Since I have spent five months on exchange in Shenzhen this is going to be a longer post. Retrospective I tried to summarize the different experiences I made. The whole time I went through ups and downs, loving and hating the Chinese culture at the same time. I wouldn’t say I went though culture shock since I was well prepared and spent month before the visit reading diverse articles, books, watch documentaries and so on about China and the Chinese. Some people even got surprised by the different food, especially the breakfast and felt homesick. I always was a big fan of Asian cultures, now having been in diverse Asian countries I realized how different each of the countries is and how varied some countries are in itself as well. Especially China, since it is a huge country, has so many different shapes.
Shenzhen itself is known as an industrial city that has grown from a fishing village to around 14. million citizens in 2016. You might have heard the name of the city before because Apple produces there. Thus, not many tourists come to visit Shenzhen but you will find lots of expatriates or business traveler. For me that made the city even more interesting because it gives you a very intense experience of the modern China. Even though I wasn’t happy with the circumstances all the time, I never had a single day where I felt homesick, not even on Christmas. I loved the overall experience and would still state that this journey had a huge stake in shaping the person I am today. If you are indecisive about spending an exchange semester in a foreign country, even if it is not China, go for it! I will assure you, it will make you grow and leave behind unforgettable memories, at least that is what happened to me. In the following I will give you some of the impressions I was able to gain in Shenzhen, China.
Architecture and shopping
Sightseeing in the city center, shopping at the Dongmen Street or bargaining in the Louhu Market for anything fake or a tailored suit. This city offers a lot.
Chiwan Tianhou Temple
If yof you want to explore some buddhist culture you can explore the Chiwan Tianhou Temple. We went there on a rainy day, so we had it mostly for ourselves. I started the semester in August which is the end of the rain season. This leads to hot tempatures, tropical rain in between and high humidity.
Cozy at rush hour, but always on time and well organized the metro brings you almost everywhere in the city. Expect your bag to be scanned on the security check when entering each station.
Dafen Oil Painting Village
You want a fake or unique piece of art, then this is you place to go. You will find diverse forms of art and can bargain for a nice price in the multiple out- and indoor shops.
More books than you could ever read, especially if you are not fluent in mandarin, because the international section is limited. Anyway it is worth a visit for the interior design and the architecture.
You want to relax in between. Since Shenzhen lays at the cost it has a few beaches, Dameisha Beach was our favorite. Sadly, not many Chinese are able to swim, so they use inflated rings to go inside of the water, protected by lifeguards, lot of them with an umbrella to protect them against the sun. Seems odd? That’s absolutely normal here. By the way, expect lots of looks and photos being taken from you – You’re a 外国人 (Wàiguó rén), a foreigner and on top of that able to swim!
Food and going out
I rarely do photos of food, but Shenzhen has so many places to offer if you want to have nicen and at the same time affordable food. This range from traditional vegetarian buddhis’ restaurants to Chinese food from different regions to diverse foreign restaurants. We tried as much as possible. Even a tea ceremony offers you great insides into the culture and gives you delicious tastes. What I adore from the food culture in China is that they share each dish. Mostly one orders multiple dishes, at the same time pays the bill and everyone tries everything. I definitely prefer that over the western culture where you have to pick one dish, even if you like to try diverse and at least in high class restaurant it is considered rude to try from another person’s plate. It gives you so much more pleasure by trying as much as possible. But don’t worry about one person paying. Mostly you go out in similar groups various times, so each person gets to pay at least once and at the end everyone is even with one another.
We also went out often, but since I did not want to share photographs of people I went on exchange with, without their agreement I will not post photos from it. Our favorite spot was Coco Park, a covered street with diverse bars and clubs side by side, so you can choose between different styles of music, place where you sit and talk, eat or go crazy dancing. There is even a roof top bar. We went there almost every Wednesday for lady’s night, where we got cocktails for free. Don’t judge me, that’s exchange life, but it was lots of fun. Still, party in China is different to Europe. When you are a foreigner, you likely get entrance for free and drinks for free because this invites more Chinese in. It feels like being a popstar and now I know I never want to be one and prefer more privacy. Don’t get me wrong, sure it is nice to party for free, but most of the Chinese don’t dance and party, they just drink and the dance pit was mostly filled with exchange students or expatriates which sometimes gave you the feeling of being a monkey in the zoo for the Chinese. If you really want to go out like Chinese, go to a nice restaurant and to KTV afterwards.
You absolutely must go and spend a night at KTV. It is so much fun, even more if you spend it with Chinese because they mastered it! We also found some western songs ranging from Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys over to Adele and others.
Skyline, ocean, a view at Hong Kong if the weather is nice and you can whiteness a great sunset while walking or driving by bike on the boardwalk. We chose this place the day before leaving Shenzhen to say goodbye to an awesome city. I would always decide to go there again and again. I loved the experience and living in China for a longer time opened my horizon and made me be grateful for what I have at the same time.
Tomorrow I will post about the Peking University HBSC Business School where I spent my exchange in Shenzhen and give some insides about the experiences I got there. So, if you are interested about studding on a Chinese Business School, stay tuned. Further post about visits to different Chinese cities will follow as well.
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