As part of its academic curriculum, Hult offers its students to rotate (twice) between its campuses. The possibilities are New York, Boston, San Francisco, Dubai, London or Shanghai. From the start, I knew I would rotate to Shanghai and stay there until the end of the academic year in August. I only rotate once because I find two months (one rotation) not enough to truly discover and enjoy a city. By the time you have set yourself up properly, you would need to move again. The limited time I would have in a city would make me feel as a tourist. I enjoy throwing my life around from time to time, but I also need stability in the tumult, and living for at least four months in Shanghai would give me enough time to set up my own rhythm and routine.
Those that know me would understand how ultra-excited I am for moving to Shanghai. But to make that excitement slightly more concrete (instead of omg omg omg, I’m moving to Shanghai woooh), I came up with a list of 7 reasons why I cannot wait to move to Shanghai:
1. It’s in China
Jim O’Neill invented the acronym BRIC, which stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China, or countries that are developing at a rapid pace to become large international players with advanced economies. However, when Mr O’Neill came speaking at Hult, he jokingly said he would rename the BRICs to just C in hindsight. And it is true, China has left the other big economies far behind in terms of development, enjoying double-digit GDP growth for the entire first decade of the 2000s. Newspapers and analysts might say that China is losing some of its edge because it has only grown by approximately 8% rather than 12%, but as the second-largest economy in the world, it is only natural for growth to slow down. The government also has an explicit policy of cooling down the economy these days. Apart from that, with a population of 1.4 billion and such economic growth, China is bound to become the world’s primary superpower at some point in time. Village boy from tiny Passchendaele in tiny Belgium moves to metropolis Shanghai in (one of) the most powerful nation(s) of the world. Who knows what opportunity lies there?
2. Nothing works there
China blocked access to apps and sites that many people, including me, find essential. No Twitter, Facebook only in a very limited area in Shanghai, and (help me) no Google Maps. This is logical, as China would hardly want the US to gain influence through popular apps and social media owned by American companies. But no Google Maps? I know already I’ll be laughing with my own misery when walking around clueless of where I am.
3. Not many people speak English
Even though Shanghai is the most internationalised city of China, only a small number of its Chinese inhabitants speak English. I do not expect many indicators on the street to be English either, which is why I have started learning Chinese (see picture). Not that I expect to be fluent in Chinese after four months, but I do believe a minimal knowledge of the language could help me in at least gaining respect from the Chinese. Also, as my textbook so wisely says in its preface:
Bu pa man, jiu pa zhan.
(Don’t be afraid of going slow, be afraid of standing still)
Getting lost and no one able to understand you? People might be wondering how this could be exciting for me. Yes, it is true that I could move to New York, Boston or San Francisco and have everything working perfectly, with everyone able to understand me. It would be very comfortable and easy to move there, but that is exactly what I do not want. Life is only so short, so why would I not try out something that is unknown and difficult rather than what I already know?
This one does not need much explanation. So funny.
5. Depth to the culture
The mystery and spirituality surrounding Oriental cultures attracts me very much. I recently spoke to a Taiwanese friend whose name consisted on two Chinese characters (each syllable is a character in Chinese). The first character consisted of three parts: “one”, “time” and “heart”, which meant beautiful when combined. The second character meant values, so her first name (only three letters, mind you) meant beautiful or strong values. Since many Chinese and especially Taiwanese believe the meaning of your name can shape your character, she strives to have strong values in her life. Talk about cultural depth in a name of three letters. This, along with spirituality, is a core part of Chinese culture, and it is so much more attractive than what I call the happy shallowness all abound in the US and increasingly so in Europe, where everyone has to be happy and where spirituality exists in the form of yoga sessions for stressed out CEOs.
6. Chinese Kung Fu
Kung Fu plays an important part in Chinese culture. Sport with roots in Buddhist philosophy, what’s not to love? There is elegance and beauty in the movements of every style of Kung Fu, and I will certainly explore my options and see whether I would be able to practice any form of martial arts. On a hilltop. With bare chest. Under the rising sun.
7. I would love to work in Asia
Asia is such a vast area of land, shrouded in mystery and adventure. I would love to live and work there, preferably in a Westernized city such as Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo or Kuala Lumpur; incredible cities surrounded by beautiful nature. Shanghai is a first, important step towards this goal.