Back When I Was An Alien In Shanghai (2004)


Shanghai means city on the sea in Chinese: 上海。

Nowadays it’s a vibrant metropolis with a cosmopolitan population where you can find the fanciest restaurants, the most exquisite boutiques and a rainbow of choices when it comes to leisure and lifestyle.

However, when I moved in the city in January 2004 with a one-way ticket, it was a different planet where I was the alien.

Here are some 10 things you might not know:

No one spoke English on the streets, not even real estate agents so I had to do a crash course on furniture and

I had to find a flat to live in without barely speaking any Chinese…

A foreign business couldn’t invest in China without a Chinese partner who would own at least 51% of the Joint-Venture.

I was the first Spanish woman to manage a Spanish freight forwarding business in China.

The one and only real Italian restaurant in the city was Damarco, and we used to go there to get thin-crust pizza on Thursday eve

Half the buildings that make Shanghai so iconic today didn’t exist – including the Pearl Tower behind me (2020)

The one child policy was very much in force, so every single Chinese I met was a single child.

The expat community was very small and occasionally people would take pictures of us(aliens) on the street.

The markets of fake products were everywhere in the city and the police didn’t blink an eye.

There was no ZARA! I was there when they launched in the country in 2005 or so and was finally able to buy clothes!

Being a foreigner you were automatically invited to all the VIP launch parties: Armani, D&G, you name it!

The taxi drivers…that hasn’t changed! As a female, they will ask you for your age, marital status and salary every single time.

Living in different countries has been the best investment I have ever made: it opens your curiosity, awakens your hunger for culture and feeds your soul

WARNING: Watch out though, it’s quite addictive!


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Veronica Llorca Smith
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Veronica Llorca Smith



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