Shanghai is a truly modern, international city. It’s the fashion capital of China. It’s not as cold as Beijing, or as swelteringly hot as Shenzhen. There’s a thriving nightlife and cultural scene. You can continue your hobbies from home here.
It’s one of the best places to live in China but is it one of the best places to learn Chinese? I’ve listed some factors to consider below.
Shanghai is one of the most expensive cities in China. Rent, tuition, Western food, and even local food-it’s all more expensive than other cities in China. There’s 25 million people here, they all need to eat.
Rent will be the biggest expense if you choose to live here. You can expect to pay a minimum of 4-6 thousand RMB a month, and even then you’ll probably have to share. I got incredibly lucky with my apartment this year, it cost exactly 6000. But I live a long way out of town.
Transport, like most places in China, is relatively cheap. A 30 minute taxi ride will cost you somewhere between 20 and 40rmb on average. The subway is very well developed, as is public transport overall. Even though I’m miles away from the city center, it only takes me 30 minutes to reach Jing’An by bus.
Food can be killer. Expect to pay western prices for food and drink in Shanghai. There’s more foreigners in Shanghai, so there’s more foreign food options.
But it’s not just Western foreigners. My neighbourhood is full of Japanese and Korean expats. You can get food from all over the world in Shanghai, if you know where to look.
Shanghai is big enough to make it into whatever you want it to be. That’s why I moved here. I love Sichuan, and Sichuan culture. But Chengdu can’t be anything other than Chengdu. There’s not much variety in the city. Shanghai, on the other hand, has everything.
You can live exclusively in the expat bubble and be relatively happy. There’s enough foreigners in Shanghai to make it feel like ‘wherever your friends are from’. This is a trap which a lot of people fall into. It’s the reason people say you can’t learn Chinese in Shanghai.
The truth is that Shanghai is what you choose to make it. If you choose to live in a more Chinese neighbourhood. If you choose to eat local food. And if you choose to make local friends. Then Shanghai will be a perfectly immersive environment. But you have to make it that.
Shanghai is a major tourist hub. It has more foreigners than any other city in China, there’s a wide range of schools to choose from. I’m going to put together a post about some of the schools I’ve attended in Shanghai at some point. I promise. For now, just take my word on the following.
Shanghai has more private language schools than any other city in China, bar Beijing. Some of them are definitely below par. But most of them offer free demo lessons. Shop around, find one that suits your needs and personality.
Shanghai Jiaotong and Fudan Universities are two of the best schools in China. Both have well regarded Chinese language courses. And *drum roll* you can study there for free with a scholarship! This is something I’m considering myself, for next year.
It goes without saying. A city of 25 million people is not short on opportunities; be they professional or personal. There’s a lot going on in Shanghai.
Planning to transition into the working world? Shanghai is a great starting point. Salaries are higher, and there’s a greater variation in the type of work you can find.
In the majority of towns and cities in China, the only job for foreigners is English Teaching. It’s not for everyone. In Shanghai you can find work in financing, publishing, advertising, or event planning. It’s a popular destination for entrepreneurs.
Socially, the glamorous Shanghai nightlife is always going to be an attraction. This is, afterall, the fashion capital of China. There’s a lot of beautiful people around.
Shanghai has no shortage of pubs, clubs, and restaurants. People like to go out here. There’s something to suit everyone’s tastes.
There’s an international vibe too, like London or New York. People from all over the world come here. It’s an interesting place to be. There are lots of interesting people to meet.
I know I’m at risk of repeating myself here. But Shanghai is what you make it.
The city is huge. You can mould your life here into whatever you want it to be. Is it the best place to learn Chinese in China? It can be, if you choose to make it so.
Shanghai has some of the best Chinese schools in the country. It can be pricey, but you get what you pay for. You can immerse yourself in the Chinese language and culture, if you choose to. You can also come up for air whenever you want. The nightlife here is amazing. There’s professional opportunities that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
So what are you waiting for? Come to Shanghai and learn Chinese!