Written by Julee Range, this is a chapter of the KCIS Survival Guide. This guide was sent to all new teachers coming to teach at the Kang Chiao International School in Huaqiao.
A Health and Beauty Survival Guide
So you’re stepped off the plane and set foot in one of the largest metropolises in the world. Modern, massive and hop, Shanghai is truly a city where you can find almost any western beauty treatment or service you could ever want. From balayage to Brazilians, the city is littered with high-end salons, staffed with savvy professionals, who all speak reasonable English. Everything you could possible need to keep your look sophisticated,s harp and fly.
Uhhh… but here’s the problem… you don’t live in central Shanghai. You live in Huaqiao and you work… a lot. So spending over an hour on the subway and 200 RMB just to keep your eyebrows on fleek might get old… fast.
Rural, tiny and rough, Huaqiao is simply a small town where haute couture includes wearing your pajamas in public, beauty salons are few and far between and 99.99% of people in the service industry don’t speak any English at all. This can make routine health and beauty maintenance a tedious, tedious nightmare.
Warning! After a couple months in this town, it’s very easy to start letting yourself go and it’ll happen before you even realize it. You’ll just wake up one day an overly hairy, unkempt version of your former sleek self… home on a Saturday night, stuffing your newly chubby face with dumplings filled with something strange you randomly pointed to off the menu (because you still won’t know Chinese) … trying to unsuccessfully stream a movie through exceptionally shitty internet, while rocking gnarly, fuzzy PJs and split ends. Yikes. Sick.
If this image doesn’t appeal to you… there are a few hidden gems in town and simple tips I recommend.
10 Tips On How to NOT Become Ratchet in Huaqiao
When you get your haircut locally, bring photos with you to the salon. A lot of photos. And add your hairdresser on WeChat so you can communicate (via translator) with them during the process. Keep pointing from the pictures to your hair… repeatedly. Sometimes they like to forget about the picture.
Don’t buy an e-bike right away. Walk or “real bike” as much as you can. Once you get an e-bike your days of using your legs are over.
Join a gym. Go to the gym you joined. Make a friend. Go to the gym together. (MegaFit and Start Fitness are both good options. The school gym can get crowded during the week.)
Don’t eat rice with school lunch (or don’t eat school lunch at all.) Unless you’re used to eating white rice everyday… bodies don’t tend to do well with excesses of unfamiliar carbs.
Wash your face as much as possible. The pollution will age you decades. Also, facial masks and sunscreen go a long way. Shop at Watson’s in Anting for quality face products.
Buy membership cards/accounts at the local salons (listed below). You get free services and/or discounts to keep you routinely groomed.
Shop online. You can purchase current/trendy fashions at reasonable prices and in western sized. DON’T look around you for fashion trends. It’s so tacky it will start to grow on you.
Routinely do hair treatments or masks. The local water is very hard on your hair. Unless you wash your hair in Evian every day… you should take extra care to offset the damage.
Get massages. You’re in Asia. Massages are cheap and they relieve stress. Stress makes you look like crap.
Get out of Huaqiao as much as possible. Go to Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, Nanjing, Xi’an. Go anywhere. Huaqiao is a bubble, don’t suffocate in it.
So where to get haircuts, facials nails and massages in your new hometown?
MegaFit Spa (located just inside the MegaFit Gym to the right, called Madlan)
Services: massages, facials, laser hair removal, cupping, steam baths, makeup tattooing, eyelash implants (yes, implants!), cellulite treatment and much, much more…
***Massages at Megafit are more western styles and more relaxing than local Chinese spots. The manager speaks some English and can help you with preferences and services. Membership packages are available. Also note that you do not need a gym membership to go to this salon.
U+ Nail Art (located behind McDonalds, near E-mart)
Services: manicures, pedicures, eyelash extensions, make-up tattooing, ‘facial water injection’ (whatever that is).
***The nail art at his salon is generally better than other places in town (depending on the technician). Also, they usually have 2-3 workers on staff is it’s better if you are going with friends, which is recommended because all the nail places take forever to gel nails. The owner, Sunny, speaks English and offers discount cards of 10 – 30 %. She is also the owner of the Korean restaurant a few doors down.
Purple Hair Salon (located near E-Mart, between U+ Nail Art and California Dream Bakery)
Services: haircuts, blow outs, hair steam treatments, color, cuts, magic strengthening and perms.
Nailed It! (Nair Care)
Nail season is a lot of fun! Halloween until Chinese New Year is the prime time to get some holiday inspired nail art! It’s always enjoyable to go with a friend and let’s be honest… there aren’t a lot of entertainment options during those cold winter months!
“I was having problems with my hair quality and when I went to an expat salon, I found out that one big cause is the chlorine used to treat water here. I bought a water filter and since then Chris’s hair has stopped falling outs and my highlights aren’t orange anymore! It costs about 800 RMB but lasts for six months with two people showering regularly.” – Kelly Shipman