Shanghai, China – Observations during Chinese New Year 2017

Going to China, as an ‘independent’ young adult for the first time was eye opening. Being born there, and moving to Australia at a very young age I’m an “inbetweener”.

To my family living there I’m seen as an Aussie, whilst 2nd generation (and over) caucasians don’t see me exactly as ‘Aussie’ (intially anyway). Culturally (on a broader sense), I don’t usually fit in and identify most closely with a relatively small group of the Australian population of  1st generation born in Australia and those growing up in an immigrant household.

Regardless here are a couple observations:

Internet and Smart Phones

  • WeChat – China’s facebook absolutely dominates the market. All my aunties and uncles are on it. It has a cashless wallet, payment system and is integrated with China’s Uber (Didi). More and more it seems like it should be mentioned in the context of Facebook being the Western World’s WeChat. What started as a messaging app permeates the daily lives of individuals more greatly than Facebook ever has.
  • Due to the Great Firewall, China’s censorship and regulations has made it difficult for big tech companies from the rest of the world to gain traction and adoption. Because of this there are Chinese equivalents  of most big players:
    • Baidu (Google)
    • Taobao (Ebay)
    • YouKou (Youtube)
    • Sina Weibo (Twitter)
    • Alipay (Paypal)
  • Most smart phones look like iPhones – product design and innovation isn’t a strong suite right now for China. When I go to mobile phone retailers, there’s a feeling of homogeneity between all smartphone manufacturers
  • VPNs – It’s very common for Gen Y and younger to use VPNs which is (as described by a cousin of mine), “A grey area in Chinese Law, but closer to the dark side”. Many use it for accessing their Google accounts, but also for accessing Facebook.


  • Television plays a big part of family life
  • The TV was on in every household I visited but was what channel what was on varied – the television still seems to be the place where friends and family gather around in the living room of a household
  • Besides Sports and News, there was a massive amount of TV dramas
  • The majority of the dramas were set in the past, either in a relatively recent historical context or a more romanticised distant past. Very few were set in the present, and none were in the future i.e. sci-fi
  • I couldn’t help but feel that the television programming has undertones of propaganda pushing the message of civil obedience.


  • Transportation smart cards were implementation over a decade earlier in Shanghai (1999) compared to Sydney (2013). Sydney seems so behind in some areas.
  • Shanghai has two types of roads:
    1. Elevated roads – which are above ground and have no traffic lights and used to travel between different districts. (Click here for a sneak peak.)
    2. Street roads – which are on ground level used to travel around locally within districts and contain traffic light
  • Child care – day cares don’t really exists. Children are usually taken care of by their grandparent’s generation who are retired, whilst the parents are away earning the family’s income
  • Schooling – nearly all children go to tutoring which is outside of the normal school hours. This is because the content in exams is significantly more difficult than what is taught. This (broken) system has led to children (who can afford it) going to after school tutoring at least twice a week.