Do you like living in Shanghai?


This blog post is actually taken from an earlier post I sent out earlier before I really began blogging on my site so if you think you’ve read this before, it’s because you have (and good on you for reading my emails)!  I feel that this is a good time to resurrect it as I’ve edited some parts in it and well, the timing is just good.

Now that I’ve been away from Shanghai for the last 2 weeks, I’ve had some time to reflect on my lifestyle in Shanghai – especially, when people ask me what is it about Shanghai that I like.  And since I’ve been in Shanghai for close to 7 years now, I feel like my opinion of living in Shanghai has matured to a point where I can give a more precise account, and backed by some experience for good measure.

If you’ve been following my updates recently, then you know that I’ve been involved in some of the Canadian events that have occurred over the past couple of months.  I’ve met a lot of wonderful people through these events and when people you meet the first time introduce themselves, the inevitable follow up question is usually “how long have you been here?”.  Although it may seem 7 years is ‘long’ for expat standards, I’ve recently met a handful of expats that have been here for over 10 years!  The comments that follow usually go something like this: “You must really like it here?  But Canada is so beautiful!  Hong Kong is better!”  This is when I have to go into the whole “good & bad” spiel which is just getting boring after the 50th time.  Well, now I have a new perspective on the matter that you may share as well.  It’s been bubbling and toiling up there in my noggin’ and I’ve been lucky enough to bump into this quote on the world wide web that really captures my feeling about the whole thing:


Via the book: Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation 


“A city that was ten times larger than its neighbor wasn’t ten times more innovative; it was seventeen times more innovative. A metropolis fifty times bigger than a town was 130 times more innovative… the average resident of a metropolis with a population of five million people was almost three times more creative than the average resident of a town of a hundred thousand.”


Now, I’m not saying Torontonians are stuck in the Dark Ages, I love Toronto.  In fact, the older I get, the more I appreciate it.  And hanging around with so many Canadians in the past 2 months has really brought out my patriotism – I am really proud to be Canadian.  But I do feel Shanghai has a lot to offer in terms of opportunities for growth and self-development.  With a population over 20 million people living in this megalopolis, there are bound to be exciting things happening!  There is such an entrepreneurial spirit in the air and I think it’s due to all these emerging markets that have yet to mature like they have in the West or in developed cities like Hong Kong.  And it’s the excitement of innovation, the development of the economy, the changing traditions, the melting pot of cultures, the grittiness of the old contrasting with the budding new, and the constant shift in trends and inventions that makes living here in Shanghai so irresistibly captivating.  I also find that the longer I’m in China, the more I appreciate the nuances of Chinese people and culture.  Sure, my ethnicity is Chinese, my parents are Hong Kongnese, but I grew up in North America and that means I know next to nothing when it comes to understanding mainland Chinese mentality and customs.

The evolution of my opinions and perspectives has been a very interesting journey and adds to the allure of Shanghai.  Some projects may fail, some may lead to success, or I may miss the boat on a lot of other ones.  It may seem even overwhelming at times.  But I’m in China – arguably the most exciting country to be in during this day in age.  Not only that, but in Shanghai, the most exciting city in China.

I love Toronto and Hong Kong, but I also love Shanghai – especially when you’re doing something you are really passionate in, and being in Shanghai really compounds that effect.

The problem now is finding all those opportunities of innovation and capitalizing on them in such a mammoth landscape.  And guess what?  You’re in luck!  You can capitalize right now – by signing up for this week’s ACT class.


  • Tony

    Great article! Keep writing, you’ve inspired me to put my thoughts on paper!

    • Alan Leung

      Thanks man! Appreciate the comment!


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