If you are facing an impending move to Shanghai with absolutely no prior knowledge of the city, then let me say this…I know what you are going through!
I can’t really advise a huge amount on whether one area is better than the other. My Shanghai knowledge is still not extensive. What I can tell you is that I’m absolutely thrilled with the area we did choose. Our apartment is in the Former French Concession (FFC) in the Xuhui district and its chocker block full of the stuff of expat dreams, especially when still a little green. Bars, cafes, import shops, health food stores, coffee shops and juice bars. Not to mention the odd dodgy DVD store with offerings in English. DVDs may seem like an archaic notion, but despite questionable quality, they are a necessity here where Netflix and streaming are a distant memory. There are nail bars and hairdressers also (to be discussed in a future blog). There are several schools and kindergartens in the area and lovely tree lined streets. It’s not completely Westernised, you can still get street food and shop in wet markets and we’re very close to the busy Jiangsu Road, one of the busy Shanghai streets. There are several metro stations within a twenty minute walk.
I did a fair bit of research, reading forums and websites about which areas were chosen by expats moving to Shanghai. One I found was from http://www.expatarrivals.com, this isn’t a website I use now I’m here but this article was interesting… http://www.expatarrivals.com/china/shanghai/areas-and-suburbs-in-shanghai
In choosing the area we were also guided by where there were suitable apartments to rent and proximity to decent schools. I researched the schools and the areas simultaneously and my husband looked around apartments. All our combined research pointed us to one place… the French Concession. I wholeheartedly recommend it. Here is a link to a previous blog I posted about moving here It’s just like France
As an aside, timeoutshanghai.com is an essential read for all moving to or already living in Shanghai. Its the one place I go to first for finding things to do and places to go. I didn’t find the following article before I left but its definitely worth taking note, particularly number 16! http://www.timeoutshanghai.com/features/Blog-Around_Town/29449/16-things-to-know-before-moving-to-Shanghai.html
Please do comment if you have any questions.