What's life in Shanghai like in 2019 (With an infant)

After a whirlwind of 3.5 months, our family is finally in one place, and we have successfully moved to Shanghai. Gone are the back and forth flights and the tedious paperwork for moving and visas.

When my husband first proposed that we move to Shanghai, I was very skeptical. The media in the west and Taiwan always feed people with very negative views on China. It is not until you have experienced this place first hand, when you realize how great it can be. 

I was first very concerned about air pollution. We have an infant and I would not want his lungs to get damaged. My husband and I visited Shanghai last year in winter, during when the air was the worst. It was not bad as I thought, the air was probably about as bad as Hong Kong on a bad day. However, when I arrived here in July, wow, the air has been absolutely amazing. The thing about shanghai is that there is greenery everywhere, and almost all motorbikes and buses run on electricity. The emissions within the city is much lower than other major cities I've lived in. On top of that noise pollution is less because everything is electric. 

Next I was worried about getting formula and food safety. 10 years ago, China shook the world with their poisonous formula which killed and permanently disabled children. That was a Chinese brand, so the locals started a buying spree of foreign made formula, which cause a shortage in Hong Kong. Fast forward 10 years later, we were able to find Enfamil at Carrefour here in Shanghai. They also carry a lot of other foreign brands. China has changed a lot, faster than you can imagine, in 10 years. I was here 10 years ago and I can barely recognize it. The laws and policing has become much more stringent when it comes to safety, physical safety, food safety.. etc People are encouraged to call out businesses, and the punishment (and shaming) is heavy. 

That's the thing people misunderstand about China. This country, is all about more and better. It is constantly improving. The quality standard has risen for everything, and so has the quality of living. 

The past month has been very eye opening and full on, in this post I'll be delving into these topics:
  • Baby: Ayi (nanny), getting formula and diapers with Carrefour app & delivery
  • Online Groceries: Hema
  • Online Shopping: Taobao, Watson's 
  • Payment: WeChat pay, Ali Pay 
  • Life: Water Filter, Air Filter, Recycling, Dianping (online directory for everything: nails/hair/massage/events/restaurant booking)
  • Transport: Didi (Uber), Shanghai Metro 
  • Takeout delivery: Meituan (Uber Eats/Deliveroo)

Everything Baby

This was the top priority before I even got off the flight. We had already found a nanny so she met us at our place after I landed in the afternoon. Even though I'm not back at work yet, it is still good to have a nanny so I can run out and do errands, and also have quality date nights with my husband. 

Generally with nannies in Shanghai, this is what you can expect:
  • What they are called: Ayi
  • Pricing: 40rmb per hour, 45rmb if it's overtime, outside of 9-6 on weekdays, and weekends plus holidays. 
  • What the Ayi does: cleans, does laundry, irons clothes, makes the bed, cooks, and takes care of the baby 

On buying baby products in Shanghai:

The funny thing we realized is that, some brands will rename the product (not the brand) and so we were really confused at first. For example, we are used to Mead Johnson's "Enfamil" in Singapore. We were only able to find "Enfagrow" in Shanghai at Carrefour (online order, next day delivery). They are exactly the same thing, even the packaging is very similar, just the name is different. 
Mamy Poko diapers by Unicharm Japan is also what we are used to Singapore. Everything is literally the same on the packaging here, except it's called "Moony". Why? I have no idea. Other brands like Merries and Pampers still use the same name. You can also order diapers on Carrefour's app for next day delivery. 
For other products such as diaper rash cream, baby powder, baby shampoo and mouth wipes aren't hard to find either. We generally order them from Taobao and have had no issues with "fake" items. But you can also find most of these at Watsons or mother/baby stores, bear in mind that packaging might be slightly different. 

Online Groceries: Hema (30min delivery)
Hema is an insanely quick grocery delivery app. They guarantee 30min groceries, and I usually get it around 20min. They have the usual: veggies, fruits, meat, bread, and toiletries. But they also have fresh seafood and sashimi, pre-made meals, and all types of alcohol (even in boxes of 24).

This is perfect if you're a mom and really don't have time to dash to the supermarket when you're just missing some spices or herbs. 

Online Shopping: Taobao

Taobao is like Amazon, on steroids. The prices are cheap, and though China is known for "Cheap" products, Taobao has a branch called "Tian Mao" which are official brand stores and zero knockoff products. 

Quick facts:
  • Taobao has 9.5 million stores selling anything you can think of
  • The platform has ratings, comments, photos/videos, and complaints for products to protect the consumer and to get rid of poor quality products
  • Customer service is incredible on Taobao. Most allow 7 day return with no reason required and no shipping cost. Furniture assembly and appliances installation is also free. 
  • Between 2003 - 2011, Taobao has created 2.7million jobs, and lifted entire villages out of poverty. 

We spent somewhere around $5,000 usd to stock up the entire house. You really forget all the little things here and there if you don't think about it. For example, hangers, organizer drawers, laundry basket, drying rack, tissue boxes, pots & pans, cutlery, we manage to forget that we need glasses and cups... 

The thing about Taobao is, it delivers as quick as within 12hrs, and usually within 3 days. All 50+ items arrived before my husband could back from his work trip, and I was still in Taiwan at that time. The moment he got back to our condo, the front desk was like "you live in unit number xxxx?", and pushes out two large piles of boxes. 

When I arrived in Shanghai with my son, everything in the nursery was ready. And I also got these suuuper cute deer night lights. They're squishy and have warm/cold lights in 3 brightness modes, and is also wireless if it's fully charged. That's another thing about products in China, they take all of the functions possible and put it all in one product. 

Exactly how cheap is Taobao? Take the set of two marble coffee tables for example, they cost only $75 usd including shipping. Shipping is almost always free on Taobao. 

I also got about 20 or so clear storage drawers, and the closets look so much tidier. It was also super easy to find quality wooden hangers, and baby hangers at a decent price. 


For toiletries, Watsons delivers all kinds of products within an hour. So you don't even need to leave the house to grab toilet paper or toothpaste.

Payment: Wechat pay & Alipay
I can say with 100% confidence that China is the country with the highest mobile payment usage rate. They have 1.4billion people, 250million are under age of 16, that leaves 1.15 billion people (including the elderly). 

Wechat Pay and Alipay, which are the 2 major payment apps both have 900million+ users, which means the usage rate of mobile payment is at least 78% in China. 

You can see Wechat pay and Alipay in almost every store. You can use it to pay for your bills, buy a plane ticket, buy a subway card, top up your subway card via your mobile phone, pay for veggies at a farmer's market.. heck even beggars on the street have it. 

On top of payment, you can also store coupons and membership cards in these two apps, so not only do you not need to bring physical membership cards, you don't need to fumble through your phone to find the correct app. 


(Below) was taken at a wholesale market place. Scan the QR code of the shop to make payment! 

(Below) Topping up my subway card by tapping my card on the back of my phone

Both apps are virtually the same, but I do like the Alipay's bill consolidation where it automatically makes a pie chart for your spending types. 

Getting life in order: featuring Dianping app

As I mentioned, I was most worried about the air quality and also water quality here since we are still making formula for our infant. We got Xiaomi Air purifier, and Xiaomi Water filter system. 

We've used the Xiaomi air purifier since we were living in Singapore and it's great. It shows you the air quality, humidity, and temperature as well. We bought a large on for our living room (pic below) and 2 small ones for the baby room and our bedroom. 

A lot of expats tend to order jugs of water delivered, but honestly that is not very environmentally friendly with the amount of plastic and transportation involved. We choose to install a Xiaomi water filter, which is around $500usd. It uses nano technology and has a RO filter core that lasts around 2 years. The landlord let us install it at no extra cost! Now we have safe drinking water on demand. 

Recycling in Shanghai

Shanghai is the first city in China to introduce law enforced recycling this year in July. China had been accepting trash from all over the world, but now that the country has matured, it banned foreign trash, and is trying to move the country to a more environmentally friendly society (they already have e-scooters, electric busses and cars everywhere in the city). 

Trash is separated to several types here: dry trash (regular burnable trash), wet trash (food scraps), recyclable trash (bottles, cans, jars, paper), and harmful waste (batteries, thermometers with mercury). Right now on the streets of Shanghai, you can see these trashcans everywhere with dry trash, recyclable trash, as well as a slot for batteries in the middle. 

Starbucks in Shanghai has also banned plastic straws. They only give out paper straws now. And when you order food delivery, you get extra membership points if you choose to go green and not ask for plastic cutlery. 


Dianping (online directory for everything:nails /hair /massage /events /restaurant booking/movies/hotels/amusement park ticketing/gyms/language schools/pet services)

大众点评 , Dazhong Dianping, literally meaning general public review, is kind of like China's equivalent of yelp, open table, expedia, Fandango combined and on steroids. It is THE app that the 1.4 billion people in China use for every day life.

I've used this to find my go-to hair, nail, and lashes place. 
  • Pandora Hair
  • Anna Nail Salon (and lashes)


I've also used this app to find restaurants for a good date night

Hiya restaurant 


How about bunch? No problem

(Left) Bull & Claw, (Right and below) O'Mills Bakery


Found shops with English books, Japanese magazines, scrapbooking/ journaling/ painting supplies
  • English books: Boocup, Foreign Bookstore (Nanjing East Road exit 4)
  • Japanese magazines: Boocup (newer magazines), and Foreign Bookstore 4th floor
  • Scrapbooking, journaling, art supplies: Baixin Stationary, Xinhua bookstore (Yishanroad No.515)


Found a baby spa

Yao yao le Baby Spa, Wanping South Road no.271

Found a petting zoo + cat cafe + escape the room + infinity star room + board games + claw machine + VR + Bar, all you an do place
The Magical Air-Raid Shelter (Xietu Road 2200 Alley, No 8)


Cat Cafe

Tao Mao Mao


The most popular instagram museum in all of Shanghai 

Starry Museum on the Bund (Pier no.16 B2)



It is safe to say that I would not be able to function without Dianping. And if a business in China is not on it, they will not get much business. Even grocery stores have pages. When users rate a location, they can rate on how good the service and products are, how clean the location is, and wait times etc. 

You can now see a trend, whether it's online businesses (Taobao) or in person businesses (Dianping), people get to rate it, to ensure the best quality, and to keep the consumers best informed to make good shopping decisions. 

Gone are the days where you travel for 1hr to find a long line, because you can make a reservation or check other people's reviews on how to avoid the crowd. Gone are the days where you are all excited to go to a shop, only to arrive and find out that what you are looking for is unavailable or sold out. 

Transportation: Didi (Uber), and Shanghai Metro

Uber did try to enter the China market, but failed miserably and was bought by Didi. Again, Chinese apps are western apps on steroids, they have more functions and better service. 

When calling a car, you can choose to rideshare, call a regular taxi, express, quality, luxury, and limo. During rush hour, it will show you how many people are in line trying to call the same type of car, the estimated wait time, and the projected arrival time to your destination. 

Safety is very important for Didi, both passenger safety and driver safety. They provide special self-defense training for female drivers, and also the ability to add an emergency contact or call the cops during the ride. 

There's also a "I didn't get on the car" button, incase some other rider takes your ride on accident. You can even pick the route on the map you want the driver to go by. 

After the ride is done, you can rate the driver, from attitude, to smell in the car, music, car condition, driving skills.. etc And of course contact customer service if you've lost something, have a dispute about the bill, or if you're unhappy with the driver and would like to report them. 

My husband actually left his phone on a Didi car once, and got it back within 40min. We called customer service since the phone he lost was the phone he used to book the car, so he didn't remember the license plate. Customer service confirmed trip details/phone number, then proceeded to call the driver and call the current customer in the car to locate the phone. After the driver was done with the booking, he came back with the phone. The customer service even called back to confirm that the phone was found! And the driver had actually reported lost item soon after he found out. This would almost never happen if you lose a phone in an uber, you know the next person will take your phone and sell it. 

Shanghai Metro

Shanghai has a population of 26 million people, which is more than the entire country of Australia. Road traffic is pretty bad with too many cars, but they do have an excellent metro system. 

Shanghai Metro is the world's longest by track distance 676km, with 413 stations, 10.16million daily ridership. Every station also has an airport like security check to ensure the safety of riders. In recent years, there's only been one armed attack by a guy with a knife outside of the security check station area. I also notice that many Shanghai people even don't zip up their handbags when walking around! 

The stations also remind me a lot of Japan, they have touch screen vending machines where you scan your phone (Alipay/wechat pay) to pay. There's lots of convenience stores (Family Mart), bakeries, photo booths.. etc 

And of course Chinese people are notorious for cutting the line or rushing onto trains. But I have to say that Shanghai is quite good compared to a lot of other cities I've lived in (NYC/HK are both worse in this respect). Shanghai Metro is also extremely clean, I saw another passenger leave behind a bag of fruit peels and another elderly lady picked it up immediately to throw it in the trash can on the way out. I think a lot of the poorly behaved people are those who came into the city from the country side. But Shanghai is proud to be the crown jewel of China, and being civilized is at the top of the priority list. 

Takeout food delivery - Meituan

There's actually two major food delivery companies in China: Meituan and Elema (which means "Are you hungry?")

Coming from Singapore's very poor Deliveroo service, Meituan is a godsend. It's not only cheap, on time, and has a ton of selections. Meituan delivery riders are heavily rated and pressured on their delivery times. Each time I finish an order, they will show the delivery guy's details and they've always been 98%+ on time. I generally spend 50 rmb to no more than 100 rmb on a meal (which is $7 - $14 usd) and that includes drink, starter, main, and sometimes even snack/soup. 

Also delivery fee is often free, and no more than 5 rmb. During rainy days, I also give the riders a red pocket afterwards for their hard work, you can pick from 1, 2, 5, or 8 rmb (8 is a lucky number here). 8rmb is like $1usd tip, and for braving the wind and rain? These hard working people definitely deserve it. 

One more note about Meituan, they not only deliver restaurant takeaway, they also deliver drinks only, groceries, fresh food, and medicine. I also love that they always ask you to pick if you want or don't want plastic cutlery. If you choose to be environmentally friendly and don't ask for it, you get membership points or discounts off the next order. After your food is delivered, the app also has you confirm if the store did follow instructions and not give you cutlery as instructed. This is to keep the shops in check to also be environmentally friendly. 

So far both my husband and I love Shanghai. I love it for
  • How vibrant it is, with so many things to do
  • How quickly things deliver
  • How hard working people are
  • How fast it is improving
  • How environmentally friendly it is 
  • How safe it is
  • How baby friendly it is 

There's always an event somewhere

There's always good food

And an excellent expat community to mingle with

People often misunderstand China, because the media likes to portray China as this evil country that is backwards, conservative, and has no freedom. On the contrary, the politics do not affect every day life at all, news here is actually more informative and interesting (and not all about China), and people are nice and very nice to talk to. 

We hope to at least stay in Shanghai for 2 years, so let's see how things go, and come back to review after some time has passed (and maybe I will have found some things I don't like about Shanghai). So far, it's amazing! 

Follow me on instagram @ariel.land for more stories

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