I’m in an Abusive Relationship with Shanghai

Sometimes I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship with Shanghai.

Sure, I love Shanghai, but there are times I wonder if we should be together. Like the times in the winter when I walk outside and I can smell the air (it smells kind of like gunpowder). Or this past winter, when I got a cold that lasted for two months (my worst colds usually last about a week), and my whole family got sick repeatedly (still not better yet).

But then the weather gets nice, and the sky turns blue again, and it’s easy to forget those offenses, or at least put them out of my mind. I remember what made me love Shanghai in the first place, and almost start to believe that cities can change. At least I can be happy now… spring is here. Best to just enjoy it while I can.

Pudong on a Nice Day


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I’m convinced that if you catch a cold in most of east Asia, it will last much longer than it should. I had a mild cold last about a month in Taipei.

  2. Jeremiah Says: March 24, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    That wasn’t a cold, it was pollution. Viruses just don’t last that long before being eradicated.

  3. Anonymouse Says: March 24, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Better being in an abusive relationship WITH Shanghai than being in an abusive relationship IN Shanghai. No laughing matter, mate.

  4. gregorylent Says: March 25, 2015 at 1:21 am

    shanghai is wonderful, and very cosmopolitan and international, and all that is interesting, but my lack to truly skilled chinese kept me away from the real heart of the city, and that is the wonderfully cultured and aware and upper class chinese community … i could see them from a distance, at museums, openings, other events, but could not enter into their life like i can in cultures where i speak the language ..

    the weather? it’s odd, certainly, but i am lucky, i don’t get “colds”



  5. CaptainXiamen Says: March 25, 2015 at 7:32 am

    I know exactly what you mean about Shanghai and feel the same way about both there and Xiamen.
    Although I truly like living in Xiamen I loved living in Shanghai but both places cause the same yin/yang feelings.

  6. I feel the same way about Dalian. Don’t feel like living in china for the rest of my life is the best for my physical health 🙁

  7. Just keep reminding yourself that the blue is always there behind the grey screen. The blue sky never goes away; it only get covered up. If you can look past the smog to the blue beyond…

    And yes, change does happen. I have high hopes for the future.

  8. Yes.

  9. Bastien Says: April 2, 2015 at 8:17 am

    It has started. I said I’d never leave and felt I couldn’t even leave, even for 2 weeks vacation, for fear of missing out on everything China related. Then at year 12 I started to get that strange feeling that something was approaching. A few years later it turned into a slight love-hate relationship (still more love than hate). Then year 13 the balance tipped, I felt I was missing out at home, I noticed more stuff in China I’d rather leave than stay for, and by 13.5, it was time. I packed up and left just before year 14. The 2 months were tough… Culture shock. But by month 6 I never looked back. Best decision. China will always be there, but family and growth as a person that only comes from “home” will not. Perhaps if China had a Western style immigration system with dual citizenship and all the accommodations and public acceptance that comes with such a system, perhaps I would have stayed. But it doesn’t, and I didn’t. I realized it could never truly be home in the absence of such a system. Didn’t matter how good my Chinese or my “integration” was (and it was very good). Unfortunate. But I love going back a couple times a year for a visit (but wouldn’t move back). You almost have to make the move home to understand 🙂

  10. I love Shanghai, Crazy for those delicious food! That’s why we decided to develop our career about food in shanghai.
    Although the weather problem seems really terrible in winter, and many other problems as well. Still love the city and enjoy my life here. Just as those words printed on my T-shirts: A Loving Heart Is The Truest Wisdom 🙂 Welcome to my TummyFriend Website. Hope you will like these amazing food!

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