Expat Life in China

Jie and I were recently interviewed on The Common People Podcast. The podcast is run by high school classmate and friend Jason Halpern, who asked us about our time living in Shanghai and traveling through Asia.

I have not had the chance to listen to the full episode yet but as a big podcast listener, it was a lot of fun appearing in one for the first time.

Feel free to listen to the episode here:


So Much For That Long Weekend

This Wednesday is the Dragon Boat Festival, which means most Chinese companies are off Monday through Wednesday. A five day weekend. Sounds great right?

Except here in China, whenever there is a holiday, most companies require you to work the weekend before or after to make up for the time off from the holiday. So in the days leading up to the Dragon Boat Festival, employees work seven days in a row until their time off. This happens even for more prominent holidays like New Year’s and Chinese New Year’s.

What are the reasons for this arrangement? People I have spoken with suggest that it’s a way of giving people holidays in larger blocks while also minimizing time off. The theory is this will promote travel and spending.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d much prefer a long weekend (Saturday-Monday off) than a marathon week followed by a chunk of time off. Maybe they can just give the date of the holiday off while keeping weekends work free? Sure you don’t get a chunk of days off but you also don’t have employees straining to get through seven straight days of work either.

What do you think?

A Trip to Pizza Hut

There is a Pizza Hut outside of our shopping complex. It’s a small location, used predominantly for delivery, unlike the fancier sit down Pizza Huts you usually find in Chinese malls.

A few days ago, Jie and I decided to give it a try, eager to put the quality of a Chinese Pizza Hut to the test.


the sign says “Pizza Hut express delivery”


Approaching the Pizza Hut, you can’t help but notice the row of motorbikes adorned with the Pizza Hut logo. Deliverymen, wearing orange wind breakers, move in and out, either heading out with pizza boxes stacked high or coming back for a new order. Delivery is very common in Shanghai where even McDonald’s delivers. Read more of this post

Fashion Trends in Chinese Gyms

Yesterday, at the gym, I couldn’t help notice the outfits that some of my fellow gym goers were wearing. So I thought I would snap a few discreet photos and share them. While the resolution on my iPhone camera isn’t great, I still think you can get the idea.

don’t you live the color combo – and his headphones are actually pink

Read more of this post

Yuanshen Stadium

Jie and I live right across the street from the  Yuanshen Stadium sports complex, a square block filled with a 20,000 seat soccer stadium, a basketball arena home to the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks, a swimming arena, tennis courts, a gymnastics center, a skateboard park, not too mention countless outdoor courts and fields for recreational use.

a view of the complex from my building

Two things have stood out to me about this complex: 1) the main stadium (shown in the picture) has features that you would never see in a large US sports stadium and 2) it is so user-friendly that the track surrounding its pitch is often available for public use. Read more of this post

Springtime in Shanghai

It finally arrived.

After a few months battling the winter here, made all the worse by the absence of central heating, April has ushered in a transformation to Shanghai’s weather. Gone, seemingly overnight, is the dreary, rainy winter. Where a warm, sunny day would be book ended by a week of cold, haze and wind. Shanghai has a much more welcoming feel now. I hear this pleasant season will disappear by May as the oppressive summer humidity sets in, but for now I’m really enjoying it.

This past weekend, Jie and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather (70’s and sunny with not a cloud in the sky) to walk through Century Park, Shanghai’s largest park. It was a fantastic way to spend a Saturday, reminding me of spring in New York, even if the park charges admission (common in China) and was packed with people (“China crowded”). Read more of this post

Hair Styling

I have gotten feedback to share a bit more on the quirkier aspects of living in China. Notes from a recent haircut at a hip salon provide for some good fodder.

Why did I go to a salon in the first place?

Hair salons are not typically my thing. I come from a school of thought that says when my hair grows long cut it short then when it starts getting long cut it short again. I’m not looking for fancy style or to try something new.

However, even this simple method of getting my haircut poses a problem here. Sure my Chinese is getting better every day but beyond using the words “haircut” and “short” I don’t stand a chance communicating clearly with a barber. The last thing I want is to end up with half of my head shaved while the other half is in braids.

Read more of this post

Quick Travel Update

Being in Shanghai rather than constantly on the move has been a disincentive to blogging. I’m just not as excited to post on the mundane day to day activities as I would be about life on the road. Not to say of course that life in Shanghai isn’t interesting or busy. I just prefer writing about travel.

Anyway, I wanted to share with everyone that I have a few trips coming up so I plan to bring back my inner travel blogger shortly.

Jie and I will be heading this Wednesday to her hometown of Xi’An, the ancient Chinese capital,  as we both have some time off for the Qingming Festival. Xi’An is home to the Terracotta Warriors as well as having the world’s largest city wall so I’m very excited to be visiting. Read more of this post

Thunderdome on the Shanghai Metro

It’s been a long stretch since my last post. Whether its been writers block or a dearth of good ideas, I’m ready to get off the schneid.

So I figured I would share a small nugget about living in Shanghai: what it’s like on the metro.

I have to preface this by coming clean that I’m an avowed NYC Subway person, for better or worse. It’s convenience can’t be matched and it has character (maybe sometimes too much). So I always view metro systems through my Subway prism.

In many areas Shanghai’s metro stacks up favorably. The system is new, clean, efficient, and reasonably well connected through the city (though not nearly as extensive as New York). When I ride the metro here I’m confident there won’t be any delays. And the numbering system for the exits makes it quite simple to navigate once you have made your way above ground.

However, it’s always packed, closes at 11pm and transfers between lines require half mile underground treks. Read more of this post

My Chinese Language Progress Report

It’s hard for me to believe that I have been studying Chinese intensively for more than six weeks now. While I have a long, long way to go, at least I can express myself in the language (even if it takes a few attempts for people to understand what I’m saying).

What has surprised me most is how much time each day I spend learning and studying Chinese. At this point, it almost feels like a job. In fact, my efforts at looking for a job have been overshadowed because of the time commitment I have made to learn Chinese.

But the more I study it, the more I enjoy the language and the more determined I am to keep improving. Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: