Lea: Joli Canard à Shanghaï
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Shanghai etc.
I’m Lebanese and have moved with my boyfriend to Shanghai in November 2011, after spending the past 10 years in Europe.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I was very excited to move to Shanghai and thought it would be interesting to keep a diary of my discovery of the city and of China and to record all the cultural differences and similarities I encounter.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I quite like this one about a long walk I did along Suzhou Creek, it’s a sort of transect of Shanghai, from the popular neighborhoods to the Bund and its prestigious buildings.
I also quite like this one, which is about how globalization is affecting Chinese behaviors and at the same times things that really characterize them.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Shanghai differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
When I got to Shanghai, I didn’t speak a word of Chinese, except for “ni hao”. I found it very difficult (and at times hilarious because you’re so helpless) to make myself understood by taxi drivers. I was expecting English to be more widely spoken. Download the Smart Shanghai app if you can, it will be a life saver in many situations.
Bargaining everything has its perks and can be rewarding, but you’re not always up for it. In terms of food, you also get an array of new experiences, which is wonderful. But you miss familiar flavors and it can be a mission sometimes to find all the ingredients you need.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Shanghai? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Overall everything went pretty smoothly. I guess the only thing that I’ve underestimated is how long it takes to find a job when you don’t speak Chinese and don’t have a lot of contacts.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
At the fruit shop, instead of asking the lady if she had pingguo (apples), I asked for pengyou (friends). I also tend to get confused between qizi (wife) and yizi (chair), it has led to a few embarrassing situations.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Shanghai?
- Learn Mandarin! It’s not as widely spoken as I thought and you will need for everyday interactions.
- Be patient with people, allow a margin of error when you communicate.
- Take every opportunity you get to meet people, through InterNations as well as other networks.
How is the expat community in Shanghai? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Generally, expats tend to be friendly and will share their tips with you whether for everyday life or business activities. Shanghai is very entrepreneurial and there’s a great energy amongst expats (Chinese people as well). It can be tiring after a while but generally there’s a form of solidarity.
How would you summarize your expat life in Shanghai in a single, catchy sentence?
An eye-opening experience to another culture and part of the world!