School Exchange to China

Shanghai is a large, international city located in south east of China, with a population of 24 million people.

I lived in Shanghai for 6 months and my experience living in the city was interesting. As a foreigner, with little language skills, it was difficult. It was completely different culturally from my European travels.

A few people in Shanghai speak English and I lived with my French friends. I studied Mandarin and traveled alone throughout the country, including Beijing and Inner Mongolia (Hohhot and Kubuqi desert). The commonality I observed in Chinese cities was the construction projects!

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Shanghai  is in constant flux–streets that looked one way the day before will have a new office being built the next day. Construction noise is everywhere, even as I write this blog! Some Chinese cities develop so quickly, it seems what should take 5 years happens in one, creating huge economic growth. But why are  things going so fast?

In a world of economic competitivity, China wants the leader position. About 10 years ago, the Chinese government adopted competition between all cities. Foreign companies realized they could start manufacturing businesses with lower costs. There was much foreign investment and real estate development boomed in Shanghai, causing prices to rise for locals.

Shanghai is very different than other Chinese cities. It is a mix between Occidental and Chinese culture. The image China wants to project to the world is that Shanghai an open and free market city. Rich people and poor people live in close proximity. In fact, Shanghai is one of most attractive places and the cost of living is cheap, except the rent.  

You can eat very well for a few yuan and take taxis daily. Shanghai offers a comfortable life for middle class people.  

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The smartphone is very important in China. Locals use a social network called Wechat. When you meet someone new, you scan their QR code to communicate. Wechat is also your wallet. It’s easy to pay for things with it. Living in Shanghai reminded me of Science fiction because so much of your life is manages with a smartphone.  

Shanghai offers many opportunities in design, art, architecture, literature, the law and, especially for business.Many foreigners come to launch a new brand or partner with some Chinese industries.

Shanghai is unique in many ways and not representative of typical Chinese culture. If you go, you’ll realize how big the country is! It makes European cities like Paris feel small. Most people in Shanghai speak Mandarin but there are also 35 different types of cultures and 25 different types of languages, not including the dialects!

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