Updated: Feb 26
Since moving to China in July I have never really reflected on how convenient live here in Shanghai really is. With apps like DiDi, Meituan, ele.me, sherpa‘s, Taobao, JD.com, T-Mall, Chope, Bon App!... you get all the goods and services delivered directly to your doorstep. Delivery here in Shanghai is extremely reliable and punctual, most of the shops on JD, Taobao or T-Mall offer a 24 or 48h delivery (promised!) and if you just have too much time on your hand you can spend countless hours shopping and browsing to find what you were never looking for.
And after 4 months I have to admit: I like it. My wife has been against it for some time - now she orders more often than I do. We buy everything from toilet paper to butter, from sports goods to cleaning equipment and we have basically just started to explore even more possibilities.
I haven’t mentioned Alipay and WeChat yet. This is mainly due to the fact that these two apps are even more complicated because they offer a lot of services that are partially hidden in sub- and sub-sub-menus and to get there without speaking Chinese you need to be very patient and skilled with the Google Translator App. However, let me mention some of the perks you get from mastering some basic Alipay and Wechat functionalities: first of all you can pay everywhere with these Apps. No cash - no credit card - nothing. When I came here in July I thought I will get along without having to have a bank account and use Alipay or WeChat for payments. No chance. The first thing I had to get was a Chinese mobile phone number, after that I got my bank account and after that - we‘d been here for less that a week - I made my first payments through WeChat.
The second big thing is that you can basically organise everything from visiting a concert to buying train tickets or using shared bike services. The above mentioned apps provide all of these services through mini-programms. In my opinion, the user interface Alipay is offering is much more immersive and all the basic functions are easy to find, whereas you have to specifically search for mini-programms in WeChat first and after installing them they are hidden in the sub-menues. WeChat was originally designed to be a social media plattform and a chat/call tool like for example Skype or WhatsApp. Alipay follows a different approach and does not offer chat or call functionalities at all - but your can pay your phone bills trough a very convenient top-up functionality.
Nonetheless, both apps make daily life extremely easy and you do not have to use a ton of apps on your phone to get basic things done like shopping, getting from A to B, using public transportation or shared services, etc...
But there is more to convenience than apps or delivery services. You can basically get every service I would consider to be „luxurious“ for far less than you would expect. For example: you want to enjoy a nice 90 minute full body massage or a 60 minute foot massage including tea, vegetables or other snacks and other goodies? No problem - it won’t cost your more that 180 RMB. Or do you want to enjoy a great freshly ground barista style coffee close to the bund with your friends? Easy! In some places they make a great cup of coffee for less than 15 RMB. If you want to indulge yourself and your loved one on a Sunday afternoon at some of the nicest hotels in town, no problem: places like the Hyatt on the Bund or the Wanda Reign have tea time offers that will cost you less than 300 RMB for 2 - and the quality is impeccable. Or maybe you do not want to order food and eat out in some of Asia‘s best restaurants? They are just around the corner.
As a resident or visitor here it‘s a must to browse websites and magazines like „THAT‘s Shanghai“ or “smartshanghai.com“. There you will find all the up to date information and recommendations you need to make most out of your free time. No worries - the quality of what is being recommended there has been checked and confirmed by Expats and locals alike.
I will definitely miss Shanghai in regards to convenience, service and quality of living. It will take years and years for Western European countires to catch up and deliver the same reliable services in such an impressive and smooth fashion.
One more thing: my wife and I feel extremely safe here. I am not exaggerating by saying that I feel even safer than in some districts of Berlin, Hamburg or even Munich. There are many reasons for that (some of which include constant surveillance) but the results are beneficial to most citizens and we are definitely enjoying to be able to leave the house late at night, walk our way back home through the city after a night out or using the metro at any given time...