Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Can't believe it was three years ago since I first arrived in Shanghai, and what's even harder to believe is just how quickly the time has gone. It really has gone so fast.

Three years ago next Tuesday I took my first tentative steps into the Waldorf Hotel to join a Brits Abroad Shanghai coffee morning, and this Tuesday I will be walking into the Waldorf as President of Brits Abroad Shanghai. I can't quite believe it, and as on my first coffee morning it is also tentatively I take on this role. Brits have been so good to me I really want to give something back. I hope I can step up to this and still enjoy everything they have to offer.

On that first day I met another "newbie,"  Sandra, and over the next few years we became very good friends, not only ourselves but our husbands too. We enjoyed trying out various restaurants around the city, and the guys became mojito aficionados. Mayas winning out. Sadly they returned to UK just before Christmas and the only fitting farewell was dinner at Majas followed by an overnight stay in the Waldorf taking in the brunch next day. I have to say this is probably my favourite brunch in Shanghai. Expensive, yes, but absolutely worth it, very occasionally.

This is the way of an ex pat life. You no sooner make new friends then you are saying goodbye. Only yesterday I was doing this once more. As always it is sad when people leave but yesterday was a great day to do this. The sun was shining, it was 29c and we ate al fresco. Yes it was still April, just, and this is not the usual weather for this time of the year, but it made for a lovely afternoon spent with friends, eating good food, enjoying a few glasses of something and of course doing what we women do best, chatting. A bittersweet afternoon.

So as people leave new people arrive, new friends in the making. It is a strange life and friendships blossom quickly, not always with people you imagine being friends with, but as we never know how long we will have with these people in our lives we can't afford to hang around. Brits Abroad is a really welcoming and friendly organisation and we try to make everyone feel welcome. Some friendships will last the test of ex pat life, some will flounder, but the people who remain in our lives share a very special bond of having shared the ups and downs, the good, the bad and the amazing fun and adventures we had living in another country with a totally different culture. These friendships are very special.

So after three years what are the ups and downs?
As always the downs are being far from home, from old friends and mostly from being away from family. This is by far the hardest bit about living away from home.

The ups?
 Well who would have guessed that I can now conduct daily life in Mandarin, still a long way to go but getting there.
I can now cross my 8 lanes of traffic without blinking, something I never thought I'd be able to do. Buying a chicken with head and feet still attached presents no problem, and I know the feet make excellent stock.
Tanks of live frogs, eels, turtles etc don't even warrant a second glance now.
 Chopsticks no longer slow down my eating.
I can take a photograph of a dress in a designer store, most recently Hermes, and have a copy made at the fabric market.

The Chinese have been very friendly and helpful. Even the people working in the markets and shops have been kind. I am now recognised in these places and there are times when I feel at home here. It hasn't been nearly as difficult as I had thought it would be. There are challenges, yes, but that's what keeps it interesting.

As this will be "home" for a few more years I am happy it's been a good experience and I look forward to enjoying more of this amazing, strange and wonderful city. One day it will be my farewell lunch I'm enjoying and then I will be happy to be going home, to the familiar, to old friends but most of all back with my family.


  1. Three years already. Have enjoyed reading about your experiences in Shanghai. What a great idea to have a Brits Abroad group to help newcomers get established. I'm sure you'll be an excellent president.