I knew Mainland China would be another world. I noticed Shanghai shared many similarities to Toronto and other international main cities I'd visited as I wrote this. However there were so many stark differences that I tallied them up for a post. Keep reading for what shocked me the most.
1. The spitting
In Shanghai I woke up to the sound of roosters crowing, scooters starting and people horking up a lung. I started to understand why people rocked masks around there. I just kept my eyes vigilant on the sidewalk for spit and avoided strolls near the loud coughs and wheezes.
2. Face down Baby Booty Up
When I wheeled my luggage onto the metro fresh off the plane, I turned to see a baby in green but-less pants. He was held by his mum with his little tush outside. Another time I saw a little one squatting and doing his business while in his booty pants (aka "Kai Dang Ku") on the street. To be honest, if the Kardashians got a hold of them it would be the new trend, so I'm not mad about them. I just avoided puddles at all cost in China.
3. Healthy food
For a nation that valued slim bodies they sure did eat a lot of 'fattening' foods (at least for my body type). Most readily available foods were stir fried in oil . Note: fried. Or made with white flower Thankfully I didn't follow a very strict diet while there (my mostly pescatarian habits from Toronto were forgotten in the throes of enjoying spicy hot-pot) I tried to be conscious after my first week of fast food. If you plan to visit China and with dietary restrictions, my recommendations would be: research foods you could eat and where to find them and spend time in western areas with 'healthier' options.
4. Things Weren't that 'Cheap'
I thought I was walking into Mecca for penny pinchers in China. While shopping online (on stores like TaoBao) can provide cheaper options, shopping at the grocery store and shopping centres provide dizzying differences. I got 5 bananas for $1CAD but then umbrellas some stores were $15CAD. Just like anywhere you've got to shop around a bit to figure things out. Don't just buy the first thing you see. Bring a currency converter and haggle at the markets (preferably in Mandarin).
5. Fashion and style
In Toronto I'd walk around the mall and everyone would look the same or at least a variation of that style. In China that couldn't be further from the truth. While women were mostly sporting breezy culottes I didn't see anyone really wearing the same thing. It seemed that in Shanghai's height of consumerism that everyone had licence to dress however they felt. Kind of.
Booty shorts were in abundance. I saw that long legs and butt cheeks seemed to be in need of fresh air at all times. However arms and shoulders and breasts were kept wrapped up! Mainland China was considered to be a modest place. I was sure the nude beach in Barcelona that I visited would illicit scandal in Shanghai. To each his own. If you don't want your arms and breasts to be stared at when visiting, keep them under cover.
7. Access to Money
If you're considering loosing your wallet like I did in Shanghai, first of all: DON'T! Getting money in this place is like pulling teeth unless you have your bank or credit card and an ATM handy. I got myself a ICBC bank card and loaded it with an international money transfer. That I had to wait two days for. After which I had to go back to the bank give them my passport then get the money converted to Kuai before I had access to even withdraw it. Maybe I'll make a 'how to get money in Shanghai' guide. But for now, heed my advice and keep your wallet close.
8. People Were Nice
I travelled and immersed myself in different cultures to rid myself of bias and ignorance. I grew up with people around me saying Chinese people can be rude, brash and quite impolite based on western norms. I didn't go to the country with this mindset. However I was admittedly surprised that while on the train I was only pushed and/or bumped a few times and I wasn't treated very differently at stores or followed around as if I'd steal something (shout out to stores in Toronto!). It could have been due to the fact that I was a foreigner. I did watch a girl get reamed out at the bank for what seem to be no reason, but in general people were pretty nice to me.
9. Bring toilet paper or wipes
Toilet paper was not a given or a guarantee in Chinese bathrooms. I brought hand sanitizer and wipes almost everywhere I went. I was not going to be caught air drying my big butt in there. I left the washroom with clean hands after I used sanitizer.
10. There Really was no Facebook (But it Didn't Matter)
While I didn't spend a lot of time on Facebook before I left, I knew I had to get a VPN. Work, life and my sanity required that I got a good VPN (not all were created equally!) for social media. However, if my field of work didn't require Facebook and other social media, I would have been fine. WeChat and Weibo were the main sources of social networking and communication in China. WeChat was also a way to pay for things...it literally was everything.
Phew! That was a lot. Do you think you can survive in China for 30 days? Let me know in the comments below.