|Photo thanks to a very observant F Tobin|
Ahhh…back in Shanghai, and back to normal. But what is normal exactly?
I started thinking over the weekend that perhaps I’ve been living here too long, and things that were once eye-popping, or funny, or just downright alarming, seem totally, utterly normal. Take the brass band in the back of a truck I kept seeing all weekend in Shao Xing, for example, as they were shunted from one Chinese wedding to another. A truck full of gold suits worn with trainers, along with bugles, cymbals, trombones and drums. Why were they there? I didn’t even think to ask. I didn’t even take a photo, for pete’s sake, but luckily someone with me did. No, I just mentally noted that the truck in front of me was carrying an entire brass band in the back, and then looked out of the taxi’s other window at a dog wearing shoes and a raincoat. Like I said, normal. Or at least normal on a rainy Saturday in Shao Xing.
(Sensible advice. They don’t stop for little old ladies, they don’t stop for mothers with new born babies in their arms, so they certainly ain’t gonna wait til you cross the road safely. They’ll just mow you straight down.)
(Not just a quick glance. Give yourself whiplash looking in front, behind, above and below, as well as left and right. Repeat in sequence until you are across the road safely. If needed, go frogger-style, one lane at a time, with traffic whistling past you as you perch pathetically on a thin white line)
(Wonder why Chinese people always remove their shoes at the front door? The ground is a minefield of spitgobs and other unmentionables.)
(Toileting toddlers in split pants rather than nappies can get messy. Better to do it on the street than in the house)
(Toilet paper is in extremely short supply in all but the flashest facilities. If there is toilet paper in a restaurant toilet, I automatically grant it 4 stars in my mental rating system, regardless of the food.)
(Not just in the bathroom. It’s helpful anywhere there is a spare few inches of space, and your legs are tired. Crowded subways are a local favourite spot for squatting, and Expo queues.)
So there you have it. Shanghai streetsmarts in 8 easy steps. Been to Shanghai? Live here? Don’t forget to add your rules too!