Happy Halloween from Shanghai (2022)

Wow, I took a much longer break than I expected since my last post. I’ve had some thoughts that I’ve debated with myself about sharing. I’m just not sure how much value there is to making post after post about the COVID situation here in Shanghai, and quite frankly, I’m pretty sick of the topic myself. But it’s still not going away.

So instead, for now, I’ll talk about Halloween a bit (and the topic of COVID will inevitably butt into the conversation too, as it always does here).

Trick or Treating in Shanghai

Since having kids (my kids are now 7 and 10), I’ve been at somewhat of a loss for how to share American Halloween culture with my own kids. In Shanghai I have taken them to parties, to mall activities, to outdoor festivals… But in the past few years we’ve been invited to go trick or treating at the homes of friends that live in communities with houses (rather than apartments). These neighborhoods in Shanghai really kind of feel like American suburban neighborhoods. Then come Halloween time, the residents really go all out decorating and the streets are filled with trick or treating kids going door to door. Almost every house in the neighborhood participates too. It really took me back to my own childhood, and I was glad I could share that experience with my own kids.

Here’s where COVID comes in, though…

Although my kids loved trick or treating, they noticed that the candy this year is different. My daughter mentioned offhand that there are also fewer foreigners living in the neighborhood this year compared to last. So it’s just another one of those countless subtle changes brought about by COVID… So many foreigners have left due to COVID that the neighborhood now has significantly more Chinese residents. And although most of the Chinese residents are totally on board with the neighborhood Halloween celebration, they do buy different kinds of candy. (There is a lot less chocolate this year, much to my chagrin.)

Not a profound insight or a bitter rant; just a little example of how COVID continues to affect our lives in random unexpected ways. (And yeah, a lot of foreigners have left.)

But hey, look at all these flavors of 大白兔 (White Rabbit candy)!

Happy Halloween!


John Pasden

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


  1. Mine are ~4yrs old now and this is their 3rd Halloween. Like you I’ve been doing my best to give them that Halloween culture that we had as kids along w/other holidays as well. The struggle is real! Speaking of which, I’ll be headed to Tampa to see my mom on Wednesday for the first time in 5yrs. As for your kids costume, “This Is the Way”

  2. Who ends up eating the corn flavor, ugh.

  3. Illy Verdes Says: October 31, 2022 at 7:55 pm

    You guys look AMAZING! Happy Halloween!

  4. John, I know it can be tough sharing personal info online, one because you have a family (and a wife who happens to be Chinese – not a culture that tends to want to share personal info online, I can understand that) and two it feels like you’re giving and not getting anything, especially from people you don’t know. However, we tremendously appreciate what you share, and we know it can be difficult deciding what to share. You are an inspiration and we are thankful for you and all the hard work you’ve done to give us a glimpse into what life is like in China, as well as tips for learning Chinese. You’ve ridden out so many storms that have washed us back to our own islands. You’ve gone so far, and its inspiring. Much appreciated and keep up the good work, buddy!

  5. Hi John, I realize you are tired of the pandemic but I have a pandemic question. I would like to travel to Shaoguan to meet a friend. My friend keeps saying that “China is not open to foreigners” and wants to meet in a third country (eg: Thailand). Googling this issue does little to provide any clarity. The Canadian government website just urges caution when travelling to China and lists a litany of warnings if you travel to China. Should I wait to buy a plane ticket?

    • Sorry for the late reply, but now the answer can be much clearer than even two weeks ago.

      Wait until mid-January (2023) at least, and getting into China will be much easier.

  6. Thanks John. I have submitted an online visa application to the Chinese consulate. My interview is set for January 30th, with travel planned for February. It looks like the timing is perfect. Great to hear that you and your family have recovered. My wife and I both got infected with the omicron variant last October. I survived but my wife sadly did not. I have much optimism for 2023 as China moves past this.

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