Ingrid: Work Travel Balance
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Shanghai, etc.
Ni Hao! I’m Ingrid from California and moved to Shanghai in September 2013. My husband and I moved here together for work and we’re really excited to live in this amazing city. We both grew up and went to college in Southern California, so when this opportunity to work and live in Shanghai came up for us, we decided to dive head in and embrace this very unique experience.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started this blog as a way to share our daily lives with our family when we decided to move to China. I also hope that my blog posts are helpful to other expats living in Shanghai or those considering a move here. This blog documents our story living as expats in Shanghai. We love to eat, so you will see lots of posts about food here. We also love to travel and will use this opportunity to see more of Asia, so I will also be posting our travels around Asia.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Air Pollution Q&A – I wrote this entry in December 2013 when the air pollution shattered meters and broke records. My friends from all over the world sent me questions about the pollution, and I tried to answer them here in this entry. I especially love the picture in this entry that shows how foggy the air became.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Shanghai differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My new life in Shanghai couldn’t be more different than the one back in SoCal. We used to live in a single family home in suburban Orange County, now we live in a high rise apartment in the ever so busy Lujiazui. We traded in our cars for subway cards and now have to deal with seasonal weather instead of living in perpetual perfect weather…. not to mention how different the people here are! We definitely experienced culture shock and are still getting used to living in a completely different environment.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Shanghai? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Nope… but that made it all the more exciting for us! We had never been to Shanghai before, so we really had no idea what to expect. We read a few people’s blogs and talked to a few other expats, but we were both working and didn’t have much time to investigate Shanghai before moving. If I could change one thing, I would have taken more ownership of this move rather than totally rely on the corporate relocation company. It’s a big move and we really should have given it a bit more attention. I would also suggest a short visit before moving. Our work timeline didn’t permit a trip, but it would have definitely reduced the cultural shock for us.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
On the very first night we were in our apartment, we bought some basic things, including new bedding. So of course I wanted to wash them and make the bed. So off I go to figure out the laundry machine that's all written in Chinese. Everything was going pretty well, until all of a sudden... BAM... and all of the lights go out.... and then the best part.... there is a faint burnt smell in the apartment.
We both run over to the breaker box and can see that it had tripped. Without saying anything to each other, we both realized at the same time that it was probably pretty stupid to run the washer and dryer at the same time. We had actually burned out the breaker for the entire apartment and it took 2 days to get it fixed. Getting it fixed is another real funny (but scary) story. Let’s just say they fixed it without turning off the electricity to the apartment. I need to blog this story someday.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Shanghai?
- Don’t get upset - Living in Shanghai can be exceedingly frustrating, but take the bad with the good, and don’t let the little things get to you. People will spit all over the place, push you, lie to you, and then try to scam you. Laugh it off and then go take advantage of Shanghai by getting a delicious bowl of hand pulled noodles and have some ice cream delivered to your door.
- Go local – You can easily pretend like you still live in the US or Europe here in Shanghai. The comforts of home are nice, but give the local stuff a try. Instead of that super expensive imported cereal, try the little steam bun shop sometime. It’s not only delicious but will be easier on your wallet too.
- Monitor the air quality – The air pollution is definitely the worst part of living in Shanghai. Get the monitoring apps, get some masks, and definitely buy an air purifier for your home. I’ve written quite a bit about air pollution on my blog, but you can also find tons of resources with a quick Google search. Tiny particles that can enter your lungs are no joke.
How is the expat community in Shanghai? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community is huge! There are expats from all over the world and with all kinds of interests. With the help of the internet and sites like InterNations, we’ve been able to meet a few like-minded fellow expats. Although to be honest, we’ve been spending a lot of our time working and traveling, so haven’t really developed much of a social circle.
How would you summarize your expat life in Shanghai in a single, catchy sentence?
Wow that’s a hard one! Life in Shanghai is fascinating, there is always something new to see, do, and eat.