Meeting people in Shanghai, whether locals or expats, will be substantially easier than in any other city in China. Due to the city’s cosmopolitan nature, you will find more people here speaking English and its also the number one destination for expats in China.
With that, building connections in Shanghai has its peculiarities, and you may need to do a bit of research before exploring your options.
Getting connected to social media would probably be the first thing that comes to mind when in a foreign country. However, things are a bit different in China when it comes to social media. Most popular social media tools including Facebook and Instagram are blocked in China ‘ there is a roundabout way of accessing them through a VPN (virtual private network), but the use of VPNs is illegal in the country and could lead to problems if you do it openly. You will also not have access to Google and Youtube.
Fortunately, there are perfectly legal and accessible alternatives to international social media. Wechat is currently China’s number one social and professional interaction platform with one billion active monthly users. It encompasses several tools: a chat app that also lets you make calls and send voice messages; a social platform where you can post pictures, videos and other updates; a business platform letting companies advertise and create groups, and even a mobile payment system that you can use for all sorts of purchases in China.
Other popular digital platforms include Sina Weibo (similar to Twitter), Tencent QQ (a messaging app), Toudou Youku (similar to YouTube), Baidu (the country’s number one search engine and an alternative to Google), and others. Mastering these social media platforms will come with a learning curve ‘ but after some practice, they are sure to become useful tools in your network expansion.
A great way to meet like-minded individuals no matter where you are is to look for someone who shares your hobbies or interests. There are lots of clubs and groups in China started by both expats and locals that aim to bring together those who enjoy similar activities. You will find clubs relating to various sports activities (Bashers Cricket Club, the Shanghai Tigers, Shanghai Hockey Club, etc.), book exchange and literary clubs, travel clubs, and more.
Signing up for a Chinese language course can be a very efficient way of gaining new acquaintances. Chinese language courses are available at Shanghai universities as well as private training facilities ‘ and you will quickly find something to fit your schedule or budget.
Alternatively, you can always attend one of the many expat meetups in the city.
Finally, you can let the city do all the social networking for you. With plenty of events, restaurant and bar openings as well as a fascinating nightlife on any day of the week, Shanghai will never leave you bored.
You can stay on top of the events and mixers happening in the city by putting some of the city’s popular digital magazines like SmartShanghai, That’s Shanghai, Time Out Shanghai, and others.