My next victim on the line is “insanely happy” Aly, a good friend and my private cheerleader at the school where we both teach. (And a colleague also at the magazine, where we both write now but more on that later). Although at different departments, we often meet up for lunch and/or coffee during the week and share our views on the China experience. What I really appreciate, apart from always coming from a sunnier side of life, which proves to be contagious, is her enthusiasm toward China and anything that comes her way to teach her something about life. Besides, Hunan food being both our favourites, I can always count on her to go grab some sizzling cabbage on Anfu lu/Wulumuqi lu.
Name: Aly Delanty (Alexandra Kyle Delanty)
Place of Origin: Park City, Utah, USA
Time spent in China: 1 Year, 4 Months
Pick a place for coffee or tea in Shanghai
While I never go to Starbucks in the US, I love going to Starbucks abroad. The decoration is usually the same so it feels comfortable and homey.
Something you’d recommend that is unlikely to be found in a guide book
Mmm, going to the more traditional Chinese areas and shopping on the streets, I love walking around, bargaining, and just looking at all the fun little things you can buy. You watch people socializing, laughing, and buying whatever seasonal necessities they need. I also love the dancing that takes place in squares, parks, and streets at night. Watching the older couples and little kids dance to traditional Chinese music is one of my all-time favorite things!
Your favourite meal in China
Hunan food! Though my current favorite meal to cook is very simple: flatbread (flour, water, salt and then cooked on a pan), sweet potato (bought already cooked from the street), crispy garlic and a fried egg. Eat all together and it’s sweet and salty.
A piece of advice for people interested in coming to live in Shanghai
Decide what you want from the city/your experience and then go after it. The city offers a lot and it can be overwhelming, but if you know what you want, you can definitely find it.
What would you most recommend to travelers who plan to visit Shanghai?
Bargain. Eat in the tiny shops. Eat street food (barbeque!) near universities. Be open minded.
Last thing that freaked you out in Shanghai
Being hit by an e-bike. Never has the advice of ‘look both ways’ been more relevant. They are silent and there are no road rules.
Your home town versus Shanghai
My hometown has only about 10,000 people so, comparatively, Shanghai’s population is huge. Back home in Utah, everything is separated into residential and commercial zones and it’s almost all houses, you can’t build tall buildings (the city doesn’t allow it) so there are mountain views everywhere. It’s also snowy snowy snowy.
There are still some similarities with Shanghai, though! Park City has a very international and sophisticated feel to it. It’s a luxury ski resort town so we have a ridiculous amount of 5 star hotels and 5 star restaurants. The population of the town can swell up to 80,000 in the winter and we get tourists from all over the world. I feel that although it’s small, it’s still cosmopolitan in a way.
Favourite Chinese pop song/singer/movie
Your impression of karaoke bars? How many times have you been?
Too many times to count, I love KTV! Though I like it in big groups and small cities (more fun, less expensive); I can sing for hours and hours.
If you could use only one sentence/phrase to describe it, what does expat life mean to you?
It’s never boring.
Your destination at Chinese New Year
Home to America. I get to spend time with my family and see movies at the Sundance Film Festival, which is in my hometown every January.
Favourite recreational activity during the weekend
Things that are the hardest to get used to in Shanghai
Sweet food. Sugar does not belong in everything. I want spicy food again!
Three things you love about locals
They are always nice when I speak Chinese, they don’t scream WAIGUOREN! 外国人! at me as much as people in Hunan did, and they help me out when I’m lost.
Thank you, Aly!