- Download our Shanghai Schools Guide
Shanghai lies on China’s central coast and is split by the Huangpu River; its many streams and canals are the veins pulsing a vibrant energy throughout the city. As one of the world’s most populous cities, expats moving to Shanghai will be among many individuals with similar stories and yet diverse backgrounds who collectively create and enjoy the city's buzzing lifestyle.
Over the years, Shanghai has been doted on and described using phrases such as the "Paris of the East" and the "Pearl of the Orient". While the metropolis has been uniquely shaped by local and international influences, it carries its own identity as a major economic hub, boasting one of the largest ports in the world. Among its many attractions lies the Bund, the famous riverside promenade which hosts the best places dining and shopping – along with Nanjing Road.
While Beijing is perhaps more likely to capture the imaginations of those looking to move to China, Shanghai has functioned as a gateway for commerce between the East and the West for more than a century. The city continues to be the gateway to China's vast economy and is the country's leading financial centre. Its willingness to attract international business and its adaptive spirit mean that Shanghai’s foreign population continues to grow steadily. Among them are some of the best and brightest in fields such as finance, biomedicine, high-tech industries and education.
Expats moving to Shanghai for a job opportunity become part of this skilled workforce, often hired or transferred by of the many international companies that continue to open branches in a city on the cutting edge of global economics. However, hand in hand with the wealth of opportunities and modern skyscrapers carving out a unique cityscape comes the high cost of living.
For decades, Shanghai has grown upwards and sprawled outwards, with glass, concrete and steel sprouting up between ancient temples, forest parks and traditional neighbourhoods nestling distinctly Western-looking areas and suburbs. While this has provided security and comfort to an international population, life in Shanghai can become isolated, as parts of the city have perhaps forsaken some of their local flavour in adopting a more international character.
Nevertheless, expats relocating to Shanghai face many of the same concerns as those moving elsewhere in the world – finding the perfect accommodation and settling on the best school for expat children.
The city’s uniquely Chinese cosmopolitanism has contributed to a glamorous character defined by vast magnitudes of people, spectacles and colour. Expats considering making the move to Shanghai may encounter challenges but equally overcome them and experience a whole new world.
►Read our list of pros and cons of moving to Shanghai for a balanced overview
►Start the home search by reading the Expat Arrivals guide to Accommodation in Shanghai
"Go out and explore! That’s going to be how you’ll get to know Shanghai and how you’ll begin to find aspects of the city you love. Also, many of the little treasures Shanghai has to offer might only be found when you really look for them." Read about Jordan's experience relocating to Shanghai in this interview.
"For a huge city, the community feels tight-knit and you feel extremely at home. The quality of life is great – there are so many interesting, fun things to do and see here and I am constantly soaking up the excitement. There are many expat supermarkets, schools, or Mandarin teachers who cater specifically to foreigners, which makes the quality of life great." For more insights into moving to Shanghai, read our interview with Georgia.
Are you an expat living in Shanghai?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Shanghai. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.