It’s been a little over a week since I have arrived in Shanghai. People say that the city is very similar to Hong Kong and maybe it is true to some extent, but things are definitely different than what I am used to.
Everything here is an adventure to me, and the source to almost all of my random stories is my Mandarin incompetency along with the lack of English translations on almost everything.
Struggle #1: Buying shampoo and conditioner at Walmart
All the bottles looked the same! If not for all of the Mandarin fluent individuals in my program, my hair would surely have had to suffer.
Struggle #2: No free Wi-Fi in the dorms
At the international apartments, Wi-Fi isn’t provided, so I had to set up my own router. Easy enough right? Well, the tricky part was that all of the instructions in simplified Chinese. I decided to treat it like a puzzle. I studied the diagrams in the instructions and clicked on random things on the screen. After several failed attempts and over an hour of my time spent, I managed to get the internet working. It was definitely one of my prouder moments in life.
Struggle #3: Laundry
Inside my apartment is a laundry machine that I am sure has been there for decades. As with everything else, all the buttons were in Chinese. I was smart enough to wait and ask one of my Chinese literate friends to see what all the buttons meant, and was even warned to NOT put my clothes through high water. I thought I had covered all the bases. Somehow, my clothing still came out COMPLETELY soaked. It was to the point where I was able to wring it and have a substantial amount of water drip out of it. Since people don’t use driers in Shanghai, I didn’t even have that to save me. It took me an hour of manual labor to squeeze as much water as I could from each piece of clothing I washed, and to scrounge up enough hangers and balcony ledges to hang them up to dry.
Lesson learned: Don’t put the washing machine on high OR medium water. Use low water. Also, invest in more hangers.
I’m treating these as signs that I need to improve my Chinese. It is now my goal to be able to speak Mandarin somewhat conversationally by the end of these 3 months. Reading might still be an issue, but at least by that point I won’t be too afraid to ask for help by locals when I can’t read something.
My other issues are also just small inconveniences. There is my gritty bathroom that randomly has no hot water, my dial up speed Wi-Fi + sketchy VPN that only allows me to access Facebook and WordPress on rare occasions, and my inability to rely on Google maps to load up instantly on my phone (or at all) when I am lost. But honestly, it’s really not too bad. I’m treating all of these things as new life experiences. I have taken so many things for granted in the US. My complaints are definitely #firstworldproblems at its finest.