Shanghai’s dissonant urban cacophony is driving me mad!

By Manav Keeling Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/12 18:23:39

Every night around 11 pm, our 40-something downstairs neighbor comes home, cranks up the TV full blast, then starts shout-talking with his wife for the next two hours. He is so loud that I can hear most of his words through the cement that separates us. I don't dare confront him, because anyone that boorish and inconsiderate is probably not a level-headed person.

It gets worse. At 10 pm, the night-shift crew of the massive construction site directly outside my community start up their heavy machinery. It's a public infrastructure project, which should have registered with the authority, making as much racket as they need to with full impunity.

Around 3 am on work nights, I'm usually woken up by the wet-fart-sounding mufflers of miscellaneous Maseratis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis zipping by at unlawful speeds along the highway outside. These are the local 20-something tuhao (nouveau riche offspring) returning home after a night of clubbing.

On weekend mornings, when everyone should be allowed a respite from the urban cacophony, there's always someone in my apartment tower who decides to renovate their home. The laborers they hire to strip away the concrete masonry usually start jack-hammering and drilling at 6:30 am.

This, my friends, is an average night for me in Shanghai. I live in the city center, which ironically is quieter than the suburbs, where even more construction projects are currently taking place as the city expands outwards. So I suppose I should be grateful, but honestly sometimes I feel like I'm going mad from all this dissonance.

I understand that progress and development are driving forces behind Shanghai's successful economy. But when does all the clamorous construction end? I have watched the main boulevard near our apartment community get bulldozed and paved and bulldozed again no less than a dozen times over the past year. Just why? And do my neighbors really need a new living room every spring?

I must be an overly sensitive person to take issue with what Shanghai natives have learned to ignore. Maybe I'm acting like an entitled foreigner to get so upset by such things, but I truly cannot fathom how nobody else here minds having to listen to round-the-clock noise. Where's the outrage, people?

I really admire the Chinese for their high levels of tolerance. They seem to be able to put up with anything, whereas expats like myself have prima-donna complexes. Reminds me of an online meme called "First World Problems," which shows a stock photo of a white woman suffering from a headache superimposed with sarcastic captions such as "I can't decide what to wear from my 200 outfits" and "I need to use the toilet, but my maid is still cleaning it."

I could make a new meme for myself saying, "Shanghai is too noisy, but I live too comfortably to be motivated to do anything about it."

Because, really, my problem with this city's noise is indeed first-world. As a foreign resident here, I enjoy all of Shanghai's modern infrastructure, such as its rapidly expanding and upgrading subway network, it's smooth, clean streets, it's space-aged skyscrapers, ample parks and green spaces and an abundance of luxury shopping malls. Each of these things required large construction projects and plenty of noise in their making. It might have cost us some sleep, but everyone agrees that it was worth it to transform Shanghai into the modern metropolis it has become in just the past couple of decades.

To its credit, Shanghai recognizes its noise pollution problem. Jiefang Daily reported Tuesday that Shanghai Academy of Environmental Sciences has developed the first "urban noise map" management system, which pinpoints the sources of noise within the city's inner ring.

As for rude neighbors or apartment renovations at ungodly hours, after some research I learned that between 8 am to 6 pm are Shanghai's official hours for peace and quiet. For anyone jack-hammering before or after that, you can anonymously call hot line 12369 with their address and apartment number, and local authorities will promptly resolve your complaint.

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Posted in: TWOCENTS

blog comments powered by Disqus