5 Shanghai Instragrammers to Follow

I’m a big Instagram fan, surprise surprise! But for me, the platform is much more than pretty pictures and seeing what my friends are up to. It’s actually an excellent source for discovering local events, new restaurants, interesting neighborhoods and more. It’s also a great tool for researching and seeing “real” pictures of things like potential vacation destinations and hotels. And, as strange as it sounds, I’ve also made many good friends through Instagram!

There are tons of great Shanghai Grammers to follow. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. @shanghaivlogger
Behind Shanghaivlogger is Magnus, a Swedish expat living and working in Shanghai. In addition to posting interesting and entertaining lifestyle content from China and his travels around the world, Magnus runs the fantastic YouTube Channel, Shanghai Vlogger, and a podcast called Kinapodden. On all platforms, I love Magnus’ positive vibe and commitment to quality content.

Shanghaivlogger

2. @keint_shanghai
I don’t know much more about Keint than what his Instagram bio reveals, but what I do know is that he takes absolutely spectacular photos. I love the content in his feed, which mainly consists of stunning masterpieces, as well as his Insta stories with more casual, lifestyle related material. Keint posts a variety of portraits, nature, architecture, travel and cityscapes. His account is particularly interesting for photo geeks and just anyone who appreciates beautiful images.

Keint_shanghai

3. @shanghaicoffeedaily
Shanghaicoffeedaily roams through Shanghai’s endless cafés, posting lovely pictures with her wonderfully entertaining impressions of the establishments she visits. As expected, she offers followers great tips on where to get a nice (and not so nice) cup of coffee.

shanghaicoffeedaily

4. @nomfluence
Nomfluence is run by Rachel, a Shanghai based writer, photographer and food critic who so kindly provides us with excellent restaurant tips accompanied with gorgeous food photography. This account is worth following for the mouth-watering food pics alone, even if you’re not based in Shanghai.

Nomfluence

5. @shanghaicomune
Shanghaicomune is a feature account, which means it posts other Instagrammer’s Shanghai shots, including my pic below. By tagging photos with #shanghaicomune, you have the chance to be featured and showcase your images to a larger audience of Shanghai lovers. There are many Shanghai-themed feature accounts, but I particularly like this one because of the variety of images and styles.

shanghaicomune

Honorary Mention: @gerhard_official
Gerhard is an expat living and working in Shanghai, and his breakfast pictures are some of my absolute favorites on Instagram. I love the minimalistic style of his feed in general, but his overnight oats and other food “art” is just too good. Bravo Gerhard!

gerhard_official

There you go, a few fun, inspiring and informative Shanghai Instagrammers to follow! And while you’re at it, don’t miss my account @shanghaistablog as well. Cheers!

shanghaistablog

5 Reasons Why I Love Shanghai

Shanghai Skyline Shanghaista Blog

It’s probably obvious that I’m very fond of Shanghai, but it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. When I first visited in 2010, I pretty much went by the tourist guidebooks and saw what visitors were recommended to see. Sure, the Bund was pretty, East Nanjing was crowded, and it was fun riding up to the observation deck at the World Financial Center. But to be honest, nothing really stood out, and Shanghai didn’t seem that special. But man, was I wrong.

Over the years, I somehow became more and more fascinated by Shanghai, especially after talking to people living here and just loving it. It became my “if I could live anywhere in the world”-city, and bam, in 2016 Robert and I suddenly got an opportunity to make it our new home. And that’s what it really feels like now, home.

Here are five reasons why I absolutely LOVE this city:

1. The People

Shanghai has an amazing mix of people from all corners of the world and all walks of life, all contributing to an amazing and exciting vibe in this crazy city. Since arriving here two-plus years ago, it’s been surprisingly easy to meet likeminded people, build a network, and find friends who will be a part of my extended family for life. I’m sure any place with good people easily becomes the best place in the world, but what I haven’t seen elsewhere is the amount of interesting and inclusive communities providing extremely valuable platforms for connecting, learning or just doing stuff together. Here’s a link  to China Classifieds’ WeChat post about a few big Tech and Business Communities in town, and for fitness people, don’t miss joining the free workouts with very popular fitness community, FitFam Shanghai.

Personally, I found my tribe with IPWS. IPWS provides a platform for international professional women to connect and develop, mainly through monthly content and networking events, panel discussions and mentoring opportunities. And once a year, IPWS organizes the best leadership conference in town, the IPWS Leadership Summit. I eventually became a Board Member and the Marketing and Communications Executive for IPWS, and it’s been such an amazing journey growing our 8000+ community of absolutely incredible women. If you’re a professional woman living in or visiting Shanghai, make sure to join! We’re on a summer break right now, but will be back in September with new events.

IMG_6709

2. The Food

Ahh the food. So many amazing places, so many delicious choices. A few of my current favorites are:

  • For brunch, my long-time fave is Liquid Laundry (their smoked salmon potato rosti in the picture below), but I highly recommend Pelikan and Highline as well.
  • For lunch, Egg is consistently fantastic, and so is Boom Boom Bagel and Little Catch.
  • For dinner, I love The Commune Social, Hatsune (a big favorite since my Beijing days), Gemma and Pelikan.
  • For Chinese food, I like the popular “foreigner-friendly” Chinese places Sichuan Citizen and Di Shui Dong. Shameful, I know (many in the expat community are judging me right now, haha), but what can you do, I still think the food is delicious! Din Tai Fung also never disappoints.
  • For home delivery on Eleme or Sherpa’s, my go-to’s are Nepali Kitchen, Saigon Mama, Mostexpress and Holyhigh.
  • Places that I can’t wait to try soon are Mercato, Taian Table and the brunch at the W Hotel.

By the way, a wonderful thing about Shanghai’s food scene is that many of these incredible places are very affordable. You don’t have to break the bank to have spectacular dining experiences (although you can easily do that, too!).

IMG_2942

3. The Energy

One of the most addictive things about Shanghai is its stimulating energy. It’s probably similar to what New York was back in the day – development is super fast and you never know what the day will bring. Things are happening. Anything is possible. But somehow in the middle of all the fast-paced craziness, the city also feels warm and cozy. Shanghai is one of the world’s largest cities with over 24 million people, but it still manages to give me a wonderfully homey vibe, especially in my neighborhood, the Former French Concession (which is right smack in the middle of the city). The contrasts of old and new, east and west, rich and poor, all contribute to a pretty fascinating atmosphere.

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4. The Opportunities

With all this amazing energy, massive development and awesome people, Shanghai of course offers unique opportunities to professionals. You truly never know who you’ll meet and what projects you could be involved in tomorrow. It’s a very exciting place to be in, and once you get a taste of it, it’s hard to let go. Every week there are interesting events and activities going on, offering great opportunities for networking and professional development. You can get pretty far just by being active, curious and open minded.

Personally, Shanghai has brought me tons of opportunities. Through IPWS, I have met amazing, influential people, while working in my field and developing especially as a China marketing professional, which is exactly where I want to go. I’m now also speaking, reading and writing Mandarin, which was a huge goal of mine and has opened many doors. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten so much inspiration and energy to pursue my passion for photography and content creation, which in turn has brought me amazing projects with NatGeo Travel, Kempinski Hotels, the Finnish Business Council and Explore China, to name a few.

Version 3

5. The Convenience

Move to Shanghai and say goodbye to spending time on mundane tasks like grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. When I buy groceries, I do so from the comfy couch in my living room by logging in to Epermarket and having everything delivered the same day (free if you order before 3 pm!). If I want to stay in, but don’t have time or energy to cook, I order takeout through Eleme or Sherpa’s where I can choose from hundreds of restaurants and cafés, and receive it at my door 30-45 minutes later with barely any delivery fee. If it’s Friday night and Robert and I want to have a glass of chilled rosé on the rooftop, I can get a cold bottle delivered by BottlesXO within an hour. Beautiful, right? Additionally, China’s dockless bike sharing companies have made getting around town a breeze. In a city with congested traffic, it’s a dream! Grab a Mobike and zoom around for 1 RMB, and when you’re done, just leave it anywhere (well, ideally on the part of the street that allows parking). Additionally, China is going cashless and cardless, fast. I’ve heard from friends who have left China that the biggest adjustment is not being able to use WeChat Pay or AliPay anymore. That it’s like going back years in time and development. And I totally understand, mobile payments are vital here in everyday life, regardless if you’re getting a cup of coffee, paying for a dress at Zara, going to the dentist or buying a house. I barely have cash or cards with me anymore, and with our apartment door working with a fingerprint scanner, I don’t even need keys when leaving the house.

Chinese ecommerce is of course also contributing to a very convenient lifestyle in Shanghai. You can get pretty much anything and everything at JD.com, Taobao and Tmall, and have it delivered in no-time. If you’re having trouble navigating the platforms in Chinese, Baopals is an excellent option to do your Taobao and Tmall shopping in English.

And what would this post be without mentioning WeChat, the “messenger-gone-everything-app”, as Jing Travel so eloquently put it. Life here is not only convenient because of it, but in fact it would be awfully difficult, near impossible, without it. WeChat is my email, phone, messenger, social media feed, notice board, wallet and so much more, all rolled into one. And it’s awesome.

WechatIMG839

For these, and so many other reasons, I love calling Shanghai home. Did I miss anything? Add in the comments below!

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Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog here!

My Travel Essentials – China Edition

Shanghaista Travel Essentials

Chinese New Year is around the corner, and that means it’s time to pack our bags and head south for some much needed beach and sun! I love traveling, and I actually still enjoy the ritual of packing, the anticipation of getting on a flight, and the moment to relax in the air. Sure, air travel is far from glamorous these days, and everything doesn’t always go as planned, but I still get excited about it, at least most of the time. Here are some of my travel essentials to make sure my travel experiences are nice and smooth.

Travel light

When possible, I prefer to travel with carry-on luggage only, as this saves time and minimizes the risk of a bunch of my favorite things getting lost. I also like the challenge of it since I’m a hopeless over-packer by nature, so packing the right things and surviving with a small suitcase brings me some strange sense of satisfaction, haha… Anyhow, to make the most of it, I use one of the lightest cabin-size luggages available, the Rimowa Salsa Air. I love Rimowa’s design and the fact that most of their suitcases are extremely light, but for the price tag, turns out that the quality is more than disappointing. I haven’t had too many problems with my cabin-size Rimowa, but my two bigger Salsa Airs that I check-in on longer trips are just not durable. The exterior has cracked on both suitcases, and nearly all wheels have fallen off one by one. Granted, that these bags have been on the road a lot, but Robert and I bought Rimowas in order to have quality suitcases that wouldn’t break… Very frustrating!

In addition to the cabin-size luggage (and a normal purse), I bring a super-light, foldable Boston Bag from Muji, as there’s usually risk of unexpected shopping that might not fit in your carry-on suitcase. When tucked away, this bag barely takes up any space, but still being durable and very spacious when folded out for use.

Invest in smart travel accessories

Speaking of Muji, they have an amazing selection of travel accessories. I pretty much get all my travel related tings there, as their products are functional, high quality, reasonable price and simple, clean design. Some products that I love are:

  • The slim passport case: It’s functional and very light, so it doesn’t take up too much space or add extra weight in my purse. It still has plenty of room for all your frequent flyer cards, boarding passes, currency, and, of course, your passport.
  • Clear cosmetics case: Perfect for carrying liquids in your carry-on. The volume of the bag is approximately according to international flight regulations, so there’s no need for hassling with ziplock bags when you have this one.
  • Travel bottles: Muji has dozens of different types and sizes of travel bottles, jars and pots. To save weight and space, I use these for face creams, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, medicine etc. I also use samples of my favorite products (especially the ones that are sensitive to air and light exposure) that I usually ask for when buying products at Sephora or in department stores. 
  • Garment cases: Muji’s foldable garment bags in different sizes are brilliant for keeping clothes and things neatly organized while you’re on the road. I use one for underwear, another for tops, and a third one for bottoms. They also work perfectly as laundry wash bags for delicates.

A few other (non-Muji) items always in my travel bag:

  • Airplane headphone jack adapter, so that I can use my own headphones with the in-flight entertainment system. Additionally, I bring a headphone jack splitter, so that Robert and I can both watch (and listen to) movies on a tablet, laptop or smartphone. These things are tiny, inexpensive and SO worth buying if you travel a lot. Get them at the electronics store at the airport.
  • Following the previous, I obviously bring my own headphones as well, as I know they’re comfortable and have good sound. Very important on long-haul flights!
  • Power bank and travel power adapter to ensure I can power up electronics and avoid panik.
  • Water. Lots of water. And an emergency snack, usually fresh or dried fruit, mixed nuts or a granola bar.
  • Disinfectant hand wipes, hand cream and redness relief eye drops.

Shanghaista Travel Essentials

Arrive looking fresh

Flying isn’t known for its beautifying effects. When flying long-haul, I usually take off my make-up, and do a moisturizing face mask to fight off the extremely dry cabin air and keep my skin somewhat balanced. Sure, sounds like a bit of a hassle, but this makes an enormous difference in how your skin looks and feels during and after the flight. I use Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water to easily remove make-up, and follow with Dermalogica’s Skin Hydrating Mask, which is pretty much unnoticeable and can be left on for several hours. Wipe off the face mask and pop in some eye drops before landing, and you’ll look like you slept like a baby. (For more in-flight beauty inspiration, check out Lisa Eldridge’s vlog here!)

When in China…

Now, when it comes to air travel in China, there’s a couple of things you need to know. Some additional rules and regulations apply, so being aware and prepared can make a big difference to your trip:

First off, smartphones and tablets must be turned off during the flight, so having them in flight mode is also a no-go. If your plane doesn’t have an entertainment system, make sure to bring a book or magazine to keep yourself busy. (I heard rumors that this might be changing soon, fingers crossed!) However, laptops and mp3 players seem to be fine to use. Luckily, I still have my old iPod that I now bring with me when I fly. It’s also a nice little throwback to my favorite music from 5-10 years back.

When it comes to personal care products, any type of aerosol in your carry-on luggage will most likely be confiscated. This means no hairspray, mousse, spray-deodorant etc. For me, the problem is hairspray, as no hairspray equals bad hair days. Solution? Find a non-aerosol liquid that works as a hairspray, and pour it into a pump-spray bottle that’s less than 100ml (find them at – you guessed it – Muji). However, hairspray or any other aerosol toiletries have never been a problem in checked-in luggage.

Also, never travel with nail polish – it will be confiscated. It doesn’t matter if it’s in your carry-on or check-in luggage: the sensors will pick it up and you will be asked to dig it out and hand it over to the inspector. I’ve learned this the hard way, and haven’t dared to try my luck in the past year. Please let me know in the comments if this regulation has changed!

Find more info on China-specific regulations on Travel China Guide’s website here.

Shanghaista Travel Essentials

What are your travel essentials? Any good tips for air travel in China? Please share in the comments below!

Happy Monday folks! Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog for more pics! x

Sunrise on The Bund

Shanghai sunrise the bund

Happy new year! We’re two weeks into 2018, and I just accomplished one of my new year’s resolutions – seeing and photographing the sunrise on The Bund. Yeah!

I got up super early this morning, put on my warmest clothes and fluffiest pair of Uggs, got a Mobike on the street, and enjoyed a 30-minute brisk bike ride down the dark, quiet streets of Shanghai. And it was so worth it.

Being one of Shanghai’s biggest attractions and best-known landmarks, The Bund is usually packed with people. But early mornings are very different. The waterfront walkway is quiet and peaceful, with locals coming out to exercise, practice tai chi and fly kites. And the view is spectacular with the sun rising behind Pudong’s iconic skyline.

This morning, the atmosphere was amazing. So much calmness and energy at the same time.

I arrived at about 6:15, approximately half an hour before sunrise. I wish I’d gotten there about 15-20 minutes earlier to catch the moments of first light and color behind Pudong… oh well, next time! And I’m definitely coming back – I’ve been dying to see masters practicing tai chi with a Pudong sunrise backdrop, but couldn’t find any this morning.

What a good start of a new, productive week. Happy Monday!

Shanghai sunrise the bund

Shanghai sunrise the bund

Shanghai sunrise the bund

Shanghai sunrise the bund

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for more pictures!

Shanghai Healthy Eats

Shanghai is so ridiculously amazing when it comes to food and restaurants. It’s so easy to accidentally let your eating get out of hand, haha! Luckily, restaurants with healthy concepts have been popping up for a while now, making it easy and fairly affordable to eat consciously. Home cooking is of course an option, but when you’re short on time, it’s just hard to resist eating out or ordering take-out, especially when it’s often cheaper than buying ingredients for the things I like to cook myself.

Here are a few of my favorites for delicious healthy Shanghai eats:

1. Topping the list is Wheat Healthy Eatery. I used to only get home-delivery from Wheat (not that that’s a bad option), as their restaurant was located a bit off from where I live in the French Concession. Then, a couple of months ago, came the best news ever: Wheat was opening a second branch in the hot corner of Fumin Lu and Changle Lu, only minutes away from my house! This has been my new everyday lunch and hangout spot since the soft opening a few weeks back (so much that I now call it “the office”). The interior is gorgeous, making it such an inviting and nice space to meet up friends or get some work done.

Some of my favorite dishes at Wheat are 1) black rice and salmon protein bowl, 2) beetroot hummus with veggie sticks, and 3) grilled salmon + brown rice, broccoli & cherry tomatoes from the Create your own -option. And the Immunity booster juice is fantastic. Simple dishes, quality ingredients. Perfect.

Wheat Shanghaista

Wheat

Wheat Shanghaista

2. Another big, big healthy favorite of mine is Little Catch, which is a friendly urban fishmonger and poke shop on Wulumuqi Lu in the FFC. The super cute little place is run by two sisters from Hong Kong who are third generation fishmongers, selling high quality seafood and Hawaiian Poke bowls. I love their Classic Hawaiian Salmon poke bowl for lunch, and I often pick up some salmon for home cooking or sashimi. (Can you tell that I love salmon??) The food is consistent, and the fish and seafood always safe and fresh.

3. A third healthy and satisfying option is Sproutworks. With a few locations around town, Sproutworks has a great variation of soups, sandwiches, salads, healthy sides, grains and proteins that rotate daily, and can be mixed and matched pretty much in anyway you like. I go for the healthy sides, tossed salads and proteins, which are very filling, fresh and tasty. Highly recommended!

What’s your favorite healthy spot in Shanghai? Let us know in the comments! And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog.

Cheers for the weekend!

Summer Travels

4 weeks, 3 continents, 5 cities, 1 Colombian wedding, and lots and lots of food, family and friends. That was one hell of a holiday! Now I’m finally back in Shanghai, trying to survive the insane heatwave with record setting temperatures.

I’m so happy to be home again, but before completely shaking off the holiday vibes, here are some pics from our fantastic month on the road!

SWEDEN

Sweden Shanghaista

Sunset Sweden Shanghaista

 

NEW YORK

NYC Shanghaista

Brooklyn Shanghaista

NYC Shanghaista

Brooklyn Shanghaista

 

COLOMBIA

Colombia Shanghaista

Cartagena Shanghaista

Cartagena Shanghaista

Cartagena Shanghaista

Cartagena Shanghaista

 

FINLAND
(I kind of forgot to use the camera here, therefore just this one pic :)

Finland Shanghaista

Enjoy your week folks! Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog for more pics! <3

 

Back from Radio Silence

I have been the worst blogger lately. My last post was over two months ago, eep! But I’m still here, alive and kicking, just significantly busier than I was in the beginning of the year.

So here’s what’s been going on: In January, I joined the board of directors of an absolutely amazing organization called IPWS – International Professional Women’s Society. IPWS is a non-profit organization for – yes, you guessed it – international professional women. We offer different platforms to connect, build networks, and foster personal and professional growth here in Shanghai. We organize 1-3 events every month, varying from content-driven workshops to networking events. Our community reaches more than 5000 professional women, and we’re growing every day!

Exactly one week ago, we had our biggest event of the year, our annual IPWS Leadership Summit. The Summit is an awesome, modern leadership conference for women and men on all professional levels, with high-profile speakers and engaging content revolving around a leadership theme, this year “Power”. The Summit also works as a platform to celebrate the annual Women Leadership Awards, which is the longest running international award for women leaders in Shanghai.

Preparations for the Summit turned out to be A LOT of work, so pretty much my every waking moment for the past weeks outside of school has gone into it. My main job has been to drive the marketing and comms, but also working with everything from graphic designers to event producers, finding sponsors to facilitating finalist interviews with the Women Leadership Awards jury. It’s been hectic to say the least, but with the hands-on team of superstars that makes the IPWS board of directors, it has also been one of the most memorable professional experiences I’ve had so far.

I’m still going strong with my Chinese studies at Jiaotong University (which btw still is my #1 thing), but after some years in the professional world, it’s not always easy going back to being “just a student”. But now being a part of IPWS, I feel my professional development is totally back on track: I get to do challenging things both within my area of expertise and way out of my comfort zone, I’m meeting tons of fascinating people and building a unique international network, and I get to make awesome things happen in the Shanghai community. IPWS has definitely elevated my Shanghai experience to a whole new level.

Leaving you with a few pictures from the Summit (photo cred to V.Photos!). Have a great weekend and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog for more pics! X

ipws leadership summit shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

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IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

FAQ – Studying Chinese at Shanghai Jiaotong University

I get a lot of questions about studying Chinese full-time at Shanghai Jiaotong University. I’m currently there in my second semester, but last year before starting the program, I remember how extremely difficult it was to find any kind of information about it online. The university’s website is not very helpful, and forget about finding real reviews or experiences. So this post is to all of you guys who are contemplating whether or not to invest your time and money in really improving your Chinese at Jiaotong. Hope it helps!

How good will I be after one semester?
Honestly, considering that I’ve been studying full-time for about 6-7 months now, I would have expected to be at a much higher level. But at the same time, I think I actually know more than I realize. Every now and then I have these amazing Chinese-breakthrough moments when I become of aware of how far I’ve actually come. I had a moment like that just the other day when Robert and I were watching the movie Lion (which by the way is like the most beautiful movie EVER!). The movie only had Chinese subtitles, which was a bit tricky since the first half hour is in Hindi. But turns out I was able to read most of the Chinese subtitles, instant-translate to Swenglish (Swedish-English) for Robert, and fully enjoy the movie topped with an awesome sense of Chinese-accomplishment!

Anyway, back to the question, I’d say one semester probably equals 1-1,5 HSK levels. I started at an HSK level 2 (or a bad 3 tops), and after this semester I should be able to do the HSK 5 according to my teachers.

Where do you see the most improvement?
The biggest improvement is definitely in reading and writing characters. It’s so difficult and time consuming in the beginning, and although I doubt it will ever become easy, it does get better the further you get. And it’s so rewarding too, because it’s almost instant gratification when you suddenly start to understand the writing all around you. So the more you learn, the more motivated and hungry you become to learn more. According to my Pleco statistics, I know 1409 characters at this point, and I think I was at around 300 characters a year ago. For you fellow statistics lovers, that’s a 369% increase!

And the least improvement?
That would unfortunately be with speaking. This seems to be a common problem for many students (phew, it’s not just me), and I think there’s a couple of reasons for it.

1) Of course we practice speaking in class, but it’s usually about a specific structure or vocabulary that we’re going through at that moment. It’s a class of 25 students where the pace is fast, so we move on to the next thing before becoming fully confident with what we just learned. Then when we’re out having conversations in the real world, we hesitate using the new stuff, and easily revert back to the well-established and comfortable vocabulary.

2) I’m also not pushing myself as much as I should when spontaneously speaking in daily life. If I encounter a challenging situation that I have to handle in Chinese, I often go into slight panic mode and try to get out of it as fast and easy as possible. I should in fact welcome these moments when I’m completely outside my Mandarin-comfort zone, because that’s the only way to improve.

3) For this one, I’m also gonna put part of the blame on Shanghai. Everyone here speaks English (except when you get a call from Didi or Kuaidi), and most locals immediately switch to English even when you initiate a conversation in Chinese. Many say Beijing and other Chinese cities are much better learning environments for Mandarin, as you’ll never have the option to use anything else.

How much time do you put into studying?
I have class Monday through Friday, 4 hours per day. On top of that, I probably use another 4 hours a day on homework, review and practice. So if you’re committed and serious about learning, you’re easily looking at a 40 hour week in total. Now, of course there are many students that use far less time than that, but it usually shows further into the semester when keeping up becomes a real struggle.

I recently started working a bit on the side, and therefore I’m not putting as much time on studying as before. And I can already tell a big difference. I’m still doing all my homework and getting full scores in my weekly dictations (nerdy humble brag, haha), but I’m not using as much time on reviewing as before. And it shows, as reviewing is so incredibly important. I’m sure I’ll find a good balance between work and school eventually… But my point here is, that working and studying at the same time is obviously hard, so keep that in mind if you’re considering signing up for a semester.

Would you recommend Shanghai Jiaotong University?
There are many universities in Shanghai offering similar language programs, but I originally picked Jiaotong because it’s a world class university (global top 100 if I’m not mistaken), and because of their extremely convenient location in central Shanghai (Xuhui District, right on metro line 10). As I mentioned, it was super difficult to find good information about the program (or any other school’s program for that matter), so I didn’t have much else to base my decision on. And for the most part, I’ve been pretty happy with my decision. The only thing that has bothered me is the occasional inconsistency in the quality of teaching. Most of my teachers so far have been great, but some of them have also been either very inexperienced, or just not engaging or motivating. I also had one that actually had a great method of teaching, but she treated the class like a bunch of badly behaving children. I can tell you it’s not fun as an adult, and obviously not appropriate. In my experience, the calibre of teachers gets better and more consistent the higher your level.

So all in all, I’m happy with Jiaotong and do recommend the program for someone who wants to study Chinese in Shanghai. The program I’m in is The Long-Term Chinese Language Course (Xuhui Campus), General Track. You can find the website here.

On a completely unrelated note, yesterday finally felt like summer with beautiful sunshine and temperatures well over 20 degrees! Below are some pictures from our stroll on the West Bund waterfront area – the perfect place for a walk or run on a lovely day like this!

Shanghaista Blog West Bund Shanghai

Shanghaista Blog West Bund Shanghai

Shanghaista Blog West Bund Shanghai

Shanghaista Blog West Bund Shanghai

Shanghaista Blog West Bund Shanghai

Happy Monday folks! Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog for more pics! x

Harbin, baby!

Summer is just around the corner here in Shanghai (or at least that’s what I’d like to believe), but before switching into total spring-mode, Robert and I decided to head up north to Harbin for some serious sub-zero temperatures. The city of Harbin isn’t very well known outside of China, but out here it’s super famous for its annual International Ice and Snow Festival that’s been running every winter for over 30 years. Here are my top takeaways from the trip:

The Ice and Snow Festival is AMAZING
That’s right. Ah-mazing! So worth the trip. Obviously I had seen pictures of the ice sculptures, but seeing them in real life was something else. The area is huge and the scale of the sculptures is incredible. Check out the pictures below and you can see how tiny people are next to them. We visited the Ice and Snow World park, which I believe is the biggest and most famous one (apparently there are a few different ones). We timed our visit so that we got to see everything both in daylight and beautifully lit up in the dark – recommended! This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in China so far (and the crowds were not bad at all!).

A weekend will do
We arrived late Friday evening and flew back home on Sunday morning. And that was enough. Sure, it would have been interesting to see more of the city, but one full day was definitely enough to see the Ice and Snow Festival plus a little more. Besides checking out the ice sculptures, we strolled around the city center for a couple of hours, and even had time to visit a Siberian Tiger Park that was surprisingly good. We expected to see one or two tired tigers, but there were literally hundreds of them running around big fields!

Bring warm clothes
Harbin was freezing. The temperature was around -20 Celsius, and even though we packed our warmest winter clothes and boots, we still had to buy ski-pants on the street to keep us from freezing to death. Luckily there were plenty of heated indoor areas at the ice festival park (like Pizza Hut and KFC, haha), so it was easy to pop in and warm up whenever we got concerned about losing body parts to frostbite.

Choose a hotel with a great location
We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Harbin city center, and the excellent location definitely made a huge difference to our trip. It was right at the end of the most popular pedestrian street, so we had easy access to restaurants, famous sights, shopping etc. Very convenient, especially when you’re in town for a limited time.

Get a car and a driver
Holiday Inn’s awesome concierge hooked us up with a car and driver for almost a full day for only 300 RMB. This was quite literally a lifesaver considering the intense cold. We had no idea if it would be easy or difficult to find a taxi around the remote ice and snow festival area, and we didn’t really feel adventurous enough to find out. The car took us around town all day and waited for us until we were done with whatever we wanted to do and see. And our super friendly driver always kept the heater blasting.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Shanghaista Blog

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Shanghaista Blog

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Shanghaista Blog

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Shanghaista Blog

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Shanghaista Blog

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Shanghaista Blog

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Shanghaista Blog

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Shanghaista Blog

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Shanghaista Blog

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Shanghaista Blog

That’s one more destination checked off my China Bucket List, wohoo! Have a great weekend guys, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog!

Chinese New Year in Koh Phangan

One of the perks of living in China is having the 7-day Spring Festival national holiday to celebrate Chinese New Year. Everyone is off work and school, which translates into the largest human migration in the world. People pour out of big cities, and most streets, restaurants and shops become eerily quiet and deserted for one week. Locals travel back to their hometowns to spend time with their families, and most expats take the chance to travel around Asia Pacific.

Robert and I originally wanted to travel to Palawan in the Philippines, but we started looking into it waaay too late and missed out on good deals and reasonable prices. We decided to push Palawan into next year’s travel calendar and go for comfy and easy beach adventures in Thailand instead. Good choice, although Thailand is maybe just a tiny bit too touristy for my taste… But whatever was lacking in authenticity, was certainly made up for in gorgeous turquoise waters, infinity pools, coconuts and mango sticky rice!

We extended our 7-day national holiday to a proper 2 week beach vacay, which is pretty much the best thing you can do in the middle of a cold and grey winter, right? We stayed at the beautiful island of Koh Phangan, which is (unfortunately) mostly known for its infamous Full Moon and Half Moon Parties. But luckily there’s so much more to the island than drunken backpackers, and we headed up to the northern parts to some beautiful, more quiet beaches for a more “grown-up” holiday.

We spent the first week in the north-western tip at Maehaad Beach. Now, our hotel was absolutely gorgeous in every way – huge oceanview-rooms, AMAZING pool, nice beach etc – but it had the grumpiest staff I’ve ever encountered. So much for the famous Thai hospitality! Robert and I had of course read all recent TripAdvisor reviews and knew not to expect top-notch service, but it was still bizarre. They were definitely in no way rude or making us feel uncomfortable, but just grumpy. Oh well, we had a nice stay nonetheless, it’s not like we relied on the level of service to make or break our holiday.

For our second week we moved along to the north-eastern part of Koh Phangan to a little peace of heaven called Buri Rasa Village. And let me just say, wowza! So, if you imagine the grumpy staff at our first hotel, and then imagine the TOTAL opposite — that’s Buri Rasa Village. These guys were the nicest, most service-minded, yet relaxed people ever! And the hotel itself and the surrounding nature with dramatic hills, white beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters made this place so gorgeous. We had a ridiculously nice stay at Buri Rasa, I honestly can’t recommend them enough.

All in all, great trip and it certainly served its purpose. I could have easily stayed at Buri Rasa for another week… or month! Now we’re back in Shanghai, which has by the way been absolutely beautiful this week – sunny and 15-20 Celcius – but in a few hours we’ll be heading north for the weekend to subzero temperatures in Harbin to cross off another destination on my China Bucket List! Brrr and woohoo! Stay tuned and head on over to my Instagram for more updates. x Jenna

Koh Phangan Shanghaista

Koh Phangan Shanghaista

Koh Phangan Shanghaista

Koh Phangan Shanghaista

Koh Phangan Shanghaista

Koh Phangan Shanghaista

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Koh Phangan Shanghaista

Koh Phangan Shanghaista

Koh Phangan Shanghaista