Looking under the “shallow” surface of this science fiction city

Jessica Claire Martinelli in Shanghai

I am a Girl Gone International because…

I have been living in a completely different country for three years, and I support myself and the ones around me. I have travelled extensively. I take in life as it comes and am thankful for every moment. I took the plunge. So far so awesome!

​Jessica Claire Martinelli, Italy/USA , 26, Lives in Shanghai

How in the world did you end up in Shanghai?

Chinese language and culture is my major (I know, I guess the question should be why in the world were you crazy enough to pick International Relations and Asian studies as a major??). I came here 3 years ago, fell in love with Shanghai and moved here a month after I graduated.

What was your first impression in this city compared to how you feel now?

Been here four years. When I first came here I thought I was in a science fiction movie! It was all so futuristic and colourful! Now I see it for what it is: real, ruthless at times but still very colourful. Anything can happen in Shanghai, if YOU want to make it happen.

What is the biggest cultural difference you’ve noticed here?

The “guangxi” factor: I scratch your back you scratch mine. You need to consider a whole other set of unspoken rules and etiquette here in order to not break that balance and have the locals on your side. And believe me, guangxi are everything.

Do you see yourself staying here for good?

Ah, I dare you to find any expat capable of answering that question. This city has a way of growing on you. I would say maybe a couple more years? Who knows.

Do you speak the language?

“会” (I do) and it’s hella hard! My proper Chinese used to be better in Italy actually but my listening and slang has improved tremendously haha. It is a fascinating language deeply rooted in the culture. It really opens up the mind, pushing you to think differently and outside the box, I recommend it for who has patience and enjoys perseverance, that’s for sure!

What piece of advice would you give to a newbie here in Shanghai?

Don’t stand on the sidelines. Participate, create, jump in.

Get involved with the right people: 80% of people here will leave next year and are just interested in fun. Go beyond that. Discover the artists, local hipsters and dreamers under the “shallow” surface of this city.

Remember you are not in your country. Be respectful, even if it goes against what you’re used to.

Learn to say “bie pian wo!” which means “don’t screw me around”.

Eat everything. The food here is amazing. Just don’t ask what it is! Haha!

What is your favourite place to eat/drink/shop/explore in this city and why?

Hmmmmm too difficult but I’ll try:

Eat: Lotus eatery

Drink: Magpie

Shop: Taobao!

Explore: everywhere? That’s the amazing thing about Shanghai. Amazing things are all around.

What is the BEST and WORST thing about Shanghai?

BEST: The freedom to make life long connections and create amazing communities. How safe it is. How awesome the food is. How fun it is!

WORST: Pollution, noise.

Do you think our lifestyle is genetic or the way we were brought up?

Hmmm I’d say the way we are brought up. I was brought up travelling and I will always be travelling as much as I can.

Name three things you crave from your homeland that you are currently living without?


OK OK! Focaccia, real pesto, freshly baked pastries.

Any juicy/scary/amazing moments you have experienced in Shanghai?

Ah there are so many I can’t pick one. I’d say the events I helped organise were some of the highlights: Dragon Burn, Ladyfest, both amazing life changing moments. Aaaand then of course there is that one time I danced kungfu fighting in front of 2000 people for my company’s annual conference…because China!

Who do you love most on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Blogs?

Not into any of that. This city is technological enough. I’m a hippy and proud of it.

#Shanghai #Asia #IamaGGI

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