9 Things I Hate About Shanghai (because I can’t think of 10)

Originally I wanted to begin with 10 Things I love about China but my stay here so far has been more negative that positive so this is what’s coming first.  Honestly, it’s a shame because I came here in 2010 (aged 14) and 2012 (aged 16) and it was an amazing and lovely experience.  I went to Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Nanjing.  It influenced what I wanted to study at university and lead me to explore other Asian cultures which I am still deeply interested in such as Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.  I was so transfixed the first two times I came.  I know why that was though.  It was all 3-5 star hotels, tour groups and rarely going off of the the beaten track.  The second time I travelled to China, more time was spent away from the tour groups and seeing a little more of what real China was like but clearly not enough.   What can I say, Ignorance is bliss.

I moved to Shanghai on the 31st August 2017 because I am here as part of my university degree which is Chinese and International Relations.  From the very beginning the process of living and integrating myself here has been an unpleasant and prolonged experience.  From obtaining accommodation, university work and just settling in.  It really turned my world upside down as well as some of my friends who are with me.  At least I can say I’m happy I am not suffering alone with this experience.  Next week will be mark 3 months since I moved to China and I have quite a few things to say about this place.

  1. The Constant Spitting.  I have been to China twice before and to 5 different cities including Shanghai and the one thing I never noticed throughout both of my stays here was how much Chinese people spit and get rid of phlegm on a daily basis.  It is something I have not been able to get used to and something I don’t think I will ever get used to.  There is constant spitting and coughing up everywhere.  In the street, shopping malls, hospitals, coffee shops, restaurants, everywhere.
  2. Unwanted attention, Zoo animal.  Shanghai is the largest city on the planet and China has the biggest population in the world.  However, everyday is a staring contest with the native citizens here.  I genuinely thought the curiosity of Chinese people towards citizens was, I don’t know, interesting but after a good 2-3 weeks of living here it becomes exhausting.  Especially when you’re having a bad day not in one of the best moods.  It is not only staring though, it’s picture taking.  Sometimes it’s blatant and other times it’s sneaky.  Whether it’s on the underground or whilst your sat drinking coffee.  Some just cannot resist taking a picture and sharing it with whom ever they please.  Your privacy as a foreigner means absolutely nothing to them and it never will.
  3. Forever a Lao Wai/Waiguo Ren.  Lao Wai or Waigguo Ren means foreigner/foreign person in Mandarin Chinese and this is how you will always be regarded no matter what.  It’s understandable being in such a large country with a large Chinese population were seeing someone who isn’t Chinese or south east Asian is a rare case.  People will often shout and point ‘Lao Wai’ as if it’s where’s Wally and it can be extremely unnerving at times.
  4. No manners.  
    1. As a Brit queuing is just normal.  You get in line and you wait your turn.  China is another story.  Whether it is at McDonalds, Sephora or the hospital some people will just push in front of you because their life is more important than anyone else’s.
    2. There’s also the pushing and being forced out of the way on public transport.  In particular by the older generation of people.
    3. People on electric mopeds and bikes beeping at you when you’re on the pavement?  This one really pisses me off because there’s a bicycle lane…where they’re supposed to be.
    4. Did I already mention spitting and taking photos without permission.
  5. Hygiene Products.  I don’t know about other foreigners in China but I have has a very tough time either finding decent/inexpensive hygiene products or just finding them at all.  Including deodorant.  I have been lacing my body in perfume for the last 3 months.  Looks like I’ll just have to go through the effort of importing which will not be cheap.  Another thing I have found impossible to find are tampons.  They are nowhere to be found.  Sanitary towels on the other hand are accessible.  It’s just that if you want the quality you’re used to at home (in my case it’s the UK) you’re only going to find it at an expensive cost.
  6. The Great Fire Wall of China.  For those who don’t know what this is, it is basically the fact that all social media used in 99.8% of other countries is blocked.  I was always aware of this but I was blissfully unaware of how much it would hinder my life.  For example just like everyone else, I use Facebook and WhatsApp to keep in contact with anyone I know, YouTube for entertainment, my Gmail for email and BBC to know whats happening in the world and all of these things are blocked.  My phone was pretty much rendered useless when I arrived in China because it’s Android and only google apps, I couldn’t access anything.  I couldn’t even download my VPN at first because it’s on the GOOGLE play store but I rectified things eventually.
    • Amazon
    • Dropbox
    • Ebay
    • Facebook
    • Flickr
    • Google and anything created by Google
    • Instagram
    • Pinterest
    • Snapchat
    • Soundcloud
    • Twitter
    • WhatsApp
    • Tumblr
    • YouTube
    • Vimeo
    • A lot of news sites such as,
      • The BBC
      • The Economist
      • The Independent
      • The New York Times
      • TIme
      • Wall Street Journal and plenty more I cannot be bothered listing.
  7. Being Ripped Off.  There have been numerous occasions I have been in a taxi and they have lied about knowing where they’re going which is really frustrating and scary when the VPN is down so I cannot access maps to maps to make sure I am in the right location.  Moreover, there have been a few occasions when my friends and I have been in local bars and have been charged twice the price.  Luckily we know the language so we could argue our way out of it but it has happened on numerous occasions in the same place so now we just avoid it.
  8. Crossing the Road.  Crossing even the quietist roads in China is an absolute ball ache.  People driving here seem to have no regard for anyone crossing the road.  This includes when the light is green and you have right of way.  This worsens when there are individuals in expensive cars who think they own the streets of China.  The best thing to do is keep walking across the road on a green light and hope they consider your life.
  9. Landlords.  Let’s just say I’m yet to hear ONE story from someone who had a decent experience finding a place to live in Shanghai.

Shanghai is a beautiful city and China is a beautiful country.  One can only hope that things because a little easier from here.  One thing that’s certain is China is a place that can be lived in for a temporary amount of time but it certainly isn’t habitable long-term.

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Avid Reader, Casual Comic Book Collector, Fashion and Beauty Fanatic, Food, Wine and Whisky Enthusiast, Freelance Photographer, Language Devotee, Polymath

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