Shanghai, China is the chapter in my life where it notes the first time I’ve ever worked in a completely new city. It was both exhilarating and frightening at the same time. I’ve lived in Xiamen, China for a few years and have traveled around China before but never landed in Shanghai. Traveling to a new city for a few days is definitely a whole other ordeal in comparison to actually working in a new city for a whole month. I went in with a completely different mindset than the one I usually carry when exploring a new city. This time I had to live the Shanghainese lifestyle by hustling to get to work in the early mornings and then exploring the city at night…then, I rinse and repeat.
(view from the office)
I had thought that living in Hong Kong and Xiamen would’ve prepared me for the stuffy weather in Shanghai, but boy was I wrong. I’ve never been in a city where the simple act of walking outside of my building would leave me breathless…and not in the good way. I was literally out of breath half of the time because of the wet, stuffy weather. Even when the sun wasn’t shining bright, I could feel the heat engulf me as a whole. The only escape were the cool air-conditioned stores, malls and cabs (guess where I spent most of my time?).
(my favourite person ever)
Nonetheless, Shanghai gave me a completely different experience from any of the other cities I’ve been to mostly because I was half tourist and half adapting to the lifestyle. The absolute best part of working with a property development investment company was that I got to go on a business trip with them to Nanjing for 3 days to research on potential investment locations. Having a hotel room all to myself brought up fears I never knew I had (Okay, that’s not true, everyone who knows me knows I’m painfully afraid of the dark in obscure locations), I ended up laying diagonally on the bed with an open bible that I fell asleep reading with most of the lights on. The entire night I desperately clung onto the notion that what you can’t see won’t hurt you.
As for the other half of the business trip, I had to balance my novelty with independency, showing my coworkers that even though I was younger it didn’t mean I had to be babied. My coworkers were so amazing though, the girl I bonded with gave me so much advice on life that I don’t think I could ever thank her enough. This was the first moment in my life where I experienced what real adult life would be like and it left me aspiring to find a career that will allow me to travel and experience different cultures.
A trip to Shanghai wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t go to the Bund. In hindsight, the european inspired architecture could trick you into thinking you were no longer in Asia…until you see the swarm of Asians. I can literally say I have never seen so many people in one place on a normal, uneventful weeknight. Still recovering from the claustrophobic feeling the crowd left me, I convinced myself I’d probably never live in a place that always felt like Times Square on a weekday.
Xintiandi, in my mind, was the equivalent of Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong. This was where most of the bars were centralized, consistently filled with foreigners and good vibes. This was one of the more multicultural locations where I could lose myself and feel slightly at home again.
Lounging at the bars after a long day of work, chatting with new and old friends made me temporarily forget I was in Shanghai. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter where you are because at the end of the day, it’s the people that makes the locations memorable.
[All images are my own]