As many of you know from our latest social media posts, I recently visited Shanghai, China for their “China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair!” or CCBF 2019. What an experience, let me tell you. There is just SO MUCH to write about, where do I start?
Visiting China? What to know, before you go!
For starters, my son is learning Chinese and I am not. Actually, other than my p’s and q’s I can’t hold my own, making every day a new adventure! English speakers in China are few and far between. I found, anyone under the age of 30 knew at least a very small amount of English and was more than willing to try and help. The lack of English in Shanghai surprised me, as the children are taught both English and Chinese in school. Maybe that’s a new thing? Also, many of the signs on the streets, on the sidewalks and in the hotels were all bilingual with both Chinese and English.
Leave your American Express card at home! Other than my hotels, no one takes American Express. Paying for things was interesting, locals use an app called Alipay on their phone to pay for EVERYTHING. Very recently, the app opened up what they call a “Tour Pass” for tourists to connect to a major bank and use for up to 3 months at a time with a max transfer of 2000RMB/Yuan (roughly $280-ish U.S. dollars). Good thing I had some paper Chinese Yuan, that no one wanted. The first day I was there it was difficult to make a purchase certain spots. Make sure you have a quick and easy currency conversion app on your phone. That definitely helped me negotiate better prices while shopping and taking rides.
The next hardship came when trying to get a taxi/car back to the hotel from the Expo Center. All the drivers realize it’s hard for tourists to pay for things and I noticed many didn’t want to pick me up. Actually, one guy told me, “No! No cash!”, I wasn’t going to try to argue with him. One driver offered a ride but wanted to charge me 6-times the regular rate for a 10 minute ride/ 30 minute walk. I walked! I am one of those stubborn types that just couldn’t pay that, out of sheer principle. Apple Maps was super useful, that’s how I determined how long of a walk I had. Once back at my hotel, I was informed of another, Uber like, app called Didi. This would allow me to get a car, and pay for it with my Alipay… as long as I was on WiFi. Swell! Lucky for me, a friend back in the states recommended a chauffeur friend of hers, I ended up using him for touring around the last two days of my trip. Extremely convenient, and no he didn’t speak any english either. :)
By day three, I had learned how to pay for stuff and how to get around, but I was getting hungry. Literally starving! I just couldn’t get into the traditional Chinese food, I was leery of meats and seafood because I didn’t want to risk getting sick. I had learned how to say “I only eat vegetables” in Chinese before I left the states, but the vegetables and hot tea were just not enough substance to keep me going. I knew there had to be a McDonalds around, don’t judge! Not to mention, there was a Starbucks on every other block, just like home! There were people everywhere! The roads are filled with cars, tons of scooters, bicycles, and people on foot. There is a line everywhere you go and everyone likes to stand real close. I won’t lie, it does make you slightly uncomfortable. My first hotel was right on the Huangpujiang River in Shanghai. The traffic on this river was constant, barges, boats and ferries ran day and night, seven days a week. Truly a busy town that never sleeps!
You will live and die by your phone! Make sure you are charged before you head out and make sure you have a battery backup with you on your outings. I used my phone non-stop for photos, apps to pay for things, to get rides, Apple maps, to convert prices and while standing in long lines. I had downloaded a VPN (virtual private network) before I had left the U.S. so my social media and you tube worked on my phone. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have had access to those and other features blocked by the government.
Alipay and/or WeChat(facebook/amazon style app)
Didi App (car/taxi service)
Currency Conversion App (Chinese rmb/yuan to the American dollar)
Apple Maps - (not Google. I believe Google is blocked)
CCBF 2019 - China Children’s Book Fair
The Expo was beautiful and well laid out. The first day was great being able to access many of the vendors before the general public. The children’s Art was amazing, the life size figures meant for photo ops were a favorite, the people traffic, and the variety of books, toys and games were like nothing I had seen before. I met with many types of literature vendors from all over the world. One of my favorite interactions was with a Dutch illustrator and writer by the name of Loes Riphagen. There was typically one English speaker in every booth. Many english speakers came from Australia. All in all the trip was a success and I found what many opportunities to collaborate with companies and individuals in the bilingual literature field. I look forward to working through some of these details and bringing you some of the fun products and resources on our website very soon!