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

Sip ‘n Paint Shanghai

Last week we finally wrapped up the fall-semester at Jiaotong University. To celebrate good results and success in the final exams, me and a couple of classmates went to do some sipping, painting and relaxing at Sip ‘n Paint on Shaanxi South Road.

I’ve been wanting to try Sip ‘n Paint for some time now as it’s become increasingly popular all over the world. The concept sounds so good: You spend a few hours at a nice art studio where you can let your artsy juices flowing and paint away either with or without the help of a teacher. And of course there’s wine. Not bad, right?

We booked a 3-hour Friday afternoon “freestyle” session, which means painting without a teacher. The space isn’t too big, probably good for about 20 people tops, but we happened to be the only ones there so we could spread out very comfortably. The studio is cozy and bright, and really fits the purpose. It’s at a great location right behind the IAPM mall on the top floor of a classic Shanghai lane house.

We could choose between painting with oil paint, watercolors, colored pencils and more. Oil paint seemed to be the most popular option, so that’s what we went for too. Painting was fun and challenging, but the hardest part by far was deciding what to paint. I hadn’t thought about it until the start of our session, and luckily there were loads of inspiration at the studio to help us get started. Books and prints were available for browsing, and works of others’ were hanging all over the walls. We spent around 30 minutes trying to come up with what to paint, which is precious time you’ll probably need for finishing your masterpiece in time. I’ll definitely be more prepared next time!

The whole experience was super fun and relaxing, almost like meditating (but with wine and friends), and I definitely want to go back. If you’re the least bit interested in painting, drawing, being creative with your hands or just want to try something new, I’d very much recommend Sip ‘n Paint. And if it turns out you’re not too into the painting, you can just focus on the sipping, haha.

A 3 hour Freestyle session costs 180 RMB including canvas, access to brushes, paint and everything else needed. A glass of wine is 40 RMB and a case for carrying home your painting is 30 RMB. Find more details here!

Sip n Paint Shanghai

Sip n Paint Shanghai

Sip n Paint Shanghai

Sip n Paint Shanghai

Sip n Paint Shanghai

Sip n Paint Shanghai

Sip n Paint Shanghai

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

Best of 2016

I know it’s already 2017, but before really kicking off the new year, I wanted to take a quick look back at the highlights of my past year. Here come the Best of my 2016:

Best moment
The day in early March when Robert signed his new contract and our move to Shanghai was confirmed. We had a special champagne bottle saved in case life-changing events like this would occur, and that night the cork was certainly popping. Shanghai had been our “if you could choose any city in the world to live in” -place ever since we moved away from Asia the last time in 2013. You can imagine how crazy happy we were when that was suddenly becoming reality. Consequently I also became a huge believer in law of attraction!

Shanghaista Expat Blog Shanghai

Best trip
It’s been an awesome year for me travel-wise. Very hard to choose the best one, but the cake goes to the perfect Golden Week beach vacation in Phu Quoc, Vietnam with Robert. Beaching, eating, reading, exploring, drinking drip-coffee and mojitos while enjoying each other’s company in gorgeous surroundings was definitely a highlight of my year.

shanghai expat blog

An honorable mention goes to my spontaneous trip to New York in May to visit my parents. I had an unexpected extra couple of weeks before the move to Shanghai, so I decided to head out to the US where my parents are currently living. Just spending casual quality time with them is such a rare treat these days, so this was definitely the best bonus. Home cooked meals, watching SNL with mom and dad, shopping with mom… Perfect.

Shanghaista Expat Blog Shanghai

Best decision
To study Mandarin full-time at Shanghai Jiaotong University. Becoming awesome at Chinese has been a goal of mine for some time now, and it feels crazy cool to be able to pursue it 100%. It’s been way more intense and time-consuming than I expected, but I’m making good progress, which in turn gives me lots of energy and motivation to keep going. Final exams for the fall semester are next week, and I just signed up to keep going for at least another semester in the spring. Yikes and yay!

IMG_6307

Best party
My goodbye-party with my girlfriends in Copenhagen before moving to Shanghai. Oh what a night, we went all in and had one of those girls nights you’ll remember forever (or kind of remember…). I miss my girls like crazy, but I feel that these are the kinds of friends that will always be close no matter how far apart you actually are. (The picture is not from the party, just from beautiful Copenhagen.)

Shanghaista Expat Blog Shanghai

Best purchase
Definitely my camera, Canon PowerShot G5X. It’s a small but powerful camera that I bring with me pretty much everywhere. I’ve gotten more and more into photography this year, and I definitely plan to keep at it in the years to come. Right now I’m considering making a GoPro the first big purchase of 2017, since so many holiday photo-ops are missed without a waterproof camera… What do you think, is it worth it?

Best food
This is a really tough one, but I have to go with the Salmon Benedict on Kabb’s weekend brunch menu in Shanghai. Kabb is not a very special restaurant in general, but I just find myself craving for this amazing dish of theirs quite often. The runner up would probably be Chicken Xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung. Yum.

Best drink
Hands down the fresh Passionfruit Mojito at Peppercorn Beach Resort in Phu Quoc, Vietnam. A little sweet, a little sour, so refreshing. Not the best picture of it, but you can take my word for it (the one on the right). It was heavenly.

Shanghaista Expat Blog Shanghai

Best book
For some reason this was a really slow book year for me, but the best of the 5-6 books that I managed to read would be Stalker by Lars Kepler. Kepler’s books are always terrifying page-turners that I can only read when it’s light out, preferably in the summer time. Stalker didn’t disappoint.

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

Best dress
My maxi-dress from Marks & Spencer (on the left). This was the most comfortable summery evening dress, and one of my favorite outfits all year. I love the simple cut in a fabric and color that makes it stand out. I’ll definitely be taking it to the tailor market in spring to have it made in other colors.

Shanghaista Expat Blog Shanghai

Best workout
My hike up Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. A perfect one hour workout with a killer view. Besides that, 2016 was also the year when I discovered Zumba. I know, I’m about 10 years late, but OMG how awesome is Zumba!? The most fun workout ever!

Hiking Victoria Peak Hong Kong

Best song
Thanks to going to Zumba every other day, my absolute favorite song of the year is La Bicicleta by Shakira and Carlos Vives. La Bicicleta always equals dancing feet and a smiley face!

All in all my 2016 was a year of big changes, new beginnings, pursuing passions and traveling. The best of all was that I got to share it with the love of my life. And despite being far away from family and friends, I got to spend much more time with them than expected. Lots of feelings of gratitude here now when I think back on it all.

Can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring. Happy New Year to you all!

Shanghaista Expat Blog Shanghai

My Instagram #bestnine2016. Don’t forget to follow @shanghaistablog for more pics!

December in the French Concession

Wow, I’ve been terrible with the blog lately. No excuses, just haven’t managed to prioritize writing (although I’m totally blaming school!). I’ll try to get back to it very soon, but in the mean time I just wanted to post a few snaps from my awesome neighborhood, the Former French Concession. It’s crazy that these green, peaceful streets are right in the middle of such an enormous metropolis. I love this area with all it’s small shops, amazing restaurants and cozy vibe, and right now it’s so beautiful with the yellow leaves and autumn colors.

The pictures are from my daily bike route to Shanghai Jiao Tong University, mainly from Wukang Lu and Anfu Lu.

Shanghaista Expat Blog Shanghai

Shanghaista Expat Blog Shanghai

Shanghai Expat Blog Shanghaista

Shanghai Expat Blog Shanghaista

Shanghai Expat Blog Shanghaista

Shanghai Expat Blog Shanghaista

Make sure to follow me @shanghaistablog on Instagram for more pics!

Beauty talk

Let’s start this new week with something a little more light-hearted, shall we? I think we all need that after the miserable political events of the last few days… So coming up today – Shanghai beauty tips!

This city is packed with stores that sell beauty products from all over the world, and local salons offer every face/body/hair treatment that exists. But unfortunately China doesn’t always have the best reputation when it comes to quality, reliability and hygiene, so finding the good spots with a high enough standard is worth gold! Here are a few tried and tested favorites that I can gladly recommend to anyone in need of some beautifying.

Hair care at Franck Provost
We’ve all heard the horror stories about expats going to Chinese hair salons and coming out with either no hair, burnt hair or just the worst imaginable haircut (like Robert who accidentally got the Kim Jong-Un style a few years back). I’m very protective of my hair, but the other week I gathered all my courage and made an appointment to the Franck Provost salon on Anfu Lu after hearing so many good things from a handful of reliable (=blonde) sources. And boy am I glad I did! Turns out that they do blonde highlights much, much better than I ever had done when living in Copenhagen. No burnt hair, no yellow tones. Only beautiful, soft, ashy, bright blonde. I paid around 1300 RMB for highlights + cut, so about the same as I’m used to back home. Too bad I don’t have a good before and after shot (will do next time), but in the picture below you can get a sense of the result. The salon also has such a nice, modern vibe and the staff made me feel super welcome and relaxed. I even got the membership card since I’ll definitely be going back soon, that way I’ll save around 10-15% on their services. The salon also sells imported hair-care products from big brands like Kérastase, Davines and L’oréal.

Shanghaista Shanghai Expat Blog

Manicures at Helen Nail Spa
Pampering yourself with manicures and pedicures is so wonderfully easy and cheap in China. Nail salons are everywhere, but finding a nice, clean enough place can sometimes be tricky. Helen Nail Spa is my favorite so far. I’ve visited two of their three locations (819 Julu Lu and 120 Nanchang Lu) and both are clean, cozy and casual (if you want uber-fancy, this is not your place). The staff is always super friendly, and usually someone speaks a little English if your Chinese manicure-vocabulary is lacking. They seem to take good care of the equipment and pay attention to cleanliness and hygiene, which is very important to me when it comes to places like this. Helen’s offer services like manicures, pedicures, waxing, foot massages and more. The price for a manicure is around 100-150 RMB and a pedicure goes for a little less than that. By the way, Helen’s also sells OPI nail polish, and I just discovered that Sephora finally does too! Taobao and Tmall are of course filled with shops that sell OPI, but I don’t trust them to be the real stuff (especially with the suspiciously low prices)…

Helen Nail Spa Shanghai Expat Blog

Soothing sheet mask for amazing skin
Moving here to Shanghai definitely made my skin react. The pollution, humidity and lifestyle changes caused my face to freak out quite a bit, and adding any harsh products to that would have probably caused even more trouble. Luckily the beauty gods heard my prayers and guided me to try this amazing mask a few weeks back: Aloe Soothing sheet mask from Korean skin-care brand Jejuen. I absolutely love this product, it calms any ongoing irritation while providing skin with plenty of moisture, leaving my face looking super balanced and glowy. This is perfect for sensitive, combination skin like mine. So now once a week for 20 minutes I look like Freddy Krueger, scaring poor Robert and the neighbours, but it’s so worth it. Sephora is my #1 place to shop anything beauty-related, and that’s where I found these babies too. Get a pack of five for 200 RMB. Hooray for K-beauty!

Jejuen Aloe Soothing Sheet Mask

Bath products by eco&more
I’m totally hooked on the heavenly hand and body washes from Shanghai-Australian company eco&more. They smell and feel AMAZING, plus their line of products are made of safe, plant-based, hypoallergenic ingredients, which means less skin exposure to harsh or even toxic chemicals often found in personal care products. It’s obviously not the cheapest soap in the store – a hand or body wash will cost you between 60-110 RMB – but the bottles are pretty big, plus I don’t mind paying a bit extra for quality products that add some luxury to everyday life. I’ve seen eco&more products in convenience stores and supermarkets around popular expat areas (French Concession, Jing’an, Xintiandi), and also in the Fields online supermarket. You can also order products through their website here.

eco&more Hand Wash

Bronzer discovery
I just found a department store that not only sells a proper bronzer, but actually my all time favorite one from Bobbi Brown! Now, some of you might not get what a huge deal this is, but for years and years all you could get in China were whitening products. Whitening body lotions, face creams, masks, foundations, powders, you name it. The beauty ideal is all about being as white and pale as possible, and products giving any bronzed, sun-kissed glow to your face or body have been veeery hard to find. Maybe buying quality bronzer in Shanghai is old news by now, who knows as I’m still a newbie in town, but I just wanted to share in case someone else is on the lookout and don’t know where to start searching. Get Bobbi Brown’s Bronzing Powders in various shades at the Isetan department store on 1038 Nanjing Xi Lu.

Got any hot beauty-related tips for Shanghai? Please share in the comments!

Have a great week everyone, let’s hope this one will be better than the last. X

Vietnam Vibes

Last week China celebrated it’s annual 7-day National Holiday known as Golden Week. The country pretty much shuts down for a full week and the busy, crowded streets of China’s megacities become deserted and quiet. Most locals take the opportunity to travel to their hometowns to be with family, and most expats leave the country either to visit home or to travel around Asia-Pacific.

Robert and I spent our holiday at the calm beachy island of Phu Quoc, Vietnam (checking off Vietnam on my China Bucket List, wohoo!). We stayed at the northern tip of the island at Peppercorn Beach Resort, a small boutique resort that was absolutely perfect for us in every way. A beach villa right by the ocean, turquoise warm water, kayaks and snorkels to borrow anytime, the most friendly staff and delicious home-cooked Vietnamese food… Ahh just brilliant. I haven’t felt this relaxed after a holiday for ages!

There’s not much exciting stuff to report from our vacation as we spent our days lounging, reading, eating, drinking delicious Vietnamese drip-coffee, reading, swimming, reading some more, and so on. After four very hectic months with moving back to China and adapting to a new life here, I didn’t even realize how much I needed a real break. Sometimes you don’t notice it until you just stop for a moment. But thanks to Phu Quoc and Peppercorn Beach I’m back feeling invigorated and energezied, all ready for the fall!

Hope you guys had a great Golden Week! Where did you go?Please share any good SE-Asian destinations or travel tips in the comments below. :)

shanghai expat blog

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

shanghai expat blog

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

Vitamins in the kitchen! I don’t know how I’ll be able to live without this every morning.

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

Phu Quoc produces loads of high quality pepper, so there are pepper plantations all over the island. We stopped to check out what pepper actually looks like when growing on trees. 

Phu Quoc Vietnam

Phu Quoc Vietnam

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

shnaghaista shanghai expat blog

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

shanghaista shanghai expat blog

Don’t forget to follow me on social media!
Facebook: @shanghaista
Instagram: @shanghaistablog

My best apps for Shanghai

1. Pleco 
Pleco is probably the most famous and downloaded Chinese dictionary and learning tool there is. And for a good reason – it’s just awesome! This is also by far the app that I use most both in daily life running around Shanghai, and when studying Mandarin. The dictionary is obviously extremely useful (and free!), but if you’re studying Chinese I would highly recommend buying the Flash Card system that’s available as an in-app purchase. It allows you to create your own categories and study the flash cards in whichever way you want (character – pinyin, pinyin – English, English – character etc.). At least for me this is probably the most effective way of learning characters, as it’s something that requires endless repetition. It’s perfect to do at home, on the metro, while waiting for a friend, or just whenever you have a few minutes to spare. The Flash Cards also come with ready made categories based on HSK levels, which is brilliant for studying for a specific level.

This week I discovered a crazy cool feature in Pleco which I have completely missed before. I’m sure this is old news to everyone else, but just in case, here it is: If you add the keyboard for Simplified Chinese in your smartphone settings, make sure to pick the one for Handwriting as well. Now go to the dictionary in Pleco with the Handwriting keyboard active, and instead of typing in English or pinyin in the search field, you will be able to draw the character and Pleco gives you the definition. AMAZING! This is SO useful and fast when you encounter characters you don’t recognise, which happens all the time here (at restaurants, on websites, in the bank, etc etc…). Thanks Lisa in 阅读课 for revolutionising my Chinese learning yet again!

Best apps for Shanghai

2. Bon App
Number two on my list has to be Bon App. This is the best app for local restaurant search, ratings and reviews in Shanghai. You have plenty of options for searching and filtering, like by area, name and/or cuisine. You can even filter by happy hour and ladies night, yay! Bon App also has the Near Me feature, which makes it super easy to spot a good place in your proximity. Registration is not needed for searching and browsing venues and reading reviews, but those who want to contribute with likes/dislikes and comments do have to create a simple profile. Bon App is a bilingual platform, so it works both in English and Chinese.

The best apps for Shanghai

3. WeChat
I don’t see how one survives in Shanghai (or anywhere in China) these days without WeChat. Messaging and calling is done mainly through WeChat. People don’t exchange phone numbers or e-mail addresses anymore (and forget about Facebook for sure), it’s all on WeChat. WeChat is also the most important customer facing platform for most businesses. Many companies invest in sites within WeChat instead of producing separate apps, as it’s very easy to integrate to the user-friendly platform that everyone here prefers using anyway. But as I’ve mentioned before, if you’re not fluent in Chinese, utilizing WeChat to it’s max is difficult. I mainly use WeChat for communicating with friends, to pay bills, and to stay updated with my favorite local businesses and communities.

Btw, check out Baopals’ WeChat page for shopping on TaoBao and Tmall in English! It’s a brilliant site, Baopals can access the entire inventory on TaoBao and Tmall with their English interface, so finally we foreigners can shop away even with limited Chinese skills. I just tried it last week to order a water dispenser – worked like a charm. Woop woop!

The best apps for Shanghai

4. Dianping
Dianping is probably the most extensive directory of businesses in Shanghai. It’s great for finding stuff like dry cleaners, banks or tailors that probably won’t be marked in Google or Apple Maps. Just search with a name or keyword in the app’s search field and get dozens of choices with ratings sorted by proximity. There’s one little issue worth mentioning though – it’s all in Chinese. But don’t let this scare you even if your Mandarin isn’t so hot. You can still search with well-known names and brands (like ‘Sephora’ as in the picture below) and just by testing it out and clicking around you can gather plenty of info without actually reading one single character (like clicking on the address which takes you to an interactive map). And when you’re feeling like experimenting more (aka. when you’re desperate), start out with using Pleco for translating, then copy-paste the characters into Dianping (like I did to find my shoe repair guy). Check out the places close to you with the best ratings and enjoy that awesome feeling of cultural-barrier-breaking accomplishment when you finally find what you’re looking for.

The best apps for Shanghai

5. Youku and iQiYi
I’m still mourning the fact that I now have very limited access to streaming HBO, Netflix and YouTube, but luckily Youku and iQiYi offer some comfort. These two Chinese apps have quite a good selection of international movies and TV series, and streaming is smooth as silk as they are hosted by local servers. The interface is fully in Chinese (most movies’ and TV series’ titles included), but try it out and click around and you’ll eventually find the section for international entertainment. Start by looking for 电视剧 (TV shows) or 电影 (Movies) in the top menu, and follow by looking for 美国 / 美剧(USA) or 英国 / 英剧 (GB).

The best apps for Shanghai

Other apps worth mentioning are definitely Smart Shanghai and Explore Shanghai Metro Map. SmartShanghai has a great directory, plus articles and tips on what to do and where to go every week. Explore Shanghai Metro Map is an app for figuring out the metro system, which you’ll need it sooner or later, trust me. And of course there are the real lifesavers, the VPN apps. Express VPN and Astrill are the top paid ones, and then we have Betternet that works as a pretty good free back-up.

There’s also an app on my list that I recently downloaded but haven’t had a chance to try yet: BottlesXO. BottlesXO offer quality imported wines for reasonable prices – and here comes the best part – with home delivery within an hour. How brilliant is that! And of course whites and roses come properly chilled. So no need to panic when you’re having a party but running out of wine, just get BottlesXO to the rescue! Perfect.

Got any good tips on apps for Shanghai? Please share in the comments! :)