What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in Shanghai?
Ervis Micukaj, lives in Shanghai (2013-present)
This is the beginning of my 5th year in Shanghai, so I have a few things to share for you if you are considering the advantages and disadvantages of living in Shanghai. All my points come 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.
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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.Shared bikes everywhere: there are hundreds of thousands of them everywhere in Shanghai. The worst are the shared bikes from startups that have failed and no one cares about them any longer. They are simply dusting on the corners. Sad.
3.Queue: get ready for some people to jump the queue
4.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)
5.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.
6.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.
7.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.
8.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).
9.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.
Bob Caesar, lives in Shanghai
I've just been to Shanghai for half and a year and I indeed had something to say.
Shanghai is a lot like you are surfing in the sea. You can't organize the ocean. Waves just happen. You ride them where they take you, then you paddle back out there and catch the next one. Sure, you're always hoping for the perfect wave where you can get, say, totally tubular.But mostly you just take them the way they come. Living in Shanghai, I feel like you are burning your time and life if you go to sleep before 24 at night. Everyone I know and see is so crazy about working with endless energy in his body. You just can't slow down your step for everything is in a rush. Go to tube station in a rush, walk in a rush, eat in a rush and even rest in a rush. It is a city for young people to be on fire. People will stay positive and active naturally that explains the reason why this city is so developed.
However, nothing is one-side coin. There is some drawbacks like pollution, daily expense and phlegmatic relationship. All of those is due to the fast step that leaves people in this city no spare time to consider any other things except job and living. It is not a city we named "home", but a city we defined it as "vie".
All in all, I like this city. It is a sun-never-down city
Mike He, worked at Shanghai
Shanghai is one of the biggest cities in China. It is also one of the most developed cities in China. Here are some advantages and disadvantages:
- International flavor. Shanghai is an international city, which provides many international brand and products.
- Convenient transportation. Shanghai has the most developed transportation and public transport.
- Higher salary than other cities. Shanghai is one of the cities that provide much higher salary than other inner cities of China.
- More opportunity for jobs.
- More types of food and flavors. You can eat many western food in Shanghai as well as most food from other places in China.
- Easy to travel to other places in China, such as Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Beijing are nearby Shanghai with convenient transportation.
- Large population. Shanghai has more than 14 million population. It is very crowded in many public places in holiday.
- Poor air quality. Shanghai's air quality may be affected by the public traffic and local factory.
- High cost of living. Living cost of Shanghai is much higher than other cities in center or western China.
Chi-Hwa Michael Ting, Shanghai expate 04'-09'
I lived in Shanghai full time between 2004-09.
- Quality of life if you care beyond material objects
Advantage during my stay:
- Fantastic career opportunity if you are willing to endure the rough situations. It was a rapid developing economy and almost everything was done for the 1st time, kind of like the internet but in real world. If you are willing to work hard and do something others won't, you got a great chance at earning a great experience.
- International city, I've never met so many people from all over the world helped by the foreign investment into Shanghai.
- The latitude and breath of experience to be had. This has to do with the latitude of friends and people I met from elite to illiterate migrant workers, and I learned a lot about being a human being. The contrast of Shanghai center and 100 miles out in development. You can be at the top of the world and a 3rd world country in 20min, that puts help build perspective.
I've been told the cons have worsen and the pros have diminished in recent years.
Clemence Lepers, Marketing Ninja @PPTPOP.com
- Ability to have a great quality of life, even with a lower salary than one you'd get in Europe or U.S.
- Shanghai's a big city, there are plenty of things to do all the time. And as the city's transforming all the time (things close, things open on a daily basis), there's always something new to do or see.
- Low transportation expenses vs. Europe/U.S. (taxi, scooter, metro...)
- Chinese people are welcoming
- There's always a way to find a solution to any problem you may encounter
- The pollution, and it's getting worst year-on-year.
- Working with Chinese people is very challenging: professionalism level is much lower, even in large corporations. If you're not fluent in Chinese, language is also a problem.
- It's packed everywhere and people are quite noisy.
- Getting access to culture isn't easy (especially cinema, which are loaded with mainstream movies and nothing else).
- Life expenses are increasing quite fast.
Gigi Rodgers, The Ambassador of Buzz
A bit of an odd question, as there are advantages and disadvantages living everywhere.
It’s a bit relative, so let me tell you in regards to my experience.
I usually call Shanghai, The NY of China. But the one way Shanghai edges out NY, for me, is their metro system. The metro system in Shanghai is clean, it’s safe (cameras and security guards everywhere), the metro is on-time, it’s a cheap rountrip ride (around 4RMB), it’s EASY to navigate, and it takes you all around Shanghai.
Because of how crowded it can get on the metro, some people prefer the Uber of Shanghai, Didi, to get around. It’s especially active at night, after the metro has closed.
Want to explore the city leisurely, bike sharing is popular here.
It’s much more safer in Shanghai, than in the U.S. because of the wide biking lanes, and the drivers are very cautious as to not hit the riders.
There are busses that go all over the city.
And finally, I’m seeing an increasing number of expats purchasing scooters to commute - which they LOVE.
Coming from a state in the U.S. where you HAVE to drive everywhere, and with that worry about:
- Rising gas costs
- Car maintenance
- Gridlock traffic
- Car taxes and insurance
I’m not looking to move to a place that doesn’t have a good metro system.
- HEALTHY EATING.
The Wet Market here is the equivalent to a Farmer’s Market anywhere else.
But imagine a farmers market where you could walk out with a bag full of fresh vegetables and fruits, and you didn’t have to give up half your pay check to get them.
That’s the beauty of the Chinese Farmer’s Market.
It’s extraordinarily easy to have a healthy eating lifestyle while living in Shanghai and not have it break your bank account.
Of course there are places where you can get Western food items (e.g., comfort food or food that you’re familiar with from home), but of course, because they’re imported - you’ll pay the price for that.
Before I was going to the Wet Market, I was paying 350–400RMB+ per week on groceries for a week. I’ve heard some expats spending up to 2200RMB+, A WEEK, on groceries.
Now, while shopping at the Wet Market, I’m spending less than 100RMB per week on groceries. The celebration of savings folks.
在我逛菜市场之前，我每周要花上350 - 400元人民币采购一星期的量。我听说有些外籍人士每周花在食品杂货上的费用高达2200元人民币。
- STRONG EXPAT COMMUNITY.
One thing I love most about living in Shanghai is the strong expat community. People coming from all walks of life and from various professions, but there is one thing that we ALL have in common - and it’s that “we’re all in this together”.
We’re the immigrants here.
We have visa issues.
We look to our community for advise and as a resource.
The question I get from home all the time:
Are there any black folks there?
Yup! There sure are.
As well as a community of Italians, Spanish, Peruvian, Korean, Indian, Republican, Democrat, Crossfitters, Acro Yogis, Startup Entrepreneurs, and so much more.
Whatever you can think of you’ll most likely find it here.