Wednesday, 20 June 2007

People and prices

People

I'm not sure how many people there are in Shanghai and I can't find any conclusive answers. All I know there is more people here than in Beijing and there aren't that many cities in the world with a bigger population than Shanghai!

OK according to wikipedia there are 18.6 million people in the municipality and 9.8 million in the urban area alone.

I have thoughts running through my head every time I go out and these little occurences have slowly made me realise not just how many people there are in Shanghai, but in China as a whole.

Shopping in the supermarket in the middle of the day on a weekday you'd think it'd be pretty quiet, right? Wrong! It's still just as busy no matter what time of day you shop. And every aisle is filled with people and their trolleys and the aisles never seem wide enough and I'm constantly dodging trolleys and trying to avoid hitting something or someone with my runaway trolley. As part of my early days here and still dealing with culture shock I complained to my mother, "Why are there so many people here?" and all she could reply was, "This is China!" which about sums it up.

Queues

They are everywhere, except Chinese don't quite understand the concept of queuing or waiting. In their mind you just rush to the front of the queue or counter and push in to get served, simple. Hmmm...

Prices

I am still gobsmacked and shocked at the divide between the rich and the poor. A few weeks ago Mike and I went to Grand Gateway 港汇广场 shopping mall (which, incidently we can see out our living room window) for some lunch and some window shopping. We went into a store which caught my eye, called Vero Moda a fashion label started in Denmark. The clothes in there were really beautiful and Helena Christensen was one of the models.

Some of the t-shirts were $40 or $50 Australian which I thought was absurd. I mean it is probably the going rate for a European label but I'd never pay that muh for a t-shirt in Australia, let alone China! Yet, I think most people in the West think of China as being really 'poor'. But noooo. On this Sunday afternoon, this shop was absolutely packed and I was constantly being followed with an overly zealous sales assistant wearing false eyelashes and bright blue eyeshadow.

I felt kind of sickened that these spoilt little rich fashionistas could afford this kind of stuff, yet there were people out on the street starving, or pulling tricycle wagons and sleeping in old, run down shacks. Erk.

A few days ago Mike and I were talking about where to go for the October public holiday. After researching endless options I decided it'd probably be best to find somewhere close by so as to not waste time and not spend too much money, and decided that Sanya in Hainan would be a great place. I started looking into the 5 star beach resorts and Mike said, being a public holiday, it would most likely be very crowded and booked out. I quickly blurted out, "How many people in China do you think can afford to stay in a 5 star resort?" without even thinking or realised how stupid I sounded. Mike said back, "More than you think. There are more rich people in China than any other country." And I thought to myself, Oh, shit, yeah... since there are over a billion people, even a small proportion of that is a huge quantity of (rich) people. Yikes.

So my conclusion is, you don't realise just how many people there are in China until you come here, and if you hate queues and crowds don't come here ;) And if you want nice designer label stuff (for anything, not just clothing) be prepared to pay the price because, even in China, it ain't cheap!

1 comment:

Siew said...

You know, it's been over 5 years since I was last in Shanghai, but every time I go out in Sydney CBD, even in peak hour, whenever I look around, it seems absolutely deserted.

That's obscene about the rich/poor divide though; I never really thought about it, but considering how China has been progressing economically over the last few years, it's not really a surprise.