Spicy Chinese food and New Zealand wine: Angela's perfect combination

New Zealander / Canadian Angela has only been in Shanghai for a year, but she has done a lot in that time, and enjoys Shanghai life in a different way than other expats.

Holin’s words:

A pair of big sparkling eyes is the thing that most struck me about Angela. When she was talking with her natural hand gestures, her eyes became brighter and brighter.

The feeling of motherhood is another quality Angela gives me, even before I found out that she had two kids, one of them just four months old. When we did the interview her baby was still breastfeeding, which I think is one of the most difficult parts of raising a child that mothers need to pass through.

Although Angela has only been in Shanghai for one year, she achieved a big thing here – she gave birth to her second child right in this city. Before her new bundle of joy, Angela already had a beautiful baby boy who was born in Taiwan, during Angela’s two-year language training course. 

With two Chinese-born kids, we can imagine how special China will forever be to this New Zealander / Canadian born after 1980.

Spicy Chinese food and New Zealand wine: Angela's perfect combination
Holin Wang / SHINE

Angela smiles beside the national flag of New Zealand in its Shanghai Consulate-General office.

Name: Angela Strahl

Nationality: New Zealander / Canadian

Job: Consul at New Zealand Consulate-General Shanghai

Year in Shanghai: 1

Holin: Hi Angela, you have been here for one year. Could you please share with me your experiences before you came to Shanghai?

Angela: Before coming to Shanghai I was in Taiwan for two years doing some language training, learning how to speak Mandarin. Before that I was in New Zealand, in Wellington, working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

But I’m originally from Canada, I was born in Canada but my father is a New Zealander and my mother is Canadian, so I’m a New Zealander and I’m a Canadian. I think that reflects New Zealand society, we’re quite a multi-cultural country and if you look at our office here, our Consul General is also Bulgarian, and then my other colleague is Australian; another colleague is from Fiji; so we’re a very multi-cultural office which reflects New Zealand as well.

Shanghai is very multi-cultural, that’s one thing I really love about Shanghai, and you can really get cultures from all over the world here. It’s such an open place to live and work.

Holin: Although it’s just been one year for you in Shanghai, there’re still some interesting or impressive stories here, right? Could you recall one or two?

Angela: One thing that I’ve really appreciated about being in Shanghai is just how people here really embrace arts and culture, so it’s been really great going to different museums and art galleries. And in our work here we’ve really had the chance to work on a whole bunch of interesting arts and cultural-related activities with China, so that’s been really great.

So, we had a film festival that was recently held in New Zealand, which had some of Shanghai’s most recent films go down and they were screened in New Zealand, so we were quite involved in organizing that. I love being here and being in a place that’s so artistic and there’s so much arts and culture to experience.

Also, another thing would be, my daughter was born here, so that’s a really strong connection that I will always have to Shanghai. I guess that was partly for practical reasons, because I’m here only for three years to work and I also have a son, so it was easier for me and my family to stay here. Also, the medical facilities and medical care here is excellent so we just thought it made sense to stay here and have the baby here.

My son was actually born in Taipei, so both of my children were born, not in New Zealand. My experience with being pregnant here and giving birth here was very positive. I feel that the Shanghai people are very respectful and helpful towards pregnant people — it was a very positive experience.

Holin: How do you spend your weekends in Shanghai? 

Angela: Mainly spending time with my family, because my kids are quite young at the moment — my son is three and my daughter is seven months old, so we spend a lot of time just exploring with the kids, which is great.

We’ve really discovered some really great little parks around our area so we often will go to Zhongshan Park or Fuxing Park and just spend a lot of time in the park or maybe go out to enjoy the different restaurants in Shanghai or the different coffee shops. So, we really get out and about and explore a lot. Every now and then we’ll go out of Shanghai, because I think there’re lots of other places close by that are also really great to explore.

A couple of weekends ago we rented a car and drove down to Hangzhou, we went to the zoo and around West Lake so that was nice. It’s a little bit hard driving but it was okay!

It’s difficult when kids are little to have time to yourself, but now and again we go out on our own without them.

Holin: Which place in Shanghai do you like best? Why? 

Angela: We really like going to Zhongshan Park, my son loves going there and going on the rides. We really like, just in our area in the former French Concession, we will often just go to different cafés or restaurants around there.

Holin: Which road do you like best?

Angela: Probably Wuyuan or Anfu Roads. When you walk down the street, you really get that historical feel with the old buildings and the leafy streets. That’s one of the things that I really like about Shanghai — it’s such a modern city, so modern and convenient, but you can still find these little pockets of places that have, you know, the really old, colonial buildings, and that historical side of things. So, it’s a really great mix of old and new. 

Holin: What elements of Shanghai do you like best?

Angela: I love the food! I like the spicy and sweet cuisine as well, but before coming to Taipei and Shanghai, I didn’t really eat much Chinese food, but since coming here I’ve explored so many different types of cuisine! Very different to the style of cuisine that we have back home. They actually go really well with New Zealand wine, so one of my favorite things is to have some spicy eggplant dish or some other spicy dish, paired with New Zealand wine, like a white wine. The combination of the two together is really good!

In New Zealand, the traditional things are seafood because we are an island nation, so we have very fresh and delicious seafood. We eat a lot of shellfish and clams and abalone, but also salmon and different white fish as well. All different varieties of fish — seafood is a big part of our cuisine. Another would be New Zealand lamb, and a kiwi tradition is not just what we eat but how we cook it, so in New Zealand it’s very common to barbeque things. On a Sunday you’d get the barbeque out and have some lamb with seafood and different fresh vegetables with some New Zealand wine.

It’s great because all of these things are also available here in Shanghai, that’s one of the great things. When I am homesick and want that taste of New Zealand you can still get them here.

Holin: So now for the opposite, what do you hate in Shanghai?

Angela: I’m not sure whether there’s anything I hate. I think that Shanghai and Wellington are obviously quite different, so when we first came it was a big adjustment. But having said that, there are so many other great things about living in a big city — the convenience of living in a big city and being able to take the subway; or those hire bikes that you can just hop on and hop off. Even though there are differences to New Zealand, there are benefits too.

The challenge, at first, was getting used to living in a big city.

Holin: So, you have nothing you don’t like here?

Angela: Nothing that I can really think of that I really don’t like! Maybe just when it rains and I don’t have my umbrella, that moment! 

Holin: It happens everywhere, right? Okay, let’s put it another way: compared to other places you’ve lived, are there any shortages in Shanghai? 

Angela: Not really. That’s one of the great things about Shanghai — it’s such a modern city and you can actually get anything you want here. I was surprised, actually! I was expecting that when I came here I wouldn’t be able to find certain things I use back home, but actually you can find most of it here!

I think, being a big city, that there are challenges with the environment, with electricity, just sustaining a large population — there are challenges around that. But in New Zealand we actually have quite a lot of expertise in that area, like renewable energy and sustainable practices and things like that. Shanghai has an innovative culture, so maybe that’s an area for potential collaboration?

Holin: I'm sure that will happen! Do you have any impressive memory during your life up until now?

Angela: Coming to Shanghai to work was a very memorable moment! Finding out I was coming here, getting here. I had never been before this. Getting off the plane, and the skyscrapers — it’s very different from New Zealand.

The New Zealand and China relationship is very important to us, to our future economic prosperity. It’s one of our most important bilateral relationships, so for me getting a chance to come and work in a place like Shanghai is an amazing opportunity. A lot of our biggest corporates are based here, and smaller businesses too. For a lot of our businesses, this is the place they call home in China.

So, getting a chance to come and be part of that and learn how they do business here seemed like a really good opportunity to me, and hopefully a way that I can make a difference for my country.

What does Angela want to say to her future self? Have a look! Angela is sending a message to her future self to watch ten years from now!

Filmed by Holin Wang and Joan Zheng. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Translated by Iverson Zhang. Special thanks to Andy Boreham.

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