And just like that, it’s been two weeks, a lease has been signed and we’ve moved into a new apartment…
After deciding on a place we liked but trying to get our heads around the fact that it maxed our monthly budget without having any breathing space, I decided to look at one more place before we made our final decision.
I’m so glad I did. By this stage of the house-hunting game, I was over all of the strange scenes you’re generally faced with when it comes to viewing places here. So it was down a very quiet lane, through the cluttered entrance of an old house, up a beautiful spiral wooden staircase, past the second-floor family’s hallway kitchen, up another spiral staircase and on to the third (as well as top) floor and into a well-renovated apartment. Wooden floors, lots of windows, a small open-plan lounge & kitchen, separate bathroom (with a big shower that actually has a door) and a separate bedroom. It was perfect, so I took it.
Besides being cheaper, the location is great and the space itself works better for two people. So with that sorted, it took a lot of pressure off of us as we were only booked into our second airbnb for two weeks and were steadily getting over the concept of living in a room. Although our stay there was good, it was reaching the point where we needed to actually unpack our bags properly and settle.
So besides sorting all of that out, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. I was investigating the possibility of starting to teach a few conversational English classes but was told I shouldn’t tell parents that I’m South African and instead lie and say that I was from America or England (which seriously pissed me off). Much like a few other countries around the world, a large percentage of the population here don’t really believe there is such a thing as a white person from Africa.
I’ve been told it’s just easier to save yourself trying to explain everything by saying you’re from somewhere else but it also has to do with preconceived ideas about the African continent. Some parents don’t like the idea of someone from Africa teaching their kids.
Needless to say, that and a few other things made me decide to rather pursue other opportunities which possibly allowed me to be honest about where I’m from. So after the awkward conversation at the language school, things started getting stranger. I’ve quickly learnt that you need a good sense of humour to deal with this place, there are some crazy things that happen which you ultimately have to deal with on a regular basis.
If you let everything get to you and become stressed out about it, then China isn’t a country you should be living in or planning on living in.
That said, I’ve been told that shanghai isn’t like the rest of China but you at least get a taste of it. Here are a few examples of things I have witnessed or have to deal with regularly:
Spit or Swallow
If people aren’t clearing their throats loudly then they are spitting on the street – I had to wipe phlegm off my trainers the other morning (thank goodness for closed shoes and wet wipes.) I was pretty casual about it. Usually, I would start gagging and freaking out but I just looked down, got my wet wipes out, cleaned it off and laughed about it.
Sometimes I’m stared at as if I’ve just crawled out of cheese, but I either ignore it, smile or stare back, depending on my mood. This also depends on what area you’re in and how many other expats populate it.
Lost in Translation
I’m spoken to in Chinese quite often, even though it’s pretty obvious we have no idea what’s being said, cab drivers in particular love doing this. I had one older guy ask me the other day if I was from America and when I replied “Nanfei” (South Africa in Chinese) he shouted “Mandela!!” he’s the only cab driver who has actually tried talking to me in English.
People love driving scooters on pavements instead of the actual road, they also tend to be pretty quiet because most of them are battery-powered, so you’ll suddenly have one come up behind you and hoot for you to get out of the way. They also come out of nowhere when crossing the road on a green man because even though the light is red, if there’s no oncoming traffic you can drive, regardless of pedestrians. The same applies to cars and busses.
There are a lot of dogs (generally the poodles and poms) with insane perms and I’ve even seen a few wearing shoes. Can’t wait for winter where there will probably be the addition of jackets & coats.
The amount of sleeping in public that I’ve witnessed is insane, especially in IKEA, on the display beds and couches. Apparently it’s become a “Thing” to go there and hang out as opposed to actually going there with the purpose of buying something.
Fruit of Satan
Durians. My worst food enemy, especially when someone has very kindly opened their plastic-wrapped container of it to snack on just before hopping on to the metro. I had to try very hard not to pass out because I basically stopped breathing and then had to cope through the next 10 minutes after jumping off the train with the taste of the smell lingering in the back of my throat. There are a lot of them around at the moment, as well as durian everything from ice cream, cheesecakes, smoothies, milk, mooncakes, mochi, chips etc.
Grocery shopping as I know it has come to an end. Ordering online is my future now so I’m never going to have to deal with things like dragging heavy bags across pavements in order to wave down a cab to take me and my trolley-load of things home. Couldn’t believe I actually made it back from carrefour on Thursday afternoon. There’s also lots of shouting that goes on at the end of aisles that usually involves a promo and someone saying the same thing over and over and over again on a loudhailer.
Taking all of the above into consideration I’ve actually had a lot of fun so far. Sure, things are a lot more difficult here because of a number of factors but that’s what makes it so exciting.
Don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t seen something that made me smile or laugh. I also can’t wait for people to come and visit us because I’m so excited to share it all. So if anything vaguely crazy or out of the ordinary happens then you just need to remind yourself that it’s china, man.