One of the best things about living abroad is the constant element of surprise.
Living in a culture that is not your own, throws up constant questions and wonders.
I suspect it’s one of the main reasons people stay abroad. It certainly was for me.
When you return home, one of the problems is that your definition of “weird” has irrevocably changed.
For a good deal of people back home a shop changing its opening hours or a bus route altering is the height of irregularity.
When you’re an expat it’s not.
A reader in Saudi Arabia, for example, wrote to say that he recently encountered a situation where a colleague was jailed for two nights in Jedda because he was caught in a tea shop with a girl he was neither married nor related to. Now that’s bizarre, if you’re a westerner.
“I had Google-translated ‘I like your exercises, can I do them with you?’ into Chinese, but I do not think he can read.”
Luckily, an American expat in Shanghai is keeping a video log of the weird and wonderful things she encounters every morning in her last seven months before leaving.
So far they include doing the ‘twist’ in Fuxing Park, hula hooping on the Bund and doing eye-catching exercises on Panyu Lu.
Amanda Riske, a Maths teacher at the Western International School of Shanghai, has lived in Shanghai for two-and-a-half years. She began running at 5am a few weeks ago in preparation for a half marathon in Xiamen this weekend.
She said: “When running that early you see such cool things and a very different side of Shanghai. It really makes me love the city even more.”
She was partly prompted to make videos so that she could share them with expat friends who have left the city, giving them their daily dose of Shanghai crazy.
Her most popular video shows Amanda and a Shanghai local doing their exercises together in the street- vigorous hip rotations.
She had seen him doing his morning exercise on her way to work for a year and a half and decided one day to join him. She said: “I had Google-translated ‘I like your exercises, can I do them with you?’ into Chinese, but I do not think he can read. So I just started in on his routine with him and he played it so cool.”
Asked what she is hoping to achieve, she said: “I am hoping to show people some of the beauty in this city, and have some fun doing it all.
“Running early in the morning I have seen such a different character of the people here- sweet, friendly, honest and just peculiar in their daily routines.”
You can watch Amanda’s morning “silliness” in Shanghai here.