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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
For these, and so many other reasons, I love calling Shanghai home. Did I miss anything? Add in the comments below!
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog here!