time, it’s incredibly exciting.