A sunny cold day at the end of November marks a complete year since I moved to China after graduation. What brought me here? Well, the story is long, but to shorten it, a love story.
It all started two years ago when I moved to Shanghai as part of an exchange semester during my master in anthropology. Back then I was a ” good European” as Nietzsche would have said… with an entirely European mindset. Before moving to Shanghai I have never traveled outside the European continent and I was ready to broaden my horizons. I can describe how magnanimous my shock was when I first stepped on Asian soil. And as an anthropologist boundaries should have been imaginary to me. But, as it turned out, I felt as if I took an entire journey to a different planet. My new planet did things in a way that seemed completely upside down to me.
What exactly shocked me most? I can’t really say. Let me see. My list goes as follows: people clearing their throats in a deep and loud way and spitting passionately on every imaginable surface; traffic rules that basically focus on : don’t get yourself or anyone else killed; strong and aromatic cow dung and sewage smells at every 50 meters of any walkable road, some types of delicious stinky dirty socks and expired molded cheese and rotten fish dishes and so on.
Of course, after I accommodated myself to all of the above I started living the high life: events for everyone from everywhere (music, arts, DIY, yoga, cooking, cycling, etc.). Shanghai is indeed a hot-pot of melting cultures and styles with interpretations and reinterpretations of contemporary cultures. Globalization and localization all happen at once in a city full of vintage coffee shops and glass bubble business skyscrapers. You know, at first I said: ‘This is not where I wanna live the rest of my life or at least not where I wanna waste some part of my life’. An exchange semester seemed enough.
Don’t get me wrong, China is a fantastic country to travel around…amazing natural landscapes and traces of cultural wisdom and heritage. But again, as a “good European”, I wanted a fantastic health care system, traffic rules, polite people who apologize every time they touch even a centimeter of your body, huge personal space, clean air, amazing customer service, organized and interconnected university departments, flexibility and most of all the freedom of information and expression. Thus, I promised myself to never come back. But guess what? I fell in love and came back to draw my own path and start a new story in Shanghai. I called this starting post ‘The end of the start! because everyday I am slowly negotiating what I can live with and how to transform this city and this country into something I can truly call HOME. Regardless of my anger and frustrations, I am pushing myself to find the lovable, the acceptable, the cozy, the familiar, the great unknown, the scent of the past in my present and the dreams of future on the streets of the former French Concession area. Now, almost at the end of 2017, I feel I am ready to mold my life and transition from a starting anthropology master graduate into a blogger, a full-time traveler, a long-term resident in Shanghai, a recent dog owner, an accepting person of my own ambivalence, a career seeker and a lover.