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Quintessential Shanghai Experiences That You Won't Forget

Shanghai can feel like an overwhelming metropolis to explore. As you zip around the trendiest places in town, it’s easy to lament at how globalization has made all the major cities similar, predictable, and dare I say, boring. The good news is that Shanghai isn’t all that same-old-global-city if you just seek out moments and spots in the city that won’t quite remind you of home. 

Here are some of the quintessential experiences that will linger in your memories for much longer than the aftertaste of the artisanal flat white in that hipster café.  

Shop for Love at the Marriage Market 


Image Credit: Huffington Post

We love markets, and we’ve been to markets that claim to sell everything you need. But this market in Shanghai is the real deal, for this is where you can find your other half, soulmate, twin flame, or whatever it is that you want to call a marriage partner. The only catch is that you won’t actually meet him or her in the flesh, but the parent, so that you can just get the anxious approval meeting out of the way first. 

Welcome to the Marriage Market, where worried parents turn up diligently at People’s Park every weekend afternoon to search for the perfect life partner for their unsuspecting children who may be happily swiping left on Tinder.  

Take a walk around this park, and you will quickly learn ages, income, education level, height, and zodiac signs for people you’ve never met. You may even find interesting bits of personal information, proudly advertised by the parent eager for a grandchild really soon. Here, parents chat up other parents and try to find a match based on their compatibility. While it’s been said that this farmers market of marriage isn’t quite successful, understandably, it’s a rarity to find such an open display of traditional matchmaking in one of the most modern and fast-paced cities in the world.

In many ways, the Marriage Market is a reflection of the social issues facing modern China. The gender imbalance where there are more men than women, the One-Child Policy that sees great pressure being put upon the sole bearer to the family line, and traditional views of what marriage means.  

Sing your heart and lungs out with Karaoke 


Image Credit: Youmeshanghai

You haven’t been to a proper Karaoke if you haven’t experienced one in Shanghai. Forget about all the crappy karaoke bars that you’ve been to and get ready to experience the cultural institution where friendships are forged, and business deals are closed, and sorrows are sung till they’re all gone. 

There isn’t a one-size fit all Karaoke. Some are downright sleazy with KTV hostesses and “special services,” some of the higher-end ones do have hostesses for company and to serve drinks, but none of the other dodgy stuff and some are family and friends KTV where you sing and drink honey lemon tea to soothe your vocal chords.  

A good KTV has the latest songs on a touch-screen interface, the best sound system that make you feel like a star, and an extensive menu to fuel your power ballads. Some are decorated in the swankiest styles, and for every few bad singers, you may walk past a room that sounds like it’s got the next big star power being in there. 

Taichi or Dance in the Park 


Image Credit: Gettyimages

To get a glimpse of local life anywhere in the world, go to a park, take a stroll, and simply observe what’s going around you. And in the case of Shanghai, jump in and join whatever the locals are up to!

Early in the morning at dawn, head down to the park to catch Taichi practice sessions in action and try not to be impressed by the physical fitness and grace that the elderly folk possesses. You may even catch some sword dance or find a Taichi master who may want to take you in as a worthy disciple. 

In the evenings and on weekends, dance takes over. There’s music and dancing everywhere. From traditional Chinese dances to ballroom dances and everything in between. The secret to longevity, it seems, is just to turn up at the park night or day and move your body. 

Non-stop eating 


Image Credit: Wikimedia

With all the dancing, singing, and trying to find a life partner, you need the strength and stamina. Thankfully, another quintessential Shanghainese experience is to be constantly eating. Join the queues whenever you can for Sheng Jian Bao and Xiao Long Bao. Skip the boring hotel breakfast and hunt for a Jianbing, a savory crepe-like pastry that bursts with flavor. 

Join a street food tour to get the best experience and some knowledge and history about the best foods in the city. When you’re done exploring the local eats, explore the international and regional cuisine that’s made its way to cosmopolitan Shanghai.

Don't just sight-see. Sink yourself into these unforgettable and quirky experiences in Shanghai!

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About the author

Tilda is a happy sufferer of chronic wanderlust. When she isn't spending a disproportionate amount of time Googling about places and cultures, she's writing, dancing, and navigating a massive career change. She shares stories and photography on Wanderful People, and shares her coffee with no one.


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