16. November 2018 Radek Šabatka

Gladiator games

Kai-Fu Lee, one of the leading experts in the AI industry, told me in September that the competitive fight in China is quite distinctive from the one in the West, mainly that the Chinese battle is more like a gladiator combat. It is precisely the size of China that gives the combat its dynamic characteristics until a point of an absolute fight.

By mentioning the gladiator fight, I immediately recalled my arrival to Shanghai since it is precisely this type of challenge that I have signed up for and which I haven’t understood until getting on a plane and thinking of how much I would probably change by coming to Shanghai. One of the first challenges I had to face was in a simple process of getting myself to the school’s dorms. Unfortunately, Shanghainese taxi drivers do not speak English, so I had to rely on my Chinese, which was at that point almost non-existent, and a small paper with the dorms’ address. Luckily, I managed to get to the dorms and my Chinese adventure could begin.

Since that moment, everything has been constantly accelerating and I often found myself lost in adapting in many areas that I would never think of like eating with chopsticks. I became a ‘true Shanghainese’ once I set up my bank account and linked it to my phone, and since then I basically don’t pay with cash; everyone pays with their phones from small markets to big malls. During these first months I faced many other challenges, many connected to just simple things like getting used to the local cosine, understanding that knowing English is often not enough and mainly also learn to understand various cultural differences which I explored with my Chinese roommate.

When I look back at my first months living across the planet in Shanghai, I must admit that most of my time was devoted to simple tasks which do however play out a significant role in this different world. Luckily enough, I've been able to survive this gladiator fight and successfully go through all the challenges I faced. Every time I am able to explain where I want to go to a taxi driver or when I pay with my phone, I realize how much has changed since I arrived here. From the one who was entirely lost in this new world to someone who has fully embraced himself in this modern city.

My return home for Christmas will perhaps be quite challenging for me since I will be able to compare myself before and after leaving to China. My biggest hopes lie at using this opportunity of reflecting on the last months in order to enjoy the next semester even more. It’s been a long time, and I can't wait to be back in Czechia because there is so much to share about my life here.

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