Written by Belle Edeoga, (Sarah Lawrence College) Student Correspondent CET Shanghai, Fall 2018
Landing in Shanghai had the effect of me feeling both content and exhilarated. After months of waiting interspersed with information from the CET staff on what to expect during the first few days and into the term, I was excited to finally begin my journey.
I wasn’t sure exactly what I expected Shanghai to be, everyone I knew kept comparing it to New York City, and when I first arrived I began to look for similarities as well. But Shanghai is not NYC, it has its own culture, diversity and uniqueness that makes for a disparate comparison to any other place and in my first few days I have already found parts of the city I love that I will never find any where else. Whether it’s navigating the roads using Baidu Maps while on the lookout for motorbikes; or trying to master the metro route to my internship; or simply exploring the city on my own, with friends or as part of Nova’s Saturday outings; I am always struck by the distinctive and riveting aspects of Shanghai.
Recently I set about discovering the various province cuisines in Shanghai – on my own or with a group of friends – and doing so has led me to some fascinating insights on how Chinese and Western cultures have intertwined in this city.
On the last day of orientation, a group of us went out to eat Hot Pot (火锅 – Huoguo) and like most places in China, the restaurant had a QR code to scan which gave us the menu, allowed us to order and pay for the meal, all through WeChat Pay – a function in WeChat. WeChat pay is only available using a Chinese bank account and makes China so much more accessible, so it’s extremely important that you set up an account when you can (you will need your admission letter and passport to set up the account). WeChat doesn’t currently have a split bill option, so if you want to go Dutch (各付各的 – gefugede), you can use Red Packets in WeChat.
Despite the many cuisines available to me, sometimes I just want something familiar; the numerous KFCs, McDonald’s, Pizza Huts around offer a taste of western cuisine mixed with Chinese cuisine as well, such as the Beijing Roast Duck pizza from Pizza Hut or the Spicy Chicken combo from KFC which usually provide familiarity with a sense of newness. But if I’m craving just plain old burgers and fries, I can take the metro just a few stops away and eat at Beef and Liberty, though I still must use Baidu Translate to understand the menu.
Shanghai is a melting pot of diverse Chinese and Western culture that can’t be found anywhere else, and I am excited to continue exploring and discovering what the city has to offer.