I spent a month in Shanghai – what did I learn?

I love to be creative. And it can sometimes lead to really cool things. Like starting this blog. Or winning a competition. And that was exactly what happened in 2013. I won a global interchange competition hosted by the company that I work for. The task was to apply for a fake job position by doing something creative. We had the option to choose from several job positions and different countries. I’ve always wanted to travel to China. Both because my biggest dream is to visit Giant Pandas outside of a Zoo, and because I’ve always been fascinated by the culture. The decision of applying to the fake job position of a Panda Keeper in Shanghai was therefore easy to make. I applied for the competition by making a photo book that told the story of how I met my Panda teddy bear, and how he was always by my side. I’m not going to lie, I had a hope of visiting a Panda bear or two during my weeks in China. I guess I should have read that Shanghai Zoo only has a few Pandas. Not that I am such a zoo fan either, but that’s a different story.


I travelled to Shanghai in the beginning of September 2013, and was going to be there for 4 weeks. I travelled on my own, and didn’t know anyone. Since this trip was arranged by the company that I work for, I was picked up at the airport and had a contact person for the duration of my stay.

I encountered a few problems when I started planning for the trip. What should I pack? I had never packed for a 4 week long trip before, and had no idea what to pack. I’m a huge planner and love writing lists and preparing for everything. But I didn’t know where to start.


Organised chaos. I really wish that I had better packing skills back then. 


What I thought before I travelled:

  • I’ve packed enough clothes
  • 30 degrees celcius is not that hot when I get used to it
  • My suitcase is big enough.

And it turned out that:

  • I didn’t pack enough clothes, and I packed the wrong clothes.
  • 30 degrees and high humidity levels IS hot!
  • My suitcase was not big enough. It’s a miracle that it didn’t burst during the flight back home. I even had a huge handbag and a bag with me.

What I should have brought:

  • More shoes. Both sandals and sneakers.
  • Summer dresses
  • More tops and t-shirts
  • A hat or a bandana
  • Skirts/shorts
  • Blouses

I spent the days at our office in Shanghai (09-18) and had the evenings and Weekends to use for sightseeing and exploring. It was an amazing month, and I got to experience a lot. At the same time very different from my everyday life here in Norway.

The differences were:

  • Work hours from 09 to 18 with 1 hour lunch
  • Everyone spent their lunch hour outside of the office or had leftovers from the dinners the day before that they enjoyed in the open plan office (the office sometimes smelled like a food court).
  • The consequences for turning up late at the office were bigger than I’m used to. Which made the elevator crowded like crazy the last 5 minutes before 9AM.
  • The respect my colleagues had for each other was admiring. In an open plan office of about 100 persons, the noise levels were low, and everyone whispered when they talked to a colleague.

What I learned?

  • The air in Shanghai can be smoggy, but the photos turned out nice, and it didn’t bug me.
  • High humidity is a pain in the ass. I don’t like to sweat.
  • The oily food made me feel a bit nauseated in the beginning. But I got used to it after a week or so.
  • I should have worked out. To eat dinner for lunch and dinner in the evening does something to the weight.. And I sometimes ate dinner in the morning as well.
  • When it rains, people jump out from nowhere to sell you umbrellas. I wish they did that at home as well.
  • I’ll never get tired of seeing city views from tall skyscrapers (I visited 3)


  • I felt safe in Shanghai, even when I walked around alone.
  • I spoke English everyday for a whole month which made me think in English and dream in English after a while..
  • I was really homesick at the end of my trip.
  • It’s really not that scary to travel alone.
  • To stay at the same hotel for a month can be really boring.
  • I’m not good at bargaining. When I visited a “fake market” I choked. I just had to walk out of there (after bying a few souvenirs. I guess I ended up paying double the price).
  • To use a cellphone to take photos is not a good idea.
  • I should have paid for an additional bag instead of destroying the suitcase that I had with me.
  • I’m more controlled by consequences of my actions than I was when I was younger. A colleague took for granted that I should sit on the back of his el-bike for a couple of miles. Instead we ended up walking. It took longer, but better safe than sorry!


Do you want to know more about my Shanghai month? Please leave a comment.



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