If you have ever worked in retail, you know how boring sitting in a shop waiting for customers to arrive can be. This is no different for the thousands of local shop owners around Shanghai. So, take advantage of this by visiting some of them. You have no shortage of variety, and can find anything from small flower shops to locksmiths. Perhaps you need a pencil? Why not stop in at one of the small stationary shops and pick one up. From personal experience, the shop owners of these small stores tend to be more inclined to have a chat with you if you buy something- even if it’s something as small as a pencil. So have a browse around the local family owned shops and start up a conversation with the laoban. Generally, they are so bored that the entertainment provided by a foreigner trying to communicate with them in Mandarin (regardless of your level or capability) is an experience they won’t turn down. Start by speaking with them about more simple topics, for example, where in China they are from and if they have had lunch, to name a few. They will undoubtedly ask about your background, and this is your chance to shine. See if they can understand what you are saying, and if they don’t, don’t sweat it! You can always try the other stationary shop that is two doors down. If they do understand you then the feeling of accomplishment is wonderful. Next you can try the local fruit or vegetable sellers. Just one word of advise, don’t go into any of the supermarkets or Familymarts- try to go to businesses that are run by the owner. These kinds of laobans tend to be more open to having chats with the laowai’s.