KTV In Shanghai – An Introduction
Everything you wanted to know but were too embarrassed to ask
While many in the west view Karaoke as an unbearable “team building” chore that office managers like to force on you once or twice a year, in China things couldn’t be more different. Here nights out at the local “Karaoke Television” bar (KTV) are as common as Friday night drinks in a pub are back home.
Seriously, KTV caters to every occasion. Celebrating a birthday? KTV! Just got fired? KTV! Trying to sign a new business deal? KTV! Looking for a prostitute? KTV! So what exactly can you expect from your first big KTV session?
What is KTV?
Most KTV spots in China can be found in shopping malls, are open late into the night (or 24/7) and contain a huge number of private karaoke rooms where you and a bunch of friends can go and sing your heart out. Each room usually contains comfortable seating, a table, two or more microphones, a touch screen where you can pick and choose your songs and, of course, a big TV screen that shows song lyrics set against the original music video or an awful montage of nonsensical clips from the 90s.
Does it involve alcohol?
It depends on the groups you go with. We’ve been to many a KTV sesh with our Chinese friends where they just order in milk tea, play games and occasionally sing. We’ve also been on nights out where people will buy bottles of whisky and beer, play drinking games and belt out Chinese rock songs from the 80s. Every KTV we’ve visited has a store area as you walk in where you can buy bottled drinks, although you’ll have to pay more than you would at the local Family Mart.
My boss wants me to go to KTV, are there any rules I should follow?
KTV is one of the few places where Chinese bosses tend to let their hair down a little. Whenever we’ve been out with office for a KTV night it’s usually devolved into a messy drunken hugging fest with people passing out before the night’s done. Having said that, make sure to feel the room out before you start hammering shots of baijiu in front of bemused looking colleagues sipping on lemon tea.
I Can’t Speak Chinese, Won’t I Be Bored?
Nope! Every KTV we’ve been to across China, including in backwards towns in the middle of nowhere, have at least a few songs in English. In Shanghai even the really cheap KTV places have a surprising range of relatively up-to-date English songs for you to choose from. If you speak Korean, Cantonese or Japanese you’ll also be fine.
What if I Can’t Sing?
It doesn’t matter, knock back a few drinks and ease into it with a cheesy/stupid song. You’ll find loads of your colleagues have terrible voices, but that won’t stop them. Once you get started you’ll find it easier to continue.
I hear KTVs are where you go to get prostitutes? I’m a married respectable man whose wife regularly checks his browser history and I’m definitely not into prostitutes.
Yes, you can get prostitutes at CERTAIN KTVs, just like you can get them in barbershops, bars, massage parlours and loads of other places across Shanghai. If, however, you’re worried about a waitress offering you a blowy in a backroom for an extra couple of RMB then we suggest avoiding the smaller, shadier locations. Instead, stick to the large KTV chains like the ones we recommend below.
If you accidentally happen to find yourself in a KTV room with a few Chinese ladies you’ve never met before just ask them to leave. If they refuse, make sure to get out before they lead you into a back room and transform into six butch Chinese dudes who want to make copies of your credit cards.
Seriously though, stick to the big chains and you’ll be fine.
Great, so where should I go for KTV?
There are so many different KTV chains across the city it depends on what you’re looking for. If you want somewhere cheap and decent, check out Haoledi (好乐迪) or Shanghai Gecheng (上海歌城). If you want something slightly higher-end that’ll impress your colleagues without breaking the bank then head over to K Party (台北纯K).