What is it like to live in Shanghai?
Malcolm Mathews, lives in Shanghai
I moved to Shanghai about 15 years ago and have never looked back.
Shanghai is an international city with all the pluses and minuses that come with it - heavy traffic, fast pace, all sorts of food and entertainment, great education and a steady stream of expats coming in and going out.
I personally love living in Shanghai, because I was searching for an exciting life and challenges in both my work and cultural learnings. It has become my home. Shanghai will give you everything you ask for - in terms of job and personal life satisfaction. But it depends a lot on your attitude coming in.
What’s it like to live in Shanghai? That entirely depends on your personal situation but I’ll tell you that you can adapt your lifestyle to whatever you wish or are comfortable with - its that easy.
Meltem Karpat Özdil, lives in Berlin (2017-present)
I lived in Shanghai (sadly only) for 6 months.
You got good food (from cheapest street food to super fancy restaurants that serve all kinds of International food);
You got (relatively) easy and cheap transportation;
Lots of cafes and bars which offer lots of fun;
Lots of other destinations to see and travel to (easy by plane and train);
Don’t forget the people! Yes some are spoiled or cold but the majority is so gentle, so kind it will bring you tears.
The city itself offers a lot of beautiful, historic places.
If I would get the chance, I would take it without even blinking lol
Ervis Micukaj, lives in Shanghai (2013-present)
I have been living in Shanghai since September 2013 and below I will share my positive and not so great experiences here from a foreign perspective.
1.Ease of living: Shanghai is great! You can get everywhere easily, shops are open 24 hours and the shopping malls have long hours, a lot of people speak English compared to the rest of the country, you can buy things online, you can go everywhere.
2.Superb transportation: metro, taxi, buses, shared bikes, didi or Uber (the first owns the second in China), e-bikes (you need to own one), 2 airports, 5 train stations (the first 5 that come to my mind are Central station, HongQiao, SongJiang, South, West), illegal black cars (if you are brave or desperate or no alternative available). I feel Shanghai has one of the best transportation systems in the world and it is great to move around.
3.Smartphones: you can do everything (almost) with your smartphone in Shanghai. Just download WeChat (Tencent) and Alipay (Alibaba), connect them to your bank cards and start enjoying it. You can pay everywhere with them, you can order taxis, read the most recent news, pay the bills, order taxis/vans/buses, order food and get delivered it everywhere you want, buy holiday trips, etc. There are so many things available you can do by just accessing these 2 apps and all their affiliates.
4.Food: the different provinces of China, Italian, French, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean, American, English, Russian, Spanish, Argentinian, Thai, Indonesian, Malay, etc. Salty, sweet, sour, spicy, barbecue, soups, fried, seasoned, etc. The food options are so different and varied that you can get lost and the prices are overwhelming. You can find everything based on how much you want to pay. 3 Michelin stars to the street food. You pick your choice.
5.Coffee culture: coffee is growing by leaps and bounds in Shanghai. Before it was only the big chains (Starbucks, Costa, Pacific, Dunkin and so on), but now there are plenty of small and private coffee shops that offer great coffee and awesome experiences. They are located everywhere in Shanghai (from the top shopping malls, to the small alleys typical of Shanghai). The prices are somewhat pricey (5/7 Euro/USD for a coffee is weird for me as an Italian), but the variety and the quality can make up a bit for the price you pay. Or you can skip the pricey ones and go to the small shops.
5.咖啡文化：上海的咖啡市场正在飞速发展。以前这里只有大型连锁店(星巴克，Costa, Pacific, Dunkin等)，但现在也出现了很多私人的咖啡小店，店里的咖啡和体验都很棒。这种小店在上海随处可见(从顶级的购物中心到典型的上海弄堂)。价格有点贵(一杯咖啡5至7欧元或美元，对我这个意大利人来说有点离谱)，但是咖啡的种类和质量算得上物有所值。当然你也可以不选这种价格高的咖啡店，去小店吧。
6.English: a lot of foreigners come to Shanghai because it is easier to communicate with the locals and there are also a lot of international businesses. So it has become a positive circle for the internationals and the Chinese alike. But get out of the main areas (HuaiHai rd, Nanjing W/E rd, LJZ, University areas, some areas around the international schools and the big companies or tech parks) and you will feel a lot like being outside of Shanghai because no one speaks English there. Some districts have only Chinese so if you want to improve your Mandarin / Shanghainese skills (and save a lot of money) consider living in certain suburbs (Minhang and SongJiang have plenty of cheap estates).
7.Clean and safe: Shanghai is very safe (police is everywhere and cameras as well) and there a lot of cleaners who will sweep the city over and over.
8.Skyscrapers: this is a personal favorite, because you can go to almost all of them and the view can be awesome (when there is no smog).
9.Change! Shanghai is changing all the time, you will never know what would come into your life when you wake up the next day, maybe a new cellphone app, maybe a new convenient service, even a new construction, metro... (During my first 12 months I stayed in the same apartment, but the street to the closest metro stop changed 3/4 of the shops). If a shop does not work, within 6 months it will be scrapped and a new entrant will be ready to propose something different.
10.Mix. Shanghai is a mix. No doubt, you will see a lot of high-rise building there, but meanwhile you still can find many historical buildings, telling the history of shanghai and showing you the authentic of Shanghai
1.Smog: a lot during the winter. Hopefully there will be more and more big international events to increase the clean days.
2.Queue: get ready for some people to jump the queue
3.Food safety: you can never be safe about food in China, because some bad apples will try to circumvent the rules to make more money (like in every country, but here things get amplified way more due to the large amount of people) (things are improving lately)
4.Smoking: smoking everywhere. March 2017 should be a turning point with more restrictive rules / laws, but as usual it is all about the application and enforcement of them. Hopefully they will do.
1.Update: the change was big at the beginning of March, but it has slowly worn out and now you can still find people smoking in places where they should not. Way better than 2 months ago, but way to go.
5.Rising cost of real estate: it is abused by some companies and it pushes all the other prices up. They are trying to cool the effects a bit with some rules (some months ago locals were divorcing to buy more houses for example), but still not enough.
1.Fun article I read this month: one real estate agent had married and divorced 3 times to help WaiDiRen to get a house in Shanghai (WaiDiRen are Chinese that do not have a local residence permit for Shanghai; you need 5 years to apply for it). If you have the local license (Hukou?) you can buy a house easily (Shanghainese and Chinese who have lived for at least 5 years in Shanghai can have it). If you do not have it, look for these agents. If they are not already in jail for it.
6.Manners: 3 years ago it was bad (and some friends tell me it was even worse before) and now it is improving. Some locals will spit, burp, cut their nails everywhere. Slow change here.
7.Taxi drivers: a lot of times they can be scary due to they way they drive and it is hard to get them to stop for you in certain hours of the day Why?
1.They might get more incentives by picking callers via phone or via app for example. It is not rare to have him/her skipping you while you are waving at them because they have a “better” request)
2.Some taxi drivers don't stop because they are close to the end of their shift. So drivers late for shifting will be fined (from Lin Lyu)
3.Some drivers do not want (too far from recurring customers) or cannot go to certain parts of the city (according to their licenses).
8.Pedestrian crossing: It is not very safe because most of the drivers will not stop and wait for you to pass, but things are changing slowly. Read: more fines are being given to drivers who do not respect this rule.
Any comment is welcome.
edit: thanks to Joyce Chen for points 9 and 10 in the positive group and to Lin Lyu for the taxi drivers feedback.
编辑：多谢Joyce Chen给我打了9/10分的高分，也多谢Lin Lyu提供的关于出租车司机的讯息。
Andrew Todd Natenshon, lives in Shanghai
A bit of background, I lived in Shanghai for 2 years, while setting up a research facility there. My wife is originally from China and we had twin boys who were born in a Shanghai hospital. So my perspective is as an expat with pretty strong local connections to China via family and work.
Shanghai was a wonderful and frustrating place to live. I feel about 80% of the living experience aside from the language differences, was like living in a major western city (have lived in New York, Boston and SF, New York was the closest match for Shanghai but not a perfect correlate).
10% was different in a wonderful way, the Chinese food, particularly the street food was amazing, there was a vibrancy to the city, a sense of growth and potential that was wonderful to take part of. The Subway system was fantastic, clean and very well, run even if it did get crowded (again not worse than NYC subway at rush hours, and much cleaner). You could get handy men to do things for very cheap.
10% was different in a frustrating way, it took me ages to find out how to buy a screwdriver (no Home Depots, B&Q was not a perfect match), Chinese Bureaucracy particularly around banking and residency was a pain to deal with (and I had a lot of corporate help)
Overall the people I worked with were wonderful, the scientists smart and passionate, with a great can do attitude. The food was great for Chinese food, and pretty good range of other options though I missed cuisine in the US. I was happy to live there, but was also happy to come home.
Chris Robinson, B Econs, MBA Marketing Economics & Statistics & Psychology, Monash University
I lived in Shanghai for three years, straight after 30 years in Hong Kong. I was expecting the worse by comparison. But it was everything others have listed. So I will just focus on a few negative that seem to have been ignored.
The first of these is that there is a huge underclass in Shanghai made up of migrant workers. Contact with them soon reveals a less than civil or sophisticated element. Try a metro trip mid week versus a weekend when these people have a day off. All the pleasantries and politeness disappears.
Second the current airports and all related travel is nightmareish. Long queues, bureaucratic processes, every flight delayed. I never once took a flight that left or arrived on time. Try flying around a national holiday. What a bun fight. By comparison the train system is impeccable.
The metro is amazing but wait until you get on at peak times. Be prepared to almost suffocate as people plough into the train and all those manners disappear.
Landlord are assholes. Contracts can often be worthless.
Sometimes change can be a real pain. In the space of three years a huge supermarket disappeared and 7 great local restaurants either dissapeared or turned into mobile phone, shoe shops or nail saloons. Local areas just lose their identity overnight.
Oh imported wine is bloody expensive and local wine is complete crap.
Hegshd, Born in Shanghai. Stay in Chicago now
I am from Shanghai and I love it!!!
It is a very modern city and a lot of chances there. A lot of people from other cities come to Shanghai to work and hope to have a good future.
If you live in Shanghai, you will never want to leave.
We have so many excellent food which you may not find in anywhere else in China. It is very safe in Shanghai and we have wonderful night life. Sometimes I even go out at 2 am and still a lot of people are outside and having barbecue with beers and so on. I have never seen any cities like Shanghai where has such a rich night life.
Everyone in Shanghai is very nice and most of them can speak English. Everyone would like to help you, talk to you and make friends with you. When I was in high school, I had breakfast in a small food court everyday. The owner of food court always chatting with customers and we are just like friends, sharing our lives with each other
Shanghai is a city with contain our own culture and modern style. You can find very old, traditional Chinese building in Shanghai, but at the same time, you can also see the tallest building around the world. There are a lot of small handmade staff shop, but there are also thousands of luxury shops.
Ian Mote, lived in Shanghai
I guess the perspective on this depends on where you are currently, or whether you are comparing to other Chinese /Asian cities.
Compared to the West, make no mistake, Shanghai leaves you no doubt you are in China. It is international, starting to be multi-cultural, and by far the most progressive city in China, but it is still Chinese to its core, and you are never far from that influence. Aside from some of the expats who live in sealed compounds, wherever you live you can choose how much of a local lifestyle you want to indulge in. I can go to expensive Western restaurants for dinner, or I can go to the local café nearby for a bucket of USD3 noodles. It is a business hub and a city that many Chinese aspire to come to, to work and climb their way up the career ladder.
Compared to other cities in Asia & China, Shanghai has comparatively more international touches, and has the drive and the momentum to become a truly world city. The finance and international trade industries are growing ever-rapidly, catching up on Hong Kong and Singapore. If you want to experience living in China, then Shanghai is a great place to start, with the safety net of Western influences around you.