Shanghai is a perfect place for someone like me – Someone with a mix cultural background (Read more about my earlier life here.) I feel more at home when I am with westerners since there’s a huge expat community, so I find myself strolling down Wukang Road（武康路）in the evening to enjoy a piece of quietness from the bustling city. I also have a stomach that craves for authentic Asian food from time to time, and Shanghai undoubtedly is the food capital of China. Luckily, Shanghai holds both qualities and could even offer much more.
Yet, even if you are just traveling to Shanghai, the cultural behavior of local Shanghainese could shock you sometimes. I acquired some life hacks after a month living in Shanghai, and I have a few tips here for you to practice at home before you visit Shanghai:
#1. IGNORE TRASH CANS EVEN IF THEY ARE RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.
There are trash cans on almost every corner of the streets in Shanghai, but they are mostly just for decoration. Here’s a story: I was heading over to IKEA the other day. While crossing the road, I saw two men walking in front of me bending down and picked up a red paper box. I thought they were picking up trash on the ground, but when I walked pass them, I realized what they took was a box of cigarettes, and I am 100% sure it wasn’t theirs. The next moment, one of them threw the plastic bag in his hand directly at me (not on purpose) although he just walked by a trash can.
#2. IF YOU HAVE AN URGE TO SPIT, SPIT IT OUT. MAKE A SOUND, TOO.
The best thing about living in Shanghai is you don’t need to hold it back if you got something stuck in your throat. Just spit it out and make yourself feel comfortable. It’s also not rude at all to make a loud sound when you need to spit.
#3. FEEL FREE TO PEE ON THE SIDEWALK DURING DAYTIME.
In Shanghai, as long as you have the courage, the city is your toilet. Here’s another story: I was on my way to work, and I saw a man with his pants’ zipper wide open peeing on a tree. I wasn’t sure if he had too much to drink since it was 10 o’clock in the morning, but He looked more like he just decided to stop and take a leak on the sidewalk when he was on his way to work. Well, no biggie. You gotta do what you gotta do!
#4. BE PREPARED TO HAVE A FIGHT WHEN GOING IN AND OUT OF THE METRO.
Forget about letting people out first. Get in the door as soon as it opens. If you happen to stand near the door, protect yourself because people will bump into you. On the other hand, if you want to get out of the metro, raise your elbow and attack anyone who’s in your way. Don’t even apologize because people would only look at you weirdly.
#5. GET AN ELECTRIC SCOOTER OR BICYCLE AND RIDE IT ON THE SIDEWALK.
Having a scooter or bicycle can increase your mobility in Shanghai, and it’s 100% okay to ride them on the sidewalk. You can ride in the opposite direction, too. Doing so will save you lots of time. If pedestrians are in the way? Just honk or run them over.
#6. WHEN CROSSING STREETS, CARS COME FIRST.
Unless you are planning for your own funeral, don’t expect Shanghai drivers would let you cross the streets first despite the fact that it’s your turn to cross the street. Shanghai “car” drivers don’t run red lights in general, but scooter riders or cyclists do it all the time. In addition, every city has different rules when it comes to making a turn on a red light. Apparently, in Shanghai, it’s okay to make a right turn at a red light, so crossing the streets here could be a risky task.
#7. PERSONAL SPACE AND PRIVACY ARE OVERRATED.
Don’t be surprised if strangers comfortable lay their arms on yours when riding the metro. Don’t get offended if people keep pushing you when you get in and out of the metro neither. There are securities screening your bags, too when you enter every metro station. It’s for public safety, obviously.
Serious Notes: Only suitcases or backpacks need to go through x-ray screening. If you are only holding a handbag, all you need to do is open your bag show the security what you have inside. There’s no point to wait for your bag to go through the x-ray (This is for real.)
Now you’re equipped with some of the most valuable skills you need to travel and live Shanghai. Are you ready to embark the adventure? Or are you also a Shanghai expat? Share some of your tips with us!
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Also published on Medium.