It’s been a little over a week now since Robert and I arrived in Shanghai. The feeling is still fantastic, but there’s definitely a lot to take in, learn and get used to. Here are some first impressions and observations from the first week in our new city:
- It’s getting really, really hot and humid
So turns out that we managed to arrive right in the beginning of something called plum rains (méiyǔ in Chinese), a season with heavy rain and occasional thunderstorms and lightning. Luckily this should only last for a couple of weeks, so fingers crossed for more blue skies in July. Now is also the beginning of the two hottest months in Shanghai, and we’ve already been up to 30-35°C most days in the past week. Going outside can therefore be a bit of a challenge, and I guess this is only the beginning. Luckily there’s air-conditioning pretty much everywhere, just have to watch out for that AC-flu!
- WeChat rules China
Anyone who has something to do with China knows this by now. WeChat, or Wēixìn in Chinese, is an insanely popular social media app in China, and actually the biggest messaging app in the world by active monthly users. If you are in China, you have to be on WeChat. Everything happens on WeChat. You communicate with your friends, read the news, send and receive money, make a doctor’s appointment, book a taxi, order food and so on. I haven’t been an active WeChat user for too long so I’m still figuring it out, but having it down seems to be crucial for survival here.
- The taxi situation is terrible
Taking a taxi in China was wonderfully easy and cheap a few years ago, but the days of walking down the street and waving an empty cab in seconds seem to be long gone. Most taxis now answer to different apps (like WeChat), and most drivers I have encountered are reluctant to pick up passengers without an app. Ordering taxis through apps require more advanced Chinese skills (both writing and speaking as you first type your location in the app, and then the driver usually calls you). Same goes for Uber. But I’m sure I’ll figure it out as the city becomes more familiar and I start picking up on street/building/area names. As for non-Chinese speaking visitors, staff at hotels are usually helpful with ordering taxis, so just ask them for help.
- The metro system is great
Getting a taxi may be a pain in the butt, but luckily Shanghai seems to have a pretty awesome public transportation system. So far I’ve only tried the metro (and will mainly stick to it) and I’m very impressed. It’s super easy and cheap (starting at 3 RMB/ride), the network is extensive, you have information in both Chinese and English, and so far all the stations and lines have been clean and air-conditioned. And not too crowded! (I’ll probably have to take that back once I ride in rush hour.) You can buy single ride tickets at the stations, but if you’re here even for a short time and need to use public transportation a lot, I’d recommend getting a Shanghai Public Transportation Card. It’s a value smart card (similar to the Metro Card in New York) that can be used for paying metro, bus, train, and taxi rides. It even works on the Maglev train between Shanghai city and Pudong Airport. You can pick one up at ticket counters at any metro station, all you need is 20 RMB for the deposit and whatever amount of money you want to add as value.
- The city is surprisingly green
Love it. See for yourself below. :)