Shanghai City, China
2017 Nagasaki Prefecture Co-ordinator for International Relations
Period of Stay in Nagasaki: April 2017 to April 2018
The year I spent working in Nagasaki went past in no time at all! For a short time after I returned home to Shanghai, I just couldn’t pull myself out of my laid-back “Nagasaki Mode”, and I missed the blue ocean so much I just couldn’t bear it.
After having been away from Shanghai for a while, I experienced what you might call reverse culture shock upon returning. I kept being surprised by the new things that had appeared while I’d been away from China and the things that had already become commonplace. There were lots of things I was surprised by, but today I’m just going to introduce a few.
1. No Waiting Needed! An Ordering System that uses WeChat Mini Programs
I’m sure that many of you know that the Chinese Messaging Application “WeChat” is very convenient. In fact, it’s just got even better and better.
So this is something that happened when I went to my favorite Tapioca Milk store. I was about to order at the store, just as I’d always done, when a staff member recommend to me “It’s faster if you order on your phone, and you can get a discount too.” For the past year, I’d only used the chat function of WeChat, so I’d even forgot how to scan a QR code!! In the end, for that first order on my phone, the staff showed me how to do it and I was somehow able to figure it out.
Let me explain how the ordering process works, using that Tapioca Milk store as an example. The first time you use it, you scan a QR code at the store and add that store’s Mini Program to WeChat. Once you’ve done that, the Order Start Menu pops up. Take a look at these screens below.
Order Start -> Select a Store to Pick-up Your Order
Order -> Payment
You can go straight from: Order Start -> Select a Store to Pick-up Your Order -> Order -> Payment.
Up until now, we’ve had to go to a store, line up, order, wait a little while and then get a drink. Of course, if the store is popular, then the wait is long too. But, with this system, you can order on your phone before you go to the store. When you arrive, you can tell the staff your order number and a freshly-made drink will be waiting for you! At a fast food restaurant, there’s no need to go up to the counter. Just take a seat, and the food you’ve already ordered in advance will be brought to you.
Once you’ve added a Mini Program for the first time, you don’t need to scan a QR code again after that. When you want to use them, you slide down and they appear. Right now, I’ve got Programs from lots of stores and services added on my phone.
2. Almost like a Telephone Box?! Super-small Karaoke Boxes
I love karaoke, but it really takes some courage to walk into a karaoke place alone. I couldn’t bring myself to calmly say to the staff, “One person!”, so I never went to sing karaoke alone in Nagasaki.
Recently, I found these tiny karaoke boxes made for one person here in Shanghai. They look just like telephone boxes, don’t they. Strictly speaking you can fit two people inside, and once you close the door it’s like you’re in your own world! It’s small enough that you don’t have to worry about sound leakage. You can sing your heart out without worrying about anyone around you.
To use these boxes, you enter and scan the QR code on the screen (see the photo above) and once you’ve paid you can select a song from the bottom touch-panel and starting singing. There are two microphones, and when you put it them in the mike-stands, they are disinfected by UV light. Compared to a regular karaoke place, there might be fewer songs available, but it’s great how you can record yourself.
Also, in a regular karaoke place, the rooms are somewhat big, so there are speakers. But, because of the echo, it’s hard to tell if you’re hitting the notes right. However, in these boxes, your voice is picked up by the mike and sent to your ears via headphones instead of speakers, which means you can hear yourself clearly with no echo. The recording features starts automatically from the beginning, and if you connect up to WeChat, after the song is finished a notification pops up in your WeChat. Even better, you can even send your recording to connected apps, and even have a bit of a contest with your friends.
You might well be wondering, “But how much is it?” Prices start at 20 Yuan (about ¥330), and you can select a usage time starting from 20 mins. It’s just perfect for killing time, and you could even “Just sing one song” while waiting for someone. But, if you get carried away and sing for a long time, it can get quite expensive, so watch out! ^^;
3. Can you really get a massage for 5 Yuan (just under ¥ 100)?
Before watching a movie or after shopping, why not have a massage and de-stress? When I say massage, I mean massage chairs, like these.
Massage chairs like these are expensive and take up space, so they’re really hard to have at home, right?
Massage chairs located in public places like these can be used for just a little bit of cash, starting at 5 mins of usage. At the cheapest locations, prices start at just 5 Yuan. The chairs are mostly located in places where large numbers of people gather, such as shopping malls, subways, as well as airports and stations. That way, you can get the convenience of being able to use them just a little while you wait. The person who first thought up selling usage time on machines like this must’ve been really smart.
These massage chairs were once coin-operated, but there were problems with fake coins, etc. However, once Ali Pay and WeChat Pay appeared, smartphone payments solved these problems, and I’ve seen how the chairs became popular all at once.
Returning to China, I found that with society moving towards cashless payments, I barely need my wallet any more. Although on one hand it’s more convenient than in Japan, it’s been concerning that money just disappears before you know it.
Shanghai is just a short hop from Nagasaki! Please come and visit Shanghai and make some “New Discoveries” for yourself!