Shanghai much more than just a party town

Updated: 2014-06-12 13:23

By Rosanne Dekker (Shanghai Star)

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Rosanne Dekker came to Shanghai nine months ago as a 22-year-old exchange student from the Netherlands. She is nowworking as an editor for the YouMe Shanghai website, and contributing to projects organized by The Mansion.

Meeting friends in a bar, drinking in a club, ordering food in the middle of the night; that's what my typical night in Shanghai looked like about six months ago.

I arrived in Shanghai at the end of August to study, but like most international students my life was more about partying than studying. I had a lot of fun in the first five months. I met great people, my study was interesting, and I visited the tourist hot spots. Shanghai really overwhelmed me from the start, and the time I was studying felt like a vacation to me.

Of course, there are a couple of cultural differences that I had to get used to, especially the way Chinese people interact with each other, and the special treatment they give to laowai. Here's the deal: if you're a foreigner you can basically go to any big club and drink there for free – all night. This is the main reason why all international students see Shanghai as just a great city to party. Alcohol is cheap, the city never sleeps, and restaurants are open 24/7 with all the ingredients for a perfect student night out.

By the time my semester finished in January, I had had a great time. But I also had the feeling that I didn't see everything Shanghai has to offer. So I decided to stay here longer. First I traveled, to Hong Kong, Beijing, and Hangzhou in Zhejiang province. When I came back to Shanghai, most of the foreign students that I used to hang out with had left. I met new people that made me see that Shanghai is not just a place to party; there's much more to the city. A lot of expats are realizing their dreams in Shanghai. They start their own companies or art projects, and live their life the way they want it. This inspired me to do something I like. I found an internship, and now I'm an editor for

I also moved into The Mansion, a villa where you can live for free as long as you help out with their project — bringing cultural diversity to China. We mainly organize parties and festivals. The project is not about making money but about bringing people together, making people happy, and giving young artists and DJs a chance to express themselves. To live in this villa is interesting; I meet a lot of creative people and my roommates are inspiring and open-minded.

The most attractive thing about Shanghai is that it offers something for everybody. If you want to party, you can party. But if you want to start your own business, it is also possible. The sky is the limit! My time here so far has been incredibly valuable and exciting.

Although I'll have to go back to the Netherlands in the summer because my visa expires, this will definitely not be the last time in Shanghai for me!