How Time Out helped me make Shanghai my home

A tribute to the magazine that has been a warm embrace and guiding source to every city dweller and lone traveler.

By Khushboo Khanna

We live in a metropolis evolving at a mind-numbing pace and through all the changes I’ve witnessed in my 8 years here, I have had one constant companion. This is my tribute to the magazine that has been a warm embrace and a guiding source on days I’ve felt lost and alone.


Photograph: Khushboo Khanna (Zotter Chocolate Factory)

It wasn’t all dreamy or rosy when I arrived in Shanghai back in 2015. As a 21-year-old unprepared newbie in the city, I came here not knowing what to expect. Like millions of other expats, I hoped against all odds that one day, I’d call the mega city of Shanghai, my home. But I was overwhelmed and lost, trying to catch up with the world around me that was going full speed in an alien tongue I was yet to understand.

When I first spotted it, perched upon a stand, in a camouflaged corner, was what appeared to be an English magazine called Time Out Shanghai. I cannot put into words how much relief seeing an English magazine brought me in that moment of confusion. It felt like some higher power in the universe had finally answered my prayers and extended a helping hand to hold, comforting me and letting me know that I’m not alone. In that moment, I found my first friend in Shanghai – my longest standing companion, and what 8 years later, on some dreadful days still feels like a comforting reminder of a shelf full of collected memories.

Time Out Shanghai became my go-to guide for exploring the city. Over my time here, I have stacked issues, earmarked pages, posts, and Googled writers, treating each issue as my holy grail and treasuring every new discovery in Shanghai. With each page, I felt empowered to walk the streets like I belong. I felt local. I knew where to find the best food, the best coffee or cocktails. I knew which band was playing at what venue and where the next big art exhibit would be.


Collage: Time Out Shanghai

The food section was my favorite part of the magazine. When I first decided to move to China, the most frightening thing was food because I have been vegetarian all my life. Thanks to features of must-try dishes around town, I was able to stay vegan for the first 3 years with complete ease! I saved money every month just so I could go to bars and try the fancy drinks I read about in Time Out and try the waffles or desserts that were pictured and tempted me so.

As a journalism student, I lived many of my Carrie Bradshaw fantasies imaging in my head — the last-minute panic of an edit bay, the FINAL draft of a post, the countless coffee-doused nights trying to give the humans of Shanghai the much-awaited next issue in time and all the blood, sweat and tears that must go into making this editorial. I have yearned for years to write for Time Out and even as I type this, now as a writer at the magazine, it is still a pinch-me moment for that clueless girl with big city dreams of one day belonging to Shanghai.


Photograph: Khushboo Khanna (Shanghai Disneyland)

For being my light at the end of what once seemed like an endless dark tunnel, and saving a slice of Shanghai for the record, I want to thank the whole team that has put out this incredible publication over the years. You made every newcomer to this city feel a little less alone.

It’s fascinating to me how almost 2 decades since the first time the Time Out brand was introduced to the Chinese audience, it continues to stay relevant and make millions fall in love with the city every week. I’m looking forward to stepping into yet another year with you being my trusted companion. I must admit, the ease of technology in China has converted me to more of a digital-first reader. I’ve grown to like how I can now conveniently favorite each post on WeChat from the official account that shows me something interesting. In 2023, I’m most looking forward to exploring all forms of digital content you will be putting out and can’t wait to explore more of Shanghai through your lens!


Photograph: Khushboo Khanna (Unicorn Star Art Museum)

Here’s to yet another year uncovering hidden gems and must-try food and events together, and helping many other lost souls make Shanghai their home.

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