Dolls Profile: Saira Shahzad

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Hi Saira! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What brought you out to Shanghai?

Initially a job from London brought me out here, and then I suppose my sense of adventure and all the opportunities Shanghai has to offer has kept me here. I was born and raised in London, so this is the first time I’ve lived abroad and oh my how fun it has been. Prior to moving abroad I lived around the UK so I suppose there is only so much moving around a tiny Island one can do so the next logical step was to move to one of the biggest countries in the world.

What’s your favorite part about being in Shanghai?

I’m not sure I could narrow this down to a favorite part, I love the friends I have made here, they’re a diverse bunch from around the world. The opportunity to travel across Asia is so much easier here. Also the craziness of Shanghai, where on a bad day you say “I’m having a China Day,” and when it’s a good day you laugh to yourself and say “only in Shanghai.” I also feel like the congestion, all the noise, and the assaults on the senses create a massive buzz and make the city feel exciting. When you live here long enough, the expat community feels small and like a tight community.

What’s the best trip you’ve taken since you’ve been living in Asia?

The best trip was last December – I went to Australia with my fiancĂ© (then boyfriend) and we came back engaged!
We were gone for a few weeks and traveled up the East Coast starting in Sydney and finished in Cairns. All this traveling was done through a coach service, and it was 15+ hours of coach rides and sightseeing and just being busy. Then on Christmas Eve he asked my hand in marriage, and on Boxing Day we flew back – so it was the perfect end to a busy trip.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Shanghai?

Different restaurants for different reasons – Vedas for Indian, Mr Harry’s because it reminds me of home, La Bota becuase I can walk there from my house and there’s always good service and good atmosphere – and for that reason, I also love most of the restaurants on Dagu Lu. Not forgetting my local Muslim noodle shop.

What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekends in our vibrant city?

I don’t usually get a weekend as I’ve started my own Hotsauce company (BYFO) so we are usually working the weekends at markets. You can come see us at Jiashan Market, we’re usually there on Saturdays. Or try our sauce next time you see it at a restaurant. If I am not working then I would be out usually with friends most likely around the Jingan area sipping away at a beverage or two.

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Can you give any advice to our new girls in town?

Plenty, although I’m not sure how useful it will be! First of all, give Shanghai time, it’s not the easiest city in the world. It can be hard on your emotions and give you highs and lows, so be patient to find your groove and circle of friends here. Don’t dismiss Shanghai as a party town (which it does very well) if you have a particular interest, take the time to find those groups or create your own. We were all new once and went through exactly the same thing – most people enjoy sharing their knowledge and helping out. Also, learn Mandarin when you arrive because after awhile you learn to survive without (your charades game will become championship level) so the incentive to learn the longer you stay becomes smaller; lastly, be aware of fake alcohol. You will know when it’s being served as the prices will be too good to be true and the place will generally look dodgy.

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