I am not an alcoholic, I just live in Shanghai (EN new version)

Reworked and English version this time ☺️

That sentence I did not invented it, I saw it once in an article on a newspaper for expats my first few days there. I first was like, yeah maybe old expats, not me, right ? 😂 It didn’t took me long to figure out that it was true, it could sound presumptuous to say that Shanghainese really love drinking, but since you can not drink water from the tap and that beers are so cheap (like 2 yuan), why not.

Shanghai’s nightlife

First of all, Shanghai is a city made for partying, with thousands of bars, clubs, secret bars, restaurants, partying from Sundays to Sundays ( wish I could do that anymore 😜) . On my first year in Shanghai I was not yet 18, we were going to the infamous Sky club with my friends from school, it was a time where open bar with counterfeited alcohol were the norm, followed by horrible headache unless you knew what to go for and what to avoid. Second of all, let’s say life is quite boring there, you kind of do the same things again and again, possibilities are infinite but in the end yes it’s kind of always the same stuff all around, I have never seen a Shanghai home without it’s own bar in the living room, for a last drink after work.

KTV

There are club parties and KTV parties which locals LOVE. Most of the time, Karaoke places are located in office buildings, with one dedicated floor, you get there via a dedicated elevator sometimes on a dedicated entry for the office building (so that you don’t cross the path of those who work there I guess). Once you get there, a waiter is dedicated to your group, you have to book a private room given how many people you are and how much and fancy you want the room to be, for example if you want extra light systems or a themed decoration. Then you either order from a tablet or go through the KTV alcohol and food store, your waiter will follow you with a basket and will carry all your « groceries ». Then it’s time to sit down and choose the songs you will sing for next few hours, often resulting in a lot of debates 😄. Fortunately there will always be a few U2 songs, with stolen footage from MTV, often clips you had never ever seen before with this one song but it’s China after all. From your room you can also order directly more food and drinks from a tablet, you will have mics often covered with weird looking hygienic foam, I must say I am not sure if it was us singing bad or if the sound from those sound system were always terrible. One more thing, it’s not unusual to go to KTV before going to clubbing or even after. I am pretty sure most KTV places are open 24/7.

Movies

Back in the day we would only buy illegal copies of movie in DVDs. Often the last blockbusters, in fact I never could figure out if it was actually possible to buy REAL DVDs, I know it’s not the case anymore nowadays, but at the time you would buy those DVDs in shops in the street or in little markets dedicated to counterfeit goods which were everywhere in the city. Illegal copies were often with a very bad quality, sometimes a move had not aired yet in the USA we would already have it on DVD, with the bottom or the top of the screen showing a disclaimer that this copy was eyes only for producers 😆. Sometimes it would be a movie literally filmed by someone in a cinema in the USA, with the recording device sometimes moving during the movie or heads of people in the actual cinema showing during the movie. I let you imagine the quality of sound and image given the conditions of recording with small devices in 2010… Price of those amazing DVDs was around 10 yuans (it use to be 1€) lower in bundle and this was the price for expats 😅. I had to leave them all when I left Shanghai, to avoid big issues with customs.

Rich kids privileges

It took me a while to finish my last year of high-school there, not to say those years might have appear super duper cool from outside but inside it was quite challenging. Firstly, French schools in Asia all have a 100% score at the national baccalaureate exam and they will do all they can to keep it that way. At the time I was coming from a below average high-school in Paris and it was a huge gap in academic level. Also the bac exams is happening and corrected a lot before the one taking the exam in France, with the exams being corrected by teachers from the other French International school in Asia, since they all know each other you can imagine that they are pretty indulgent with one another, just saying. Since my grades where no satisfying enough to the director of the school at the time they made me go back a year before during my graduation year, to go through another branch in order to assure my graduation the next year. When I think about it today, it was absolutely crazy and probably illegal but once again it’s China. 

French international schools are a perfect reflection of a community without social diversity. Students all have parents from the elite, all being senior executives of big companies there, or children of the local expatriate teachers. Classes are most of the time made up of 20 people, which sounds crazy coming from Paris were classes are more like 40 students. The Shanghai French School happens to be also a German school, it allowed them to have their own soccer field and 400-meter running track, a heated swimming pool and a theatre/cinema room. The facilities are on a par with the even more expensive American school nearby.

I have to say I always felt bad in this non mixed environment, I think the lack of diversity is bad for a country, a school and also a company. With diversity comes new ideas, new way of doing things and it’s overall a more enriching environment. 

Within two years in this super elite environment I was accepted in some of the best business schools and universities, but I was also deceived by this lack of new faces, it’s why I decided to go to University instead. I was accepted in McGill, in some great HK and London universities, in Science Po Paris (note that coming from an international French School at the time you had extra advantages to be accepted to this school, in fact it was only based on your grades and an oral exam whereas in France you would first have to go through a written exam to pass the first step), I was of course accepted in France too, again from an international French school you would have some privileges, you were automatically accepted to the first one on your list. 

My own choices

University is almost free in France, it’s where students go when they are not from rich families or when they want to study fields like medicine where there is no private schools. I wanted to make sure to meet people from every background, these people became my friend today and I could not be happier. 

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