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  • Writer's pictureJohnny

People of Shanghai - 上海人

Santa Claus riding a bike through Shanghai.

Shanghai Spirit

Not too long ago I wrote about the Spirit of Shanghai. This feeling that the locals carry with them. A feeling that only comes from living within this beehive that is Shanghai. The convenice. The commotion. The businesses. The foreign influence. The constant change.

Mornings where the elders exercise themselves in the various green parks around the city. Where food stands get ready for the morning. Steamed buns and fried goods mixing in the fresh morning air. Afternoons where the busy workforce head out to the multitude of restaurants. Eating a plethora of food. Noodles. Rice. Dumplings. Buns. Finally, evenings where the commotion doesn't end. Schools release and many get off work. This is where the city comes alive with lights, attractions, and late night food. Bars, finer dining, and KTV all fill up with people wanting to relax. To forget the troubles of their mundane life, and squeeze some joy out of the quickly passing hours.

An old man in a fast moving city.

A Phrase

One of the first people I met, a barber, told me a phrase in Chinese that describes Shanghai.

"灯红酒绿" Red Lights and Green Liquor

A phrase meant to describe a vibrant and active location. Somewhere bustling with night life. It's amazing that years later coming into the city; I still remember this phrase. It fits Shanghai so well. Although I've stayed away from the crazy nightlife. In the past, those that I've come to Shanghai with haven't been as lucky as me. Free booze. Crazy parties. Broken noses. Stolen wallets. Massage Parlors. From these friends I've learned that Shanghai's night life lives up to it's name.

To be honest, I enjoy my more simpler time in Shanghai.

A man smoking in the city.

Shanghainese - 上海话

My first experience with Shanghainese was in the Pudong Airport. While awaiting my flight to go home, I went to one of the restaurants to eat. The tables were all full of eager travelers getting a quick bite before their flight. So, when two older Chinese came in to eat; they sat at the only spots available. Which was right next to me. We made small talk and I was able to practice Chinese. They laughed when I told them I had been living in Shanghai for almost a year. I was confused but waited. The smiling old couple replied that they could tell based off of what I had ordered... all of it was "Shanghai Food".

Just as I was getting ready to leave, they told me one word in Shanghainese. "Milk Tea"... sadly I don't remember how to say it.

Working at a Chinese Restaurant

Days passed, and many visits to Shanghai later. I'm still unable to understand or speak Shanghainese. It wouldn't be until I worked at a Chinese restaurant in Minnesota that I would really want to learn a dialect. Those four months at the restaurant I was exposed to so many different dialects. Sichuanese, Cantonese, Shanghainese, and more that I don't even recognize. My manager constantly surprised me with the number of languages and dialects he knew. Japanese, English, Mandarin, Shanghainese, and probably more. He told me, "A little more time in Shanghai, and you'll [be able to] understand".

This time in Shanghai. I'm paying attention. This time, I'm actually hearing Shanghainese now. Not understanding it... but finally hearing it.

Maybe, I can learn it.


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