After my Beijing experience, I knew I had to return to China as soon as possible. The following year, I secured an internship to work in Shanghai and hopped on a flight over. Once again, I had no idea what to expect. It turned out that I was in for a hell of a ride. Strap in, here we go! 15 hours and 5 movies later, I made it back to China.
So I get off the plane, and borrow a phone from the Belgian guy sitting next to me on the flight (super cool guy) to call the number given to me from my U.S. contact. A friendly Chinese women answers and in broken english asks me who I am. I explain that I arrived for an internship and was supposed to be picked up at the Shanghai airport. She immediately apologizes and says she thought I was arriving the next day. The lady told me to wait until the following morning and she would figure everything out. Great start – Oh well… so I look next to me at the only person I know at this point in China, the Belgian guy, and shrug. A black SUV pulls up for him and he says “Hop in. I’ll get you a room at the hotel I am staying at”. Weird, but alright…I had no other option.
We drove 45 min and ended up in the middle of downtown Shanghai by the Bund across from the famous Pearl Tower. As promised, the guy bought me a room, told me he had an early business meeting in the morning, and that I should have a nice stay in Shanghai. Yes! That’s what I’m talking about. The next morning, I called the mysterious lady. She picked me up and took me to register my passport at the local police station. She then gave me a keycard and dropped me off in an apartment complex, telling me to look for a person named Tao. He was my roommate who worked for the same company and would explain everything.
I found Tao waiting for me at the entrance gate and he showed me around for a few hours. He gave me a metro map of Shanghai (it was massive) and showed me where to buy groceries, where to eat, and where the nearest gym was. Tao also introduced me to my other Chinese roommate, who was the driver for the boss of the company. Furthermore, he explained that the organization I would be working for was a Chinese technology company that makes massive LED Screens and that our corporate sponsor is Yao Ming. Pretty cool.
Snagged a quick pic of him at one of our events
The next morning, we get up, walk past this little dumpling stand, and buy these things called Baozi for breakfast- I mentioned them in my Beijing post as well. Welcome to China: Beijing Edition
Afterwards, we make our way to the metro and the trains were absolutely packed. A guard came over, shoved me in with a police baton, and packed us all in the car like sardines. I found it absolutely hilarious and could not stop laughing the entire time – definitely an efficient way to travel, that’s for sure. The trip continued for a good 25 minutes, and then we arrived at our destination right outside a massive glass building. Tao brings me up to floor 49 where the receptionist greets me wearing a shirt that says “F**k my Boss” in silver glitter. I lost my mind and tried to tell her what it meant, but she did not speak any English, so that was a lost cause…
Me and Tao first day on the job
My new boss walked in and told me that I would be paid in cash. He gave me a marketing campaign to carry out, a list of clients to find, meet, and sell to, and then a team to work with. Sounded like a pretty good gig as I would be spending most of my time on Nanjiang Road (the most famous commerce area in Shanghai) meeting international clients.
The company had some sweet rides
The next morning, I noticed a young guy walking down the street with a cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other. He looked at me with a smile and told me that he would be working with us at the company and that he was from Germany (what a small world, I swear the Germans are everywhere, such adventurous people). This person was Bene, and ended up becoming one of my good friends from Shanghai. He gave me the real Shanghai rundown about places like the French Concession and Xintiandi (pedestrian district), where young people would hang out. He showed me how the city really operated, especially at night. We ended up exploring Shanghai and the surrounding cities like Suzhou and Hangzhou for the next two months.
One of the funniest stories was when I went out to a nightclub with some clients and my boss. There is a custom in China that when someone holds a glass up to cheers, the group says Ganbei. Then, all must drink the entire glass as a sign of respect. In Chinese culture, it is more disrespectful to refuse a drink than to pass out in front of a client. My boss turned to me and said, “Don’t you dare refuse”, since he was trying to close the deal. Well, there was a tray of about 30 whiskey glasses in front of us and we had to make sure our client was happy. I passed out facedown in the middle of the nightclub. The next morning, I woke up hungover and stumbled into the office. The second I arrived, there was a giant round of applause from everyone. I have never experienced anything like this before in my life. Welcome to Shanghai.
The Real Shanghai
Shanghai became one of my favorite cities in the world. Between the cultural diversity, the food variety, the upbeat nightlife, and the extraordinary adventures, it left a significant impact on me. The buildings are gorgeous and the Chinese take pride in making this modern city flourish, as it is one of their most magnificent creations. There are people here from every corner of the world and it is one of the biggest melting pots of cultures in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Watching the World Cup with friends from Germany, Taiwan, Mexico, and Poland
Our group of friends from around the world – we all met in Shanghai within two weeks
One of my favorite aspects of Shanghai was the food. From the street vendors, dumpling shops, small boutique restaurants, to the famous night food markets, Shanghainese cuisine is among the best in the world.
Traditional Chinese style round table where food is communally shared and passed around using the center glass rotation
Shanghai fish head soup
BBQ Quail – this is a traditional Chinese delicacy
Eating Shanghai kabobs at night from a street vendor
Picking fresh grapes to make Chinese Wine
Over the next few weeks, I ended up leaving the internship at the company, getting my own place in People’s Square District (center pedestrian area in downtown Shanghai), and making some incredible friends from all over the world. The only money I had was what I was paid in cash from the internship. I used 75% of it to pay rent, so I had to be extremely resourceful in order to live another month and half in China.
One of my mates who I used to DJ with in the U.S. told me I had to visit a city called Suzhou (30 min train ride outside of Shanghai) and that he had a contact there. I met his friend Daniel at the train station and he showed me how to live frugally in and out of the city. Sure enough, we became best friends and ended up traveling all around China (more in blog posts to come). Now, I easily call Shanghai my second home. Daniel and I are now going to be working on his new company as well.
One of the most interesting things I learned from my experience was how I could get into any club or high level event I wanted to without paying. The Chinese are all about status; if their nightclubs and celebrations have foreigners, then they look more prominent and attractive to other Chinese customers. Over the weeks, I networked and became friends with promoters and locals who helped me get VIP access to all the top places throughout Shanghai. They showed me how to play the game to my advantage. I even got paid a few times to show up to certain night clubs & events. Bottle service, open bars, free food, champagne, and free transportation around the city. I never paid a penny… Now do you see why I liked Shanghai so much!
Speaking of nightclubs, here are my top recommendations:
M1NT : This place has live sharks swimming in tanks throughout the club. Absolutely insane!
MYST : Wild DJ’s, big open dance floor, dancers, and local performances nightly
M2 : Chinese-style dance club with tables and bright light shows
Bar Rouge : Located on the top floor overlooking the Bund, this is one of the most eccentric places in all of Shanghai
The Mansion : An old mansion converted into a club with different style DJ’s on each floor
Fusion : Top artists from around the world come to play here nightly
Shanghai literally never sleeps. Whether it is a Wednesday or a Sunday, there is always something to do, another adventure to go on, and friends to be made. This was truly a nonstop adventure from the beginning to the end. I have never seen so much diversity in and such good people in one place. I will be back, Cheers!
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