There was one thing no intercultural communication seminar could prepare me for. Because live and in color it takes getting used to when a complete stranger from China spits in front of your feet in the middle of the sidewalk. Spitting on the street is normal, says every guidebook about China, but I still couldn’t believe they actually do that in China.Until the first person next to me in Shanghai took a deep breath and spit out everything there was in his throat that I was afraid that stomach contents would follow. Well, I had already lost all my shyness about Chinese stomach contents anyway. On our flight earlier a lady wasn’t feeling well. I won’t go too deep into that now, but let’s just say I put on the rubber gloves and didn’t think much about it.
Chinese rules of etiquette & my first visit in China
I was positively surprised. Sometimes it is not wrong at all to imagine a foreign culture in the worst colours before your first visit! Except for the spitting, I felt very comfortable in Shanghai. Well, there’s still a bit of room for improvement in terms of service, but maybe this was just a personal impression. But otherwise, I met a lot of nice people.
What to see in Shanghai
Shanghai is a city of modernity. Skyscrapers, higher and higher, bigger and bigger, more and more – in Pudong you can see this in a very special way. Not a single modern building is said to have stood there in the 1980s. Inconceivable. Shanghai is growing in fast motion. This is also one of Shanghai’s must-sees: once up one of the giant skyscrapers, like here on the Shanghai World Financial Center. (That’s the building that looks like a bottle opener.) You can basically save yourself the trip up to the 100th floor of the Skywalk, the 94th or a coffee in the Hilton on the 91st should do the same. The glass floor on the 100th floor is not that spectacular, because you are basically only looking at another part of the building.
In search of historical remnants we first got stuck in the old town around the Yu Yuan Garden. But here it has a strong Disneyland character. Somehow fake everything. At least there were still typical dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) in the well-known Nan Xiang restaurant. Not an outstanding gourmet experience, but the atmosphere upstairs in the restaurant felt like I imagined China.
I especially liked Xintiandi, the old French quarter with a few well-preserved beautiful little houses, the Shikumen. Unfortunately, some streets are extremely ruffled with western gourmet restaurants and shops; especially there it lacks flair. But apart from that you can discover a lot on foot, there are many small, fancy shops and great cafés.
Where to eat in Shanghai
Hongdae Bear (Xintiandi) – Korean Coffee Shop with coffee specialties for 5€ (oops!), but extra nice and with fancy ingredients (black pepper!)
Nan Xiang Restaurant (Yu Yuan Garden): here you get the famous filled dumplings, the Xiao Long Bao – downstairs people are queuing, upstairs you can sit comfortably.
1221 The Dining Room (Zhongshan Park) – Shanghai cuisine for beginners, cosy atmosphere and everything is so delicious!
Coconut Paradise – good Thai cuisine, cozy garden, excellent cocktails.
Crystal Jade (Xintiandi) – actually a large chain, Chinese cuisine, great selection, elegant and beautiful ambience.