Carla Murray is one of our long-time group members, but I just recently found out that she happens to live in Shanghai – and has been there since 2018. Although Robert and I have been there twice and enjoyed visiting the tourist attractions, I was curious to find out what it’s like to actually live there. So, I asked her to provide some photographs and answer a few questions about her experience. Here’s what she told me.
“China surprised me big time. I never in my wildest imagination thought that this country had so much to offer.”
What do you like most about living there?
The quality of life. It’s so easy and convenient here. The ease of getting around, affordable, not having to pay an arm and a leg for simple things like internet and basic utilities. Another thing is that it is so SAFE, especially for black folks. There NO guns allowed except for the military—not even the police have guns. There’s very little crime, although there are money scams aplenty—but common sense will protect you from that. The ability to have an Ayi (aunt in China) that comes to my apartment once a week to clean and do my laundry, go to the spa 1-2 times a week and still save over $2k per month is amazing.
What do you like least about living there?
Being an expat and having to renew my visa and knowing I can’t stay here forever unless I marry a local. If I could retire here I would in a heartbeat.
What advice would you give to African Americans who plan to visit there?
Keep an open mind and don’t believe everything you read in the media. Unlike America, China is not an overly racist country. It is very welcoming, and you’ll be surprised by the technology here. It makes life simple and easy. Plan out an itinerary and visit more than just Beijing and Shanghai. The south of China is AMAZING! Cities like Shenzhen, Xiamen and Sanya are comparable to visiting Miami and Hawaii. The climate is HOT, and the landscape is mountainous and breathtaking. I’m hoping to move south after a few more years in Shanghai. I need a warmer climate and a beach to wake up to every morning. This concrete jungle will soon get old to me.
What advice would you give to African Americans who plan to relocate there?
It’s very challenging to relocate to China. You must have a specific job to be able to come here long term. And also living here is not permanent. To my knowledge China doesn’t offer “green cards”. To stay permanently you must marry (but I could be wrong…I’ll investigate more). That being said, if you’re young have an undergrad degree and looking for a change and a chance to earn and save money—China is it. Unfortunately, with COVID the borders are closed and it’s not easy as of now to come here for work, and visiting is out of the question for now. Check back with me in 6 months.
I like the affordability, the ease of getting around and seeing different regions, learning every day about the culture and history (history runs deep). The shopping is AMAZING. And living in Shanghai is like living in NYC times 100…you can fit 3 New York cities inside Shanghai. Shanghai is the most populous and geographically biggest city in the world, and I feel it every day I walk outside my apartment. I used to dream of living in a high-rise apartment in Manhattan with a door man — walking out my door and having everything accessible to me, not needing a car to get around. Having dinner at nice places and not paying half my salary. I literally have that here. I had come here thinking I would stay for a couple of years and now I never want to leave.
Do you read and write the language fluently?
I am slowly learning Chinese. （我在慢慢学习汉语）I am using several methods…mostly apps on my phone…like Duolingo and HelloChinese. I have a language exchange partner that I meet with weekly and hanging around my local friends, listening to them talk. Believe it or not, I can read and write (type) better than I can speak and hear. But it’s a slow process. I hope to be fluent by this time next year.
What is that Eiffel Tower-like structure and where is it?
It’s just outside Hangzhou. Hangzhou is the headquarters for Alibaba and about two hours and 30 minutes by car and less than an hour by fast train from Shanghai. The replica of the Eiffel Tower is in a section of Hangzhou that was built to mimic Paris. It’s literally a ghost town now. I understand that there are a few of these “ghost towns” around China — cities built to look like other famous cities around the world. I’ve only been to the one in Hangzhou. Hangzhou is also known for West Lake. It’s a beautiful city. I have traveled there a few times before Covid as a nice relaxing day trip. The fast train runs almost every hour until midnight, so it makes it easy to visit on a whim. ️
It looks like you were at Shanghai Disney. What’s that experience like?
I used to work at Disney English here in China until it was closed down due to Covid last year As a Disney cast member I could visit up to 12 times per year and we received passes every quarter to use at any park in the world (except Japan). I’ve never been to Disneyland in California, but I suspect that Disneyland Shanghai is comparable to the one in California. I would assume the main differences are the food options (here in Shanghai the food is catered to the Chinese customers) and that everything is in Chinese language first and English second. Disneyland Shanghai is much smaller than Disneyworld.
Where is this amazing view?
That was Easter weekend in WuYi Mountain in Central China. It took us almost an hour to climb up there. The view was our reward.
In one photo you were reading to a group of children. I assume that they were your students. Please expound on the experience of teaching Chinese children.
Yes, those were my kindergarten students. It was such a nice day and it had been raining for a few days in a row, so I decided to read our story outside on the balcony just outside our classroom.
Teaching is my second career (I started teaching when I came to China). The children love hearing stories in Chinese and English. I have a co-teacher partner that teaching Chinese in the second half of the day and I teach English in the morning. The children are so bright. So smart.
What is this statue and what does it stand for?
I don’t know. I think a snail. LOL That’s in my neighborhood. We had just finished lunch and were randomly taking pictures. It was just outside the restaurant.
Carla, thank you so much for providing such a detailed account of what life is like for you in Shanghai!