Corey Sheridan is author of China Living: A Practical Guide to Living & Thriving in China, an ideal book for someone looking to get started in Shanghai. After 6 years in China, Corey has been able to include all the essential tips and tricks that most foreigners pick up after years in China and puts it at your fingertips. Besides his successful book, he also puts together customized tour packages, hassle-free and personable. Check out his website, ShanghaiGuru for more information.
Why did you come to Shanghai originally?
I first came to Shanghai in the summer of 2007 with a study abroad program at Jiaotong University. I’d have never imagined that seven years later, I’d be living a 5-minute walk from where I stayed then. I don’t even think I knew the French Concession existed then! My whole world existed of the Xujiahui Element Fresh, Mural Bar, a club called Bon Bon, and a place in Pudong where I had an internship. After that summer, I came back to Shanghai permanently in 2009 after graduation, just in time to see the city change tremendously as it prepared for the 2010 World Expo. Looking back to when I first came here, it’s amazing how much Shanghai has changed!
What do you think Shanghai offers young foreigners that other cities don't?
Shanghai is a great city to both get valuable work experience and enjoy your time out of work. Many companies will offer opportunities not found in America, and this way you can get some great experiences and try new things that employers back in the States may not offer. Also, outside of work, Shanghai is an amazing city. Public transportation is cheap and extremely convenient. Biking around the city is fun and affordable. Shanghai has a huge variety of restaurants and bars, and it seems like people are always down to socialize, grab a drink, or go to a music show. Finally, Shanghai is one of the safest cities in the world, which I never realize until I go back to visit the US. It’s a great city to spend time during your internship.
What's your favorite part of the city?
It sounds cliché, but I’d have to say the former “French Concession” areas of Xuhui District. In the summer, the shaded tree lined streets are great places to go for a stroll or bike ride, and some of the best restaurants, cafés, and bars are located in this area.
Any hidden or overlooked spots that someone should check out?
South of Xujiahui, there’s the Xuhui Riverside Park, which runs along the Huangpu River for a bit. It’s a great place to lie out on the grass, get some exercise on the bouldering walls there, and watch locals rollerblade, walk their dogs, and enjoy the sun.
What are some ways for a newcomer to fit in quickly?
Don’t be hesitant to talk to people and make friends. If a friend or acquaintance is having some people over to socialize, join them. Chances are you may meet some people that you have a lot in common with. For getting familiar with Shanghai, take a walk around your neighborhood. Pick a street and walk 15 minutes in one direction. This way you’ll discover shops, restaurants, and other secrets that your area has to offer.
What is a mistake that you see Shanghai first-timers make over and over again, and how can they avoid it?
RMB is not play money! Watch out or you’ll be going to the ATM every third day to take out 600 RMB. Then after a month you’ll realize that’s $100 every time. Shanghai can be a cheap city, but it can also be an extremely expensive one. Drinks in bars and nice meals add up quickly, so keep an eye on your spending or you’ll have to call your parents to send you a lifeline.
How about finding jobs in Shanghai- how can you tell good companies from the bad ones?
I would not split companies into “good” and “bad” but more into what kind of experience you will get. You could get a job for a well-known company, but be given menial tasks. Or, you could work at a small trading company and get to go on factory visits, and be the main point-person for the company’s English-speaking clients.
According to your website, you also offer a tour guide service- can you give a few details about that?
Sure! I offer 100% customized tours for small groups. It works like this: clients contact me and tell me what sorts of things they like to do (hiking, art, cooking, shopping) and then I build a customized tour package around them. Last year I had business clients who I took on factory visits and served as translator, and this year I’m taking a couple and their two teenage children to Yangshuo. During the trips, I take care of everything. This includes paying for meals, transport, hotels, and even little things like souvenirs. My clients get to have a hassle-free trip where they do the activities they like best.
Can you tell us a bit about your book, China Living? What inspired you to write it, and how do you think it can assist someone coming to China?
I was inspired to write the ebook after helping so many of my friends after they got to Shanghai. The book (and my mission when helping expats in Shanghai) is to offer young foreigners advice on how to get things done the easiest and cheapest way. For example, many people will go to Ikea to buy a sofa, when they can get one custom made for one third of the price at a furniture market. It’s also about staying healthy and safe in Shanghai, which is important when you are living so far away from home.
And finally, what kind of advice can you give to someone who's on the fence about coming to China?
Someone who is on the fence should first evaluate why they want to come to China, and what their options are back at home. Just the fact that you are a foreigner will not guarantee you a job, at least not a high paying one. That being said, China is a great place to get new experiences and live in a dynamic city. So, I would recommend reviewing all your options, and realizing that, with some hard work and good connections, it's very possible to set up an exciting and fulfilling life for yourself in China.