Living in Shanghai Expat Guide

Living in Shanghai Expat Guide – that will be the topic of today’s article.

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Have you ever thought of becoming a Shanghai expat? Maybe you’re already in Shanghai, or you’re looking for some insight into expat life in a city that rivals New York and Paris in terms of modernity and boasts cultural dynamism. This need to know the expat guide for living in Shanghai is a great benefit.

Most expat Westerners come to China for work, and their company sends many foreigners on expat assignments. For many businesses with global ambition, China is only a jumping-off point for moving further to other countries. In our previous post, we talked about the pros and cons of living in China as an expat.

Living in Shanghai Expat Guide

However, Shanghai been one of the most populated cities in China, can be overwhelmingly intense. But this also means there are endless opportunities in the city. With a population of more than 24 million, Shanghai is certainly different from anywhere in the world. Also, it’s one of the largest and traditionally the most dynamic and developed metropolis that is also very busy and full of life.

Now, have you considered the benefits of moving to this wonderful city? If that sounds like a NO, this is the right platform. Again, if you’re wondering where expats live in Shanghai, we have compiled the popular neighborhoods where you can see and meet expat family and friends. Does that sound good?

Of course, knowing the right place to visit in Shanghai is a crucial way to start your journey in China. In this article, we will walk you through the pros and cons of living in Shanghai. Not only that, but you’ll understand the concept of living in Shanghai, the cost of living, and many others, to mention a few.

Facts Expats Should Know about Shanghai

Shanghai is always known as the Pearl of Asia and the Paris of the East. This is due to the fact that it’s a city of youth, commerce, and an international beat that runs through each Side Street and riverwalk. To ensure that you understand the benefit of moving to this city, take a look at the facts you should know.

1.    World’s Largest City

China is known for its crowds, and Shanghai is possibly the best example of this factor. This is because; this city proper population was 24 million people in 2014, and it’s continually rising. Shanghai’s extensive metro service is necessary to cover its many districts and keep this thriving city running each day. Moreover, Shanghai tops the list of world cities by population within an administrative area.

2.    World Finance and Cultural Center

Shanghai is a world finance and cultural center, and it has boomed in the last two decades because of China’s desire to see it become an international center of finance and culture. Also, many businesses thrive in Shanghai and offer new opportunities to China’s growing middle class and expats looking to broach the Chinese market. Besides, it has seen a constant rate of growth in fashion, art, and design.

3.    Transportation Powerhouse

Shanghai is also considered one of the transportation powerhouses in china. In fact, the longest metro system in the world spreads beneath the city of Shanghai with 400 miles of tunnels and track. Not only that, but the Shanghai metro has 393 stations spread throughout the city and connecting major attractions.

4.    Close to Beautiful Water Towns

Living in Shanghai Expat Guide

Located between 20km and 100km to the west of Shanghai are several ancient towns that use waterway-like roads. In these picturesque towns, locals and tourists alike travel around on canal boats, but a visit to these towns is an ideal day trip from Shanghai. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to explore.

5.    Blend of History and Modernity

It’s no doubt that Shanghai boasts a blend of history and modernity. When it was a colonial territory in the mid-nineteenth century, Shanghai was divided into British, U.S., and French concessions and a Chinese walled city. This way, many Chinese lived in the foreign concessions, which caused a blending of cultures that brought Shanghai a unique variety of architectural styles and a fascinating history.

6.    Shopping Paradise for Everyone

Hailed as the shopping paradise in China, Shanghai offers consumers a variety of products to choose, from high-end international brands to cheap local products; the benefits of shopping in this city cannot be overemphasized. Some of the famous shopping areas include; Nanjing Road, North Sichuan, Middle Tibet Road, Huaihai Road, and many others, to mention a few.

7.    Shanghainese Have a Sweet Tooth

Shanghai cuisine is characterized by rich red sauce, moderate saltiness, mellow, original flavor, and delicious taste. Some of the cooking methods that’s commonly used include braising and simmering. In addition to this fact, a fun fact of Shanghai food is using sugar as a core ingredient to cater to local tastes. The city’s top five dishes are; braised Jumbo, Chilli sauce, bamboo shoot soup, Sauteed Mashed Eei, and flash-fried river shrimp.

8.    Outstanding Modern Architecture

Nowadays, the Shanghai structure is all about first-class modern architecture. The world’s top firms, such as Foster and Partners, OMA, and UN Studio, have rushed to modernize the city. In fact, the iconic China Pavilion of the Expo 2010 was the first building to attain international fame. This way, the event’s largest pavilion attracted the most attention. Also, another building full of symbolism is the Bund Finance Center from 2017. This structure has a triple-layered façade that resembles a theater curtain.

9.    Home to Wonderful Parks

Living in Shanghai Expat Guide

If you’re looking to check or see the wonderful parks in the world, Shanghai is home to many. Thus, its urban policy includes widening sidewalks, building green corridors, squares, and parks, and many others. While Shanghai’s largest park is Century Park in Pudong, other notable parks are in the city. On the flip side, inside the French concession, we discover Fixing Park, over a century ago

10. Booming Cultural Heritage

As Shanghai continues to become more cosmopolitan, its interest in the arts and culture grew exponentially. Today, Shanghai homes some of China’s best museums, and the most distinguished one is the Shanghai museum. This museum displays more than 120,000 pieces of ancient Chinese art. Another extraordinary museum is the Natural History Museum, which is one of China’s largest.

Pros and Cons of Living in Shanghai

Shanghai is one of the most influential cities in China, a bustling and famous metropolis offering expats a fusion of East and West, modernity, and history. As with every city in the world, there are advantages and disadvantages to living in this city. Without further ado, below are the pros and cons of living in Shanghai.


Living in Shanghai Expat Guide

Variety and Convenience Housing

In Shanghai, you’ll definitely find mostly apartment-style housing, but there are also numerous villa compounds. Aside from this fact, you can find a combination of the two in the form of a penthouse. In China, one unique housing style is the so-called lane houses. Moreover, the most popular residential area in downtown Shanghai is home to thousands of beautifully refurbished old houses.

Lifestyle in Shanghai

It’s very easy to enjoy Shanghai life compared to other cities across the world. From its rich cultural history to sightseeing and its exciting nightclubs, there is plenty of interesting things to do for expats. In fact, art shows, music, and film festivals with international exhibitions are major things to explore here.

Great Educational Facilities

There are great educational facilities in Shanghai as of today. Also, each international school or college is totally different; however, all of them try and gather a remarkably qualified faculty team. The course outline and curriculum are also on par with any other school or college. This means the standard of education in Shanghai for the expat community is additionally on top of the usual.

Shanghai Is Inexpensive To Live

Depending on the location you live in, it can be extremely cheap to live in China. Besides, plenty of pundits define the U.S – China bilateral relationship as one of the most important in the world. In this city, your contribution to the team effort is crucial. That’s why we say Shanghai is inexpensive to live for foreigners moving to the country for the first time.

Clean and Safety

Just as we’ve mentioned in our previous post about living in China, your safety is guaranteed by the security measures place by the Chinese government. More so, Shanghai is very safe (police are everywhere and cameras as well), and many cleaners will sweep the city over and over. Meanwhile, change is constant in Shanghai, and you’ll never know what would come into your life when you wake up the next day, maybe a new cell phone app, a convenient service, or even a new metro.

Modern Infrastructural Facilities

When you’re thinking of Shanghai, images of huge modern skyscrapers will probably spring to your mind, right? Of course, yes! And that’s quite normal because the city has a modern and ultra-sophisticated infrastructure that’s designed to make your daily life easier.

Also, public transport, schools, universities, entertainment, health care centers, and accommodation are easily accessible even though living costs tend to be higher than in other Chinese cities.

Attractive Wages for Expat

According to a study recently published by the China briefing, Shanghai offers the highest minimum wage among China’s 31 provinces, which is around $382 per month in 2020. In summary, employees in Shanghai earn between $1,015 and $17,980 per month, depending on their profession. However, foreign professionals in Shanghai are also entitled to a lot of benefits besides their expatriate package of around $80,668 per year.



You can’t escape smoking as an expat living in China. In fact, don’t be surprised to see smokers everywhere. So, if you’re coming from a country that doesn’t smoke, adapting to this kind of environment could be difficult. That’s why it’s better to weigh your options before coming here.

Rising Cost of Real Estate

Some companies have abused this factor, and it pushes all the other prices up sometimes. On the flip side, they’ve been trying to cool the effects a bit with some rules. Meanwhile, if you have a local license in the country, you’ll likely buy a house without disturbance from a third party or government parastatals.

Living in Shanghai Expat Guide


Yes, we all know about this inconvenience, as we mentioned earlier in our previous post. However, Shanghai is not nearly as bad as Beijing, but we all remember those days where the pollution index was so high, and expat wasn’t allowed outside. To give you a sense of how bad it is, an average day in NYC is about 25, Shanghai is about 150, and Beijing is a whopping 400.

Segregation in Shanghai

Unfortunately, with the increasing foreign influence, we’ve noticed the gap between the locals and the foreigners or rich Chinese is growing. Moreover, some areas are purely local, where people sell fruit for a living and probably live on less than $20 a day. Then there are the highly developed and luxurious areas like the Bund where people are constantly living it up gradually. Although this is true of all cities but it just feels more obvious in Shanghai.

Language Obstacles

When individuals get to this megacity, there’s a long shot that they understand just how to speak, read, or create a lot of the neighborhood language. Besides, this can come to be an obstacle in so many means; at the workplace, out of the community, as well as a lot more. Also, relying on the individual’s resolution to find out the neighborhood language can take months or even years for one to speak well-enough mandarin to carry on standard conversations.

Best Areas Suitable for Expats

Shanghai is divided into two large areas, and they include Puxi and Pudong. The Puxi is the older area on the west of the Huangpu River, while Pudong is the newer area on the east. I’m sure that doesn’t sound confusing? Now, without much talk, let’s quickly walk you through the best areas for expats here.


Pudong is one of the largest Shanghai districts, and it lies on the east side of the Huangpu River. Also, it’s China’s biggest commercial and financial center, the Shanghai stock exchange tower and most of Shanghai World Financial Center, Jin Mao Tower, and Oriental Pearl Tower. So, this is one of the best places suitable for expats to live in today’s digital age.


Puxi is the second area on our list. It’s pretty much all of the fun stuff you can expect in Shanghai. Also, if you live here, you’ll view Pudong as some peculiar extension of the city and are unlikely ever to need to go there. However, both sides of the river have plus and minus points. While many expats with families would love to head for the southwest of the city to Gubei or Hongqiao, both of which are much more established expat communities than those in Pudong.

Suzhou Creek

Living in Shanghai Expat Guide

Suzhou Creek is an area that flows from Tai Lake all the way to the Bund in Shanghai’s Huangpu District. As a neighborhood, Suzhou Creek refers to the area around the river in northeastern Shanghai. During the colonial period, this stretch of river separated the British and American settlements. In the long run, it quickly became heavily industrialized, leaving behind an odd mix of colonial architecture and cold industrial buildings.


This is another area suitable for expat in today’s 21st century. Xintiandi refers directly to an affluent, car-free shopping and dining area in the central Huangpu District. This area is very fashionable but not like the former French Concession or Suzhou Creek. With that being said, you should also know that Xintianti has a reputation for being a little snooty, but it is worth noting for its preservation of old shikumen housing.


Wujiaochang is located way up in the northeastern Yangpu district. And if often goes unnoticed by many urbanites, which is also home to some of china’s greatest universities, including the prestigious Fudan, vibrantly growing every year. Because of its distance from the city center, the area has developed almost like a mini-city, with its own bar and Restaurant Street called Daxue.


Gubei is another place to reside in Shanghai. It is located towards the Hongqiao Airport in western Shanghai. Not only that but Gubei is known for its large Korean and Japanese expat populations. As such, this is the best place in the city to get a barbecue or sushi as an expat. Moreover, the neighborhood tried at one point to be a bustling bar area. Still, all that’s left of those plans is a small pedestrian strip with branches of popular chain restaurants and bars that attract older expats primarily.

2021 Travel Tips to Shanghai

If you’ve been planning to go to Shanghai, there are many things to put into consideration. Our teams of experts have highlighted some of the essential lists of things you need to know before you confirm your plan. Without further ado, below are the 2021 things to know before you relocate to Shanghai.

Best Time to Visit Shanghai

Shanghai experiences all the seasons, right from fiery heat of summer, to a breathtaking spring, to autumn, and actually a chilly but sometimes snowy winter with a regular dose of rains thrown in. with that being said, can you now see that you need to know the right time before traveling to shanghai. However, the best seasons to travel to this city are definitely spring and autumn.

What to Do at Night in Shanghai

Living in Shanghai Expat Guide

Sometimes, a night walk may not be safe for an expat coming to the city for the first time. This way, we advise you to know some of the things you’d love to do at night. Aside from this fact, also know that the city’s Puxi district is the perfect hub if you’re looking for action-packed nightlife.

Understand Shanghai Business Hours

Understanding the Shanghai business hours and its public holidays is quite essential. Moreover, the Chinese government stipulates a five-day workweek, from Monday to Friday, at the general 8 hours a day. Moreover, the normal business hours are generally from 12 pm to 2 pm while the restaurant is from 11 am to 2 pm and 6 pm to 9 pm in general.

What to Eat in Shanghai

There are tons of cuisines to look out for in Shanghai. However, food is a big part of Chinese culture, and if you’re coming to Shanghai, you must have a plan to try to taste all the best dishes and different Chinese cuisines. Besides, the tops that’d come to ones mind are dumplings and noodles.

Frequently Asked Questions about Shanghai

Why is Shanghai so special in China?

Shanghai is so special because it has been described as the showpiece of the booming economy of China. Aside from this fact, this beautiful city features several architectural styles such as Art Deco and shikumen, and the city is renowned for its Lujiazui skyline, museums, and historic building, including the City God Temple, Yu Garden, and the building along the bund.

What are the dos and don’t in Shanghai, China?

From the pros and cons we’ve highlighted in this article, you should be able to figure out some of the things that aren’t okay in the city. On the flip side, avoid being too physical when meeting Chinese people for the first time. This is because; they find it very uncomfortable for a stranger.

Is it good to make eye contact?

The Chinese people view eye contact as a necessary tool, but not in the same way that other cultures describe it. In China, people make eye contact when they are angry. More so, this kind of gesture is meant to challenge other person as a sign of disrespect. This way, if someone meets your gaze while traveling to China, you may need to apologize as soon as possible to avoid problems.


Living in Shanghai means that you’re living on the edge of China’s future and moving at the speed of light. This is because; the lifestyle is modern, dedicated with a little superficial attractions. Would you love to be an expat in Shanghai? Read through this blog post and follow our platform for more details.

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