What it’s like to live in Shanghai

Stop saying we’re like North Korea

Throughout Freshers’, countless people asked me: “Why is it that you’re Asian but have an American accent?”

Coming from an American school located in Shanghai, having to explain your background as an international student every time you meet someone is very tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I love where and how I was brought up. Growing up in a prosperous city like Shanghai definitely changed my perception towards everyone’s background; but often, there are lots of misconceptions when it comes to living in a place as far away as China.

Here’s a brief little insight into what it’s like living in Shanghai.

Welcome to food heaven

One of the biggest things I miss about Shanghai is the diversity of the food there. There are plenty of options: Italian, Japanese, Korean (we even have K-town, also known as Korean Town), Greek, German, Indian, French, and lots more. The cost of meals varies according to different districts of Shanghai, but often they’re affordable and great in taste as well.

The Infamous ‘A Niang Noodles’

Some burger heaven in ‘Fat Cow Shanghai’

Amazing waffles, eggs benedict, and roast potatoes in Liquid Laundry (yum!)

Some delicious Xiao Long Bao’s (steamed soup dumplings) from Din Tai Feng

Partying and going out

When you go out in Shanghai, ID and entry fees into clubs are often not required. When it comes to drinking at a bar and Chinese-ubering a taxi to go to the club, the only place where you actually need to spend money is for the cab and buying drinks. Be warned: you have to dress nicely in order to be allowed in the clubs (especially the ones located on the Bund).

Shots and beer cost around 10 – 30 RMB (which is equivalent to £1-3). Or, if you want, you could end the night out with some 10 RMB (£1) fried rice just off the streets. When the day comes to an end, food stands are placed on popular streets offering noodles, Chinese pancakes, and fried rice as midnight snacks instead of the kebabs and chips (with cheese) we get in the UK.

Bar Rouge: A high class bar where you can head to the balcony and see the Pudong Skyline

M1NT: a restaurant and club combined

You never get bored of exploring Shanghai

From the glorious view of Pudong from The Bund to the busy city center Jing’an Temple, Shanghai mixes its architecture with its historical landmarks – creating an interesting aesthetic to the futuristic industrial city. Places like Tian Zi Fang located in the French Concession illustrate the mixture between western and eastern culture together.

At the same time, historical landmarks such as the house of Sun Yat Sen (the founding father of Republic of China), Yu Garden (a famous Chinese garden in the core of Shanghai) preserve the ancient chronicles of Shanghai. There are so many landmarks to explore in different districts, allowing you to learn about the long-lasting history of the metropolis.

The legendary skyline from the Bund

It’s always crowded

Whether it’s daytime or night time, there’s always people around. By having “people around” I mean crowds and crowds of people. Shanghai is home to 24 million people – don’t expect them to all sleep at the same time.

Nanjing East Road filled with people (well, when was it ever empty?)

Internet access is heavily restricted

You can forget about Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat, Twitter, Gmail (and Google in general) when it comes to going on the internet in Shanghai. Sure, internet is accessible from taxis to restaurants (no charge, no time limit), but the sites you want to go on might not be available due to government policies. A lot of people use money to buy proxies to let them break through the strict firewall of China. It’s funny because the government is aware of this, but they can’t do anything about it when you invest money into getting free internet.

Everyone relies heavily on the metro

People usually rely on the metro (basically the underground) and the bus to go to work. In the mornings there’s always rush hours from 7am to 9am since the required office hours for work are usually nine till six. The prices of the metro and the public bus are usually no more than 10 RMB (£1). And the starting fees for taxis start at 15 RMB (£1.50).

The metro takes less than £1 to get to anywhere you want

Language (it’s not just lines and squiggles)

As you might not know, we have several different dialects of Chinese. Each dialect sounds very different towards one another hence it would be quite hard to understand another dialect unless you know how to speak that dialect yourself. There are 10 different dialect groups in Chinese: Mandarin, Wu, Gan, Xiang, Min, Hakka, Yue, Jin, Huizhou, and Pinghua. The three most popular ones are Mandarin, Min (with a subgroup of Hokkien dialect, spoken by Taiwanese people), and Yue (subgroup of Cantonese, mostly spoken by people in Hong Kong).

(left to right): Mandarin Chinese words of “him”, “her”, “it”

Finally, Shanghai is a wonderful city. If you ever have the chance to visit Asia, Shanghai is definitely a city to visit and explore.