Shanghai life: my new normal

I’m coming up to 8 months in Shanghai now, and my threshold for “normal” has shifted a bit since living here. Here are some of my observations and experiences to date…

  • Witnessing people spitting on the street is frequent and unavoidable. While I can mostly zone it out, sometimes that hawking and snorting noise is just piercing to the ear… not to mention I occasionally have to duck and weave to avoid globules of spit landing on me. It’s just lovely.
  • Crowds, crowds, crowds. This is not exactly surprising in a city of 25 million people, and in fact I’m quite lucky to be able to avoid throngs of people most of the time (given that I live close enough to walk to work and not take the metro at rush hour). However, attempting to go to any touristy places during national holidays is a BAD IDEA!
  • When the man turns green at a traffic light I no longer assume this means I can safely cross the road. Vehicles still turn on a red light, crosswalks are meaningless and scooters will frequently drive on the wrong side of the road. If I make it through 3 years here without injury, I will count myself lucky.
  • I’m getting used to seeing everything through a haze of smog varying from slight to dense. A good day is when the AQI is under 100!


  • A cashless society is real and not far away! With Wechat wallet and Alipay, I’m able to pay with my phone at a majority of shops and restaurants these days. I can also transfer money directly to friends which is extremely handy for splitting the bill or buying tickets to events.
  • Construction work usually takes place at night to avoid disruption to businesses. Disruption to sleep for neighbouring residents is low on the care factor apparently…
  • I’m increasingly taking advantage of bike sharing companies to get around. Due to various government regulations cracking down on non-local drivers, it’s getting harder to find a taxi… however bikes are EVERYWHERE! I can grab any bike, unlock it with my phone using a QR code, then leave it at my destination when I’m finished and all for the low price of 0.5 RMB (about 10c AU) per half hour. Due to the number of bikes which have flooded the streets recently, there are new regulations cracking down on share bike parking so we’ll see how long this lasts…)
Bike parking 101
  • I now get frustrated if I can’t order items online and pay by Wechat. Chinese online shopping is awesome.  I order everything from groceries to pot plants to furniture directly through my phone, and it usually arrives within a day. I can even order coffee or other meals to be delivered or picked up at a certain time. My new favourite website is Baopals (an English-language version of Taobao, which is basically the Chinese ebay). I am pretty sure there is nothing you cannot buy – for example,
  • Chinese people love dressing up their pet dogs in all manner of outfits. Dogs regularly have shoes and jackets on. I even saw a dog wearing an air filter mask once (the owner was not).
    This is a ridiculously common sight in Shanghai

    What else will I discover as time goes on? I look forward to finding out 🙂

    More photos on Flickr here


One Comment Add yours

  1. Margaret Toolin says:

    Ha ha … you won’t ever be bored in this amazing city.


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