My friend asked me to use one word to describe Shanghai. “Elitist” came to mind right away. But I needed more words. Rich. Gorgeous. Filthy and immaculate, at the same time. Full of it! A hot girl in a Versace dress who thinks she’s all that. Stifling and suffocating- the weather. Often insufferable- the people. But also beautiful, dynamic, ridiculously cosmopolitan, always on the tip of its toes. An outstanding city, which by all means I should hate— but that I’ve surprisingly started to love. 1400 km away from the city I grew up in, it’s completely, completely different. It’s definitely no Beijing, but it has something that’s entirely it’s own.
Loneliness is something I have to deal with here. Career and identity crises are some things I have to deal with. Culture shock ( yes, even I experience culture shock, just a little bit) is something I have to deal with. Not having the same type of spicy Sichuan food that I can get in Beijing. Not having the same group of friends to go out and party with. Not having my mom around all the time to escape to when I need a little breathing space. Not much of a “life” beyond my internship. Not many people to talk to, no familiar roads to pass on my way home— where I live alone. But haven’t I always had to deal with these things, in one way or another?
And this city is teaching me so many more things. Like how to be Chinese again. Really, really Chinese— the type who goes on Weibo everyday, who watches Taiwanese dramas and cries her heart out, who gets into a taxi and says, “师傅，去xxx路101弄～“then proceeds to have a heart-to-heart conversation with him. I’m even starting to understand Shanghainese a little bit (ok, that might be somewhat of an overstatement). Now sometimes when I speak in English I actually feel awkward— like I have to mentally shift gears and translate my whole thought process, like when you press those little flag buttons on the top right corners of web pages and everything changes. And I know this is just what I needed all along. To revisit that very, very important part of my identity again— The Chinese girl whose always been the core of my whole being. I’ve always rejected becoming whitewashed. But 3 years in New York have been hard on me. Being an English Lit and Journalism major hasn’t helped either. Thankfully, Shanghai’s saved me from teetering over the edge. And I can still recite Li Bai’s poems by heart!
The same friend asked me to describe New York in one word. I still needed four. “A very rich hipster,” I said. I miss that rich hipster a whole fucking lot, so much it literally hurts inside whenever I think about my life back in the city. But maybe, just maybe… I’m starting to fall a little bit for the hot girl in that Versace dress too.
Shanghai, I’m so glad I’m here.