Famous for its skyscraper skyline and its vibrant urban history, Shanghai is China’s main financial and business hub. With a population of over 25 million people and up to 9 million overseas tourists visiting the city every year, the city is busy, cosmopolitan and very popular with expats. In fact, it has been continuously voted as the most attractive city for expats in China.

Geography and climate

Discover Shanghai
Discover Shanghai

Literally translated as ‘upon the sea’, Shanghai sits on the coast of the East China Sea and stretches between the Yangtze River in the north to Hangzhou Bay in the south. The city is one of the world’s largest ports and China’s key commercial and industrial centre.

Shanghai has a humid subtropical climate and, while here, you will experience all the four seasons. The coldest months of the year are January and February ‘ while the temperatures rarely fall below zero, the humidity makes the ‘feel like’ temperature much colder. Factor in that there is no central heating in Shanghai, and you will easily understand why most residents choose to wear winter jackets indoors.

In summer, July and August are the hottest with the temperatures rising to up to reach 35°C. Paired with high humidity, the heat can get intense ‘ but you will find the relief of air conditioning in every building in the city.

One thing to pay attention to when living in the city is air quality. Even though a lot of improvements have been made in this regard in recent year, Shanghai still does experience hazardous air quality days and it’s recommended that you monitor air quality in real time on a government website or through a dedicated app.

Population and language

With over 24 million residents, Shanghai is China’s most highly populated city and one of the most populous cities in the world. The city is home to close to 200,000 registered expats and over 300 million tourists visit the city annually.

While Mandarin is the official and primary working language in the city, the majority of the population speak the Wu dialect (also known as Shanghainese). The dialect is quite different from Mandarin and even natives from different areas of China often have trouble understanding each other.

The language barrier can be a problem in Shanghai ‘ especially once you venture out past the city centre and touristic establishments. However, as more and more young people are picking up English, getting around the city without the knowledge of Chinese is sure to get easier.

Expat life

As mentioned above, Shanghai is China’s most famous city with expats. Due to the city’s colonial history and general openness to western influence, living in Shanghai will be much easier for a foreign national than living in most other cities in China, including Beijing. You will have access to a variety of amenities including a developed transportation network, comfortable apartments, easy connection to other cities in China, well-known international restaurant and coffee shop chains ‘ and plenty more.

Despite Shanghai’s hectic nature, the city is a very safe place to live in ‘ but it does come at a price. It’s the most expensive city in China and one of the most expensive cities in the world when it comes to real estate.

Some of the other cons of living in the city may include limited access to some social media like Facebook and Instagram

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