Shanghai was an extreme experience for me. Everything was unbelievably strange. Three months I spent there with the support of a scholarship of InWEnt for management trainees (November 2006 until February 2007). I wrote a newsletter at that time for the Hamburg Representative Office (http://www.hamburgshanghai.org): So I wrote articles about museums, about the preparations for the EXPO 2010 and much more… besides, I updated an English website regularly (http://www.green-shanghai.com//).
By the support of the scholarship I was able to afford a private teacher and learnt some Mandarin. Apart from this I traveled with my boyfriend to Beijing and to Hong Kong. The experiences which I gained there are open for reading on the website of the Munich Press Club (in German) at: http://www.presseclub-muenchen.de.
As you can see in my summary I wasn’t really successful in getting deep into the Chinese culture. One reason for this is that I am not able to speak Mandarin. But another reason is that the Chinese keep their private life for their own and don’t admit a foreigner to get access to it. I was often wondering, I was often shaking my head. Not rarely I was overtaxed by the mass of people, by all the noise – and sometimes I was surprised by the impressive dynamic of this city and by people’s joy when thinking about their future (completely unknown in Germany).
Often I was exhausted when I came home because this city is like an octopus which sucks your energy out of your body. At that time I often longed for German cheese and German cereal bread, and also for fresh air and physical movement. In Shanghai it is almost impossible to go jogging because of the permanent smog above the city.
I was often wondering about the censorship, the extensive restrictions, the control, the propaganda and also about the people. Especially about the people – their way of thinking was quite often far too strange for me. The adventure China was a big challenge for me and it was a gift to get my own idea of this big drake. These three months demanded a lot from me, I quite often reached my limits – especially my physical limits because a normal work day includes ten to twelve hours plus a two-hours-way to the work place in Pudong by metro (way there and back).
Nevertheless I don’t want to miss this experience. It made clear that my main area of interest is not in Asia but in Russia – here I felt really well in contrast to Shanghai, although being a vegetarian (what is not easy in Russia because the Russian kitchen is solid and full of meat dishes). But: The Chinese also love meat, in contrast to our prejudice that they only eat rice and vegetables all day long. Chinese are the most passionate meat-eaters I have ever seen. Terrible but true. And a Chinese restaurant has nothing to do with someone in China. Terrible. But true.