RandomWalkers

2 adults & 4 teenagers at the Expo

8 posts in this topic

Wow, what a fantastic experience. Thanks Shanghai for having us at your party! We loved the Shanghai Expo. We only got to spend three days and one evening there but wish it had been more. Our 19 year old says we have already made her a junkie for Expos. When thinking of the Shanghai Expo remember that this is a party China has thrown for its people and not necessarily visitors. And if I was the government for such an energetic group I'd want to keep them busy also. We are, as foreigners, along for the ride.

Some thoughts not in any particular order:

Line jumping:: Rampant -- we spent some great time in the Belgium beer garden with a Belgium tour guide (and some Belgium beer-my 16 year old's first-which he didn't like) who is married to a native Beijinger and lives in Beijing and she really helped us understand (but for some of our teenagers, not necessarily accept) the situation better. She explained that these were prosperous farmers etc. from rural areas and that the only way they had survived was by being aggressive. Travel restrictions, she said, were just being eased and more people were having the chance and money to travel for the first time in their lives. Honestly, this did change our view. The line jumpers were to pardon the expression "Hicks from the Sticks". They were more like over-stimulated teen groups than middle aged tour groups wearing amusing matching hats. My daughter was actually kicked hard enough in the arm by a line jumping elderly man to have a raised knotted bruise. By day 3 into the Expo, she was impressed with the man's agility. Thanks to the guide from Belgium for her great insight. Don't be offended by the line jumping; just remember to play defense. Shanghai Disney will be opening in the future and Mickey is one bad-ass and will throw people out of the park for behavior we saw. In the meantime--- chill fellow westerners!

Passports -- We didn't want to waste any Expo time so we settled for "stamp" books we found in the "Expo Axis" downstairs the first morning. They worked the same -- so no problem. Some of the stamp lines were brutal--hand to hand combat to get in. Don't be shy. Superior height helps a great deal. I saw my 5'9" daughter just insert her's over the crowd. The Chinese visitors are enthralled by the concept of the stamps.

Photography -- We didn't anticipate the interest our family group would have for the Chinese visitors. In particular our 6' 4" son and our 5' 7" 13 year old (wearing a Mongolian hat bought the first day!) They were virtual rock stars among the visitors that haven't had much interaction with westerners (see above). Some sneaked photos and some asked (mimed) to have their photos taken with them. I told them to be good ambassodors for the US and they were gracious and stopped and posed. They were bemused by the whole thing.

English -- I had many parents encourage their children to try out their English on me in line. I would converse (good opening line "How are you?" "I am fine!"). After the first day I carried all our US change and and complimented them and gave them an American coin. Which, we all recall, having a crazy interest in foreign coins when we were young so it was a big hit.

The US Pavilion -- Took some doing to convince my group to go (if you haven't traveled with two strong minded 19-year-olds--you haven't expanded your horizons). By day three even they saw that the main thing we would learn at the Expo was the Chinese reaction to the pavilions. So off to the US pavilion. It was tacky in the OVERWHELMING corporate presence by US standards but I'm not sure that the Chinese felt the same. They seem to view 'name-branding' with respect. My take--thank God- finally a pavilion that provided seats. A la Disney--they efficiently moved people from each area in volume appropriate to the crowd. (I couldn't convince some I spoke to that the length of line had any correlation to popularity--I think some were inefficient and unprepared for the shear volume of people and not more popular). The US pavilion moved groups through efficiently and relaxingly (note: SEATS). The films were well received by the Chinese. You would have thought Obama was addressing them in person. The crowd really enjoyed the third film. Not much like it at the fair that I saw. That was different in that I remember several wordless stories at Seville and Vancouver. The crowd was really into the story and the people leaving were relaxed and smiling. Whoever did the films had some understanding of the likely visitors to the Expo. I wasn't embarassed by any means. Which is good as I had a Shanghai University reporter interview me in the gift shop. 'Did I feel that the America pavilion 'represented' us?' Talk about pressure. I explained that as a resident of a university town it did. We have 'Habitat for Humanity' in our town and many people from many places and that we all need to make our corner of the world better. The only thing that really irked me was the worker's outfits.... did we really need to dress them as corporate drones? The line workers also were not loaded with personality as some of the others. But in those outfits who can blame them for avoiding the crowds. Shanghai was like a fashion show and they were dressed in the dregs. We need some personality out there. SOS Ralph Lauren or any American designer Please offer your help!!! Our pavilion lacked a sense of fun in outfits which hurt the whole experience.

Hotels--I booked on line with Holiday Inn Express in both Shanghai and Beijing. Great prices--great breakfasts (Hey--you feed four teenagers!) They spell out how close to the sub lines you are etc. It was a comfy-cost efficient choice for us. Warning the beds are very hard. I laughed when I heard some took inflatable pool mats with them but now I see the light!

Favorite pavilion overall-- The Spanish pavilion just tickled us from live dancer (16 year old was VERY interested) and movie till the surprise ending which was hysterical. The workers had crazy outfits and the whole thing was a riot.

Phones--Our Sprint lines worked although we only used once. It said that it would be $2.50 a minute but worth it if you were lost. Take your Sprint phones. Worked in both Shanghai and Beijing.

Trash-- Some complaints I've read about the site have been the trash. The real problem is lack of trash cans IN THE RIGHT LOCATIONS. The lines that provided addition trash cans were clean. You get your snack and get in the line and then later no trash can for your wrapper. In other words rookie mistake on the Expos part. Slowly being fixed by individual pavilions via trash bags tied to the line.

Now some notes from the other half of Randomwalkers:

2010-05-28

We left home at 2 a.m., intending to stay awake for the drive to the Kansas City airport and the flight to Newark. Once the long flight to Shanghai started, going to sleep would put us close to Shanghai time. That was my sleep engineering plan. I was the only one to try, and it worked for me. I didn't have any significant jet lag.

We took the maglev, high-speed train from the Shanghai Pu Dong airport into Shanghai. It tops out at 431 kilometers per hour (266 miles per hour), and it doesn't have to stop for traffic, so it is considerably faster than the alternatives.

Besides, how often do you get to ride such a fast train?

The train ends at Longyang station, and we took taxis to our hotel. We were a group of 6, so we had to split into two taxis. This was the first real problem in our trip. We had brought two printouts from the hotel's website that included the hotel's name in pinyin, but not in Mandarin. It took 5-6 taxis before we found two that would take us.

This surprised me. At first, I thought the lack of Mandarin directions was the problem. However, I don't think that was the whole issue. Even in Beijing, where we did have printouts in Chinese, and the hotel was only 6-7 blocks from the subway station, we were refused by multiple taxis. I think part of the problem was that the taxi drivers didn't necessarily speak or read Mandarin. As in the united states, taxi driver is a low-end job--many drivers here don't speak good English. The second problem is that some drivers just plain don't know where some destinations are. There didn't seem to be any radio that the driver could call headquarters and get directions given an address.

The Expo was huge, both in terms of physical size and the number of people visiting.

Please send any questions our way--happy to help out in any way we can. In the meantime load up your mate and progeny for a fantastic trip. Maybe not what you expect but fascinating from beginning to end. Have you ever attended an event with over 500,000 people there also? Unbelievable.

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Thanks for the report. Very interesting indeed. I'm glad that you enjoyed the trip. The more I hear, though, the less interested I get. If anyone jumped into a line and hit me hard enough to hurt me I would feel obliged to return the favor, and ending up in a Chinese jail for brawling could put a damper on the trip. I'm going to have to think this through, as it just doesn't sound like fun traveling 1/2 around the world so people can shove you around.

Now that you're home, would you go again?

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Frankly, I would love to see a line jumping contest between the middle-aged women in Seville and those in Beijing. The Seville ones were more subtle however they were snottier than the Beijing counterparts who truly acted like rowdy teenagers. Perhaps we saw a changing of the guard in China since the young were not involved in the behavior. There was a huge generation gap in China to our eyes. The young people were not the ones for the most part line jumping and were much more open to westerners. Just an observation that might affect the world in the years to come.

Should China give its folks a time-out spent chatting with the security at the Expo--sure. Would I let a little line jumping keep me from this experience--no. My daughter is the hot head in the family but even she finally saw it as a big joke. These people would race you to a theater that they have already counted out seating for. No Disney experience--didn't seem to realize that rushing wasn't needed to get a seat. Didn't stop my daughter from trying to get their goats by getting in front of them. Yeah we were lucky to not have a one-on-one with our state department. The Mickey is a bad-ass is a comment from my daughter who feels that Mickey will not put up with such line nonsense when Shanghai Disney opens. (By the way, was there a Disney pavilion I missed??)

Actually the people running the lines are getting better at control as they are with the trash. They have narrowed the lines and added security.

If you have a grandchild to take, I would take them as it was way more interesting with our young people in tow. When my husband said he wanted to go and take the kids I thought he was out of his mind, but it was so very interesting to see it from their eyes. We have done may great trips with our kids but this one is the best by far.

Physically, it'll be a while before my body and my husband's is up to the flight again. Wow, that is a long flight. If it was closer, we would love to go back for the things we simply didn't have time for. Three days was not enough of the Expo for us or the kids (who cut their eyeteeth on Disney, fairs, & museums)

By the way, if traveling with high school and college kids, have them take their ID's as it was almost half price to get in with those. We produced three and they threw in our 13 year old sans ID at 'student' rate.

Never bothered tracking down the three day pass (strangely not sold on site) as our group was chomping at the bit that first day and we weren't going to trek them around to save a few bucks.

Also I would recommend a book I got on Amazon if you have any interest in learning Chinese Characters. My 16 year old made great progress with it. It was called 'I Can Read That" He and my 19 year old cousin had a good time in line spying characters and translating. They made amazing progress.

Another thing we did in line was consult our IPad ap of the Expo. The mangled English pavilion descriptions were very entertaining. There is also a very good map of the site included in this free ap. We didn't have WiFi but the ap made it worthwhile to carry in the backpack. To say nothing of its being of great interest to the young people there. The US pavilion could have just had a row of IPads for people to try and it would have been a big hit.

In the day and age of the World Wide Web--we are not really going to learn anything breathtakingly new at an Expo. We are really just there to enjoy the atmosphere, make some connections, and enjoy ourselves. Go enjoy the fun parts, ignore the annoying parts and go to the America's area for a beer if you get hot and bothered. Hey sounds like my parenting philosophy.

My daughter said she was going to check out where the next Expo was...we have her hooked.

Randomwalkers

New Orleans, Vancouver, Seville, and now Shanghai

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With regard to line jumping, cultures differ on what particular behaviors are impolite. Asian culture is to be, what we would call, very polite to someone you are dealing with personally; but a stranger in a line is in a different category. A "place" in line is not such a strong concept. We thrust out our hand directly to shake hands. Koreans hold the right forearm with the left hand as though restraining that bold thrust.

Also, some of the behavior may be a deference to age, in which the older expect to have privilege. Example: in the U.S. it is illegal to inquire as to age in the workplace. When I first began interacting with my Korean colleagues, this caused some confusion, as some of them at first were trying to figure out how old I was to determine initially who should defer to whom. (After that initial stage, the worker defers to the boss, just like here!)

Randomwalkers, thanks for the report. I will not be going, but I think if I had the time and money I still would go after hearing your experiences.

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Interesting report.

"So off to the US pavilion. It was tacky in the OVERWHELMING corporate presence by US standards"

Same as most of the 64-5 Fair.

"I think part of the problem was that the taxi drivers didn't necessarily speak or read Mandarin."

Isn't the written, as opposed to spoken, Chinese language the same all over the country?

I've been on lines in Asian markets where little old women would aggressively push in front of me.

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My report seems to being taken as critical or negative of the Expo. I wanted to address some of the negatives I had seen floating around the WWW, but didn't intend to throw the Expo under the proverbial bus.

To be clear--we had a fantastic time and felt is was well worth the time and money to take 5 people there (And we are not wealthy). I felt I was trying to promote "Peace Through Understanding" by viewing the cultural/generational differences in a understanding light (trash is a logistics issue, being photographed by the 'paparazzi' is amusing, line jumping--probably an effect of a rough life lead)

I would also say that outside and inside the fair we were treated much nicer than either in Vancouver or Seville. Hey Sevillens, we know enough Spanish to understand what you said about us on the bus. Didn't even need to translate in Vancouver those 'accidentally' too loud comments about us. Did I let a couple of poorly mannered locals spoil my enjoyment at those Expos or in Shanghai? In all three places the positive people and interactions were way more abundant than the negative.

The percentage of attendees line jumping was probably .1% one-tenth of a percent. It is just so unusual to us culturely that I felt I should mention it.

"So off to the US pavilion. It was tacky in the OVERWHELMING corporate presence by US standards"

Same as most of the 64-5 Fair.

Sorry--I only have read a little about the 64-65 fair as I was only 2 then and my parents didn't think I'd get a lot out of it. Sorry if my comment was naive.

"I think part of the problem was that the taxi drivers didn't necessarily speak or read Mandarin."

Isn't the written, as opposed to spoken, Chinese language the same all over the country?

Don't know why the cab drivers had trouble interpreting our Chinese character directions. I heard an older gentleman interpreting the Mandarin characters in the US pavilion to the other older gents with him. Just figure that some of the rural middle-age folks didn't get quite as good of a grounding in Mandarin as you might think. Just a guess.

My US Pavilion evaluation is: They did a good job of considering their primary (Chinese) audience and delivering a message I felt was positive about the US and our relationship with China. The Chinese visitors looked more relaxed and happy when they left, and they were buying in the gift shop. The pavilion does a good job of dealing with the shear quantity of attendees compared with many of the European pavilions. When you hear that lines are long at those remember that they had poor planning that didn't allow, despite large buildings, moving sufficient attendees through.

No one on this board seems to focus on my positive comments-- I am perplexed.

Once again--Once in a lifetime opportunity-- We had a riotous good time. My children will always remember this and all would like a return trip to China with or without an Expo. It was educational, fun, entertaining. Even the 'differences' from our cultural standards were a learning experience for my teenagers so actually a plus. We had many great interactions with the Chinese hosts. One of the reasons we were approached often for photos was that we were smiling and obviously having a great time.

I know everyone goes to an Expo for different reasons. For us this was as if we had been invited to a party in China and we were there to have fun..and we did.

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I guess the difference with '64-65 is--- back then there was not a major (or ANY) corporate presence in the United States Pavilion.

They had pavilions of their own. The U.S. Pavilion put forth the story of America and the "great society" concept.

Of course in Shanghai, the U.S. government didn't want to invest in anything at all, so they left it to the corporations to fill the void (with a letter from Secretary of State Hillary "blessing" their efforts).

I wouldn't describe most of the corporate pavilions in '64-65 as tacky at all. Maybe some of the small exhibits in the Better Living Center or the "Hall of Education" might have been a bit tacky, but most of the others were thrilling and intriguing. They had the resources to put together first class pavilions, and they did exactly that. Of course the Europeans, having already thumbed their nose through the BIE and then for the most part "not participating", chose to criticize such a "corporate presence" as being something inherently evil. I guess it is, if you're a socialist.

The only reason the corporate pavlions outnumbered the national pavilions (or about even in number), was that the Europeans decided to sit at home on their tush and criticize, rather than come and present their own vision through a pavilion.

Now not having been to Shanghai, I can't say whether the corporate exhibits in the U.S. Pavilions are tacky or not. Visitors will have to give us their opinions.

P.S.- when I've dug into the details of the big European international expos through 1958, every one of them had corporate / industrial exhibits from the region- including winemakers and many other companies. Brussels 1910 even had a huge pavilion from Herstal- an arms/weapons manufacturer- and the pavilion was clearly advertised as such- the "national arms manufacturer". "Peace through Weapons" I suppose. 1914 was just four years away.

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I know I reacted to the line jumping bit as every post I've seen about the Expo mentions something about that. I guess it rankles me, both as I feel my time is as valuable as anyone else's, and from my days working for Disney. I'm glad you did enjoy yourselves!

Bill

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