Dolls Profile: Kate Toogood

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

I came to China the way many people come to China – as an ESL teacher. In early 2014, my boyfriend Mike and I found ourselves smack in the middle of our quarter-life crises so we packed up our lives and moved to Suzhou to teach. Mid-way through the year I realized that I wanted to get back to my career in marketing/communications, and applied for jobs in Shanghai and was fortunate to be offered a position as a copywriter. That was almost a year ago, and I’ve now changed my path again! I’ll be studying Chinese and working freelance, but that’s what I love about Shanghai, and China. There are just so many opportunities – as long as you’re open to them.

What’s your favorite part about being in Shanghai?

I love how crazy this city is. There are so many languages, so many people to meet and such great food! We’ve been fortunate to make friends with people from all over the world, so living here has truly been a mind-broadening experience. It can be overwhelming for sure (we’ve all had days where we’ve been China-ed), but I just try to think of this as an adventure!

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

I’m ashamed to say that we haven’t done as much traveling as we thought we would. Too many places to go, too little money, and too little holiday time. However, aside from other weekend jaunts and trips during Spring Festival, we spent four days in Yangshuo in October 2014 and I absolutely loved it. We went on a river cruise on a bamboo raft, had a tour around the countryside on scooters, explored the town and of course, ate and ate and ate. (Eating is kind of a thing with me.) It was so lovely to be out in nature and see the rice, cotton and orange farms. Highly, highly recommend it.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Shanghai?

I’m afraid to tell you my favourite restaurant because I don’t want it to become too popular! 😉 But ok. I’ll tell you. My favourite restaurant is Sapori, which is just down the street from our house. It’s only seats about 12 people, so it’s become a bit of a neighbourhood secret. We’ve become quite good friends with the owner Aimee, and she makes fantastic steak, lamb, oysters, mussels, pizza….mmm. I think I’m hungry.

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

I love biking around the neighbourhoods and seeking out new shops, coffee shops and, yup, restaurants. Biking used to terrify me, but once you get the hang of traffic (there is method to the madness) it’s a piece of cake.

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

The one thing I’d say to new people is don’t expect culture shock to be a short-lived, one-time event. I actually went through culture shock twice, first when we moved to Suzhou and then again to a lesser degree when we moved to Shanghai. My culture shock first manifested itself as anger at really stupid things (Great Firewall, I’m looking at you), and would come and go at random. Then, when we moved to Shanghai, I experienced a whole new set of challenges. One minute I’d feel excited to be here, then the next I was overwhelmed, anxious and angry. So you just have to recognize that it’s temporary, and that it will come and go. Just ride the wave, and whenever you’re feeling negative just laugh to yourself and say “yep, I’ve been China-ed”. And you’re not alone! If you ever need to chat, feel free to reach out to your fellow Shanghai Dolls, because we all know exactly what you’re going through. 🙂

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