Are you thinking about moving to Shanghai? Or maybe Shanghai is just a quick stop during your travels? Either way, you’re bound to have loads of questions before you take off. Here are the most frequently asked questions (and answers) before moving to Shanghai.
How do I get my visa?
China is one of the most difficult places to get a visa to. It’s no secret that there are a ridiculous amount of rules and regulations in general and it’s certainly no different when applying for a visa. The rules and regulations are constantly changing for the various types of visas. It’s highly recommended to hire a visa agent, like China Visa Service Center, to ensure you have all the correct documents, notaries, signatures, and so on. The smallest of things can set your visa back weeks or even months!
Help! I don’t know ANY Chinese…
When I arrive at the airport how will I get to my hotel?
There’s definitely an easy solution for this one! Download SmartShanghai and use the directory to find your hotel or any business you’re planning on going to. The business will have their English and Chinese address listed, as well as their phone number and the closest metro line. Simply take a screenshot of the Chinese address and show it to your driver to get where you need to go.
How will I pay for my taxi or anything for that matter?
All airports have a bank to exchange foreign bills for local currency. However, I don’t recommend this for two reasons. One, depending on where you are coming from, you’re likely landing after a 12-20+ hour flight and might be a bit jet-lagged. Exchanging currency is going to be the last thing you want to be doing. Secondly, airport exchange rates are typically a bit higher.
Instead of dealing with the hassle of exchanging currency in the airport, contact your local bank 2-3 weeks prior to your departure to find out their currency exchange options. Often times you will find this information right on their website and can fill out the exchange form online. The bank will withdraw from your account, exchange, and mail to your home within a few days. It’s a very simple and efficient process – and you don’t even have to leave your house!
Foreign cards are accepted in Shanghai at western businesses but often many places only accept cash, Alipay, or WeChat pay. If you are visiting, Alipay and WeChat pay won’t be an option. If you are moving to China, once you set up a Chinese bank account you can enable your WeChat pay and setup Alipay to make your life a thousand times easier.
How do I adjust to the time difference?
Everyone’s body and sleep patterns are different. Try to set your clock (and mind) to the local time when you take off and sleep on the plane accordingly.
Example: if you leave LAX at 9-am, it’s already midnight in China, so get on the plane and sleep for 8 hours. Wake up, watch movies, eat, talk to the nice Chinese woman next to you (this is a good chance to start practicing your Chinese) and when you arrive in China in the afternoon the next day you’ll be set. Your body may feel a bit off in the coming days but you’ll definitely be on a better schedule.
I’m also one of those obnoxious people that can fall asleep anywhere, so sleeping on planes is never an issue for me. If you can’t sleep on planes, ask your doctor for something to help you sleep during the long flight.
Do I need a VPN for that?
Most likely. If it’s anything Google related or social media, such as YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and now even WhatsApp, then yes, you’ll need a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on all your devices. Maybe even two!
When the Chinese government cracks down on VPN’s it’s NO JOKE! These days in society, going a week or even a day without access to ANYTHING is rough when all you want to do is send a message or upload a photo.
Set up your VPN before arriving in China as it’s very difficult and sometimes impossible to set up otherwise. Use my code to get 30 days free from Express VPN.
What’s the easiest way to communicate with family and friends back home?
WeChat. Plain and simple. However, often times many people will not want to download another app to communicate with one person. If that’s the case, there is always WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messanger, email etc. these are all dependent on VPN, so get that VPN setup and be patient.
Do I need to learn or know Chinese before arriving?
I tried so hard to be proactive before moving to China. Six months before my move, I went down to Barnes and Nobles and bought THREE, yes THREE, books to learn Chinese. I tried listening to the audio and practicing in the books but in the end, I didn’t learn a damn thing from them and ended up leaving the books in the states (in part because I forgot them).
Unless you have a native Chinese speaker nearby to get lessons from in advance, I suggest just waiting until you arrive. When you arrive, enroll in a Chinese school or find a private tutor. The longer you wait, the less likely you are to take your Chinese lessons very seriously as Shanghai is very easy to get by with no Chinese.
How do I meet people?
Since moving to Shanghai, I’ve joined a few communities where I’ve met 95% of my closest friends through. Without these communities, my life in Shanghai would be a very different story.
- Girl Gone International (GGI)
- California Meetup
- Shanghai InstaMeet
- Expat Neighbors
- Shanghai Brunch Club
- Bloggers and Freelancers
In Shanghai, it’s so easy to meet people! If you’re still doubting me, I wrote about Why You Should Join a Meetup Group in Your City here.
What is dating like there?
It depends on who you ask. For the most part, the same rules apply to dating in Shanghai as any western country. As with anywhere, there are pros and cons.
Yes, we have Tinder in Shanghai, but of course, you need a VPN to access as it’s connected to Facebook. There are also many local dating apps, one of the most popular being TanTan.
In addition to the virtual dating world, if you’re out and about at the gym, bars, restaurants or find a niche group that suits you, you’ll likely begin meeting not only friends but a potential mate.
What else do I need to know?
Whether you’re here for a visit or planning on staying forever, there are so many resources that will make your time that much easier. Download these 12 Must-Have Apps for Shanghai!
Did I miss something? Leave a comment below.