Relocating to China during COVID-19

I’ve relocated to Shanghai recently, and wanted to jot down the experience.

I had planned to move out of Singapore after Carousell. Spend a few years of my life outside Singapore, given that the world is too big to spend my whole life in just one country itself. However, as I looked out for opportunities in the US, COVID hit and basically my moving plans were shelved.

Some things happened in-between, and so happened that I managed to get myself an opportunity to move to Shanghai after about a year.

I would be lying if I said I had no fear or worries before I accepted the offer. I had never been to China, and I knew no one there. My command of Mandarin isn’t exactly great either, with my friends making fun of me when I said my Mandarin was, alright.

But I knew this was one of those decision tree type of stuff where “If I do not accept the offer, I would ask myself a lot of ‘What If’s down in the future.”

And I like to live my life without “What Ifs”.

Why China?

To be honest, I never really intended to work in China for concerns of a 9-9-6 culture. However, I was very intrigued by the growth potential of the company that I’m going to join and its value in the Creator Economy. And my interest in that far outweighed my concerns of long hours.

Life is about making tradeoffs, innit? You can’t have everything.

Plus, I’m also very excited by China’s tech scene. Reading this book called AI Superpowers by Kai Fu Lee got me super pumped to learn more about China’s tech companies, and how their application of AI is even more prevalent in every day life as compared to other parts of the world. I’ve always heard about how China has a cashless culture, and how you do everything via WeChat, and buy everything through Taobao. I really wanted to experience them for myself.

The relocation process

There were loads of documents to prepare. Mainly it was to prepare for the work permit and visa which you will need when you go to China for work. You’d have to apply for a Certificate of Clearance, aka a history of your Criminal Record. I also found out there was this process where you’d have to get certain documents like your education certificate legalized and approved by the Chinese embassy. Totally didn’t know such processes existed. And you’d have to book these appointments in advance.

The whole process of accepting my offer until reaching Shanghai took about 10 weeks, before I finally managed to get everything settled.

Am super fortunate for friends who introduced me to their Singaporean friends in China, who helped me along the way.

Swab tests

Before flying to China, you’d need to take 2 types of tests within 2 days of flying. For instance, since I flew on a Monday, I could only take the tests from Saturday onwards. In China’s case, they required you to take the usual COVID swab test (PCR) and also an Igm (serology) test.

I took them at Raffles Medical on Saturday 7am and got my results back at 8am the next day.

In China’s case, you have to declare that you’ve been tested negative for both tests through an online portal. When they’ve approved your COVID test submissions, you will get a green QR code which you would have to show at the airport check-in counter before you can fly. If not, forget about flying.

Flying during COVID-19

Friends Grateful for friends and family who woke early to send me off, will miss you guys!

On the day of my flight, the airport was pretty empty, but my flight was more packed than I expected. A couple passengers donned PPE suits. Fortunately I had a whole aisle to myself, which I could, you know, lie on and cry about being separated from my friends and family during the flight. (I’m a human being!!!)

The flight was pretty uneventful. Watched Coco the movie and then went to sleep.

Reaching Shanghai airport

It took us 1.5 hours to disembark the plane after landing due to COVID-19 restrictions. Upon disembarkation, you’d have to go through a process of filling in a health declaration form to get a QR code. You have to show the QR code to the health officials through the process of getting out of the airport. We had to take a nasal and throat swab test again. It was at a makeshift outdoor facility where there were rows and rows of officials swabbing people at counters. I almost suffocated as I didn’t dare to breathe when they were doing the nasal swab for me.

Swab You get a test tube with your name on it, and head towards the facility to do your swab tests.

Once you’re done with the swab tests and checking out at the immigration, the next steps is to get to a hotel for a 14D (or 7+7) quarantine. They’d ask for your local address or at least the next place you intend to stay at after the quarantine, and then direct you to booths with the specific districts. For my case, I was going to stay at Qingpu district, so they also gave me the option of either staying at Holiday Inn or Mercure Hotels. I picked Mercure.

Then I waited almost 2 hours for the bus to pick us up, and finally reached the hotel after 7 hours since landing.

China relocation This was created by a Singaporean within some of the WeChat groups that I’m in. Sorry, I’m not sure who created it to give credit!


Hotel check-in Upon reaching the hotel, we were brought through a ‘back door’ and this was the check-in lobby.

So yes, I’m serving my quarantine now. To be honest, it’s kind of similar to when Singapore was in its circuit breaker phase, save for the fact I am now confined to a room (with no signs of the sun) instead of having a house to run around in. I wish I brought more snacks for myself, given that it’s currently the 6th day and I’m absolutely sick and tired of the food.

Also, I should’ve gotten a China phone number before going over, since I can’t use their local food delivery apps like Meituan or Eleme without one.

Hotel Hotel room.

China food Breakfast and lunch. This happens when I wake up late for breakfast and they’ve also sent the lunch over.

I did a podcast with my friend on my relocation experience here, and also made a TikTok about the day I flew.

So that’s about it for now. I’d still have to settle housing and banking matters, but that’d probably be an update for another day.