5 Years of China.. the Lows

Thursday, February 1, 2007 10:11

When trying to think of what I have learned, what have been the highs and lows, etc of living in Shanghai, it is like unleashing a torrent of memories.

The fact is that there is just too much, and I think I now know why it gets harder and harder for writers to put words to paper as their time in a place or circumstance grows longer.

Here are a few of the most difficult things that I have come to recognize after 5 years put together, and they are really nothing more than issues brought up frequently through conversations.

1) The biggest change (visible) – This is a no brainer! the skylines of Shanghai and Beijing, the two places I have lived, and in the second tier cities I have visited, have undergone massive changes. I recently read that there were 10,000 active construction projects in Beijing alone right now, and for anyone that has been to Shanghai’s urban planning museum, one can see what changes are left. China is the largest market for cement, steel, and construction machinery, and the last 5 years have offered daily proof as to why

2) The biggest change (invisible) – while having lunch with a good friend the other day, and while catching up with another at an AmCham, the change in expats came up. 5 years ago, this was a much smaller group of people who were either GM, english teachers, or Chinese students. People were more likely to say hi in passing rather than offer the blank glaze many do these days. It is a change that I personally think is silly as we are “all in this together”, but with the same gold rush feeling of Silicon Valley bringing so many new people to town, I guess the good old days are just that.

3) The hardest part of living in Shanghai – for me, the hardest part of living in Shanghai has been the distance between myself and my family. this is something that became even more evident as I had to fly home for my third family emergency in 2 years, but this also extends to the number of family events (birthday, weddings, etc) that occur.. and becoming that “uncle who lives in China”.

4) The most annoying part of living in Shanghai – for many this would be the spitting, impatience, etc that are widely blogged on, but I am beyond that. Having seen just about everything in China, I am not bothered by all that, and in some cases I have taken on some of those habits… For me, it is the noise. Shanghai is by far the noisiest city I have lived in, and it is nothing short of oppressive. the level of noise not only pushes my blood pressure up, but it also prevents me from decompressing.

5) The most difficult thing to manage – In Shanghai, and I am sure this as true for those in HK and Silicon Valley before it, managing a balanced life through the chaos of Shanghai is just impossible. Unlike my time in the U.S. working in a cube farm, where every day was much the same, the dynamics of life in Shanghai are wildly different. It is possible to experience mental highs and lows in very short periods of time (i.e. hours .. or minutes), and as such, many days in Shanghai are mentally exhausting.. and exhilarating.. all at the same time

Of course, in the end, even with these 5 lows… the highs are more than enough to not only keep me here.  But are enough for me not to even need an alarm clock in the morning

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