When I was going to Shanghai, I was expecting the developing country situation like I have already ranted. And I have really found it that way.
So when I’m asked how I liked Shanghai, I can only answer: if after landing to the modern and clean western Pudong airport I was immediately directed to a personal limousine and was chauffeured to the Hilton hotel, and then next day if I ate my breakfast in the hotel, and then went by limousine to the Bund, then to the Super Brand Mall to pickup some fancy magazine in the book store and enjoy it with the cup of freshly made tea, then if I had had my lunch in the upper floors of the K11 art mall, and then enjoyed the exibition here, just to return back to my warm and air-conditioned Hilton to change my clothes and to prepare for a dinner somewhere in a fancy french restaurant — if I did only all of that, I would like Shanghai a lot. If you like design, fashion, and art, in Shanghai you can enjoy a more beautiful, more bold, more luxurious, more diverse, and more abundant design and art than in Germany.
But I haven’t ordered a limousine and Hilton.
From the Pudong Airport, I took the Metro line 2, at 5pm in a working day. My hotel was just a room in an apartment building, and it was roughly as cold as the street outside. Instead of being chauffeured, I have walked along the Chang Le Lu from Jing An Si to the People’s Square, and I’ve got a sore throat due to the air. For the breakfast I ate Rou Bao for 1,5 yuan, for lunch a soup for 4 yuan, and for dinner some russian “pirogi”-like stuff for 2 yuan per item. While I’m sure my exposure was too brief to really understand the different classes of people living in Shanghai, I think I saw at least the two of them. The people living in Hilton and visiting art exibitions. And the people eating meat buns for 1,5 yuan and driving scooter on Shanghai streets.
Once in a metro, I saw two girls sitting nearby. One was a janitor lady, dressed in the blue one-piece-overall. Her face features looked for me like maybe the West-China origin, her hands were like sand paper, her skin was red and inflammed, and she didn’t wear any makeup. Her neighbour was a hello-kitty-lady, very round Shanghai face, dressed in some brand clothes, having some lady bag, wearing eyelashes longer than her eyes and the high-heel boots, and fiddling with her iPhone.
Not only it was a very striking difference, but it has occured to me if I were asked to make friends with either one of those girls, I would immediately choose the janitor lady. She was so open, so simple, so powerful, and it seemed than her soul has not yet been crushed by the city of Shanghai.
I believe, Shanghai has the power to force you to be willing to belong to the elite class. If you live in Shanghai, you will automatically want to live in Hilton, eat in shopping malls and fancy restaurants, and be chauffeured around. And this desire will appear in you in many small details — how you try to be first in any waiting line, how you ignore everyone else in the metro, how you constantly honk in your car just to save 3 seconds of time per ride, how you start putting on fake brands just to appear more wealthy than you are.
I think, only very strong souls with very good upbringing can resist this Shanghai urge. I’m afraid I’m not strong enough, even after 3 days in this city, I’ve started to cut in line and to push and to hate other people in the metro. So I’m happy I don’t need to live in Shanghai and I don’t need to prove my soul qualities in the fight against of this monster.