Updated: Nov 4, 2018
Shenzhen is a big city! With seven districts and still growing, this 40-year-old city is a mix of old and new.
One of my biggest questions before arriving in Shenzhen was, of course, what is the nightlife scene like in Shenzhen?!
Before arriving, I figured there would be places to go out and have some drinks but had no idea what to expect. Cut to me living in the heart of Futian district and having my first encounter with Coco Park. When I first heard of Coco Park and that all the expats go there, I figured it was a nice outdoor park in the heart of the city where the expats all hang out. I was so wrong. Coco Park is a large (and very confusing) shopping mall, with many Western (but expensive!) stores. Across the street from Coco Park is where the nightlife in Shenzhen resides. There are the expat bars like the Irish Pub, the only place it’s not rare to be a foreigner. Right beside the Irish pub is where the nightlife of Shenzhen lives. It’s hard to explain until you see it, as it’s something I’ve never experienced back home. It’s basically a corridor full of different bars and clubs, and if you go on the weekends past 8 pm, it’s going to be so loud you can’t hear your friend’s voices over the music! It is also somewhere you can go during the weekdays, although there are of course less people. This is definitely the heart of the nightlife in Shenzhen.
If you are looking for something more chill, and after a few weeks at Coco Park I’m sure you will be, there are small Chinese bars all throughout the city where you can grab a drink. In China it’s also acceptable to drink in the streets, so sometimes it’s fun to go to the technology hub and just sit outside with a drink and watch life go by. There are so many cool places in Shenzhen to do this, including the many parks that make up the city. If you happen to be placed in another district, not to worry! The metro in Shenzhen is easy to use (although only open until about 11:30PM) and cabs are pretty cheap, depending on where you are going (a taxi from Futian to Bao’an would be about $15). In every district of Shenzhen there will be quite a few expats, so it is always easy to meet them and have your own night out, or a trip to Coco Park.
Most of the Western restaurants I have found have been in the Coco Park area. However, there are 2 main food delivery apps that are easy to use, and although the apps are only in Chinese, you can translate the pages to see what food is offered. There are easily over 1,000 restaurants on these apps all within your area, but keep in mind a lot of them will be Chinese food, and the Chinese food is definitely cheaper than the Western food. I would say for most Western food it is about the same price as food back home ($20-$25 for a burger and drink for an example). (Side note: most of the expats I know don’t eat Chinese food too often as it’s a lot of oil.) Most of the servers in Western restaurants will speak English. If you are at a Chinese restaurant, or even just walking down the street in China, chances are not too much English will be spoken. It is a MAJOR help to know some key Chinese phrases and words to get by in daily life here, as the English level was much lower than I expected prior to coming to China.
Overall, I love life in China. Be ready to face some obstacles when you first arrive, as I have yet to meet anyone who wasn’t at least a bit frustrated upon arrival. Once you are settled in your apartment and school, things will get easier. Once you get all the Chinese apps and know some Chinese phrases, things will get much easier! Living in China is an awesome experience totally unlike anything you can imagine or experience at home, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in coming.