Here you are - you've taken the plunge, upped sticks and moved to Shanghai. We congratulate you on your fine decision, you're going to love it here. Shanghai is a fabulous, vibrant city with so much going on
it might all be a bit hard to take in at first. Yes, that is an old lady riding a motorbike with oven mitts attached to the handlebars, you're not seeing things. However, regardless of whether you've relocated from Beijing, Britain, Barbados or Boston, a few people back home may be a bit skeptical about your big move. Here are all the questions you're going to be asked by friends, family and the like after you've arrived.
A simple question to start with, but often the most difficult one to answer. Few of us can give a concrete reason to why/how we've ended up here – it's not like Shanghai is short of English teachers... Usually it's just a case of 'An opportunity came up, and I thought why not?' Or 'I was tired of living on my parents' sofa and moved thousands of miles to live in an apartment where I don't even have a sofa. God, I miss that sofa.' Some of us came for work; some of us came to study; some of us came because we were curious; some of us visited and decided to stay; some of us simply can't remember. What kind of question is 'why?' anyway?
Is it busy? No shit, of course it's busy. We're talking about a city of 24 million people here. And it often feels like half of them are getting on your train at rush hour. So yes, it's safe to say Shanghai is very, very busy.
Those of us who've moved from other big Chinese cities or places like London, New York or Mumbai are often used to the melee, but the wet behind the ears cai niao
amongst us who've come from more humble backgrounds can often be a bit daunted by the sheer density of people – especially when the population of your apartment compound is greater than that of your hometown. It's like queuing for the toilets at Glastonbury everyday, except you're not in a field at a music festival, you're trying to get onto an escalator at a metro station
It can often be hard for your loved ones to accept that you've actually left, especially if you've not only moved cities but also moved countries and/or continents. Eventually, they'll realise that you're not on holiday, or backpacking, or just on a trip to bolster your Instagram feed, and that you actually live in Shanghai. But this just raises other questions: 'How long are you going to stay for?' 'Is the air terrible?' 'Are you coming back for Christmas?' 'Can you come to my wedding?' 'What's this magical ayi you keep mentioning?' You have to complete a small quiz every time you check your email these days.
*Awkward silence* 'Sure. Keyi, keeeeyiii... No.'
If you're not a native Chinese speaker or someone who has studied the language, and given that you've just arrived in the city, chances are the answer to this question is no. You're armed to the teeth with apps like Pleco and Baidu Translate, but more often than not simply pointing at what you want coupled with your go-to phrase 'ting bu dong' has been getting you through so far. Your friends are baffled by you moving to a place where you can't understand the local language (they didn't react like this when you moved to Glasgow for university, mind). Sure there was that huge confusion with that taxi driver the other day, but that still happens to the best of us...
Chinese food, obviously. The food in Shanghai is incredible whether it be Shanghainese food, dishes from China's Eight Great Cuisines, or the delights of the best alternative Chinese cuisines, you'll always find something to satisfy your hunger. While your friends back home assume you eat noodles everyday (they're not far wrong, to be fair) you don't have the heart to tell them that you live right beside a KFC and that you had McDonald's for lunch yesterday. 'So, like, do their McDonald's have burgers and that?' they ask. Yes. Yes they do... Don't tell them that fortune cookies aren't a thing here, we don't think they'll be able to handle it.