Category: Living in Shanghai

Shanghai at night

Shanghai at night

Shanghai is slowly getting back to life. Slowly. It is still quite empty – during night, and day. A couple of weeks ago I tried to capture this eerie emptiness. The silence at night is almost unbearable.

A few month back I spend a few nights in the middle of nowhere and noticed how quiet it is – Shanghai at night is exactly the same.

COVID-19 in Shanghai

COVID-19 in Shanghai

Shanghai right now

The Corona virus situation in China and Shanghai has been improving a lot in the past weeks and we’re maybe 60-70% back to normal. I thought I’d try to sum up how things developed and what the current status is.

As of right now, schools are still closed but we are back at the office and many places are open. The city is running again, though with a lot of precautions. Everywhere you go, there are temperature checks: you cannot enter malls, restaurants, parks or our building without having your temperature taken first. To go to our office, we have to fill out a form everyday which asks about travel and symptoms. Many places also want to see a QR code which shows if you have been in a high risk area in the past 14 days. If the code is green, you’re good to go. Most places have hand sanitizers and everyone wears masks … like me at the park yesterday, or pretty much everywhere I go that is not our apartment.

So overall, life has returned to fairly normal here. The metro is busy again, there are some traffic jams and you can meet friends and go places. Last week, we went to a birthday party, I went to the first GGI event of the year and we met friends for dinner.

The only big impact on us at the moment is, that we can’t really leave Shanghai. I was supposed to spend the weekend in Singapore with my sister, nephew and parents, but many countries, Singapore included, won’t let anyone who has been in China (and now also other high risk countries) enter. Our company has the policy that if you leave Shanghai, you have to quarantine at home for 14 days before coming back to the office. All business trips are cancelled, which means we are staying put for the time being. Not having a vacation planned or even knowing when our next trip will be is definitely something new.

Starting at the beginning

People in Shanghai first started the talking about the virus the week before Chinese New Year. I left for India on January 23 and the days leading up to it, I heard about it more and more at the office and the number of people wearing masks on the metro increased daily. We were not really worried about it then. Life in Shanghai wasn’t affected and the night before I left, I went out with friends. We were still making jokes, drinking Coronas and and had a blast at the bowling alley.

The next day at the airport, EVERYONE was wearing a mask, and in India, passengers from China had to go through a temperature screening. While I was on the trip, things got really serious and we got more and more bad news. It was announced that schools would stay closed, we heard masks were difficult to get, and whole cities went into lock down. People even messaged me saying I should stay in India longer or go somewhere else, but to not return to China. I wanted to go back and was convinced it would be okay and I would go back to work on Monday. I did buy a pack of masks at a pharmacy in Delhi and returned to a very quiet city on February 1.

When I got home, it was announced that the CNY holiday was officially extended for another week, so our company, and pretty much everything else had to stayed closed until February 10. The week after, everyone was advised to work from home. That meant that I was mostly at home for 2 weeks and left the house only 4 or 5 times. The few times I did leave the compound, I walked through a ghost town. Everyone in Shanghai really isolated themselves as much as possible. The only people I saw outside were delivery drivers and people buying food.

I’ve been back to the office since February 17 but was there almost by myself for the first week. Many people still worked from home or were stuck in other provinces longer. My commute to work only took around half the normal time during that first week. Since March, most people are back and businesses are slowly opening up again. Everyone is wearing masks, big meetings taking place virtually and I think I have at least 3 conversations a day about corona, but it’s still good to be back to normal, or at least a new normal.

Thorben was supposed to return to Shanghai on February 2 but decided to extend his stay in Germany. He had a business trip to Morocco planned and didn’t want to get stuck. It took him until February 23 to return to Shanghai because getting his flight rescheduled was complicated and the date kept getting pushed back. In the end, he and a lot of masks and sanitizer made it back safely. After 2 weeks of home office, he’s also allowed to go back to work now.

Getting tested

Our friend Silvia works for a lab which developed a test to check if you have the Corona virus. She needed samples from people to get more data, since they were working to get the test approved. Therefore in mid February, a few friends and I could say with confidence that we definitely do not have the virus πŸ™‚

Staying sane

The first 2 weeks after India were tough for me. I was home alone and most places were closed. I watched a lot of TV the first week, the most since I had pneumonia 2 years ago. To be exact, I caught up on the past 1 and a half seasons of Grey’s Anatomy and finished the last 3 seasons of Suits. I also caught up on all the sleep I didn’t get during my India trip. Other than that, I cooked and baked a lot, read 2 books and also worked much more than usual.

I spent some time video chatting with my family and friends but after 5 days home alone without real human contact, I was getting pretty desperate. Luckily, he situation in Shanghai never got really bad. According to official figures, we have less than 400 cases here, most of them already recovered and by mid February the number of new infections was below 5 a day. I was always able to leave my apartment, as there was no mandatory quarantine by the government for us. With everyone wearing masks and keeping a distance, I never felt unsafe or worried about my health. Of course that’s easy to say not being in any at risk group.

Since most restaurants were closed until March, and some still are, we had private gatherings. Tim and I made wontons together, Silvia and Gabor made pasta for me (twice!), I had some people over for dinner and brunch, went to a games and pizza night at a friend’s house … Thanks to the awesome people who kept me sane and provided human contact and excellent food πŸ™‚

Now, I’m hoping, the measures which are taken across the globe are effective and soon, infection numbers will go down, so normal life can start up again. We’re continuing with our safety measures here and I really hope it is enough to keep the virus at bay.

Stay healthy, everyone!

Happy New Year of the Rat!

Happy New Year of the Rat!

Today is the last day in the year of the pig and tomorrow, the year of the rat begins – it’s Chinese New Year again!

After only 10 days in China I’m getting on a plane to India today for a one week trip of the Golden Triangle. Thorben is still in Germany over CNY and we’ll be both back in Shanghai in February. Until then, have a great start into the rat year πŸ™‚

2019 – Another Year in Review

2019 – Another Year in Review

I had so much fun doing my 2017 and 2018 review, so here we go again, starting with the exact same sentence:

2019: it’s been a crazy year!


I spent half of the month in Germany combining work and seeing friends and family, while Thorben returned to Shanghai a bit earlier. He brought some North German culture with him and hosted a GrΓΌnkohl dinner. I also finished the planning and booking for our big 2019 vacation – a long awaited trip to New Zealand.


Over Chinese New Year, we explored New Zealand. We spent 1 week on the North Island and 2 weeks on the South Island and went skydiving! It was a great trip, maybe my favorite one so far, and I wish I was already planning the next one.


March was a food month: It was restaurant week again, and I had fun eating and also making lots of food. I also started my BonApp “career” (I’m now a power user πŸ˜‰ ). My mom turned 60, so I surprised her on the morning of her birthday and spent a fun week in Germany.


Spring really started in April and brought beautiful weather and even more beautiful cherry blossoms which I enjoyed with friends at Gucun Park and during Thorben’s long birthday weekend. Work took me to Wuzhen Water Town, another amazing place in China. There was lots of great food as always, for example the dumplings we made at our friends’ house.


As usual, May was the best month of the year because it’s my birthday, which we celebrated with lots and lots of food (surprise) and great people πŸ™‚ Other highlights were my sister and Timo’s visit and a trip to Disneyland. I also started a new job in May and Thorben went on a trip to Thailand with his colleagues for their annual outing.


June was filled with travel: We took a trip to Kuching to celebrate Eid and see Orang Utans and I went on a business trip to Germany which I could combine with some belated birthday celebrations and a trip to the BUGA. I also said good bye to a friend with a fun food tour through Shanghai.


Work, dinners, brunches, birthdays, walks with Khan … July was a pretty normal Shanghai month for me. It was hot and humid, but not as bad as the 2017 summer. Thorben started a new role in July and went to Germany for business.


August continued with work and food and friends and fun πŸ™‚ I also tried crayfish for the first time and talked about it on TV. The month finished with restaurant week and a party at the W, neither of which I blogged about. Oops.


In September, I finally went to visit my sister and Timo in Singapore. We had lots of great food and I enjoyed their pool. Back in Shanghai, Jana came to visit and we did a tour of a chocolate factory and ate a lot.


Our Golden Week trip took us to Indonesia. A few days with Marlyn’s family in Jakarta and a week on Flores: we saw Komodo Dragons and other beautiful islands close to Labuan Bajo and explored traditional villages in Bajawa.


In November, I baked a lot of Christmas cookies, while Thorben was on another business trip in Germany. I took advantage of 11/11 to get started on my Christmas shopping, in preparation for the annual US trip. We spent Thanksgiving in Arizona, eating, shopping and having fun with my host family.


The biggest event of the year happened in December: I became an aunt! Christmas parties, cookies, dinners … December in Shanghai went by really fast and on the 19th we flew to Germany to celebrate Christmas, birthdays and spent time with friends and family.

Christmas is coming

Christmas is coming

I was just about to title this post “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” and then I realized that my Christmas post last year had that exact same title. Looks like I haven’t gotten any more creative with my blogging this year πŸ™‚

Anyway, back to the actual topic: I started the Christmas season early and finished my Christmas cookies in November already because I wanted to have them ready for our US trip. It took me 2 full weekends plus a few weeknights of baking, but I’m quite proud of the result. 8 different kind is a new record for me! I still have a long way to go to reach my mom’s 17 kinds, but I’m slowly improving πŸ˜‰

Thorben went on a business trip to Germany in November and brought back some Gingerbread, Spekulatius and goodies from my mom, so we were ready to get festive. When we came back home on December 1st, all that was left to do was get some Christmas decoration and start eating all the cookies.

… which is exactly what we did on our first weekend back. We had little Advent tea at our place on December 7 and ate our way through a few plates of cookies.

Since then, there were quite a few Christmas parties or holiday themed events here: A GGI gift exchange, an Italian aperetivo, a trip to the Christmas market that turned into a Raclette and mulled wine night because there was a massive queue to get into the market, a small Christmas dinner with friends, a very big Christmas dinner with a Secret Santa and drinks afterwards, another Christmas get together with hot chocolate, games and movies and then we hosted a dinner at our place followed by cookies on Sunday.

The Christmas season in Shanghai was really fun and festive and definitely got me in the mood for more. Tonight, we’re flying to Germany for some more holiday spirit and of course to celebrate Christmas with our families!

See you in 2020, Shanghai!

Jana, Marina & the Chocolate Factory

Jana, Marina & the Chocolate Factory

There’s a Zotter chocolate factory in Shanghai – Austrian chocolate in the middle of China – who would have thought? Technically, it’s a “chocolate theater”, because they don’t really make much chocolate there, but you can learn all about chocolate and taste it until you’re sick … which is exactly what Jana and I did at the end of September.

I got 2 tickets to go to the tasting tour for my birthday and one of the dates for it lined up with Jana’s visit. Coincident? I don’t think so πŸ™‚

The tour starts with a movie about the company, its founder and how chocolate is made from bean to bar. After that, it’s 2 hours of non stop indulgence. We tasted the beans, cocoa powder, milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate, soy chocolate, chocolate in liquid form, in bars, with fruits mixed in, chocolate coating nuts and fruits, drinking chocolate … You name it, they had it. 150 varieties of it.

After the tour, we hit the store … and then I had to recover on the couch for a few hours.

Besides going to the chocolate factory, we also did some other stuff during Jana’s 4 days in Shanghai. Namely, have Vietnamese food, go for pancakes, have brunch, and another brunch, eat burgers, get sushi … To work it off, we also went for a walk with Khan. And then had pasta and pizza πŸ˜‰ In summary – a great Shanghai visit!