How can we make Shanghai more foreigner-friendly?

This week the Shanghai government invited selected foreigners to give them suggestions on making the city more foreigner-friendly. My invite was lost in the mail...

This week the Shanghai government held its annual meeting with foreign representatives who were given the chance to offer suggestions on making the city more foreigner-friendly. Unfortunately, my invite seems to have been lost in the mail, so now’s my big chance!

The Shanghai Committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference invited a group of expats, including consular officials, scholars and representatives of sister cities, to share their ideas about making Shanghai an even better place.

I totally agree with some of their ideas, like simplifying the visa application process for foreign experts wanting to come here to live and work. Others, like those related to foreign-invested research and development centers, are a bit out of my sphere of understanding.

So naturally, I have a bunch of my own ideas that would not only make Shanghai more Andy-friendly and more foreigner-friendly, but also more everyone-friendly. Some of them I’ve discussed before, some are new. Here goes!

Ban spitting on the street

I talked about this recently, and it may not seem like a very important matter but I really think that banning spitting on the streets will do much to improve Shanghai’s image among international visitors. 

Unfortunately the loud, dramatic spitting some people like to partake in is one of the things many foreigners take home with them. Shanghai could lead the pack and be the first city in China to make the move to spit-free streets.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

People wait in line as a train is arriving at a Metro Line 2 station.

Promote politeness on the Metro

Everyone’s seen those signs asking Metro passengers to let people get off before getting on, but many refuse to be polite riders. The same goes for elevators: Let people off before you barge on, for Bob’s sake!

I’m not sure how this can be fixed, but perhaps more staff could be stationed at Metro stations reminding waiting passengers to calm down and wait for people to get off before rushing on to find that one spare seat.

Place more importance on Chinese proficiency

Engaged and integrated foreigners are a great thing, but China’s foreigner work visa points system recently changed, halving the amount of points awarded for Mandarin proficiency. When the new visa points system was introduced recently, a maximum of 10 points were offered, giving foreigners a great impetus to improve their Chinese. 

Now, just five points will be bestowed upon you for your hard work. Placing more importance on Chinese proficiency would be a great move for Shanghai, helping to attract foreigners that are more interested in deeply understanding the local culture.

Andy Boreham / SHINE

A scooter rides on the pedestrian space on Shaanxi Road N.

Improve spatial awareness on the roads

There seems to be a bit of a lack of spatial awareness on the streets, meaning that many pedestrians, cyclists and drivers constantly encroach on, block and endanger others. 

Penalties should not only be handed out to vehicle drivers and cyclists who break the rules, but also pedestrians, because that’s where a lot of the problems begin. Fining pedestrians for walking down bike lanes or roads, and for standing two meters into the roadway playing with their phones, will mitigate the chain effects created by having to avoid them.

Increase pedestrian space

On the other hand, pedestrians may not need to infringe on roads and so on if there were more adequate footpaths for walking. 

And keep them clear and obstruction-free.

Increase penalties for rogue taxi drivers

I know the Shanghai government are already working hard on misbehaving taxi drivers who refuse fares, take longer detours, or keep smoking despite rule changes, but many of these problems still remain. 

Perhaps if harsher penalties were dished out — maybe more drivers could have their licenses revoked for breaking the law — then Shanghai would have an altogether better taxi service. 

Although, to be fair, it’s already much better than taxi services in other cities that I’ve encountered. Kunming, I’m looking at you!

Encourage the opening of a New Zealand pie shop

I often want to eat a nice, soggy mince and cheese pie, but I can’t find one anywhere! Can someone please open a New Zealand pie shop?

That’s it! Those are my quick suggestions for making Shanghai more foreigner- and people-friendly. They may seem superficial, but I think fixing these things would greatly improve Shanghai, not just for foreigners but for everyone.


Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A woman hails a taxi in downtown Shanghai.


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