Why the hell I’m going back to Shanghai?

In February 2012 I was back to Pudong airport. I was coming from my hometown, in Sardegna, after the holiday of Spring Festival.

In Sardegna as usual there was the sun, the sky was blue and nobody ever heard of 2.5 PM particles.

Instead, the air of Shanghai was highly polluted and, as usual, it was pouring down.

“Why the fuck I’m back to China?” was my first thought.

But it was a rhetoric question. Both my job and my girlfriend were in China. I knew why I was coming back.

This year the situation is different. I’m again in Italy for holiday. But I left my job and I broke up with my girl.

I don’t even have a ticket to China. I actually have a one way flight Rome-Bangkok.

Yet, I decided to go back to China.

This decision is highly irrational. It’s only based on the fact that I miss China (and especially Shanghai were I was living in the last months).

I may change advice during the three weeks that I’ll spend in Thailand. But I doubt so.

Anyway, this article is my first attempt to discover why I want to go back to Shanghai, beside the feeling of missing it.

Pro and cons of living in Shanghai

Pro: I still want to improve my Mandarin so Shanghai looks like a wise choice.

Con: Everything in Shanghai – the air, the water, the food – is heavily polluted.

Pro: Right now Shanghai is one of the most important economical center of the world: there are a lot of business and career opportunities.

Con: Shanghai is bloody expensive (with respect to most of Asian cities excluding Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore).

Pro: In Shanghai I can walk into a club alone and come out after twenty minutes with a beautiful girl that I’ve never seen before and which isn’t following me for money. Just looking for adventure. This is much more difficult in smaller and less international cities where people’s mentality is more conservative.

Con: Living in such a big metropolis requires much more energy that it would require living in a smaller town.

Pro: Shanghai is packed with clever people. Every time I go out I meet some interesting people (and I’m not only talking about beautiful women).

Con: Not only the food in Shanghai is polluted, it often hasn’t any taste at all (especially the meat). I hate it!

Pro: In Shanghai you find very Chinese neighborhoods (or clubs) and, at the same time, quite international venues. Hence you have the opportunity to choose. This is a positive feature to me as in China I sometimes need to talk with other foreigners.

Con: The traffic.

Pro: I love how I can go out and get cheap food in any corner of Shanghai.

Con: In China Internet is a shit. Half of the websites that I need for working are blocked and the other half are bloody slow (even my own websites).

Pro: In Shanghai there are people on the street at any hour of the day. I lived almost five years in North France where sometimes there was nobody even on Saturday night. I hated it.

Con: In Shanghai it rains. A lot.

Pro: As for all rich towns, in Shanghai there is no shortage of beautiful girls. And I love how Chinese girls wear miniskirts even in winter.

Con: In Shanghai – as for any Chinese city built on the South of the Yangtze river, – there is no central heating. And winter is bloody humid.

Pro: Even if Shanghai hosts almost 20 millions of people, if you live in the city center you can virtually arrive anywhere within 20 minutes by bike or taxi (unless you are going to Pudong but I seldom go there). This doesn’t happen in Beijing.

Con: You need a VISA to stay in China and this is always a pain in the ass (yes, even when you have a regular job).

Pro: I live abroad since 2005 and I’ve never looked for Italian people. I actually spent almost two years without speaking Italian language (if you don’t count the conversation with my family via Skype). Lately I found that I miss my language and my people. Hence I like the fact that Shanghai is packed with Italian people.

Con: Shanghai is packed with Italian people LoL. I sometimes find it weird to meet Italian people outside Italy. I can clearly see how their behavior is different from anybody else. And I feel as I watching a fucking mirror.

Pro: I love the old compounds of the ex French concession. Kind of a town inside the town.

Con: I can’t see myself living in Shanghai forever. I believe that this city is awful for starting a family (yes, I do want to have children one day).

Pro: I love Shanghai subway system.

Con: I’m far away from my hometown (it takes me at least twenty hours to travel from Shanghai to Sardegna).

Pro: If you want to travel around China Shanghai is a good place to stay as it’s quite central and there are fast trains that depart for a lot of destinations.

Con: I find the foreign community living in Shanghai a bit more “shallow” than the one of Beijing, where there are much more cultural events, concerts and so on. This is a wild generalization but, in my opinion, is justified by the fact that the most important Universities of China are in Beijing while Shanghai is much more a “business” city.

Pro: Traveling from Shanghai to any other Asian city is quite easy and cheap.

Con: In Shanghai finding a decent apartment for a reasonable price is a mission impossible.

Pro: I have few friends in Shanghai. But they are all adventurous, clever and funny people. And I miss them.

As you can see isn’t easy to choose. My conclusion is that I love Shanghai for the excitement and the opportunity that only a huge international city can provide to you while, after three years of China, I’m getting tired of the “dark side” of the Middle Kingdom (pollution and bad Internet in primis).

Why are you still in China?


  1. Alfredo says

    well, unfortunately any place in the world isn’t perfect. as you correctly wrote there are Pros and Cons. Maybe what changes are the exigences, so maybe now Shanghai is YOUR perfect place (even if there are lots of aspects that you ate) and in the future it won’t be. As we say “Home is where your heart is”, but also where your job, love, friends and dreams are! I wish you will always find the right place at each period of your life, be positive and enjoy this great experience that will surely enrich your mind and soul :)
    Buona fortuna!

    • furio says

      Hey Alfredo,

      I agree with you. As your exigences change, so your “perfect” place to live does. When you are young and looking for adventure, Shanghai is probably the right place to go in 2012.

      Conversely, if you are looking to start a family Shanghai would probably be the last spot to start with : )

      Thank you for the comment and good luck to you too!

  2. Beth says

    Hi Furio!

    Your post is great, thanks for writing! It made me think of myself, being another expat living in Shanghai for nearly one and a half year, and who will be here for more than that! I constantly ask the same question to myself, because from wherever you are coming, it is always irrational to come back to Shanghai. Besides, I am the sort of person who likes silence and being alone (mostly). Shanghai would have been the last city for me to reside in.

    But ( there are always buts, isnt there? ) I love Shanghai, love China, love Chinese language and people here, love everything this country has to offer me.

    I agree with all of your Pros and Cons. My biggest Pro would be that I change my mind all the time, well, like in every five minutes my mood changes. So I need everything, every kind of possibility.

    I need silence, need noise, need solititude, need many people… So I think Shanghai is the best for me
    (not for my healt, though).

    Keep writing, we love reading them and good luck in your final decision!

    • furio says

      Hey Beth,

      thank you for the message. It’s good to know the point of view of other people living in Shanghai.

      I received several emails telling me “You look so sad,” but nobody of those guys/girls live in China. I think it’s really hard to understand our feeling of loving/hating China all the time without having been here for at least one year.

      I don’t think I’m sad, I’m choosing to come back even if I don’t have to. What I don’t really understand is why I do miss China and Shanghai so much haha

  3. says

    Aloha Furio,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. As a travel writer living in Hawaii, with 20 other destinations planned this life, I enjoy reading about life in China. I knew China was polluted, but I had no idea it was that bad. Likewise, I had knew nothing about the differences between the cities. Your incites are helping me understand so much more about “that strange land over there.” lol.

    Keep up the sharing. Love life and good luck with the dating scene.


    • furio says

      Hi Jim,

      thank you for the comment!

      Yup, I guess it’s difficult to get the difference between Chinese towns if you have never been there…

      Hawaii… this must be interesting haha

  4. nina says

    i am nina, an architect from serbia.
    i love your web site! i used to live in shanghai in 2011, and hopefully i am going back in a few months! but now, i am going with my boyfriend. it will be much better enjoy china together!

    all the best for you! enjoy your life as you did till now!

    ci vediamo! ;)

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