The Smells of Shanghai


Shanghai is a full-on assault of smells. The wide variety of different odors mix together on the average bike ride or walk down the street. Some are good; most are bad.

The natural scents are tolerable, but the synthetics serve as a constant reminder of eventual cancer. I’m surprised people aren’t walking around with visible tumors and having miscarriages on the street after a lifetime of living here. The chemicals smell deadly.

Here are two lists of smells on an average day:


  • Steamed Buns
  • Cooking Oil
  • Vomit
  • Dead Animal
  • Vegetable Scraps
  • Dirt
  • Flowers
  • Fish
  • Vinegar
  • Rinse Water
  • Sewage
  • Pee
  • Dog Poop
  • Fried Tofu
  • B.O.
  • Chicken Blood


  • Paint
  • Varnish
  • Formaldehyde
  • Poison
  • Concrete
  • Bleach
  • Flea Collar Smell
  • Mystery Toxin
  • Gasoline
  • Diesel
  • Sheetrock
  • Resin
  • Calking Compound

You know it’s a bad sign of workplace health when there’s a big spray can of formaldehyde sitting out next to the smoking area in the stairwell, across from a panel glued to the wall with epoxy. It’s also unsettling to notice that the area around your desk smells like flea collars and there’s a fine layer of concrete dust over everything.

If you have any other Shanghai smells you want to add, mention them in the comments.

April 15th, 2009. Categories / China, Shanghai

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