Aaron and I were in Shanghai for a work project. One evening, we went in search of cheap electronic goods at a shopping centre that one of our colleagues recommended.
Sadly, pirated software and unbranded hardware seems to be a thing of the Shanghai past. Everything we saw was the real deal, as genuine as anything on Bourke Street Mall.
‘No discount.’ they said as we clumsily tried to haggle. ‘Real Apple. Same price everywhere.’
We quickly gave up our search for an Apple-compatible VGA cable. Instead, we found ourselves in a China-scale bookstore. It was as big as a small department store in Melbourne, and at 9pm was full of people reading.
‘Hello!’ someone said as I walked past a display of translated Barack Obama biographies.
‘Hello,’ I replied, keen to practice my Chinese.
‘Do you want to learn English?’
‘Here! You can have English lessons,’ he said, trying to hand me a brochure. ‘Free lessons.’
‘Ah! I marshalled my thoughts to explain. ‘I grew up in Australia. My English is… much better than Chinese!’
The fellow looked confused and then left us alone. I think he got the message.
Later, I got two more chances to practice the same conversation with bookstore staff positioned deeper into the store.