At 22:20 on Thursday 28th April 2016 – 12 months ago to the day – Matt and I arrived in Shanghai with six stuffed suitcases and a serious case of jet-lag. The keys to our apartment wouldn’t be ready until the following day so we checked into the Intercontinental, tourist-style.
When I made a big deal today in the office about having been in China for one whole year, my colleague Miki asked me how I felt. My reply – taking huge liberties with the truth – was “I feel like a local (!)”.
Local I certainly am not, but I do feel quite at home in China. I can order coffee “Kāfēi Měiguó jiā niúnǎi” and – more importantly – a glass of white wine “Bái pútáojiǔ”. I can scoot around on the metro. I have favourite places to eat and know where to buy cheese. I have some great friends. I can use Taobao and Alipay. I brazenly walk out into oncoming traffic, careful not to make eye-contact with the drivers of cars hurtling towards me. I no longer squeal when someone invades my personal space,,, Well, okay, I may still be working on the last one but I’ve improved a lot!
As for Matt, he has eaten more obscure foods in 12 months than most people eat in a life-time, can hold his own in Mandarin, and has mastered the ‘Chinese Group Photo Pose’ (those who grew up listening to the Spice Girls will also recognise this as the universal symbol of Girl Power). This is expertly demonstrated below at a meal we had last night to celebrate the birthday of one of his team members (happy birthday Patra!)
We’ve made it through 4 seasons; the sweltering summer (which is almost upon us again – it’s forecast to be 27 degrees on Sunday!), and the not-as-cold-as-expected-but-twice-as-polluted winter, where my face was disguised behind my attractive air-filter mask for about two months straight.
Since we moved out here I’ve not been back to the UK so it was great to have my parents come to stay earlier this month. We visited Beijing, Pingyao, Xi’an and Zhangjiajie over the course of 12 days – blogs and photos to come! All our holidays – with the exception of Christmas in Thailand – have been in mainland China and this year we plan to branch out into Asia a bit more. Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos are near the top of the list, so if anyone reading this has been and has any top tips or recommendations, please let me know!
I’ve tried to photo-document my travels around Shanghai and China as much as possible, for the blog and to share with family and friends back home (my ad-hoc snaps are usually accompanied by funny looks from locals who are evidently thinking “why on God’s earth is that crazy blonde lady taking a photo of my washing line?). I would estimate that I’ve taken around 718, 000, 435, 888 photos during my time here but to mark our 1-year Shanghai-versary I’ve picked my favourite:
To all our family and friends, we miss you lots. We hope you are enjoying the blog and look forward to seeing you soon!
– Em & Matt