Shut Your Mouth and Move Your Feet:

Lessons Learned In Our Study Abroad Program at Fudan University

The wisdom of elders has been a constant positive force in my life, ALL OF MY LIFE. Fortunately I was a person who recognized the value of lessons learned from the elders in my life. That doesn’t mean I was always wise enough to heed their advice, but I recognized early on that I was blessed to have a lot of wisdom around me. During our trip here to Shanghai, I had the opportunity to participate in an interview with five women from the Songjang Community and quickly saw that wisdom was in the room. We were interviewing them about health attitudes, practices and beliefs in their community and when asked about how they take care of themselves and live healthy lives one of the women, Tu Qwu Me, a spry delightful women with a constant smile and infectious laugh, shared with us that she tells her family to live healthy you must “Shut Your Mouth and Move Your Feet.” That adage rang true for so many things we learned and did on this trip.


Public Health perspective– “Shut your mouth and move your feet” is good advice when you think about diet and exercise. This is the context in which Mrs. Me used the saying. She explained that her family complains about the healthier diet that she has adopted. In the way that only a mom can do I can imagine her dismissing her children’s complaints and telling them to get away from her as she continues to prepare the meal. However it also reinforces the fact that if we eat less and exercise more we can live healthier lives.

Shanghai Metro Perspective – In a city that moves what feels like tens of millions of people on their subway system, you have to “Shut up and Move Your Feet” to get on and off a subway train. As the subway was our primary mode of transportation for the last two weeks, we discovered early on that embarking and disembarking the train required us to throw all social etiquette out the window.


The pushing and shoving that results in the transition on and off the train leaves no room for casual conversation or a slow steady pace. If you are in the middle of a conversation with someone when the train arrives, you cut the discussion off mid-stream, ready yourself in your best linebacker stance and keep your feet moving until you get on the train.

Today was our final full day in Shanghai and we closed the program out with group presentations, a celebratory lunch and an evening of fellowship with friends and colleagues. I can honestly say that I am exceptionally proud of the seven Georgia State Students who participated in this inaugural educational and cultural exchange with 14 equally amazing students from Fudan University.


Of Rice and Men

Who doesn’t like Chinese food? American Chinese food is mouthfuls of steaming rice and noodles with sides of delectable meats and veggies and to cap it all off, a fortune cookie. Most American Chinese food places I have gone to served their food with fried rice or lo mein by a woman who works the front of the house. Since China has such a long historical and storied past, I have often wondered about their food cultures around food service especially in the country of China. Is what we eat at American Chinese restaurants representative of what traditional Chinese families eat in China? Coming to Shanghai, rice is oddly not present as much as I am used to.

Prince pic 1

Growing up in a Nigerian household, I am not only the first of five siblings but the oldest male. I will be first to carry my father’s name and to represent my family in whatever I do. I am a physical representation of my family’s heritage and family line. In Nigerian culture the oldest child represents the family on many fronts, but the oldest male is a strong representation of the father and the family. Fathers are very important in Nigerian culture and its food culture. In traditional Nigerian food culture, males eat first serviced by wives, sisters, and daughters. Rice is always present when you take part in a Nigerian meal, especially large scale meals.

Prince pic 2

In American Chinese food, rice always accompanies your choice of meat and your choice of a side dish. Rice is in abundance with American Chinese dishes for all family members partaking in the meal. Recently the question came up, why is rice never a part of the meals we order and must be ordered separately. We were told by a student that in her family men are seen as having a larger appetite and eat more, so men usually order rice as a part of their meal and the women eat the other food ordered and most times never touch the rice. This was interesting because something else about meal times made sense all of a sudden. The fact that every time we went out as a group to eat, all 10 of us, any and every restaurant would leave us one drink menu an one food item menu for us to order from. China is traditionally a patriarchal society, and the men make the decisions for the family. The man is supposed to order the food and drink for all the family members at the table. Men are seen at dinner as the voice of decision. They are the head of their households and they are the decision makers at the dining table.

Before coming to Shanghai, my experience in family dynamics as a first generation Nigerian-American was twofold. American culture when it comes to ordering food is that everyone orders what they want and the sequence of when people order varies. I have seen it a plethora of mixed up ways in which families order from parents first to children first. So in general, my impression is America does not necessarily care who orders when.

Prince pic 3

Now this does not represent all American families because in my household, traditionally Nigerian men are the leaders and decision makers of the family. Nigeria is a patriarchal society as well. In Nigeria, food preparation equals women, wives and daughters alike taking part in food prep and the serving of the food. Men in Nigeria are served first by their wife and daughters, then the children are served next if they are too young to help cook the food, and then the women who cooked eat. In more affluent families, there may be a maid of some sort who serves the food but the man will still be served first. In my American household some of those ideals still hold true most likely due to my parents’ upbringing in Nigeria, but not all ideals. Everyone cooks in my house; the order in which people eat depends on availability. If my mother cooks and if my father is nearby he will get his food first most times but if not, it’s first come first served. The American mix and match order of service comes into play.

Food and the service of it is like a transfer of power and energy not only in the literal sense but also in the societal sense because the sequence in which people get food appears to equate to gender power roles. Here in Shanghai gender roles come down to what is feminine and what is masculine. Not many women are seen smoking because it is seen as “unladylike.” I have noticed that men, especially smokers, hack up spit everywhere all the time. I haven’t seen any women doing that. Women and girls here walk around holding up umbrellas to block the sun from their skin. This makes me wonder how the dynamics are viewed in single parent households in China or households where the woman makes the “lion’s share” of the income.

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The differences in societies and cultures are the key to what makes each one so great and unique. So is it okay to say one is better than the other or backwards? I don’t think it is that black and white. Each cultural history one can ever take part in is heavily intertwined with its food. A country’s food culture can tell you so much about its customs, history, and ideals. So does that mean rice in traditional Chinese culture equates to much more than we Americans can comprehend in two weeks? Can a simple grain such as rice represent wealth and power? American eat so much of it, can it represent greed and excess? Rice is a staple in Nigerian cuisine, so does rice just represent availability of a resource? Rice is in so many cuisines of many countries and cultures, so does rice represent our connectedness as human beings? These are many of the questions that come up when talking about the subject not only of rice and men, but food and people.

China and the One Child Rule

Is China creating a monster with the one child rule? The one child rule went into effect in china in the 1980s to control population growth in China. Having only one child in many cases can lead to a brat. This week, children were playing in a monumental water fountain without repercussions. Also, in a restaurant two girls who were on a play date were sitting on counters wearing dresses and performing cartwheels. No one said or did anything. In the U.S., this would be quite embarrassing for many parents and would be subject to some type of discipline.

kids in shanghai

One day I asked a classmate from China, not knowing her age, if she had any siblings. I was a little embarrassed when she said no because of the one child rule. She expressed that she wished she had a brother or sister.

Not only could this be the root of unruly kids, it could be traumatic to a family. After the one child rule went into effect, couples had to fill out an application to have a child. Family planning clinics popped up everywhere, which led to unwanted birth control methods and forced abortions.

It’s no wonder why this one child is cherished and spoiled rotten by parents as well as grandparents. Recently, there have been revisions to the one child policy that allow a second child. Apparently, if both sets of grandparents were also an only child, a couple can apply to have a second child.

However, having one child does have the advantage of not only more available income, but also more family time and less crowding in restaurants and subways. There were many families of three generations spending time together in parks, restaurants, and museums. This could actually create a stronger family bond with both sets of grandparents.

By Phylliscia Gibson

Endless Eating and How to Queue in Shanghai

Shanghai is the perfect place for a person to eat themselves into a food coma on a daily basis.


There is something to eat, be it on the side of the road, or within a small restaurant, seemingly every ten paces.  Apparently, Shanghai cuisine is known country-wide for its sweet flavor profile according to our Chinese hosts at Fudan University.  I tend to agree, as there is a little sweetness to many of the dishes I have had here.

I have always heard that dishes commonly served at Chinese restaurants in the United States do not exist in China.  However, on several occasions we have eaten dishes such as sweet and sour pork, sweet and sour fish, and Kung po chicken that have admittedly tasted quite similar – who would have figured?
On the whole, I have really enjoyed eating noodle soup (one of my favorite things in the world), roasted fish, and Chinese hot pot.  I literally did not want to stop eating during the hot pot meal.  Cooking meats of all types in broth (including congealed blood cubes) and dipping them in various sauces appeals to my decadent side.

One thing I have noticed about the city is that there is an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables available within walking distance; sometimes multiple locations on a single block.

If you weren’t thinking about having some fruit, then it jogs your memory seeing carts of fresh fruit displayed right there on the side walk.  I wonder if the same were true for Atlanta or other US cities, whether people would consume more fresh produce or not.


Like anyone from a large family will tell you; if you don’t get in and get your food, you won’t eat. The same applies for Shanghai.  I think we all have learned that in a city this large you have to get in line and assertively, but politely place your order.  Otherwise, you could be in line for quite some time.

Cheers Shanghai.


Knowing Shanghai

Trying to understand Chinese culture in only two weeks is a tough task. Trying to understand Shanghai in two weeks is nearly impossible.
Shanghai skyline
Shanghai is a city of contradictions that at times are both beautiful and jarring to the senses. The city has some of the finest modern architecture in the world; skyscrapers whose form seems to defy gravity and are surrounded by abundant greenspace. Looking at these buildings I feel like I am in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.

The streets are busy with pedestrians in designer clothes, and the number of BMWs, Audis, and Ferraris would please the most status conscious American. Construction of new buildings is happening everywhere we go and much of the new construction is slated for luxury apartment homes.

And yet, amidst all of this luxury, status, and wealth you will see someone riding a bike loaded with goods twice as tall as the rickety bike with the rider, negotiating the traffic as if he belonged there. And he does belong there; but he doesn’t belong there, at least not to me.

bikes in traffic

My world view tells me that he belongs in a rural setting. Yet here he is in downtown Shanghai and no one thinks anything about it. Understanding Chinese (especially Shanghai) culture is more than understanding what is black and white; they use chopsticks and we use forks. To fully understand the culture you need to understand the sensory cues that tell us what we should expect in a given situation.

When we are given a cue and expectation does not meet reality the result can be discomforting, disorienting, intriguing, and wonderful all at the same time. Ferrari meets bicyclist, luxury condo meets shanty, fine dining meets street vendor, cultural pride meets Western marketing, progress meets censorship. This is Shanghai.

Our Fudan University classmates threw a party for us today. They gave us university t-shirts, provided Pizza Hut pizza, KFC, Coke, Sprite, and a lot of candy. We danced and played games for hours and I was sorry that it had to end. It has been such a pleasure to have class with the Chinese students and engage in discussions with them that we otherwise would not have the opportunity to have. There are things about America that they are curious about, and there are things about China that we are curious about.

As researchers, having discussions like this exposes our cultural biases and will hopefully lead to a better understanding of how these biases affect our research. I think that this may be the most important thing that I take away from this study abroad experience.


Adventure to Zhaojialou

Zhaojialou, a water village near Shanghai
An excursion to an ancient waterside town sounds like a great first adventure to have in Shanghai, which is exactly what it turned out to be. As we began our journey, I started to wonder how the town would look. Would it be similar to the upper class urban area around our hotel? Would the people look similar to the individuals that we passed in the streets of Shanghai? How would the food taste?
As I pondered these questions on the train and bus, I could see the cluster of tall buildings slowly diminish. I began to feel a calm come over me.

As we stepped off the bus and strolled along the dirt road, I could see the residents look in amazement. We managed to walk about one hundred feet before we saw a noodle shop. I noticed Arabic and Chinese on the sign of this small restaurant, which surprised me especially because Arabic is native to me.

As we sat and ordered, a man returning from Friday prayer put on his apron and began making the noodles from scratch. At this point I knew these noodles were going to be one of the best I have ever eaten, which I turned out to be right. I could taste the effort put into his true art form.

With our bellies beyond satisfied we ventured off to see what else this place filled with pleasant smiles and delicious food had to offer. Zhaojia Tower was absolutely beautiful. We sailed through the river on a small boat as we discussed the history of this serene town located in the suburbs of Shanghai.
A typical pagoda type structure in Zhaojialou (near Shanghai)
I thought about how urbanization had not yet deteriorated this picturesque place into endless concrete and tall buildings. The people were friendlier in this town than the residents of the city. It felt like a big community, more like a big family, where I was completely at ease.

The people here had not become consumed by technology, where they stared at their phone constantly, as those in the busy center of Shanghai. Children were playing, adults were chatting with one another, and the employees of the small businesses were selling hand made goods along with more delicious food. Although the town had not seen the same economic growth as the city, the people were in tune with the culture and the people that surrounded them. I felt at home.

Ideal Beauty in China

During a visit to a local supermarket in Shanghai, I made my way down the cosmetic aisle looking for a face moisturizer. Although most of the products descriptions were written in Chinese, “whitening” was vividly marked in English across most of the products.

whitening products

Not only did face creams contain these whiteners, but face cleansers, soaps, lotions, and even deodorants had whitening agents.

Most of these products are marketed towards women, but there are some whitening products for men as well. In China and East Asia, pale skin is seen as the ideal beauty standard.

Traveling down the streets of the city I have seen many women walking down the street with an umbrella to shade themselves from the sun. This made me reflect on the “colorism” that you find in the United States and other parts of the world and the response by people of color to lighten their skin in order to fit in with society’s idea of beauty. As a Black women, I understand the history in the United States and why white features are perceived as more beautiful, but I was interested in understanding the history behind this preference for pale skin and skin whitening in China.
A women in Shanghai cycles down the street, holding an umbrella to shield herself from the sun
After doing a little research I found that one’s skin tone was an indicator of one’s economic and social status. Chinese farmers who labored in the sun were easily distinguishable from the upper class by their darker skin. Nobles who were privileged enough to stay indoors and avoid the sun had fairer skin. This ancient beauty ideal and preference for fair skin is still deeply ingrained in the Chinese culture.

Although the history behind the colorism in China is different from the history in the United States, the public health impact is still a concern I had. Prolonged use of skin bleaching products can cause skin discoloration, skin cancer, and other medical problems. To see these products advertised everywhere in Shanghai and knowing they are so widely used throughout China without question is very concerning.

Peoples Square, Hair Strokers, and New Partners… Oh My!!!

I awoke with a strong sense of anxiety about not being able to finish my GIS training, and knowing that later I would be paired with my group mates. Luckily anxiousness was quickly replaced with hungry pangs.

Even though breakfast is not a normal part of my day, it has become a time to practice my favorite past time – people watching. This daily leisure activity continued all throughout the day as I internally waffled between going to the art museum or the urban planning museum. Choosing the latter I soon found that it held many artistic renderings of Shanghai architecture.

Painting of Outside Bowling Centre on HengshanRoad

Painting of Outside Bowling Centre on HengshanRoad

The phrase “this is amazing” became like a mantra when looking at Shanghai’s plan for the future.

Virtual Reality Exhibit  to show future plans

Virtual Reality Exhibit to show future plans

This was almost also followed by “if Atlanta only”.

Apprehension soon returned as time drew near to meet our Chinese counterparts. This was abruptly interrupted by a case of stranger danger.

Upon boarding the number 9 exchange, a middle aged Chinese man felt a strong connection with Anna’s hair. Even with all the pointing and gawking from previous days, this was the first time I truly was uncomfortable. The event was purely creepy, but did lead to little-hearted laughs which helped to put my mind at ease.

Entering the campus I thought to myself it was time to put my nose to the grindstone, but I was so tired from the day the only thing I could think about was sleep and food. The anxiety I had woke up with and carried all day was now overshadowed by exhaustion and hunger. In most cases being either is bad thing, but this mixture allowed me to be free from anxiety. It made it where I could enjoyably listen to my group members speak. The day turned out wonderfully even though I let my nerves get the best of me.

Researching Public Health Issues In Shanghai

“Mapping Social and Environmental Disparities in Cities: An Integrated Field GIS in Shanghai, China” will provide a cultural immersion educational opportunity for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students interested in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and mapping to understand urban environment and public health.

Georgia State University students will be paired with Chinese students conducting research projects focusing on people’s perception of
environmental and/or health concerns. Students will have a rich language and cultural exchange experience in addition to scientific collaboration.

The three-week program will include two weeks of field work in Shanghai, China. The field work will include a combination of classroom and lecture experience on the campus of Fudan University as well as field trips for research projects working with local government agencies.

Coursework will focus on learning geospatial technologies in environment and public health, with guest lectures and instruction coming from professors at Georgia State and Fudan University. The program is sponsored by the Georgia State School of Public Health and the College of Arts and Sciences.