Sunday, 18 December 2011

impressions of shanghai

the first thing that struck me when i got off the plane in shanghai was the light. it was just so bright, despite the haze. i've noticed that in more northern countries, the light is kind of white and cold (and i don't mean the temperature), whereas in singapore for example, it's more yellow and warm. this, together with the cold (this time yes, the temperature), made me feel a bit like at home.

it was cold and sunny when i landed. or as sunny as it can get with the extremely polluted air and heavy haze. the gorgeous day reminded me of all the things i really love about being in a cold country - scarves, tights, boots, hats.. and the amazing feeling of having a cup of warm tea when you're absolutely freezing, lighting candles, being able to go for a walk without melting away, actually enjoying the rare sunshine instead of trying to escape it, the christmas feeling spreading when hearing a familiar christmas carol on the radio and smelling the glögg. the list is long.

i guess the simple truth is that i am a nordic person. i enjoy differences between the seasons (and i am not just talking about more or less rain). there is nothing like that first day of spring after a long winter, the first swim in the freezing sea, the leaves changing colours and even the first snow.

but.. after a few days in shanghai it started to rain and i also got reminded of all the things i hate about the cold, rainy, windy autumn/winter - cold and wet feet, hands and ears so cold it actually hurts, feeling reluctant to even go out, the fact that some days the sun doesn't even seem to rise. this list is long as well. after some time on my little nordic bliss cloud, i realised there are pros and cons of everything and the most important is to look at things from the bright side and enjoy the pros of where you happen to be at the moment. perhaps easier said than done though, i have an ability to think the grass is always a bit greener on the other side..

of course shanghai was not all about the climate. the weather was just about the only thing shanghai and sweden had in common. here are some of the differences.

traffic - the traffic in shanghai was absolutely mad! no one seemed to care about red lights or green lights or yellow lights for that matter. they were just driving. and honking the horn. all the time. if someone wanted to change lanes, he wasn't let in. if not stuck, the taxi drivers were just zigzagging between the five or six lanes on the motorway. you couldn't use a seatbelt because they were all stuck under the seats.

the worst thing i saw was a man on a motorbike, holding a small baby with one arm and a phone in the other hand, just driving through a red light.

language - it's really weird being in a country where you don't understand anything at all. i couldn't even take a taxi without a note in chinese with the address i was going to. when i went to the pharmacy to get some pain killers, i communicated using one of my two words (hello) and a post-it note. they even translate brand names, which is normally a big no-no for other languages.

openness and transparency - facebook, twitter, blogspot and god knows which other sites are blocked in china. to me it's strange (and upsetting) that they are trying to and most likely succeed to control the flow of information and oppress the freedom of speech through blocking this kind of sites.


  1. looks like you are getting a very good life experience over there Elin!

  2. I agree with you even though I haven´t been to Shanghai... yet. But all the things you said about Sweden and Singapore, yes!