“Greetings, new guy! Welcome to Shanghai!
At this point you’ve probably realized that you’re not in Canada anymore and that you’ll need to be very adaptive to survive and thrive in this city. To start off, here is a list of things you should probably know before stepping out into the wild:
Basic Shanghai Survival Guide
Staring is not considered impolite.
Don’t take your shirt off in public or you’ll spend the entire afternoon taking pictures with local girls all making the Peace Sign.
Spitting in public isn’t rude. In fact, the way you spit says a lot about you! According to Chinese superstition, a white loogie signifies high status, yellow is virility, green is a sinus infection and black is sterility. The bigger the loogie, the more street-cred you will inevitably earn. The distance, height and accuracy of the launch all count in the overall scoring, too. Watch the locals... the guys/ladies in pajamas tend to be especially good.
Public urination isn’t exactly taboo, but it’s not a sport like spitting because women can’t compete.
Go ahead and smoke/drink anywhere. ANYWHERE! Bars, restaurants, convenience stores, taxis, churches/temples, hospitals and pre-schools are all fair game.
People here don’t customarily shake hands, probably for sanitary reasons
If you fall asleep in the taxi after the clubs, you are responsible for paying the extra hundred quay that the driver racked up while you were out.
Tip if you get the happy ending.
If a dog’s ears and tails are dyed neon, it’s not intended for food.
1) Don’t drink a lot of the water at first. Even the beer can do you in.
Street-meat is China’s greatest gift. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you the meat isn’t safe. It’s the cheapest, most delicious food you’ll ever find. Plus, there’s no such thing as an MSG overdose. 1.3 Billion people can’t be wrong!
Take off your shoes in the apartment, for sanitary reasons
Don’t take any dumpster-babies home, for sanitary reasons
There is a gym down the street. Call the agency to arrange a membership.
If you don’t want to pay for the gym, you can either dance with the girls at the various nearby spas in the morning or use the exercise equipment behind our building. Please note: nobody has figured out how to use the exercise equipment yet.
Believe it or not, the traffic here is more afraid of you than you are of it. As long as you cross the street slowly, you can probably do it blindfolded!
Don’t get scared or offended when the traffic honks at you. Honking, yelling and burping are all considered affectionate gestures by Chinese standards.
***Many Chinese words sound like inappropriate English words. Don’t get offended! For example: The word “Nigga” in Chinese is the equivalent of “That” in English.
Slapping someone with a Peking duck is believed to bring increased fertility... but a Beijing duck brings herpes.
“Cantonese Duck” means “Cat”... It’s actually not so bad.
Playing the crazy-chinese-dice-game for longer than ten minutes can do some serious damage to your liver.
Enjoy your first glimpse of Shanghai. Make sure to check out the next section before hitting your first castings!
“Even I still say that every couple days, and I’ve been here a month!”
“I just went for a walk... the people just STARE at you. They’re so weird!” Xander is a twenty-year-old, six-foot-three Canadian with blond hair and green eyes. His shirt had the sleeves cut off and the sides were torn out, showing off his guns, abs and of course the crack of his ass. His eyes had dark circles below them, but he wouldn’t sit down. “I think we live across the street from a whorehouse! I walked away from there towards the street where I saw the Starbux on the drive in and saw a little kid taking a dump next to the sidewalk! He didn’t even pull down his pants; there was like a hole in the back of them!”
I tossed Xavier a bottle of Tsingtao and said “Welcome to Wonderland”. He passed out before finishing the beer.
We had only one casting the next morning. Lauren, Paolo and I took Xavier to Qipu Lu for the real China experience. We all spent most of our weekly advance from the agency on designer knockoffs, had some legit China food (Xander especially like the dish we affectionately named “Moose Knuckles”) and then split a cab home. In just one day, China had exhausted Xander and cleaned his wallet. “Can you get MSG poisoning?” He said, “ don’t think I’m gunna survive this crazy place”
Paolo and I decided to take him out for a little expat fun and show him how the models in Shanghai party. The first stop was the party at Hamilton House near the Bund. The models have been anticipating this opening for weeks! There was an upscale crowd, live DJ and wine that didn’t contain MSG! Unfortunately the models there too late for the party and just hung out as if it was an upscale casting that served good wine. “It’s an early spot. We’ll try again tomorrow.” I said after making plans with the rest of the gang.
Xander wasn’t as disappointed as I thought he’d be. “Real meat!” Xander almost cried when they brought him a plate of chicken that didn’t still have the feet and head attached.
After Hamilton, the models marched M1, but Paolo and I took Xander to Mint first. The girls from our Agency were already there in skimpy bunny-suits and pouring shots down to open, upturned mouths from atop the bar. After a couple rounds of that crazy-Chinese-dice-game, we jumped in a cab headed for Mao with three girls in bunny-suits bouncing around the back. It’s a good thing we’re not allowed to drive here!
Xander woke up this morning with the look of someone who had been traveling seventy two hours. “I don’t know if I’ve ever drank that much” He groaned from his bed next to mine. “What do we have to do today?”
“Gym, castings, dinner, then party. It’s Friday; the weekend’s just getting started!”
“I don’t think I’m going to survive this place” Xander rolled out of bed. Light poured into the blacked-out room when he opened the door to the hallway. In that instant, a very distressed-looking bunny from a different agency popped out of the Paolo’s room, waived ‘Hello/Goodbye’ and scurried out the front door. She was missing her fluffy little tail. Xander’s mouth hung open as memories from the night before came back. “What the Hell?” He asks me.
“Welcome to Wonderland” I toss him an extra water-bottle from next to my bed, flipped onto my back and adjusted the covers with no intention of getting out of bed before noon.
Making it in New York City is difficult, even when you’re willing to sell your body. I spent my summer vacation as the Shirtless Dude in front of the new Hollister Epic store in Soho and it was far from the easy day job that the Abercrombie/Hollister Corporation’s recruiters -- similar to the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz -- made it out to be.
My mother didn’t want me to leave the safety of Florida to try my hand at modeling. “The people out there are predators,” she said as I took my bags from the car at the airport, “Please just promise me you’ll keep your pants on?”
My new agents at Q Models told me that I got to the city just in time for “Back to School Season” and immediately had me on multiple castings and go-sees. As the summer progressed the castings become more sporadic, I began searching for a lucrative day job that would aid in my mission to save money for next semester. That’s when the recruiters found me and swooped me into the Corporate Office. Adrian my recruiter told me that working at Hollister would be nothing like the Abercrombie model-jail where every model’s left shoe is permanently glued to a well-lit spot on the floor. They promised that the job would be more laid back with less perfume and an extra hundred bucks per shift. Sold.
I went to the “Shirtless Dude Casting” and met with Jen the training manager. If the recruiters are the Flying Monkeys of the Corporation, Jen is the Wicked Witch of the West… After my initial interview, Jen took me aside and simply said, “Look Max, we really like your look and your energy. You’re going to make it to call-backs where you’ll be meeting Mike Jefferies and the other heads of the Corporation. I want to give you some advice: if you act gay at all, you’re not going to get the position. You’re the only gay Shirtless Dude candidate and I don’t want that to be the reason you don’t get it.” Do I really act that gay? I was always thought that I didn’t have any of the usual gay mannerisms -- other than some style. I was slightly offended and I didn’t know why.
I managed to put my fairy wings back in the closet and was offered the job. On the opening day of the new Hollister Epic Store they gave all of their teenage employees unlimited energy drinks. It was hard to keep everyone in his or her well-lit positions for the first hour of the “soft-opening”. Jen ran past my post -- probably to get some more model-glue -- and snapped at the vibrating seventeen year old next to me, “Grace, calm down. You’re going to scare the customers!” Grace jumped up and down, nodding. “Never mind. Why don’t you get changed for the fragrance room? I think I need Max to break one of the Lifeguards out front.” She smacked me on the ass on her way into the staff-area.
Excited to get out of the Epic Dungeon, I threw on the Lifeguard uniform; a pair of Risky Business style sunglasses, white zinc (for the nose) and some red Lifeguard swim-trunks that were two inches too wide in the waist. I went to the front of the store to find my co-Lifeguard rocking the same infamous Hollister ‘Top-Dick’ look. When I congratulated my co-worker on his “Most excellent TopDick,” he looked away awkwardly and pulled up his trunks.
It wasn’t until I started posing for cheesy tourist pictures outside that I finally realized: my company is the guy-version of Hooters! Instead of boobs and junk food, Hollister offers Top-Dick and preppy clothes. My co-Lifeguard didn’t seem to be having a good time -- apparently straight guys aren’t allowed to smile in cheesy tourist photos. Is smiling too gay? I tried to cheer the straight, struggling model up with “Hey man, this job ain’t so bad. At least we’re going to be Facebook celebrities!” He cracked a smile as we posed for a picture with a giggling little Asian girl. I liked being their fantasy boyfriend. Does that make me a closeted lifeguard?
The sun was setting when everything went to hell. Some guy with an obnoxious Brooklyn accent asked me to take a picture with his blushing, prepubescent daughter. After the flash, her skinny toe-headed brother was pushed forward. The little guy whipped off his shirt and struck a muscle-pose in front of me. I mimicked the pose, but as soon as my arms were in the air the Brooklyn father yelled, “Now!” The little blond brat pulled my sagging baggies down to the ground. Before I even realized that I was flashing all of Broadway, the kid instantly resumed his muscle-pose and smiled as his father’s camera flashed again. The family ran away as the laughing crowd pulled out their camera-phones and took as many pictures as they could before I pulled up my pants. I prayed that my mom would never get on Facebook.
Jen swooped out of the store on her broomstick. She’d watched the whole thing on her crystal ball inside. She was laughing. When she asked me if I was okay, she actually seemed to care for a split second. “You’re doing a great job out here, Max. I’m glad you are on the team.”
My first summer in New York and to survive I was closeted, humiliated, and welcomed to the team of flying monkeys. Just when I was ready to give up I got a call from my agent: I booked the new Hollister campaign photo-shoot! I’ll be shooting with Bruce Webber on a beach somewhere in Australia for almost a week! I asked my agent if they said anything about me being too gay. She paused and I braced myself for it. “Max, there are plenty of handsome guys. They picked you because you are who you are. Just relax and get ready for a week in Oz!”