Arriving in Shanghai: About Bikes and Food

Arriving in Shanghai: About Bikes and Food

My First Days

I can’t believe I am finally here. Shanghai. Together with anything between 19 and 24 million other people. No one really knows. Everyone is mostly stuck in traffic anyway. It’s my second week, and it has been crazy. When I arrived on the first day, we immediately went to sign up for a Chinese phone number: And this phone has been the best investment so far. I’ve just counted, there is a total of 17 new apps now, apps that I didn’t have before.


Mandatory of course is everything that helps you navigate the city: maps in Chinese and in Pinyin, the metro, taxi and uber-like services, and my favorite: bikes! They are everywhere. The streets are plastered with bikes in yellow, orange, blue and green. Your app unlocks it immediately and you are good to go. Start and stop where ever you want.

I have not used the taxi when I was moving around town alone since I came here. Currently my answer for everything is the bike. (Let’s see what I say about that in a few days when it’ll be much more than just around 25°C and raining constantly.)

What confused my colleagues was when I asked them to help me order me a helmet on taobao.

“Why do you need it?” / “Well, I ride the bike at least four times every day.” / “I know, but WHY do you want it? No one wears a helmet.”

The funny thing about the bikes is: I almost never pay for it. If you take the bike from a rarely used location (e.g. where I live) to a frequently used location (e.g. the metro) you get bonus points and more funny-money. At least I think that’s what it is. One of the apps is Chinese only – long live the ever same layout and style of apps and icons. You do not need to be able to read the labels of buttons, most of the times guessing gets you what you want. The universal language of the modern world: user interface design on iOS.

They also offer statistics of how much you have used it, how much carbon you saved and how much calories you burned. Maybe they should also track of how much you exposed yourself to Shanghai’s not-so-perfect air. But well, that’s what masks are for. Wearing a mask AND a helmet. It must look really stupid, but no one cares, sometimes a big city’s ignorance is bliss.


I have spent my first two weeks finding an apartment and exploring the city – I have actually managed to get around without one day of western food. Food here is delicious. Sometimes it really helps not to think about what it is you are eating, buuuuut the taste is great. I like the way the food is hot. It’s difficult to explain, but somehow it’s not the painfully-burning-chili-heat, and it can also not be compared to the sweet heat of pepper. It is rather making everything go numb in a very gentle way and prepares you for the intensity of different flavors. Well, there is only one way to find out.

There are a lot of different types of food in China, specialties from its many regions like Szechuan, Hunan or Shanghai – and it’s all so much different. I think this will slowly turn into a foodie blog about all the great stuff we ate.

In the next weeks I want to share more about my adventures: banking and money, my first hiking trip, Shanghai’s nightlife and more. Always with me are of course my camera(s) and the smartphone, so you’ll get at good impression of what is happening here. I am not sure, what Marina will be sharing here yet – but I am pretty sure you will find out soon enough.

So long, Thorben

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