Shanghai is the mainland's top city for expats again, but what do you love about living here?

In case you didn't know, Shanghai was recently voted, for the sixth year in a row, the most attractive city for expats living on Chinese mainland. Are you surprised?

In case you didn’t know, Shanghai was recently voted, for the sixth year in a row, the most attractive city for expats living on the Chinese mainland. Are you surprised?

I know I’m not, mostly because I know how popular this city is for people from all over the world who are looking at dipping their toes into the big, mysterious world of China, without losing too many of the comforts they’re used to back home. 

Shanghai is a very convenient, international city — some even argue it’s not the “real” China — so cultural shocks are kept to a minimum.

The title of “most attractive city” for expats living on the Chinese mainland wasn’t just awarded willy-nilly, though. Oh no!

It’s organized by China’s State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs and looks at four indexes: expat-friendly policies, governmental administrative capacity and working and living environments. The top 10 ranking is then voted on by foreigners actually living in China, which this year totaled 30,000, as well as input and ideas from a 68-member jury of top foreign talent.

But what is it that foreigners love so much about living here?

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

An expat enjoys spring sunshine and tranquility at Xujiahui Park in Xuhui District.

One of the main attractions would have to be that the Shanghai government seems to be spending a lot of time and energy recently to change cumbersome policies and cut red tape, as well as introducing brand-spanking new policies and incentives to attract and keep talented foreigners in the city. (One thing I wish they’d change back is giving 10 points on the work visa system for Mandarin proficiency, which was recently hacked in half to just 5 points — I don’t understand that, since integrating is surely important.)

Bureaucracy in China is quite “well-known,” and any foreigner who lives or studies here knows that things usually took a long, long time to get done. I always joked with fellow students at the four Chinese universities where I’ve studied about how China would have become the most powerful country in the world many years ago if they just worked out how to get things done quicker.

I’m super excited that it’s actually happening now, at least in some places across China and definitely in Shanghai, in order to make living and working here much less stressful. Bravo!

Another thing that people love about Shanghai are the myriad opportunities to enjoy arts and culture, not just from this city and around China, but from all over the world.

More and more famous international exhibitions and performances are hitting the streets, museums and theaters of Shanghai, and during any one weekend you will definitely be spoiled for choice. 

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Shanghai Disneyland's first major expansion, Disney Pixar's Toy Story Land, has just opened.

A couple of things I will definitely check out are Shanghai Disneyland’s new Toy Story extension (love those movies!), the upcoming Shanghai International Film Festival in June and the international street art festival at Sinan Mansions starting Sunday.

Another thing I absolutely love about living here, which I’m sure many others agree with, is the scale, pace and energy. You can pretty much guarantee that many expats living in Shanghai come from smaller and less-energetic places — that’s a given due to the city’s size and the immense speed at which we are powering into the future.

Of course, there are also negatives, but you didn’t expect to have your cake and eat it, too, did you?

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