9 Shanghai residents on life after lockdown

In one of China's most populated city restrictions are being eased, people are back at work, and stores and nightclubs have reopened — but life is still very different.

by Amber Akilla
18 May 2020, 2:41am

Just a few months ago, China was in the thick of its COVID-19 lockdown. In February, at the time of our first interviews with China-based creatives, most other countries had not yet gone into lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. People in China and Italy were showcasing what life inside would soon be like for the rest of the world. Now, with the number of new cases in China remaining low or non existent, restrictions are being eased across the country’s regions in varying degrees. Although celebrations are in order now that people are no longer confined to their homes, there are new challenges that come with living during a pandemic that still rages on around the world.

In Shanghai, one of China's most populated and diverse cities, life is getting a little closer to normal. People are able to visit friends and resume work — even nightclubs are open. And while some of the city's businesses have closed and others have survived or successfully adapted, there is still caution and uncertainty around a potential second wave of cases. Here, we speak to some young Shanghai residents about the easing of restrictions and how they're adjusting to life after lockdown.

"To be honest, I can't really remember the first thing I did when restrictions were eased… I've been going outside and being more social than I was even before lockdown. The weather has been amazing and I have a new found desire to visit parks and meet up with my friends. There's also been a lot of what is now known as 'revenge partying'. Four nights out in a row used to seem unachievable for me but it's like we're all making up for lost time. I revisited my passion for painting while in lockdown and it's become part of my daily life now. There's been a major increase in photo and video production work because a lot of the jobs have been redirected to China as other countries go into lockdown, so I've been on set a lot. Wearing a mask is required and getting your temperature checked everywhere you go is the new normal." Chengxi, creative consultant

"Life has been fabulous after lockdown; my family is safe and healthy, all my lovers are safe and healthy — and luckily one of them is in Shanghai. Cooking with friends is my new favourite thing to do. Classes for dance, ceramics, making jewellery are all reopening so I’ve started going to them again. Reading about I-Ching helped me calm anxieties during the quarantine, and I just signed up for an I-Ching class. I was able to start working on photoshoot production for editorials and commercials as of April. It’s more difficult to do these days but I feel very lucky to get back to work so soon. Most importantly, I am adopting a cat and I’m going to name him Timo after Timothée." Ning, producer and model

"I'm finally back on set after a month of no jobs. Putting on a mask has been added to my morning routine — at least getting ready is much faster since there's no need for a full face of makeup! Wearing masks is quite familiar to many makeup artists in China as we usually wear them when working with talent and clients anyway. I've added a portable UV light sanitiser to my kit, it's not essential but I feel like it's reassuring to have on set. My work schedule is actually busier than it was last year. Beyond shoots, I've been invited to lots of online courses and Taobao livestreams to do makeup demonstrations. I can see a shift in the makeup and beauty industry with brands trying out new online live projects. It's very different from the commercial work I'm used to but I'm enjoying this new experience and having new platforms to try out ideas and makeup looks. It also allows for more direct feedback from a bigger audience. I'm so happy to be easing into daily work and everyday life. I am also very intrigued to see the growth of new platforms in the makeup industry and how can I be a part of it." Janet Zhou, makeup artist

"After almost two months of lockdown I've been going to the studio and parties basically non-stop, and eating a lot of hot pot. I get so tired I almost miss quarantine; 'How is it Friday again?! What excuse can I make to avoid the club?' Even though masks are required to go out in public, inside the club we don't have to wear them, which feels weird. I hope bigger budget events are possible soon so I can connect with an audience in person instead of via livestream." Tsunano, DJ and music producer

"When I returned to Shanghai in early March, the first thing I did was reunite with my dog and take him for walks and go skating with him. As China eased lockdown earlier than everyone else, we have been the first ones to face the challenge of working in a post-pandemic world and innovate new ways to do fashion. Fortunately we all reacted very swiftly, and I've been working like hell since March, setting up brands with online presentations and livestreams during what would have been Shanghai Fashion Week. In April I also worked on the 'Parallel Reality' CG virtual fashion shows presented by XCOMMONS, showcasing independent designers XUZHI, Roderic Wong and Andrea Jiapei Li, which got a lot of global attention. I'm excited to see how quickly people have adapted to the new regular here, and I've been told often by my friends or colleagues in Europe and the US that what we did provided a good reference and inspiration for what's about to happen next in the West. Even though the cancellation of European fashion weeks has impacted a lot of our original plans, we are looking for new and innovative ways to help those brands showcase." Bohan Qiu, founder of BOH Project

"Once restrictions were eased, my friends and I went out of town to the countryside for the weekend. Daily life is a little more anxious than before, it's been slower for me in terms of work and life in general considering Shanghai was one of the fastest cities in the world, but I've been working on shoots and writing. I spend more time reading and cooking now. Before quarantine I was ordering delivery a lot, especially when working, but I cooked more during quarantine and have continued to do so. I'm trying my best to keep up with things. I feel more clarity since I brainstormed so many ideas during quarantine. I'm still worried about the pandemic and global economy for sure. I know it's going to be a hard time, but you just have to live." Wei, producer and co-founder of Same Paper

"After restrictions eased, a group that had spent the lockdown together took over a friend's bar, closed the door and raved to our techno playlist to release all the tension we had built up from being inside so long. We got so drunk we took off our shirts and lay on the empty road. That feeling of happiness I will remember forever and it brought us all closer together. In terms of daily life, I can now cook a greater variety of much better tasting dishes. I can feel how people have become more courteous and shy when having to remove their face masks and also the way people have gotten used to maintaining physical distance from one another. I've pretty much been working nonstop since the restrictions have been eased, this is the state I want to be in. It's not completely relaxed in Shanghai — because this is not just an issue for China, it's an international issue. I hope people continue to be vigilant and I think I'll only feel reassured once its safe and possible to travel and work abroad again." Enkako, photographer and stylist

"When the outbreak started, I was very frustrated and didn't want to do anything. Now I'm slowly recovering from my depression as I start to work and actively create. After the quarantine, I went out and started shooting flowers and taking selfies with flowers. I've become especially close to nature, something I didn't feel before the outbreak. There's been a significant decrease in the amount of time I spend outside. I've started cooking more and washing my hands like crazy. (I've used two bottles of hand soap in the last month and a half!) I'm anxious when people talk about the winter outbreak and hope it won't become a reality. But so far I feel better about getting into work again, because I'm the type of person that [needs to be in] a good mental space for me to create." Zhongjia Sun, photographer

"Now we've been able to re-open the physical store space and I'm used to wearing a mask everyday and disinfecting everything. I've been so busy with work, the fashion retail industry is overwhelming at the moment. At first there was a lot of 'revenge buying', people were excited to spend money after being stuck home. Every brand and store is doing live-streams on every possible platform to show details of products so customers can still shop from home — the pandemic has really reformed the online shopping experience for the fashion industry in China." Yiling Hong, founder of Canal St Shanghai

i-D Asia