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Adam’s List: Best of Shanghai Restaurants, Bars, Coffee Shops

January 11th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Update: Check out new additions for 2010

As the new year rolls around, I thought it’d be fun to throw together a list from my little black book of Shanghai favorites.  Here’s to a great 2009, and to my personal hope that Yelp makes a splash in China sometime soon!

Lunch & Dinner

Food Fusion – Nice little place with tasty Malaysian and other Southeast Asian dishes.  Amazing authentic roti bread with chicken curry.  Very friendly and reasonably priced, catering to local folks as well as the usual flow of expats.  Just a few blocks walk from Xintiandi.

El Willy – Great upscale tapas place in the French Concession.  Treat yourself to a massage at the neighboring Dragonfly parlor before or after.

Yogafish – Both the best and cheapest sushi I’ve found in Shanghai.  Lots of California-style creative roll concoctions priced between 35-45 RMB ($5-$7 US) each.  Specializes in take-out and delivery, with only a few places to sit while dining in.  Had them cater a party and turned out amazingly.

Trattoria Isabelle – Fantastic Italian food and wine at quite reasonable prices.  Comfortable, relaxing atmosphere that makes for a great date place.  Just off Huaihai Road a jump, skip, and a hop from Fuxing Park.

Thai Gallery – One of my two favorite Thai restaurants in Shanghai.  Amazingly large menu full of authentic dishes and a beautiful setting full of art.  A bit off the beaten path from where I usually hang out, but only a few blocks from the West Nanjing Road metro station and a short cab ride from People’s Square.

Coconut Paradise – My other favorite Thai restaurant in Shanghai, nestled in the French Concession along a row of other great restaurants near the corner of Fumin Road and Julu Road.  Great outdoor patio.

En – A nice little Japanese restaurant with fantastic Japanese beef and noodle dishes and friendly owners and staff.  Highly recommend the meatball skewers with the side of raw egg for dipping that accompanies them.  Only problem is you’ll never find it in the maze of alleys that are Taikang Road, and with a name like En, you’ll probably never find it on the web either (I couldn’t!).  If you do, take the private room on the second floor for a great meal for groups of 4-6.

Maya – Recently opened upscale, modern Mexican restaurant serving up some of the best high end Mexican flavors I’ve tasted.  Highly recommend making a reservation on busy nights.

Lost Heaven – Perhaps my favorite Chinese restaurant to make the list, bringing together a diverse and flavorful cuisine from Yunnan province.  Large space with a cozy-feeling ambience that works for small or large groups, and a decent bar for sipping on a cocktail while you wait for your table (though you probably won’t need to).

Nepali Kitchen – My favorite for authentic Nepalese/Indian cuisine.  Run by friendly people who are all too happy to make recommendations tailored to your taste preferences.  Choice of table or cushioned floor seating, but you may want to call ahead if you have a preference.

Din Tai Fung – Known for some of the most amazing dumplings in the world, including Shanghai’s own Xiaolongbao.  If you’re out to sample great Chinese cuisine, I highly recommend making a stop at one of their Shanghai locations.

Shanghai 1931 – Another one of my favorite Chinese restaurants to make the list.  Very small, cozy venue with fantastic food and service.  Highly recommend the duck pancakes.  Great for dates or very small groups.

Shintori – Fantastic Japanese food in a beautiful, modern atmosphere.  Two floors of seating around a huge open space gives everyone a view of the open area kitchen.  A bit pricey, but well worth the food and experience.  The entrance is intentionally unmarked (though not as difficult to unlock as its sister joint Ren Jian in Taipei), but it’s well worth the adventure.

Xiao Nan Guo – A well-known Shanghainese restaurant with quite a few locations.  Shanghainese food isn’t one of my favorite Chinese cuisines, but if you’re after it, this is the place I’d recommend.  Caters mostly to an upwardly mobile local crowd.  I recommend the French Concession location inset into a quite beautiful villa.

Marrakech – Cozy little Moroccan restaurant in the heart of the French Concession.  If you’re a local looking for a cuisine not often found in Shanghai (or most cities for that matter), highly recommend stopping in.

Las Tapas – Quite tasty tapas joint with a helpful picture menu for inquiring minds.  Decent amount of food and more reasonably priced (though admittedly not as unique as) El Willy.  Specials are run a few nights each week.  Recommend the location on Maoming Road where you’ll also find a few other interesting-looking restaurants I’ve yet to check out (and of course, a good ol’ Blue Frog outlet).

Xin Da Lu – Decent Chinese restaurant at the Hyatt on the Bund.  Mainly included in the list as it happens to be the only place I’ve had an authentic Peking Duck sliced at the table in Shanghai, and it was quite good.  Highly recommend checking out the Vue bar on the hotel roof afterwards.

Haiku – Shanghai’s generally not known for its quality of sushi, but this is one of the better joints I’ve found.  It’s also down the road from where I live, so I may be biased.

Yin – One of the first Chinese restaurants I was taken to in Shanghai, and I just kept returning over and over.  There’s a Japanese teppanyaki section as well, but I haven’t had occasion to try it.  Yin is great for small or large groups, and has a selection of Chinese dishes that are more similar to Western Chinese restaurants than most other establishments.  Caters mainly to expats.  Entrance can be a bit hard to find.

Jade On 36 – Perhaps the highest end restaurant I’ve been to in the city, with many many course set meals priced at around 800 RMB ($115 US), but well worth it for special occasions.  The restaurant, located at the top of the Shangri La hotel, has an absolutely amazing view of Shanghai’s Bund skyline.  Highly recommend calling ahead and reserving a table by the window.

Whisk – Small, trendy Italian restaurant good for a quick bite.  Just a block from the Changshu Road metro.  Slightly inset from the street so look closely or it might pass you by.  Quite possibly the best selection of chocolate desserts in Shanghai.

Istanbul – Great Turkish restaurant with a beautiful dining room on Huaihai Road around the corner from the South Shaanxi Road metro station.  I’ve only been once, and it was a nice dining experience.  Anadolu also gets rave reviews from my local Turkish friends (ok, friend singular), and though only located a block from my home, I’ve yet to drop by.

Barbarossa – A beautiful restaurant serving up Mediterranean influenced dishes right in the heart of People’s Park.  The beautiful setting makes this one of my top recommendations if just visiting Shanghai for a short time.  The bar upstairs is also fantastic, and draws a diverse crowd for the drinks and view from the roof.

Yang’s Fry-Dumpling – A staple along Shanghai’s Wujiang Road food street famous for Mr. Yang’s cheap and famous friend dumplings.  If you’ve never been to a food street in Asia (or if you have and want to see what Shanghai’s has to offer), I highly recommend spending an evening strolling through Wujiang Road and sampling the offerings.  While the government cracked down on illegal vendors, causing some controversy among Wujiang Road fans, there’s still plenty of cuisine to be tried.


Kommune – An expat landmark nestled in the center of renowned Taikang Road, Kommune is a restaurant/coffee shop worth checking out any time of the day.  The Aussie-run establishment is known for its famous Wednesday night Great Ozzie BBQ, and features specials on other nights of the week as well, but my favorite is breakfast/brunch, as it’s one of the few locations in Shanghai in a cool location open for meals as early as 8am.

Le Meridien – One of Shanghai’s amazing Sunday morning hotel brunch experiences – highly suggest checking it out.  Huge selection and seriously entertaining atmosphere that borders on hilarious.  Prices are around 400-500 RMB ($60-$70 US) per person, and there is an unlimited champagne option.  Its sister hotel, The Westin, is known for an original brunch as well that may rival Le Meridien – I’ve yet to try.

Kabb – Owned and operated by the same company as Blue Frog (another favorite of many expats), Kabb offers a decent Western brunch with Southwest American comfort foods such as the breakfast burrito.  Good for Americans missing local flavors of home.  Only complaint about Blue Frog and Kabb is that my laptop can’t connect to the WiFi in any locations.

Azul Viva – Spanish restaurant close to my home with a lively atmosphere and tasty, reasonably priced Sunday brunch.  Trying out meals other than brunch is also high on my list, but I’ve yet to stop in.

Nova – A decent French restaurant in the Dagu Road area largely frequented by expats for the famous DVD shops (e.g. the notable “Movie World” and “Even Better Than Movie World” outlets).  Offers a quite good 88 RMB ($13 US) brunch Monday-Saturday with a slightly higher price on Sunday.

Dim Sum

Hengshan Cafe – A Chinese restaurant with several locations featuring a wide selection of Cantonese favorites, and a fantastic reasonably priced dim sum.  The location on Yan’an Road is much larger and a bit nicer than the smaller cafe on Hengshan Road.

Lynn – Chinese restaurant featuring an unlimited dim sum for about 70-80 RMB ($10-$12 US).  The dim sum is good, as are dinner meals, but the service two of the three times I’ve been was horrible, and they begin to run out of most dim sum items around 1pm so start early if you decide to check it out.

Crystal Jade – Quite tasty and reasonably priced dim sum with a convenient Xintiandi location.  A word of warning that the restaurant opens around 11-11:30am, so don’t go too early.


Vue Bar – An awesome bar atop the Hyatt on the Bund.  Not walking distance to much other action, but still well worth checking out.  The bar is two levels and beautifully decorated, the crowd is good, and the second level has an outdoor area on the roof complete with a hot tub – something you’re not likely to find in a bar elsewhere!

Jin Mao Bar – A bar at the top of Jin Mao tower, the tallest building in Shanghai until recently taken over by the new neighboring world financial center.  Stopping in for a drink here is a much more fun option than paying to visit the tower’s observation deck, and gives you an awesome view of the Puxi side of Shanghai from the Pudong skyscraper.  Suggest stopping in for a drink while it’s still light in the late afternoon.  When you reach the bar level and step out of the elevator, try to turn left first to sneak a downward peek at the awe-inspiring inside of the Hyatt hotel.

People 7 – One of my new favorite little bars near a bunch of great restaurants along Julu Road.  Opening the door at the entrance is a bit of an experience the first time, but worth the effort. ;-)

Just Grapes – Decent wine bar in a few locations with some decent food plates, but also happens to be my favorite wine shop with incredibly reasonable prices and a broad selection, categorized interestingly for those looking to learn about wines in ways other than “old world” “new world”.

JZ Club – Best jazz bar in Shanghai with a great atmosphere and nightly live shows.

Enoteca – My favorite wine bar in Shanghai.  I prefer the Anfu Road location, though admittedly I’ve never been to the other.

Shanghai Studio – My favorite gay bar in Shanghai.  Unlimited drinks Thursdays for 100 RMB ($15 US) and DJ Joseph Kyle spinning many Saturdays.

Glamour Bar – Chic, famous venue in one of the Bund’s pre-WW2 architectural wonders.  Quite the yuppy scene, but always fun.  M On The Bund, a restaurant in the same building and owned by the same company, is reported to be one of Shanghai’s best restaurants and brunches.  For some odd reason I’ve yet to try.

Bar Rouge – Another chic bar not too far from Glamour on the Bund.  Quite famous, usually packed with a good crowd of people from all over.  Nice outdoor space overlooking the water.  Last time I was here the bar was lit up on fire.

Blarney Stone – If you came to Shanghai looking for an Irish pub, this is the place to be.  While there are 2-3 other Irish pubs within a 5 block radius, the Blarney Stone is the smallest, coziest, and reminds me the most of the real pubs that line the alleys of Dublin.  Clearly, tasty Guinness runs on tap.

Coffee Shops

Bovo Mondo – A new coffee shop with chic interior and friendly staff that just recently opened along Dagu Road.  In addition to coffee, the place is filled with a great selection of art, architecture, and other books and recent magazines that can be read while you relax and drink.

Coffee Tree – My current favorite in Shanghai, coffee tree is a great space in the renovated expat delight, Ferguson Lane.  The drop coffee’s quite bad in my opinion, but the espresso is decent, and the breakfast sets are quite well put together.  WiFi is reliable and reasonable fast.  There are a few locations – I’d suggest the one in Ferguson Lane on Wukang Road.

Ginger Cafe – A great little restaurant and coffee shop on a peaceful stretch of Fuxing Road that also serves fantastic tasting Southeast Asian food dishes.  The WiFi is also good here, and I enjoy strolling around this beautiful part of the French Concession.

Figaro – My first favorite coffee shop in Shanghai.  The first few times I didn’t know about the great upstairs area decorated a bit like a professor’s library.  The coffee is great, and the food is decent.  WiFi is fast and reliable.  Just a block away from Xintiandi.

Coffee Bean at Xintiandi – The city is littered with Starbucks and Coffee Bean locations and their knock-offs, but when I’m craving a taste of home I find myself stopping by this bustling Coffee Bean location right along the main Xintiandi strip.

Listings are in no particular order, and I’ve left out photos in-part because I’m lazy and in-part to make it easier to load on mobile phones.  Most locations have contact info, maps, and photos if you click through the links.

Please feel free to comment with your own reviews or suggestions!  I’ve got a list twice as long waiting to be tried out in 2009, so stay tuned for more to come!

→ 2 CommentsTags: Miscellaneous


November 26th, 2008 · 5 Comments

If you read the first blog post I made after moving to China, you might walk away with the impression that living here is inconvenient.  In fact, it’s more of a toss-up.  Some things are in fact ridiculously inconvenient (like having to go to the cable TV office to pay bills in person), while others are ridiculously convenient (like hiring someone to go to the cable TV office for you).

My most convenient moment of the month?  Just having used Windows Live Messenger to order delivery right to my doorstep from any restaurant in Shanghai (for about $2.20US)

Adam says (7:03 PM):
hi, i’d like to make an order from indian kitchen.  my phone number is 135xxxxxxxx
Sherpa’s —This is CSR Cookie , how can I help you ? says (7:05 PM):
pls wait a sec
is ur room no. 1705 or 910?
Adam says (7:06 PM):
Sherpa’s —This is CSR Cookie , how can I help you ? says (7:06 PM):
item p,s
Adam says (7:06 PM):
i’d like 1 order vegetable samosa, 1 order butter chicken masala, and 1 order white rice
Sherpa’s —This is CSR Cookie , how can I help you ? says (7:07 PM):
anything else?
Adam says (7:07 PM):
Sherpa’s —This is CSR Cookie , how can I help you ? says (7:07 PM):
ok let me checj
Sherpa’s —This is CSR Cookie , how can I help you ? sends:
    1 (15KB)  Open(Alt+P)
Sherpa’s —This is CSR Cookie , how can I help you ? says (7:08 PM):
this is ur bill, pls check
  You have successfully received C:\Users\adamjh\Documents\My Received Files\1.htm from Sherpa’s —This is CSR Cookie , how can I help you ?.
Adam says (7:10 PM):
great, thank you
Sherpa’s —This is CSR Cookie , how can I help you ? says (7:11 PM):
u’re welcome
have a good time
Adam says (7:11 PM):
thanks you too
Sherpa’s —This is CSR Cookie , how can I help you ? says (7:11 PM):

→ 5 CommentsTags: Miscellaneous

Home Sweet Home

October 18th, 2008 · 3 Comments

48 hours in Tokyo. 72 in LA, Taipei. 84 in Beijing. 3 weeks in Seattle and I’m back in Shanghai.

Fun fact: I’ve landed at Tokyo Narita 9 times so far this year, but August was the first time I’ve ever been able to leave the airport to experience Japan (for 48 hours).

I live on the 10th floor of a building built in 1928.  My apartment number on the 10th floor is 910, which confuses the heck out of guests and Sherpa’s drivers.  There are 3 units on each floor. The common areas of my building are not well-maintained. Sometimes, the door of our 1 creaky elevator refuse to shut. Over the summer, someone with a stroke of ingenuity mounted a 1970s era fan on the elevator wall to keep it cool. The elevator ceiling sports fluorescent lightbulb fixtures mixed with empty cigarette packs. The floor is covered in spit, a moderately acceptable social practice I’ve been told is used to protect the lungs against pollution, and this leads me to giggle just a bit at the irony of seeing workers on the street cigarette in-hand, hocking up loogies.

About 30 days ago I noticed a disproportionately large number of people taking the elevator to the 11th floor. I figured someone was running a strange business out of one of the 3 units on the floor above me. On the 1st floor, there is a 3’x7’ room with a fluorescent light and a cot. This is where the building Ayis (housekeepers, sort-of) congregate and one will sleep overnight to guard the always-unlocked door (though I’ve never actually woken her up as I stumble in after a late night at the bar). When I have mailbills, an Ayi will chase me down and get my attention with a “Hey” in her local dialect – to experience this intriguing sound, try clearing your throat as loudly as possible while making the sound “Aaaaaa” (really, try it!).

1 week ago, I hear the “Aaaaaa” chasing after me, but there was no mail. Ayi pointed me to a sign in Chinese that I could not read, then explained to me in Chinese that I could understand that from tomorrow for 1 month the elevator would be out of commission while a new one is installed, and that I could use an entrance to another building around the corner instead. Then it clicked – the 11th floor! I was on my way out to Beijing at the time, but when I returned several days later, I went into the building around the corner and rode what was a shiny new elevator to their 11th floor. Sure enough, there was a cavernous, zigzaggy corridor across the 11th floor of 3 buildings.

This is the craziness that is Shanghai. Almost every day, I discover something new that piques my interest or boggles my mind – whether it be my secret passage on the 11th floor, window-washers repelling off of skyscrapers with rope instead of scaffolding (outside view), noises from next door each morning that for a month I thought was rough sex but turn out to be an 80 year old man slapping the skin on his body for exercise, or ladies in the park dancing to the Vengaboys.

In 90 minutes, my landlord’s workers will arrive to remove much of my rental furniture, and I will be couchless for the week in preparation for delivery of some European couches I found in a Chinese interior design magazine (Koppel special flashbacks, anyone?) and worked with 3 furniture consultants for 3 hours entirely in Mandarin Chinese to design a personalized combination of sections, fabrics, and prints. This milestone perhaps marks my officially having planted both feet in the ground in considering Shanghai “home”, such that if/when I leave China, I will be leaving with a cargo container in addition to the 2 suitcases that accompanied me here.

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马来西亚, Truly Asia.

August 16th, 2008 · 1 Comment

If you asked me a year ago where I thought I might find myself today, swimming with the fish off the coast of Malaysia hardly would’ve made my short list of answers. Ah, the places life can take take you, if you let it!

Berjaya beachMalaysia. My first jaunt outside of Greater China, well, besides the Tokyo airport. What a country!

Joined by my friend Ben from California, armed with Lonely Planet in-hand and a slew of recommendations from local friends and colleagues who’d once lived there, I embarked on a week long trip to explore what turned out to be one of the most warm, colorful, beautiful places in my recent memory.

Signs to world sitesThe journey really began when I boarded the Malaysia Airlines plane (ticket cost: 20,000 miles. Worldperks: priceless.) to be greeted by warm, friendly, flight attendants dressed in the unique blends of blues, turquoises, and purples that dot the landscape of the island along with bright peaches, oranges, and other tropical hues. The friendliness carried through the island as well, and the slower, quieter pace was a refreshing break from the insanity that is always-exciting Shanghai.

At Petronas Towers One of the stark differences between Kuala Lumpur and the large cities I’ve lived in before, was the landscape of a city nestled into an environment of sprawling green. Shanghai, and before it Los Angeles, can sometimes feel like sprawling concrete jungles. And outside of Kuala Lumpur, the nature only gets better. We jetted to Penang, a beautiful island with a rich mixture of Southeast Asian cultures, cuisines, and a colonial history that left it sporting unique colonial architecture, and later to Redang and its surrounding islands that together make up a marine nature reserve like no other I’ve seen.

Mentos on the tarmac! Trip highlights and tidbits:  Driving the circumference of Penang island listening to a local blend of Michael Jackson, New Order, Guns N’ Roses, Hindi island music, and a censored "I wanna love you up!". Wild monkeys. Don’t bribe me. Shopping. More shopping. Sexy AirAsia planes with tasty roti canai, pop music, black leather seats, and a killer inflight mag (ticket cost: $33). Jungle trekking with new friends. The best ferry music ever. Spicy curry Doritos. VIP. KL nightlife. More KL nightlife. The E&O hotel. The E&O hotel butler button. Making diverse friends through rich cultural exchanges of Oreos and Mentos. And more.

I’ve been back in Shanghai for several weeks now, working, exploring, and continuing to make new friends. Olympic fever has taken China by storm.

Beijing 2008 ad

Watching the opening ceremonies in a local British pub together with friends and colleagues from China, USA, Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, Uzbekistan, and other far-off places was a surreal experience in so many ways. I have so much more to write about my journey here in China, and at the same time, have just begun to plan my next adventure to Japan (ticket cost: 30,000 miles) during China’s Golden Week holiday.. which reminds me, if you’ve been to the land of the rising sun, I’m looking for travel tips. :)

And now.. off to my weekly Chinese writing lesson.

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From 台北. (Taipei)

June 1st, 2008 · No Comments

Bustling Xujiahui at duskI’m beat.  Life is flying by at a thousand miles per hour and I’ve made little downtime to stop and catch my breath.  New country, new language, new home, new work, new friends — have left little opportunity for tranquility or balance.

Back in Shanghai, just as I begin to grow accustomed to the surprises that a foreigner encounters fresh off the boat, new waves of challenges exit the shadows.  It starts with moving into a real Shanghai apartment.  Where is the nearest dry cleaner?  How does postal mail work and how do I pay bills in a country without personal checks?  Where can I find a replacement for my Xbox 360 power adapter in a country where the Xbox isn’t sold?  How about dishwasher detergent in a place where machines are so rare because humans washing dishes charge less than $1.50/hour?

DangXinPengTou As the range of interactions begins to expand, so do the language requirements.  Cold and Hot and No Good no longer suffice when trying to explain to a plumber in broken Mandarin that the shower faucet is having problems mixing the two together to arrive at Warm.  And so, in my third month, for the first time since arriving to China, I broke out the Lonely Planet phrase book, and soon after found a Chinese-English dictionary for my iPhone.  I still draw giggles when ordering food on the street by pointing at various local variety of dumplings and blindly belting out "one of this one and one of this one and one of this one and one of this one ("yi ge zhe ge he yi ge zhe ge he yi ge zhe ge he yi ge zhe ge"), but slowly and surely I’m getting there.  Learning Chinese at 26 has been markedly more difficult than Hebrew at 9 or Spanish at 13, but it’s a fantastic language and I’d highly recommend the challenge to anyone who has never dabbled in languages of the region.

In lieu of blogging when life gets busy, I’ve been feeding my photo and activity streams with trails of my adventures inside and outside of Shanghai.  I spent a little time back in Los Angeles and Seattle, and took day trips to Tongli and Suzhou, beautiful places not far from Shanghai.

Taipei street food Last night, I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, and wow has it been amazing.  The city is packed with food streets selling endless varieties of treats that tantalize the tastebuds of passerby’s.  The city landscapes are set against a backdrop of green mountains covered with trees of a variety that are so different than those I’m used to back in the US.

Freedom Square The attitude, and culture climate, feels different here too.  While walking through Freedom Square, one encounters a playful atmosphere full of children, music, and an environment of expressive emotion.  The people on the subway smile.  The taxi drivers are happy and engage you in cheerful conversation.  There’s a refreshing feeling of independent thought and awareness in the air that is difficult to explain but easy to sense.

National Palace Museum art The highlight of Taipei so far has been a visit to the National Palace Museum, housing exquisite Chinese art and cultural pieces from 8000 years of history.  The collection is rare in that it escaped the destruction of the cultural revolution by being shipped to Taiwan during China’s Communist/Nationalist civil war.  It is an incredible display of art and treasure and so very unique from those I’ve seen at museums in the West, and quickly elicits responsive, beautiful feelings of emotion.

I’m traveling in Taiwan with Chinese colleagues from the mainland, and I am continuing to learn so much about this part of the part of the world I’ve never before made the opportunity to explore.

And I know I’ve only just begun to skim the very surface of its culture and its history.

What a great feeling.

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Hello from 上海. (Shanghai)

April 13th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Figaro Coffee CompanyHi!  Welcome to my new blog and web site!  I’m writing from a table at one of my new favorite local coffee shops, Figaro Coffee Company near Xintiandi.  It came highly recommended by a colleague, and features a pretty decent American breakfast menu, great coffee, a reliable wireless Internet connection, and a comfortable environment for working, reading, or geeking out with your Lenovo Thinkpad.

There will be plenty of time to write about myself, my thoughts on technology, politics, religion, economics, and… exactly what brought be to China.  But for now, let’s kick things off with a list of some of my most fun experiences from the past 30 days!  Without further adieu…

Top 10 “Oh Fuck, I’m Actually Living in China!” moments (so far)

10.  Walking into Pizza Hut at Xujiahui, only to discover that in China Pizza Hut is a 5 star restaurant with mahogany wood and gold decor.  Instant flashbacks to Demolition Man: “All restaurants are Taco Bell!”.  Fun fact: There seem to be more Pizza Huts, KFCs, and Haagen Dazs in Shanghai than I’ve ever encountered before.

Starbucks9.  Realizing rather quickly that one’s much better suited to sit inside, rather than outside, for a fresh of breath air at the local Starbucks.

8.  Taking fighting over the bill to the next level.  In China, splitting is faux paux, and everyone is eager to pay.  Best ChinesePod lesson ever.

7.  First, growing incredibly frustrated when a plethora of web sites fail to load.  Next, beginning to slowly adjust to a censored Internet.  Finally, sadly realizing that 9 times out of 10 I’m not willing to exert the effort to circumvent it, and that this is precisely why it’s so effective.

6.  First, growing incredibly angry at the culture of rushing into subways and elevators before letting people exit (despite clearly drawn yellow/red signs).  Next, starting to do the same in order to survive.  Finally, finding myself shoving into a subway car so packed that even local Chinese wait for the next train, then riding like a sardine swaying back and forth with nothing to grab onto feeling every curve of the the body next to me pushing up against mine.

5.  Opening accounts at a bank, and at China Mobile, on my second day in the country, without a word of Chinese, as every employee and intern gathered ’round to help by contributing their couple words of English and gawk over my recently unlocked “iPhone-eh!”  Giggling slightly as the intern with long fingernails kept pressing the wrong numbers on the screen and handing it back to me to start over.

4.  Making the mistake of ordering a large number of servers from a US retailer on my own, only to receive an email from UPS entirely in Chinese upon arrival at customs 3 days later.  Watching in amazement for 3 weeks at the process involving a dozen people, fifty or so emails and phone calls, in-person visits to banks to transfer funds, arcane paper processes involving multiple “company chops”, and 20-30% customs duties plus daily holding fees to bail them out.  Again, watching my mindset slowly transition from one of defiance to resigning to compliance.

3.  Coming to terms with the strange fact that the largest denomination of currency in China is equivalent to $14 US, checks do not exist, and credit cards are still uncommon.  To put things in concrete terms, to buy a Macbook Air at the local electronics market, you might carry over $3500 US, or 25,000 RMB, or 250 paper bills.

2.  Getting my first ultrasound.  Yes, you heard right.  To work here, foreigners must undergo a full health inspection — a very strange process involving changing into a somewhat revealing robe and walking room-to-room in public with various doctors and technicians poking, prodding, taking blood, and yes, performing an ultrasound on both men and women.  Just smile and nod!

1.  My absolute favorite Oh Fuck, I’m Actually Living in China moment so far… just has to be sitting smack down on top of an old woman on the subway.  While I’d heard how precious a commodity subway seats were, I never could’ve imagined that in the milliseconds between turning 180 degrees and sitting down, a little old woman could dart halfway across a subway car and place herself underneath me!  I quickly turned to apologize, and there she was, sitting with a big grin on her face.  People around me giggled at the slow, silly 老外 (lao-wai).


Finally, before leaving Figaro in search of a haircut, I’d like to leave you with my favorite piece of Chingrish so far, courtesy of the elevator in my temporary apartment:

Dining Room Introduction

Until next time… be well!

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