Shanghai Expat Lifestyle:
working and living in Shanghai
First Impressions on Shanghai
Most expatriates arrive in Shanghai for the first time via Pudong Airport. This gleaming, light and airy model of efficiency may come as a bit of a surprise to those expecting something a little more second world, but it sure is a reassuring sign of modernity.
Drivers from hell
Reassuring that is, right up until you are in a rattley, old taxi being hurtled at light speed down the motorway towards town. Although tired from your flight, fear will provide you with the energy to sit up in your seat and clock the way everyone drives, or rather attempts to drive. Cars swerve violently, horns are constantly beeped, no one indicates, there’s no seatbelts in the back. It’s scary! Oh my, what have you done?!
As you enter the suburbs on the elevated highway, you will catch the first glimpse of your new city. And it ain’t pretty! Shanghai is a vast, high-rise jungle. You will be astonished by the sheer level of building work: the incredible number of building cranes - the way that forests of half-built, high-rise apartment blocks lead off in every direction, stretching endlessly beyond the horizon. But, you will also get your first taste of the ambitions that this city harbours.
Teeming street life
Once inside the inner-ring road, traveling at
a more subdued speed, you will begin to catch an essence of the bustling,
life. And it is this - not the culturally faceless high-rises - that
will give you your first sense of place. You are in China!
People are carrying huge loads on bicycles, food is being prepared and eaten by the roadside, it’s rich, it’s very poor, it’s animated, and nothing is familiar. It will seem very foreign but also very exciting.
Shopping for supplies
So, you’ve got to your new home and everything is in order.
Or, at least it’s just a phone call to your new landlord away
from being perfect, but you need supplies and to run a whole host of
errands. Just hop in any taxi and say “Bortaman, Nanjing Shee-lu”.
The Portman Shanghai Centre on Nanjing XiLu, Puxi, was the first expat hub to be built in Shanghai and, although 15 years old, it has never been usurped as the king of user-friendly convenience for freshly arrived westerners.
Portman Shanghai Centre
There’s a City Supermarket selling everything you need including a good deli and wine selection. Plus there’s a Starbucks, the popular café Element Fresh, a good cheese and wine shop, a florists, a dry cleaners, a post office, a chemist, a medical clinic, a host of other bars and restaurants, airline ticketing offices, an HSBC bank and several consulates, including that of the UK….it’s all here in one place for your ease!
Starbucks Expat MixIt is also at the Shanghai Centre where various groups post information on the notice board in City Supermarket about forthcoming social gatherings. Another way, in the initial days, to meet people is to head to the first floor of Starbucks, opposite Parksons on Huaihai Lu by Shanxi Lu for the Saturday morning (10am) social mixer. A nest of tables is gathered in the centre and you will be made to feel very welcome. You will find very early on, that Shanghai expats are approachable and it will be no time at all before you have more contacts than you ever thought possible.
As you become more confident about the geography of the city, your comfort zone will extend to the major shopping areas in Puxi of Huaihai Lu, Nanjing Lu, Xujiahui, and Lujiazui in Pudong. This is to name just a few and, as you can imagine in a city of nearly 20 million with a growing middle-class who like to shop - the list is endless. If you enjoy shopping – Shanghai will be a never-ending voyage of discovery for you.
Feeling at home
There’s no two ways about it – Shanghai can seem extremely daunting at first, but after just a few weeks you will feel totally at home. Expatriates enjoy a high standard of living in Shanghai and, if you embrace everything that the experience has to offer, this will be one of the richest and most exciting times in your life.