by Toffler



Reflections on Life in Shanghai

As a prepare to become a tour leader with Intrepid Travel and be based out of Beijing for the next 8 months, I believe its time for a reflection on life in Shanghai.

When did all the white people move into my neighborhood? This last week I was wandering around my apartment complex eating dinner and buying groceries and I was shocked to see so many foreigners. Guess the combination of good location, affordable housing, and my presence attracted them. Actually, more likely the first two, plus the proximity to Jiaotong University and the beginning of another semester of Chinese at Jiaotong. Welcome to you all. Hope you enjoy living here.

Working in China-Shanghai is a daily struggle. This seems to be the general consensus, and it’s not because the work itself is necessarily hard, it is the policies, procedures, practices, and habits in the Chinese working environment that pummel against the Western mindset at every turn. These issues are multiplied when working in Chinese companies but they are also present when working for MNCs in China.

Entrepreneurship makes up a huge component of individual Western economic activity in Shanghai. Who would have guessed there were so many Western entrepreneurs out here? I guess it makes sense since working for the Chinese is more than just a challenge. Plus, Shanghai is a boom town and everyone is here to make money entrepreneurship is the way to do it!

Networking in Shanghai serves you extremely well. With a strong network comes respect, free advice, a strong reputation for being in-the-know and well-connected, and the ability to assist people who are searching for help in this massive city. I’m extremely grateful for the contacts I’ve made, the network I’ve developed, the people I’ve helped through my network, and most importantly the good friends I’ve made by networking. Though maintaining my network from a distance over the next 8 months will prove incredibly challenging, I will do my best and I hope everyone doesn’t forget me.

Shanghai’s climate sucks. It goes from being hot & humid with terrible bugs in the summer, to a short rainy autumn, to a cold, humid, rainy winter, followed by a short spring, and finally it starts all over again. Why on earth people are flocking to this city with its terrible climate, I can’t imagine. Why is the climate so bad in Shanghai (and most of China for that matter)?

Vacations become exponentially more important for expats living here. Whereas Hong Kong is an invigorating city, Shanghai is an exhausting city, whereas Hong Kong has a go-getter attitude, Shanghai has a go-getter attitude with a break-neck component. In addition, the culture and the traffic and the madness certainly eat away at anyone’s sanity and manners. Therefore, frequent vacations to more relaxing and comfortable places are a must! (Maybe that’s the real reason for the 3 week-long holidays)

The nightlife hasn’t been as 厉害 crazy, fun, active as I expected. Despite, or maybe because of, the proliferation of new bars and clubs, the late night crowds were far smaller and more tame than I expected.

Not that I expected otherwise but, friends and friendships are very fluid here. Reasons include 1) people constantly come and go so solid friendships are hard to make and keep, 2) the city is so big and people work so much and there are so many demands for an individual’s time that it can be difficult just to spend much time with friends. This situation leads to common feelings among expats of loneliness and isolation.

Perhaps related to the above, but also for many of its own reasons, dating can be extremely difficult here, especially for a 176cm tall white girl. I certainly had trouble finding quality guys with a mutual interest in dating. :: sigh ::

Given the cosmopolitan nature of Shanghai, its surprising there’s such a dearth of fantastic restaurants in Shanghai. There’s an abundance of mediocre restaurants but sadly a lack of world-class restaurants.

Being a USC alum has been a huge asset for me. The USC name carries weight here. There is a huge alum base out here which acts as an automatic resource and network of contacts for those who choose to use it. USC facilitates interaction between alums making it that much easier to use the network. Many of my closest friends in Shanghai are USC alums.

In the end, Shanghai is a great city and I look forward to returning and resuming my life here after my 8 month on-the-road adventure.


  1. Irene |

    Hey Toffler!
    long time not seen ^_^
    (*hehe, my daily sentence ain’t?

    let me see, where to start.
    first of all, it is indeed hard to sustain friendship.
    people (*incl. me too) are so busy with doing …….ehm….stuff….((*cause more you cannot call it) that they sometimes forget the big picture, namely that you exist to Live a Life.

    so, what is friendship?

    i think it is the intention that counts. it is not so much the number of times you meet eachother. nor the countless times you spoke to eachother…….otherwise i would be best friends with my voicemail………

    intention counts, cause even someone calls her/himself a friend of yours. what will he/she do when you really need to count on her/him? what are their intentions in such a case? do they help you? do they try to help you? …… they bother?

    i hope i do not sound like a cynic or so, icic, but it is hard to call a bond between persons by a name such as friendship. is it not better to have it left unsaid, but to have it acted accordingly………

    do not just ‘be’ a friend, act like on

  2. Keith |

    Have a nice trip.
    About Shang, sometimes anything can be drugs which you know is bad but can’t get rid of it.

So, what do you think ?