A mere thirty years ago the throbbing, booming metropolis of Shenzhen was but a calm, fishing village. The dominant factor being bicycles, horse-drawn carts and the scent of freshly-caught fish. Now, however, those days of merrily riding along the wide-open roads, a rainbow of vegetables piled up in baskets attached to the front and back of the bell-cladden bicycles have been replaced completely and utterly by Sci-Fi-like skyscrapers that creep closer to the sky with every passing day and a throng of traffic jams so tightly jammed together, it’s as if everyone and anyone (and I really mean everyone) has moved to Shenzhen.
It’s now the fifth most populated city in the world and believe me, it’s in it to win it. In the year and a half that I left Shenzhen and since coming back it’s as if the people have multiplied ten-fold. And why not?! This city is truly a’buzzing with opportunities. That friendly, fishy scent from the village days might still be lurking, but it’s suffice to say that money, power and people have found their way in and it looks as though they’re here to stay.
For someone like me, who thrives on the history and traditions of a place, the back alleyways teeming with stories and a community spirit that would give the cosiest, cobblestoned streets a run for their money, it’s easy to wonder why a place like Shenzhen would seem like an attractive place to live. Sometimes, you just need to search a little deeper for what you’re looking for. Shenzhen might be a brand-spanking new baby city, but what she lacks in age, historical tales and a unique culture so associated with the likes of Beijing and Guangzhou- her big Chinese brothers- she makes up for in her melting-pot way. This melting-pot that Shenzhen so encompasses is brimming full of people from all over China. People of all ages, dialects, home towns and taste buds. Throw in a bunch of young and old entrepreneurs from far and wide, east and west, as well as urban planners, architects, designers, artists, musicians, businessmen, bakers and you get quite the creative ensemble. It has most definitely been a speedy transformation, but the shape that Shenzhen is taking appears to be one with many sides. Both positive and negative, like most things in life, but pushing more towards the positive.
It can be fun living in such a new place, knowing that you are getting the chance to play a part in the moulding of it’s future. Shenzhen is a city full of youth and it’s up to us-the generation of Shenzheners- to make it a place to be proud of. Aside from it’s whacky fake eiffel tower, it’s endless plethora of ‘massage parlors’ and it’s heaving traffic, it’s a place I’ve called home temporarily, both in the past and today, and it’s a city that is undergoing an exciting development.
It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, and originally I was in that category. However, if you thrive on leading an independent, opportunity-filled lifestyle for a little while, perhaps Shenzhen might be worth exploring. I shall be unveiling some hidden gems from the city on my blog over the next wee while, so if you’re new to the city or a curious creature- feel free to ask me any questions in the comments section below!