Shanghai Survival Guide

Over the semester, I’ve come to love living in Shanghai. Reflecting back on my time here, I’ve had the opportunity to do a ton, so I feel like I have some authority on the best things to do in this city. If you’re thinking about studying abroad in China or just stopping by Shanghai for a short trip, I would highly recommend these three spots:

  1. M50- This art district is a great area to explore unique galleries, shop for traditional handcrafted goods, and get a nice coffee. There’s a bit of everything going on here (even a tattoo parlor among all the galleries). To
  2. Changfeng Park- Right across the street from my campus is one of the largest parks in Shanghai. It’s known for its huge lake and Ocean World (basically an aquarium, Sea World hybrid). Parks in China are nothing like parks in the United States. There are so many different areas to explore. From crowds of old people jamming out to karaoke, groups of old men playing majiang, people of all ages pedaling in duck boats on the river, kids riding amusement park rides, or simply finding a spot for a picnic, you won’t run out of things to do. It’s also a nice place to go to be completely surrounded by nature for a little while.
  3. The Bund- The waterfront area is one of the most well-known parts of Shanghai. Because of that, it can be overhyped to some extent. Regardless, going at night is the best time to get an amazing view of the city’s famed skyline, including the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. There are a ton of great restaurants, shops, and activities to do. It can feel a little touristy during the day, so I’d recommend stopping by during the evening or nighttime. A few of my favorites include The Foreign Language Bookstore, The Captain, and Mr. and Mrs. Bund.

A running theme among all three of these spots is that there’s a lot of variability in options of what to do once you’re at each location. Plus all of them allow you to walk around and stumble upon new things in each place’s surroundings. That’s the reason that I’ve found myself drawn to each  places multiple times and thoroughly enjoyed it every time.

As for food, I have a hard time recommending my absolute favorite just because I try to only go to every restaurant one time, so that I can explore new ones. One of my top ranking stops is RAC Cafe. It was one of the first restaurants I went to in Shanghai. It’s a French-inspired cafe, well-known for their unique crepes. The atmosphere is really relaxing, especially in the outdoor patio. Some other honorable mentions go to Wagas, Liquid Laundry, Maya, and the dumpling dian on Jinshajiang Road.

For all of the fun I’ve had, the semester was not without challenges. Adapting to a totally different culture took a short adjustment period. To get ahead of the curve and overcome that hump a little faster than most, follow these tips!

  1. Bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer everywhere- Public bathrooms (including most dorms) often do not provide either. It’s not a super pleasant
  2. Convert at least $200 into RMB before arriving- You need a way to pay for dinner and other necessities when you arrive, plus it’s nice to not have to worry too urgently about figuring out the banking system asap
  3. Get a reusable water bottle- Tap water is not consumable, so little water jug dispenser things are everywhere. It’s nice to take advantage of them when you see one rather than buying water bottles constantly.
  4. Completely forget about the rules of western social etiquette- A lot of things that are considered rude in the west are completely socially acceptable in China. Being aware can’t let yourself get offended by what others do
  5. VPNS AND WECHAT– Get a VPN before entering China!!!! I cannot stress this enough!!!! Download it onto all of your devices, so that you can use blocked sites. It’s important for communication and social media to stay connected to your friends at home but also all the new people you meet in China.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of China tips, but they’ll definitely help with settling into life here.

Think of this post as a little Shanghai study guide! These are a few great things to know and to be aware of when first arriving in Shanghai. It’s been a learning process for me, like I mentioned earlier, but I’ve had a fun time exploring and getting to known Shanghai better and better as time goes on.