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From Shanghai, With Love.

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Week 5 in China and boy has been one heck of a roller-coaster ride. So firstly, I just have to say, Shanghai is bloody amazing. Shanghai is the largest city proper in the world with a permanent population of 24 million people.  This a city that fascinates and intrigues… around every corner a different scene is waiting to be discovered and spectated upon. This is a city full of immense contrast; bamboo carts & bicycles ride along side luxury European cars, some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers dwarf the old Shikumen neighbourhoods (19th C. Shanghainese housing). The charming former European concession district has become neighbourhoods of hip bars, clubs, restaurants and boutique shopping and more, and even just going for a stroll here is really lovely. There are so many street vendors selling an array of foods and products. Every driver on roads here feels the need to constantly beep their horn (for absolutely no reason as well) it’s a crazy phenomenon, and catching a taxi is nothing less than a thrill ride. Here in Shanghai, taxi drivers get paid by the distance they drive, not time. So they get you from A to B in the shortest time possible so they can pick someone else up. It’s awesome, but a bit scary at times. There is an incredible vibrancy about this city.  Something not to be missed are some of Shanghai’s ancient water towns, these are further out from the modern “center” and so I’ve only been to 2 so far (with many more planned), but they are simply splendid. There is so much history here in Shanghai, it’s fascinating.

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So part of my initial “shock adjustment” period was actually getting use to the prices here. When it comes to the cost of things… how do I put this… it’s different. Firstly, there’s no consistency in prices here, and secondly, things you would expect to be expensive are really cheap and things that are “Aussie Staples” (bread and butter, milk and coffee) are hellish expensive. Let me run through a brief list of examples. One bar can sell you a beer for 80 RMB whilst the one next door can offer the same beer for 10 RMB. A brand new bicycle? 500 RMB (119 AUD), a piece of steak? 300 RMB (71 AUD), Jar of bolognese sauce (to mix thru with some pasta)? forget it, 60 RMB. Language textbook at 68 RMB (16 AUD) verse a box of cereal at 60 RMB (14 AUD). I still keep thinking to myself, how can textbook and box of cereal be almost the same price? Now for the killer, Milk (and all things dairy), I love milk. I drink a lot of milk, until moving to China that was. 1L of Australian milk is 49 RMB (12 AUD), however even the local “home brand” Chinese milk, is still a hefty 16RMB (3.90 AUD) per 950ml. Let us just say, I’ve had a huge change in diet recently. Don’t get me wrong, the food is amazing here, it’s just different set of “staples”. On the flip side, fruit and veges are significantly cheaper here, a fruit platter for just 20 RMB is a bargain by Aussie standards.  But in short, everything I’ve ever known about what things should cost has been totally flipped on its head.

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I’m studying Architecture at Tongji University, which was a terrific decision on my part because some of the work I’ve seen from local students is just incredible and it’s inspiring actually. It’s a very competitive school to get into and so the students are coming from all over China to study Architecture here. The campus here on Sipping Road is massive, it’s nothing like UTS. It’s very spread out and very green, which was surprising given we are in the center of Shanghai. Most of the international students here are mostly coming from Germany, France and various African nations, I have yet to meet any other Aussie’s here except for the lovely Jyana who is also from UTS. Even at the 8 Universities of Shanghai international student party, I didn’t meet any Aussies which was a real shame. I would say the main international student community here in Shanghai is definitely Germans. They are absolutely lovely people, quite similar to Aussies I think and so they’re easy to get along with. However, I would like to see a bigger presence of Australian’s actually. It’s in our interest to build stronger relations with China and I believe more Aussie students here would be one way of assisting this process perhaps.

Brendon Hori

UTS ID 11439433

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