The streets in Shanghai are insane.
People are zooming by on mopeds, taxis could care less about the fact that you are crossing the street when there is a green man telling you it’s your turn to cross, and bikes literally appear out of nowhere. I’m convinced they apparate onto the street sometimes.
So naturally I have decided I want to become an integral part of the mayhem. So I’m buying a bike.
It wasn’t something I had considered. That was, until two of my co-workers said, “We’re going bike shopping!” and I was bored, so I went with them. And then all of a sudden, I’m standing in a bike shop on Jiangsu Road proclaiming to this 60 year old Chinese man that I WANT THAT ONE THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
The bike shopping process in itself was a cultural experience to say the least. The three of us walking into the store laughing as we told jokes looked like B-roll footage for a study abroad program – three girls of three different races walking the streets of China experiencing the local culture, how diverse indeed! When we walked into the shop, we spoke with the man, who from the beginning was dead set against the idea of bargaining down the price. I asked in my most innocent of Chinese voices whether he could lower the price a little bit because we were poor college students all buying bikes and giving him lots of money. He said no.
I then proceeded to take pics of the store on my iPhone given to me for free from a friend back home. He called me out on my BS for saying I was poor. He pointed at my phone and said, “You could buy three or four bikes for the cost of that one phone. You so do have money.” Yikes.
The conversation turned towards how much money our families made. He asked my friend whether her dad was a CEO at a company in Ningbo or Suzhou, two bordering cities to Shanghai. She politely laughed and steered the conversation back to the bikes.
As we stood in the shop and were about to place our orders, I began to wonder whether I was mentally unstable to be purchasing a bike in this city. Is it safe? Will I really be able to do this? Ahh it’s so much money! (Note: It’s 80 bucks for a bike. That is not so much money. But when I have been living off of 30 cent lunches, it seems like a fortune!)
The man comforted me, saying not to fear. He explained that while Shanghai was no Europe – in Europe, he said, people are educated so they stop and wait for the traffic light to tell them to go (which he thought was very strange indeed because in Shanghai traffic lights are a mere suggestion that is rarely listened to by the public) – that I would be fine biking around the city. He also said that his store had been open for 25 years and while all the other stores had been vanishing around the city, his stayed because his bikes were of top-notch quality and were meant to last. Thank God.
We are going back to the store later next week to pick up our furnished bikes (baskets, locks, and all) and will begin to explore the city on our new, pedaled machines over the next few weeks.
Blog world, please keep your fingers crossed that I don’t get an up close and personal encounter with some Shanghai pavement.