With every ethnicity comes a stereotype that leads back to its native land and culture. And with every native land come stories of great perks to tourists, specifically American ones. So, you bet your horses I was ready to shop till I dropped, eat funky foods and come home tanner than ever. However, some things proved to be a bit more difficult to accomplish than others, and the little bit of China I did visit taught me a lot more about the country than I would’ve imagined.
Here are the eight things I learned about China in eight days:
1. The sun doesn’t exist
As an admirer of fashion, I never allow myself to wear the same swimsuit twice when on vacation. Posting a picture of yourself in the same suit on a different day is like wearing white pants post Labor Day. You just don’t do it.
You can imagine my disappointment when I quickly learned that I wasn’t going to see the sun for the next eight days, and the five swimsuits I did pack weren’t going to make an appearance either.
Caused by high usage of coal and vehicle emissions, the poor air quality is a serious concern in all of China. The layer of smog that floated over the city prevented the sun from shining through and covered most of the beautiful Shanghai Skyline.
2. Not everything in China is #cheap
Here I was, ready to pay United Airlines for excess baggage only to find out that Chinese prices don’t differ much from ours. Okay, well, I did go to Nanjing Road first – the equivalent to The Magnificent Mile in Chicago, IL. However, it was incredibly easy to find #cheap goods just a street away from the touristy areas. Like an umbrella for 10 RMB ($1.50) and “No-Show” socks for my boyfriend’s loafers for 50 cents a piece.
Regardless, the Chinese fashion game is strong. Sure, Shanghai is no Milan, but I was thoroughly impressed with the everyday fashion of the city.
3. Gan Bei
There is no toast like a Chinese toast. Just when I thought a simple “Cheers!” would suffice, the Chinese found a way to take ice breakers to the next level. During every meal, I would witness rounds of tables stand up, clink their glasses and finish their drinks until the last drop – no matter how full the glass was.
*That’s Vince running over and initiating a gan bei* ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
4. They don’t believe in thongs
My mother’s advice of packing an extra outfit or two and clean underwear into my carry-on hung over my head for four days until I reunited with my luggage. Man, I should’ve listened. Nonetheless, here we were, in Shanghai with no clean underwear and no clothes. After scouring the city for hours for a Victoria’s Secret with no luck, we had to settle for the next best thing: An underwear pop-up shop.
Now, I don’t discriminate against a nice pair of granny panties, but when I buy a tight pair of jeans, you best believe I don’t want any lines showing. Unfortunately, the Chinese don’t seem to mind and I had to settle for a nice pair of nylon briefs.
5. No, they don’t eat dogs
Contrary to popular belief, many of the meals were not accompanied by a nice dish of Bichon Frise with a side of garlic mashed potatoes. I actually found the Chinese cuisine to be a bit bland, the majority composed of broth, noodles and dumplings. Nonetheless, it was delicious! The weirdest thing we ate had to be chicken feet or spicy grilled squid in the middle of the Yuyuan Market, amidst some of the most beautiful traditional Chinese architecture I’ve ever seen.
6. Sense of space? Pfft.
It really is overcrowded.
7. Hailing a taxi in Shanghai may be worse than in NYC
Whether it was the way we were “hailing” or maybe we just looked like clueless Americans, we never fully figured out why it took us 20 minutes to get a cab. In the rain. We even ran onto the busy road, but failed. Conclusion? It’s better to walk or rent a bike than to get a taxi.
8. Don’t go through customs in a robe
For the first few days, we struggled to adjust to the 12-hour time difference between home and China, causing us to fall asleep during dinner and wake up at ungodly hours of the night. Of course, the one time we sleep through the night and wake up at 10 a.m., we accidentally miss our cruise ship’s announcement of disembarking to go through customs. Let’s just say the Chinese officers did not find humor in our outfits.