My parents came to visit for a week. I wasn’t worried. Afterall, we’d lived here before. And after living in India for 2 and a half years, well, pretty much nothing surprises you anymore. This week, however, my friend Max is coming to Shanghai. It’s safe to say I’m slightly anxious about the trip. Not because I’m afraid he isn’t going to enjoy his time here, but because I’m having nightmares about him landing in a Chinese hospital after trying to cross the street. So, I decided to write him a letter to warn him of such dangers. More for my sake than for his, I’d like to be able to sleep tonight…
I cannot begin to express my delight at your pending arrival in Shanghai. As I write you this letter, I’m planning your week in this beautiful city. If the weather permits, you will see all Shanghai as to offer, and more. My hope is that we’ll even travel to one of the watertowns bordering this city of 23.5 million people, to have a more local experience. I am jumping up and down in my seat in excitement.
I thought, however, that you I should warn you about the traffic situation here before you depart from your beloved home country in 2 days time. So, a few words of caution before you step on the plane in freezing England, to ensure I can safely (and wholly) put you on your flight back a week later.
First and foremost: try not to get run over by a bus or car. Or by a bike. They don’t have bells on their two-wheeled friends, and thus tend to shout warnings of their coming in Chinese. More often than not, however, stealthy bikers say nothing at all, or their shouts are lost in the honking and general noise of Shanghai. Electric bikes are even worse. While the standard Chinese bicycle usually squeakes and squakes like a duck being pinched in the behind, these electric monsters are like ninjas. They sneak up on you and race by.. if you’re lucky. But they blame you for being in their way. And no, staying on the pavement/sidewalk will not guarantee you’ll be safe from these jets on wheels.
As to the car and bus thing. While they’ll (usually) stop for a red-light, there are always the stragglers that shoot by at the last second. Thus, when the green-walking light flickers on, this by no means cars will stop. There seems to be a rule in this city that cars can always turn right. Always. Even when you’re on a zebra path and the traffic light is in your favor. I’m hoping your time in Tanzania after you climbed Kilimanjaro has prepared you sufficiently for the life-or-death situations you’ll find yourself in when trying to cross the street here.
There are so many more things I wish I had the time and space to tell you about. But alas, I fear you are going to have to see for yourself. Charge your camera. You’re going to love it here.
P.S. Bring a jacket. And some gloves. Oh, and thick socks. You’re going to need them.