China Internship Program

Living in Shanghai

Shanghai is a world-renowned international port city situated on China’s Eastern coast. The city’s location has supplied its name; Shanghai means ‘above the sea’. To the north lies the estuary of the Yangtze River, to the west the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and to the south is Hangzhou Bay. The city’s convenient location has made Shanghai the most influential economic, scientific and technological centre in Eastern China, blending a perfect mix of the modern and the traditional, the west and the east.

Established as a small fishing town around 453-221BC, Shanghai has slowly grown into a hub of international trade, taking advantage of its access to the Yangtze River and nearby canals. In 1842 the British, Americans, French, Germans, and Russians moved in, building their own western-style developments, providing Shanghai its unique assortment of architectural styles. The city flourished as a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis, dubbed as the 'Paris of the East' in the 1920s. By the 1990s Shanghai was chosen to front modern China's reform, and has been an extremely successful international city ever since.

Climate in Shanghai

Shanghai has a subtropical monsoon climate, with four distinct seasons; spring and autumn are cool and moist. The hottest months are July and August, with temperatures as high as 35 °C. The coldest period is late January to early February, with averages of 4 - 6 °C. It rarely snows in the winter, but thermals are well-recommended to survive the chilly temperatures.

There is a high rainfall from mid-June to early July, as well as typhoons occurring around August and September. During these times it's a good idea to carry an umbrella! Transportation

As Shanghai is such a large international city, travelling within the municipality is relatively convenient and simple. However, there is often a problem of traffic during rush hour, so bear this in mind when planning travel time; the city has the world's largest public transport system, so often the subway is a quicker option (and cheaper) than taking a taxi.


Food throughout China is extremely diverse, and each region has its own specialty dishes and flavors. Shanghai City is no different; Shanghai Cuisine has two styles: Benbang Cuisine and Haipai Cuisine.

Benbang Cuisine literally means 'local cuisine' and is a traditional cuisine that appeared in Shanghai over 100 years ago. Using fresh fish, chicken, pork and vegetables as the main ingredients, Benbang Cuisine always has a great flavor, cooked with oil and soybean sauce. Haipai Cuisine means 'all-embracing cuisine', and is derived from the cosmopolitan culture formed at the end of the Qing Dynasty. It combines many cuisines from other regions of China, as well as some western cuisines, adapting them to suit local tastes. Fresh fish, shrimps and crabs are the main ingredients of Haipai Cuisine. Both Benbang and Haipai Cuisines taste fresh, with subtle sweet or spicy flavors.

Popular Shanghai dishes include Yan Du Xian, a delicious stew made with pork, ham and fresh bamboo shoots. Qing Chao Shan Hu is an eel dish, stir-fried with bamboo shoots, yellow wine, soybean sauce, and ginger. A more unusual Shanghai specialty is the 'Hairy Crab'; often served with vinegar and ginger.

A great place to try the local cuisine is the Lao Zheng Xing Restaurant, one of the oldest restaurants specializing in traditional Shanghai dishes. The restaurant can be found on Fuzhou Road, in Huangpu District, with recommended dishes including Ba Bao La Jiang; a slightly spicy dish of stir-fried shrimps, chicken, pork and bamboo shoots.

For those missing food from home, Shanghai boasts numerous Western style restaurants all around the city; most cravings will be catered for. Popular American style restaurant, Element Fresh, serves authentic American food, such as sandwiches, salads and noodles. There are currently three different branches of the restaurant around Shanghai. A recommended German restaurant also has three branches within Shanghai. Paulaner Brauhaus offers traditional German food and drink, including sausages, mushroom soup, and black German beer.


There are many things to see in Shanghai City, including natural sights, historic monuments and modern structures. The city features temples, museums and gardens, and provides great attractions for both tourists and residents alike.

Yuyuan Garden is the largest ancient garden in Shanghai, with Ming and Qing Dynasty architectural styles. The garden is made up of six different styled areas, including the Grand Rockery in the centre of the garden. Near the garden is the city's God Temple of Shanghai, where a number of local snack shops scatter the streets.

The Jade Buddha Temple is one of the most famous Buddhist shrines in Shanghai, featuring White Jade Buddha statues brought from Burma in the 19th Century, while the Oriental Pearl TV Tower is the modern symbol of Shanghai City; standing at 1536 feet, it is the tallest TV tower in Asia.

Old neighboring water towns, like Zhujiajiao and Qibao Ancient Town are well worth visiting; an opportunity to experience ancient houses huddled along the rivers that run through the towns, with their flagstone-paved roads and local flavors; it's a unique chance to see what Shanghai may have been like in the distant past.

Cost of living in Shanghai

China in general is a relatively cheap place to live, and living Shanghai is no different. Like living in any city, the amount of money you spend really depends on the type of lifestyle you choose: eating in western restaurants every day and shopping for western brands would really increase your living costs, but there are plenty of opportunities for cheap food and bargain shopping.

Living on a tight-budget is definitely achievable in Shanghai. An average Chinese meal can cost between 12 and 30RMB, buses and taxis are relatively cheap to use, and essentials, such as shampoo, washing powder, toilet paper, can all be bought cheaply, particularly if using Chinese brands. Tipping is not a Chinese custom, often a tip left on a restaurant table will be mistaken as money you've forgotten - don't be surprised if a waitress or waiter runs after you to give it back! In general, it should be possible to live on a budget of roughly 2000RMB (excluding accommodation) - it is advisable to plan a monthly budget to ensure you spend wisely throughout the semester.