New York Subway vs. Shanghai Metro

In the last few years I have travelled to some of the busiest countries in the world and visited the most used metros. Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and New York are amongst the most heavily trafficked in the world. It was fascinating experiencing all of them and comparing how efficient they were.

In the last few years I have travelled to some of the busiest countries in the world and visited the most used metros. Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and New York are amongst the most heavily trafficked in the world. It was fascinating experiencing all of them and comparing how efficient they were.

Tokyo was insane, with hundreds of people politely waiting for staff wielding a u-shaped stick to squeeze people into the cars like sardines. Most of the subway riders wore masks, remained quiet throughout the ride and were as polite as possible under the circumstances. Compared to my experience in China, it was almost hard for me to comprehend, but I’m getting to that…

If you’re returning readers of this blog then you’re probably sick of hearing me whine about the Shanghai metro, please bear with me! The Shanghai metro has over 360 stops and constantly growing. It is super convenient, air-conditioned, ridiculously cheap and surprisingly clean since many people think it’s okay to spit on the ground. The only thing wrong with the Shanghai metro is the passengers.

People on the Shanghai metro only care about themselves and where they are going, except they are also busy looking at their phones so they don’t notice while they hit you in the head, step all over your new shoes and they shove their way on and off the metro as if they are the only ones using it. Every rush hour metro ride that I took got me a new bruise, scratches on my bag and had me contemplating murder – no joke.

For someone who has never experienced it, it’s probably hard to imagine. But nothing ruins your day as much as people who just don’t care about anyone else to the point of acting like animals escaping a wildfire and shoving each other out of the way aggressively (sometimes covered in sweat). When you imagine that there are a billion of these people, it makes you not want to be on this Earth anymore.

“Haha,” people commented on my whiney posts on Facebook, “that sounds just like New York!” Every time I read that, I began to dread my move. I didn’t believe it at first but when everyone I knew in New York kept saying the same thing, I started to think that they might be right. I was very wrong!

The New York subway is the complete opposite of Shanghai. It is dirty, old, not always air-conditioned, it can be extremely inconvenient – for example in Brooklyn, because the trains only go horizontally so you need to go into Manhattan to get from Bushwick to Brighton Beach which is pretty ridiculous.

It is also extremely expensive at $2.75 per ride no matter the destination. Sometimes Google maps will suggest that you transfer in a place where you need to get off the subway and then get back on, which costs you another $2.75! It’s pretty ridiculous.

When it comes to the people, if you think New Yorkers are unfriendly, you haven’t been to Shanghai. The subway can get pretty crowded during rush hour, but people are generally aware of their surroundings. When they pile on into the cars, it’s not quite as organized as Tokyo, but people will make room. In Shanghai you have to push people out of the way because they won’t move an inch and will block off entire areas of free space because they’re too busy looking at their phones to notice it.

Another thing that was really shocking to me was that most New York subway stations have the same place to enter and exit – this would never work in China. People don’t even wait to let people off the subway before they get on. It would be a massacre! I’m not saying that New York is perfect, I actually saw an impatient crowd getting on once before people got off, but one of the passengers yelled “hey, let us get off first” and guess what? They stopped getting on and order prevailed!

It is arguable that the New York subway is more civilized than Shanghai because New York is a much smaller city. Before you laugh at me, Shanghai has 25 million residents compared to New York’s 8.5 million. People in Shanghai are always running and rushing, never helping each other and sometimes New York can be the same, but I’ve never had to carry a heavy bag up any flight of stairs ever, I was always offered help. That never happened in Shanghai… it’s nice to live in a small quiet city now 😉

Earlier on I mentioned Seoul, which is another busy city with a spotless and convenient metro. I would say that the people in Seoul are somewhere in between New York and Shanghai. People are significantly ruder than in New York but less so than in Shanghai. The actual metro is as convenient as Shanghai, as clean as Tokyo (they get money back if they see a spill, etc.) and more modern than both because they take credit card payments like buses in Sweden!

Comparing all the factors, New York is by far the most expensive, dirtiest, least convenient of Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul. But while rats and dripping walls can be ignored or avoided, people are harder to tune out – especially when they are trying to sell you bags and touching your phone over your shoulder (yes, that happened).

There are definitely crazy people in New York and they do ride the subway. Unlike in Shanghai, these people are the minority. Multiply the rudest person you’ve seen on the NY subway by 25 million and then you can imagine what it’s like in Shanghai.


All About Line Eleven (Guest Post)

KCIS is located at the end of Shanghai’s metro line 11. Read more about the line here.

Megan Ackerman wrote this chapter of the KCIS Survival Guide.
This guide was sent to all new teachers coming to teach at the Kang Chiao International School in Huaqiao.

Line 11 is the metro line closest to us here in Huaqiao! There are several great stops along the way. Here are just some of the many wonders of Line 11.

Huaqiao: Stop 1. Where we reside. If you get on here you usually get a seat!

Anting: An old Germanized area. Several German pubs and a mall with many food options. Also, there is an old town that makes for a lovely hour walk. This is the beginning of when you start to see some more foreigners.

Shanghai Circuit: This is where Formula 1 is held, a cold event to check out usually held right after winter when the weather is starting to become nice!

Nanxiang: Okay, I know another mall; however, this mall has a CityShop, which is a lovely foreign food store. There are several places to eat different than the Anting mall and if you walk about 5 km down the road there is a Carrefour. Carrefour is a nicer food store that has many items! There is also an old church like structure that could make for a nice walking trip.

Jiangsu Road: Now, you are in the middle of SHA! Get off here to exchange to Line 2 to enter deeper into the city.

Xujiahui: This tends to be extremely crowded. It is the exchange for Line 1. To be honest, avoid this stop because it is always busy!

Oriental Sports Center: Towards the end of the Line you will find the Sports Center. Sometimes there are big events; but mostly, it is just a nice area to have a walk to take a picnic.

Disney: Disney is at the end of Line 11. So, if you ever need to tell someone where you are living just say, “Do you know where Disney is on Line 11 – the complete opposite way!”

The metro is an interesting place and you never know what you might see! Take some time for a nice metro ride and embrace local living!

With the rapid development of the metro system is not completely up to date, but it is an excellent APP to download or use online. It allows you to check the first and last trains to and from each station which is super handy as the metro doesn’t run particularly late. There is also a route planning function that will help you get from A to B the fastest way and will give you an approximate travel time and an exact cost. The Shanghai metro has 364 stations! It’s one big beast… to find out more try

Important Bus Routes:

228: Zhaofeng Road Metro Station – Dongcheng Avenue

Significant Stops: Metro Station – E Mart – Colorful Apartments – School – MixTown

101: Zhaofeng Road Metro Station – Kunshan South Railway Station

Significant Stops: Metro Stations including Zhaofeng, Guangming and Huaqiao – Huaqiao town center – Decathalon sports shop – Kunshan South Long Distance Bus Station – Kunshan South Railway Station.

“The Blue Bus” will get you into Shanghai for 5RMB in 45-60 minutes. It starts around the corner from the Hanting Hotel and stops outside E-mart before barreling along the highway into Shanghai where its final destination is Zhongshan Park Metro. Usually you need a sought after “21 Century” community card to get on, but the card scanners will often allow you to subtly slide a fiver into their hand. It’s a comfy and convenient way to get into the city! You might also be lucky to get a card with your apartment!

Living in a Chinese Economic Development Zone

I live on the very edge of Shanghai, in a Chinese economic development zone. What exactly does that mean?

I live in Huaqiao: the last stop on Shanghai’s metro line 11 on the opposite end of the newly opened Disney Resort. Where I live is technically not considered to be part of Shanghai, instead my long address includes Kunshan, Jiangsu and Suzhou.

Kunshan is a satellite city located in the greater Suzhou region, which is known for its ancient water towns. Jiangsu is the province that both Shanghai and Suzhou are part of. So, if Kunshan is the city that I live in, then what exactly is Huaqiao?

Huaqiao is an economic development zone which means that there are many factories, warehouses and residential buildings. One of the best-known companies with an enormous warehouse in Huaqiao is Jingdong Mall (basically Chinese Amazon).

Living in a development zone requires patience and flexibility. There is a lot of construction, new stores pop up overnight and your favorite restaurant might not exist in a week or two. There are some huge pluses to living in a place like this. Prices on rent, food and e-bikes, for example, are much lower than in Shanghai.

Socially, a development zone is not the most exciting way to live. Sure, there’s a gym, pool-hall, KTV, large supermarket and even a dingy little club. But it’s easy to get bored quickly and feel like you’re trapped in a tiny village packed with sun-blocking 20+ story apartment buildings instead of never-ending fields and animals.

The public transportation system in the area is good and frequent, but the last buses leave at around 20:00. After that you need to choose long walks in the polluted air, taxi drivers that will try to rip you off or rickety tuk-tuks that are only fun when you’re a tourist.

But hey, the post office and banks are open during the weekend. There is a lot of unique street food to try and hundreds of tiny little restaurants to visit. Manicures, haircuts and massages are offered at every corner and at great prices.

There are very few rules so you can spend your free time playing beer pong in grocery stores or even exploring rooftops covered in mannequin body parts.

Living in an economic development zone is not all that bad. Especially when you can spend the money you save on ridiculously cheap rent on wild weekends in Shanghai. After all, it only takes about 60 – 90 minutes to get the heart of the third most populated city in the world!