1. You will not survive one week without a VPN
When your friends and family are half way across the world and you absolutely must post the old lady driving a scooter with oven mitts attached to the handle bars, onto your insta story but China has banned it. Zen me ban? Or in plain English, what can you do? A virtual private network will be your best friend — diverting you outside of the Great Firewall of China and allowing you access to your fave sites — Instagram, Facebook, Google, SnapChat, YouTube now even Whatsapp?!
2. Bulk buy tampons
Sorry ladies, but unless you wanna pay a fortune for these tiny absorbent gems I’d stock up in your home country. Chinese people just don’t use them so they’re rare to find. This is also why no Chinese woman will go swimming whilst on her period. Or eat ice-cream, drink coffee, or even come to work — but that’s another story!
3. Your passport is sacred
As a foreigner you need your passport for literally everything. Booking and collecting plane tickets, train tickets, bus tickets, hotels, registering with the police, going to the hospital, renewing your visa, opening a bank account, getting a sim card, signing a housing contract, sending money home, collecting race packets for marathons, signing up for online payment systems such as Alipay and WeChat, registering for shared bike systems such as Mobike or Ofo. If you lose it, you’re honestly screwed.
4. Learn Chinese
You can just about get by without knowing any Chinese, or knowing the bare minimum. Shop owners are fluent in crazy foreigner body language but it’s well worth your time and money to invest in a tutor. It makes life more interesting and much easier. There are plenty of options when you arrive in Shanghai for classes, one-on-one tutors. Or from experience, get a Chinese boy/girlfriend. Frantically shouting at each other in Chinglish is possibly the most hilarious thing you’ll experience — but on a more serious note, their local knowledge and ease of moving around the City will drastically decrease your stress levels.
5. You are a unique butterfly
People, particularly old people will stare at you and ask to take your photo. They are more often than not completely harmless. Humour them, or politely say no by waving your hand gently and shaking your head. If you wish to practise your Chinese say “bu yao” 不要. This directly translates to “don’t want” but it’s said enough in everyday language for them to understand what you mean perfectly. Fancy levelling up? Challenge them to a staring competition by locking eyes with them. Trust me, you’ll lose.
6. You might get a tiny bit fat
Unless you have serious self control, those pounds might pile on. Chinese food, particularly Shanghainese food is heavily seasoned with sugar and oil. Of course when you first land you want to try every single delicious and weird thing. Xiaolongbao and dumplings — just yes, so much yes. Chickens feet and pigs knuckles, maybe skip those. Traditional breakfast foods, cheap roadside noodle carts, hole in the wall dumplings stores, hot pot restaurants, all you can eat teppanyaki. With every single worldly cuisine available you might wanna turn to one of Shanghai’s free fitness communities to balance things out.
7. You might get lazy too
Last night I scrolled through my phone looking for something tasty to eat. I’ve almost forgotten how to cook and haven’t had a single ingredients apart from milk in the fridge for weeks. With the incredibly convenient and cheap delivery services I placed an order and my freshly made dinner was in my lap within 9 minutes. Granted that was a record breaking time, but seriously even I couldn’t believe that. China’s millennials are really embracing the digital platforms for purchasing online and with delivery as fast and as cheap as it is I don’t blame them. You can order clothes, food, cigarettes .. I’m not even gonna keep listing, you can buy everything online and get it delivered to your door.
8. But you will have bum muscles of steel
Your squat will be on point — especially if you plan to travel within China during your stay. Most traditional toilets are “squatters” and you just need to man up and do it. It’s really not that bad. Shanghai has fewer and fewer of these toilets thanks to their international status but if you travel to local villages or even the outskirts of Beijing this is not the case. Always carry tissue, hand sanitiser and wet wipes with you if you want to remain a sane sanitised person.
9. There are only two seasons
Summer and Winter. The humidity is so intense that you will immediately break a sweat when you step outside. The only way to survive the Shanghai summer is to chill by a rooftop pool, head over to beach it up in Hong Kong or go river hiking. Scorching summers will send locals into air-conditioned shopping malls, but I’d recommend escaping the City and spending the summer cooling off instead of dying in the heat. Winter is equally frustrating, no snow and no central heating leaves Shanghai at odds. Make the most of this weather by visiting the ice sculptures in Harbin or taking refuge in your favourite coffee shop.
10. Shanghai is the most incredible City in the world
Sometimes daily life is complicated and confusing but the culture will warm your heart and give you a deeper meaning to life. The opportunities that expats get in Shanghai are phenomenal — the community supports foreigners in ways you can’t imagine and you can experience local and foreign culture in terms of food, travel, art, sports, architecture, education and modern trends. Shanghai is always one step ahead of the game.