Great Expat Exodus

Shanghai these days, man. It’s no secret I absolutely love this city, but ever since the 2-month lockdown ended — and I’m using the term ‘ended’ loosely, because let’s face it, it hasn’t really ended yet — it’s really been tough trying to keep the love intact. The ambiance is strange. Energy levels, down. There are less people, less interactions, more suspicion. Like last weekend, we were scooting to Huangpu for dinner and at the Xintiandi crossing stoplight we noticed there were so few bikes out for a Saturday at 8pm. Usually that area is choked with scooters and pedestrians. That night it was mostly delivery drivers.

So today I’m sitting in a café, one of my haunts on Anfu Lu. Before lockdown this was my unofficial “office”. Rent was paid in the form of multiple cappuccinos and pastries. Salmon salads, should I extend to lunch time. There was a whole cast of characters I could rely on, from the security guard tasked to line up the scooters parked on the pavement, the dog-walkers, the waiters, the guy who always sat across me doing his Chinese homework. Well, today is the first time I returned post-lockdown (for reference, that was June 1st-ish). And it’s crazy just how much the place has emptied out. I mean, even the members of the biking group that come here for breakfast at 7:30am have drastically dwindled in number.

Seems like the Great Expat Exodus isn’t over yet. Friends and acquaintances, those who are still in place at least, have their exit plans in their back pockets. Those who are still here have yet to reach their breaking points; others, like us, have contracts to finish and obligations to fulfill, our desire to extend beyond that end date annihilated by all these unknowns. Every day here feels like partaking in a psychological experiment, a reality show: How Much More Can You Take? What Establishment Will Lock Down Next? When Was Your Last PCR Test?

I still can’t wrap my head around it. Is this what the higher-ups, the people running this show, really want? Just… why? Why would you want to throttle an entire country? What is the point? And what, may I ask, is the fucking end game?

Currently listening to:
SmartLess Podcast
Guest: Ethan Hawke

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *