Words by: Hunter McGregor

As a New Zealander who has been based in China since 2007, just about everything in China has changed during this time. I remember in the early days of living in Dalian (northeast of China on the coast), there were plenty of challenges.

One major challenge was holding a wine and cheese party for my university classmates. We were unable to find any cheese that would go with ‘imported’ wine that was available in the local supermarkets. We ended up printing off some photos of cheese and sticking them onto the table.

Luckily there was no shortage of wine or it would have been a complete disaster. A few of my European classmates saved the day with some cheese that they had hand-carried into China. The cheese options in Dalian (and for most of China) at that time were limited to local brands of highly processed kids’ flavoured cheese, which is the last thing you want to be eating with wine! These types of cheese are still around and are popular, mainly targeting kids via smart packaging and branding. I have made the mistake of buying some Paw Patrol-branded cheese once.

My kids did not like the cheese but loved the packaging so we ended up throwing out the cheese and they still play with the packaging.

During my time in Dalian (2007 to 2008) I also had plenty of challenges around buying milk, because I would look to buy one litre of milk and would often buy drinking yogurt. They look the same.

My reading of Chinese characters at that time was not great and my Nokia phone had zero translation capabilities. Unfortunately this happened more than once, and after a couple of times I decided to give up having fresh milk at home and moved to using whole milk powder.

I now know the difference between fresh milk and drinking yogurt, but I still use whole milk powder at home for drinking.

The cheese supply situation has improved and now a lot of the high-end supermarkets have a great selection of cheeses from all over the world. Some places would have a better range and selection than in most New Zealand supermarkets.

There is a price difference, and when I could buy Mainland cheese in supermarkets the price for 250g in Shanghai was the same as 1kg in New Zealand.

Unfortunately I have not seen any of Mainland’s Tasty, Colby or Edam cheeses in Shanghai for a while, and I have been looking! I have witnessed in the past few years that the cheese range continues to expand, now to a point where blue cheeses are on the shelf in many supermarkets. Things change fast here, with things popping up that you would not have seen even a couple of years ago.

One of the advantages of living in downtown Shanghai is that I have a number of options to order both wine and cheese to be delivered to my address within 30 minutes of placing an order.

There are no extra fees for this service and there are even a couple of wine apps that will deliver the wine chilled if required. So I now have my wine and cheese parties covered, with plenty of high-quality wine and cheese.

  • Hunter McGregor is a New Zealander living in Shanghai and importing New Zealand venison and other meat products for use in restaurants.