It’s amazing how one’s personal filters can sometimes be a hindrance in life. Me, being a slightly skeptical person to start with, you can imagine what preconceived ideas I had of Shanghai and China in general.
I think most people would have some presumptions about the people, the lifestyle and by most accounts the way the people are run and treated. I think you would probably have this image in your head of the culture . . .
And of the city . . .
I suppose you would think the people would be rude, disgruntled and impoverished, mostly, with a sprinkling of very wealthy people with a tremendous amount of resentment between these two classes?
The truth is actually quite the opposite. You see, when you walk through the city of Shanghai (and I’m referring to the CBD predominantly) you see an amazing contrast of concrete sky scrapers that reach so far into the sky that you would swear God sits somewhere on the top floor, yet at the bottom of them you see the most perfectly manicured gardens.
You see parks on just about every corner and magnificent tree line streets five minutes out of the heart of the CBD. The most inspiring part of which is that each tree, each flower bed and each hedge is planted and cared for as if it were in that persons own home garden . . .
The people are the next most unexpected thing. They are very friendly and very helpful even though most of the time they cannot communicate, but they are always willing to try. They do not see you as a foreigner (this is obviously a generalization) but rather someone who has come into their country to add value and contribute.
The resentment between classes is less of a bitterness and more of a respect for someone who has managed to make money and an inspiration for themselves to get there. Every person whether they be a street cleaner, school student or businessman all push themselves to breaking point and at this level of performance, they are only in the average category in China. The most interesting thing is they don’t push themselves this hard because anyone is behind them with a whip but rather because they have an unparalleled willingness to better themselves!
I guess the most interesting thing coming from a country where most people use government as a source of income through tenders, is that while the state owns pretty much everything here (banks, post, retail etc) they are not the only supplier and they also do not stop businesses from growing and profiting to further their own agenda. In essence they run a pretty good ship! People are looked after fairly well, healthcare is good, schooling is excellent, services work and to achieve this for almost a billion and a half people is a serious feat – perhaps there is something to this communist thing after all.
Sadly though you can see the creep of western attributes coming into the next generation – that of laziness, greed and instant gratification. You can almost see the generational shift from old China to new, and miserably this looks like the face of the China to come it seems . . .
To be completely fair this is my first impression in the first few weeks, I am certainly not narcissistic enough to believe I am an expert by any stretch but I will keep you posted on any change in the future