Expat from Berlin: “My experience with Shanghai”

by Alex
17. August 2015
Shimao Riviera Shanghai. Beautiful view of the world famous river.

Shimao Riviera Shanghai. Beautiful view of the world famous river.

I was born and raised in Shanghai, but moved to Berlin when I was 10 years old with my family. When I went back to Shanghai as an expat I did not really know what to expat. Anyway, this is my story from the expat life in one of the most interesting cities in the world.
When I first came to Berlin, I thought: “this city is not as great as I once imagined“. Many people, especially Chinese, hear the stories of a “big capital” in Germany, but the reality is a bit different.

Especially in relation to Chinese cities. The first things my parents said to me while walking the streets in Berlin was that:

it is so empty, so quiet and there are no people to be seen in the streets!.

Stress, but fun

Shanghai is pure stress. Even though I am working a bit out of town, walking the streets outside my office is very stressfull. You are always surrounded by skyscrapers which all of them look just like a little slice of heaven. On the other hand, Shanghai is an exciting city and I always discover something new while walking around in the streets in Shanghai.

Although I am now almost exclusively for vacations there, but to walk alone on the street is stressful. It is surrounded by skyscrapers and looks just a little slice of heaven. On the other hand, it is an exciting city – I always discover something new on the streets of Shanghai.

Shanghai bune, pearl tower view

A view of the Shanghai Pearl tower from the bund

Young culture – Berlin versus Shanghai

In Berlin, the street culture fascinates me in a different way. The city offers many opportunities to young people in the world famous “subculture” downtown. If you ask any European on what he or she thinks of Berlin, they will all say something “hipster” or “subculture” related. You really are free to do whatever you want when you are a young “artist” in Berlin.

In Shanghai there is no such subculture. During the week, there are hardly any young people to be seen in the shops and bars downtown. The students are too busy to adapt the Shanghainese lifestyle and are often living in a campus a bit outside the city centre. What you will see in Shanghai during summertime is a lot of tourists (mainly Americans), but they disappear more and more when its getting close to christmas.

Apartment situation in Shanghai

One big difference is of course the rent. Many of my Shanghainese friends have bought an apartment instead of renting one. This is partly due to the Chinese culture where owning is seen as a better alternative, but a tenant in Shanghai is not always the best thing to be. The landlord/real estate agencies do have a lot of power and will try to profit from you in any way.

However, there are some good real estate companies in Shanghai as well. You just have to find the ones who speak good English and will be able to find the apartment you are looking for.

Most of my friends have a husband and a children. The average middle-class family in Shanghai (like my friends´) share a 120 square meters apartment downtown. This would usually be a two-bedroom apartment located near one of the most famous roads (Huiping Road, West Nanjing Road or Fu Xing Road).

shnanghai apartment

Interior of high quality house in Shanghai