The Smells of Shanghai

April 15th, 2009. Categories / China, Shanghai

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Shanghai is a full-on assault of smells. The wide variety of different odors mix together on the average bike ride or walk down the street. Some are good; most are bad.

The natural scents are tolerable, but the synthetics serve as a constant reminder of eventual cancer. I’m surprised people aren’t walking around with visible tumors and having miscarriages on the street after a lifetime of living here. The chemicals smell deadly.

Here are two lists of smells on an average day:

Organic:

  • Steamed Buns
  • Cooking Oil
  • Vomit
  • Dead Animal
  • Vegetable Scraps
  • Dirt
  • Flowers
  • Fish
  • Vinegar
  • Rinse Water
  • Sewage
  • Pee
  • Dog Poop
  • Fried Tofu
  • B.O.
  • Chicken Blood

Synthetic:

  • Paint
  • Varnish
  • Formaldehyde
  • Poison
  • Concrete
  • Bleach
  • Flea Collar Smell
  • Mystery Toxin
  • Gasoline
  • Diesel
  • Sheetrock
  • Resin
  • Calking Compound

You know it’s a bad sign of workplace health when there’s a big spray can of formaldehyde sitting out next to the smoking area in the stairwell, across from a panel glued to the wall with epoxy. It’s also unsettling to notice that the area around your desk smells like flea collars and there’s a fine layer of concrete dust over everything.

If you have any other Shanghai smells you want to add, mention them in the comments.

7 Comments


nik, this post cracked me up! i always loved the parts of the world i’d travel too where one of the “souvenirs” i picked up was snot that turned black! ewww… another “highlight” of my visit to shanghai was our [organized] trip to a local hospital and seeing the spitoons throughout the hallway. ok, maybe the didn’t smell all that much, but it sure made me want to vomit which would smell bad!

anne

I don’t know if to laugh or cry for you.

Haha that is so true, also one of the reasons to why I always hang out nanjing xi lu. 100% chance to NOT smell shit.

Nik:

Gross, I can can imagine the sights and sounds of those spitoons.

You’ll still see pee on Nanjing, though. The little kids drop trou and pee wherever they feel like it.

Alexander:

Hey hi,

It is true that Shanghai has a very typical smell, that you smell as soon as you land there.

I went there 12 times.

And I’ve never smelled anything similar.

I was in love with a girl there, so for me, this bad smell was something pleasant to smell.

But I do agree, it might be very unhealthy.

Alex

I visited Shanghai many times, and as soon as I stepped off the plane, I could smell cooking oil. That smell is forever associated with Shanghai for me. I wish I knew what kind of oil it is. I don’t recall every smelling it in the U.S. where I live.

Clark:

There is a distinct smell you can smell on the clothes here. To me it smells like an industrial/manufacturing/coal type smell. I’ve had my clothes taken to the dry cleaner and returned with that smell on it. Not very pleasant.

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