In another inspiring interview to help you choose your next potential location independent destination, we interview Leigh-Anne Russell. She is based in Shanghai, China and has some interesting tips and trick so surviving personally and professionally in the People’s Republic…
First, could you briefly introduce your location independent business?
My business, Movashaka, produces live entertainment experiences to promote business and brands (this is the location dependent part). Movashaka also provides related services that are location independent e.g. booking agency, artist support services, such as showreel video editing, creation and management of promotional materials, eg. social media platforms, EPKs (electronic presskits).
You’re based in China. Whereabouts are you and what made you decide to relocate there?
I’m based in Shanghai. I first came to Shanghai in 1998 after a job hunt in Hong Kong resulted in an opportunity to move to Shanghai instead. I’ve been living in Shanghai almost ten years now, though I worked a two year stint in Macau (“Asia’s Las Vegas”) between ’06 and ’08.
As a business owner, how has your experience been living in China so far?
Now that there’s soft toilet paper and readily available fresh coffee, things are a lot more comfortable
From a location independent perspective, as far as internet access goes, Shanghai is really not a bad choice. In fact, an announcement from Shanghai Telecom made in 2008 revealed plans to make Shanghai a wifi city in 2010, in time for the Shanghai World Expo.
In the meantime, there are plenty of options around town to work where you’ll find free access to reasonably reliable wifi. Major international courier service operators can be found here, too, as well as Kinko for printing and copying, and Western Union for convenient wiring of funds.
As a tourist, what’s been your best experience so far?
Having been firmly entrenched in Shanghai for so long, the city feels like home and I take a lot of things for granted. So, it was fantastic when mum came to visit recently as reliving all the quintessential Shanghai “Wow!” experiences through her eyes was so much fun.
One of the highlights was this particular day which took in the major tourist sights…
We started off with an early morning stroll in one of the oldest parks in Shanghai, Fuxing Park, where you can find locals of all ages engaged in plenty of activity such as tai qi, kung fu, badminton, traditional fan dancing, singing and playing music. Wandering out of the park, we ambled along the tree lined streets in the old French Concession area and took in the historical architecture of that period.
We hopped in a taxi and headed to “M on the Bund” for lunch on their terrace. This restaurant is housed on the top floor of one of the heritage buildings on the famous Bund promenade and is one of the best places to take in the view over looking the Bund, Huangpu River and the über-modern skyline of Pudong on the east side of the river.
With full bellies, we then walked off lunch along the Bund promenade, watching the boats and sampling a local sweet treat of toffee-covered fruit skewers (not for the faint-hearted). At the end of the promenade, a left turn and a venture along Nanjing East Road to take in the art deco buildings and colourful sights and sounds of one of Shanghai oldest, busiest shopping streets.
After several blocks, we stopped and soaked up the sights at People’s Square, a favourite gathering place for locals on a sunny day. We watched all the kite flying, bought a kite shaped like a giant squid and joined in the fun!
As this particular day happened to be on the weekend, a quick side step into the lusciously landscaped People’s Park and we came across the unforgettable sight of hundreds of eager parents in the “Matchmakers Market”, all touting the virtues of their unmarried sons and daughters trying to pair them up with a suitable spouse!
After a short rest back at home, we treated ourselves to a delicious dinner and plenty of good wine at The Kitchen on the east side of the river in Pudong. The Kitchen is a Japanese owned Italian restaurant with incredible service and specialty wood-fired pizzas cooked in a gleaming copper oven in the open kitchen. It also has a captivating view of the buildings along the Bund which at night are all beautifully illuminated.
To top things off, we finished the day on a high, literally, 100 floors high, to be exact, with a mind-blowing 360° view of Shanghai from the viewing deck of the Shanghai World Financial Centre. For my mum, who lives in a rural Cotswold town in the West of England, this just blew her mind.
Any other insider tips for things to do while in China?
If you base yourself in Shanghai, you’ll quickly see that there isn’t much in the way of green space. If you’re like me, and tend to go a bit stir-crazy in a concrete jungle after a while, there are luckily many options for day trips and long weekends where you can find yourself in rampant nature.
One of the most user-friendly day-trip options, if you don’t speak Chinese, is the garden city of Hangzhou which is just over an hour train ride away. There you can hike far from the madding crowd over the ridges of the tea plantation hilltops and bamboo forests.
Another popular option is Moganshan, a village located in a mountainous area a few hours from Shanghai. Moganshan has an interesting history as it was the popular summer escape for the well-to-do foreigners living in Shanghai during the turn of last century.
Thanks to the likes of the expat run Naked Retreats and Moganshan Lodge, several of the old villas constructed as summer homes during that period have been restored and now serve as guesthouses and boutique hotels for those seeking a creative pause from the frenetic pace of Shanghai. Both Naked Retreats and Moganshan Lodge have wifi, too.
For other location independent entrepeneurs considering a move to China any words of wisdom or advice?
It’s important to bear in mind that internet access in Mainland China can occasionally be temporarily disrupted which may prove prohibitive for some LIPs considering a move here. Certain sites are blocked by the Central Government, such as Youtube, Ning and Blogspot.
Hotmail, Twitter, Flickr are also all blocked during sensitive periods, most recently the 20th Anniversary of the Tian’anmen crackdown, though access to these sites has now been restored. There are certain ways around the firewall with proxy sites, of course. You can you this online test tool to check if your site or blog is blocked in China.
Procedures and documentation required when applying for a travel visa to China can change without notice. Recent changes to the procedure for a basic tourist visa require that you now present proof of a return trip flight ticket, namely to show you’ve already got your ticket out of China, as well as contact information for your China “host”. As these regulations are prone to change at a moment’s notice, checking with the Chinese embassy or consulate in the place where you intend to apply for your visa is paramount prior to committing to the China move.
Shanghai’s air quality, though improving, isn’t the best by any stretch of the imagination. If you intend to base yourself here for more than a few months at a time and have asthma or sinus issues, or are overly concerned about breathing in heavy metals-laden air, this might not be the place for you