Moving to Shanghai, the so called Paris of the East, has been a bumpy ride filled with many new experiences, mostly all counterintuitive to your basic gut instinct of how things should function. I had heard of the term ‘culture shock‘ prior to moving here, but had never really embraced the full implication of the term. When I worked at the Queensland Ambulance Service, someone “going into shock” after an accident was dazed, confused, irrational, capable of walking into oncoming traffic and not really able to understand that this was essentially a poor life choice.
Culture shock as opposed to traumatic shock is like the more chronic version of it’s acute level cousin. You think you are perfectly fine, whilst stockpiling toiletries until your home resembles a WWII bunker and you can’t get in the front door.
Are your actions rational or productive? Not really. But unlike walking into oncoming traffic, you can get away with them for quite sometime before the sane part of your brain or peer feedback kicks in and forces you to reassess.
Now the upfront disclaimer here is that we are living in the very swanky Former French Concession Area. TripAdvisor rates it as #11 of the places to visit in Shanghai because “it is appreciated for it’s cafes, tree-lined avenues and tudor houses”. All true and if there is one place that is more of an oasis in a city of 23 million people officially or 27 million people unofficially, depending who you speak to, the Former French Concession Area is a place of relative peacefulness and cleanliness in the never ending peak hour debacle that is Shanghai. Or just China in general.
However, to truly appreciate the factors that lead me to my months long culture shock, I need to tell you few stories.