The idea of introducing the guest article on the blog, therefore an article written not by me, comes not only from the desire to tell about places that I have not (yet) visited and where I lived, but also to give a real cut of what is told. From the words of those who live in the first person certain experiences, many more emotions leak and the value of the shared content grows. In addition, we can go much further.
Let´s go to China, to Shangai.
and we do so thaks to Francesco and Flavia
1.First of all, I would like you to introduce yourself in your own words, tell us about yourself and your account and blog @sipartedopoilcaffe, a curious name which, perhaps, underlines your origin?
We are Flavia and Francesco, both Neapolitans, but we met in Milan, where we had been working for a few years, thanks to mutual friends. Let’s say that at the beginning we weren´t that interested in each other, quite the opposite, indeed. Love arrived long after, thanks to a trip to Turkey, a country I love, from which I had just returned, and to which Francesco would soon go.
The passion for travel has always united us, as well as the project of a blog in which to talk about our adventures. This idea, however, remained pending for a while.
Only during the lockdown, in spring/summer 2020, while Francesco was stuck in Shanghai and I in Italy (for 6 months), I started to work on it concretely and, in September 2020, recently returned to China, we finally put it online!
Obviously at that point the blog no longer had only a “travel” soul but inevitably also expat, to which we also joined our passion for food from around the world.
The name, as you guessed, is linked to the passion for coffee, especially mine, and the fact that my day, even on the road, can not begin without a coffee. I just don’t connect without it and Francesco has often found himself searching with me for cafes even in the most remote places in the world!
2. You are currently living in Shanghai. Did you choose expat life or did it just happen? How did it enrich you and what do you think it took from you (if it took something from you)?
It was a strange mix-up. When Francesco and I started dating, he had recently changed jobs and already knew that in his future a transfer to Shanghai was planned.
But when our story started, I totally forgot about it!!!
Then the future came sooner than expected, and we had to deal with this situation. Actually, I was willing to have an experience abroad for a while, but China wasn’t really in my mind, not even as a travel destination, you can figure I was not considering to move there. And in fact I moved a year later than Francesco. In the end it was love for Shanghai, for China and for the expat life!
And it has been a great enrichment, personal and couple. On the other hand, there is obviously the remoteness from families and friends, the sharing not only of important events but also of everyday life.
3- Asian culture is certainly very different from European culture. How did you get used to it? Both from a practical point of view (language, documents, etc…) and from a social and, therefore, emotional point of view?
It was definitely challenging and not just at the beginning. The inability to communicate can become really frustrating. Everything, even as simple as shopping, can become an adventure. It takes a lot of patience, a good translator, the time and the desire to attend a good Chinese course (to reach a level at least “survival”), and the ability to adapt and overcome cultural prejudices (even resigning to the fact that some things will always remain incomprehensible).
On the other hand, to compensate for these difficulties, there are many positive aspects: if you have a smartphone and maybe you have a Chinese colleague/friend to help you install and configure some basic apps, you can really do everything with your phone, from documents to shopping, and giving up cash altogether. Returning to Europe is every time a return to the past!
On a social level, Shanghai has a lot to offer, it is a very lively city culturally and with many expats from all over the world. Social life can be much more intense than in other cities.
4- Is the expat community very large in Shanghai?
Huge, a city in the city (although something with the Covid is changing). Some national communities are larger than others, such as the French, Japanese, or Koreans, and tend to be even more on their own and socialize with each other. Almost every community has its own association of reference, but there are also some international ones, which welcome people from all over the world.
We initially attended one of these, the Shanghai Expat Association. Even with a massive American presence, the first people I met in Shanghai were an Indian, an Indonesian, a Scottish, a Belgian and a German.
I was already in Shanghai for a year when I joined the Italian community and the ADIS, the Association of Italian Women in Shanghai, which organizes many events and activities with the consulate and the Italian Institute of Culture. In the last two years I have also joined the Board of this association and it has been a wonderful experience. Within the Italian community I met wonderful people, I could say our family in Shanghai.
5- If I want to move to Shanghai tomorrow, what are the top 3 things to do or keep in mind anyway?
Shanghai is a very friendly city for foreigners, very international and where it is easy to live and find yourself well. It is essential to have a good health insurance, a little Chinese (or the famous Chinese colleague willing to help) and the desire to be fascinated and conquered by a culture very different from the Western one, abandoning prejudices about this country.
6- Leaving aside the period of pandemic, is it easy to travel from Shanghai?
Absolutely yes. Shanghai is an important port and airport hub, strategic both to move within China and throughout Asia. In these 5 years we have been able to travel the Asian continent far and wide and make incredible trips, and before Covid we returned to Europe three times a year.
7- What is your general advice to give to anyone who wants to have an experience abroad?
If you feel it is right for you, jump in. Don’t wait, don’t postpone, don’t dwell on it too much. Find out more about school, work, healthcare, where to live (maybe by contacting other expats via social media and chat), get a good health insurance and evaluate a possible language course if you don’t already know it.
8 – What does home mean to you?
At the beginning home was Naples, they were our original homes. Now home is everywhere we are together, wherever we choose to live.
I thank Flava and Francesco for sharing with me and with all of us their story. I invite you to follow them on their instagram account
If you want to read about my unique experience in Asia click here. What about you? have you been to Asia or would you like to go there or even move? Tell me
See you soon