It’s bad enough I have to admit there is a book out there making fun of what I like, now Modern Lei Feng is doing a series of China-fied blog posts doing the same thing.
I just love his second post in the series, entitled, “Stuff Laowai Like 2 – Shanghai (老外喜欢的东西 2 － 上海）” [link no longer exists] because (like the book) it is both spot on and funny and because I have to cop to it.
As just about everyone knows, there has been a Quisp versus Quake like battle raging for years between expats regarding the better city between Beijing and Shanghai. I love it because I live in neither city and though I have probably spent more time in Shanghai than in Beijing, I still should be considered a neutral.
Modern Lei Feng nails the differences on how expats tend to view Shanghai:
Whether you judge her to be the Pearl of the Orient or the Whore of the Orient, laowai have a long history and deep connection with Shanghai. Whether forced to go there by your large overseas company or choosing the city due to its creature comforts and business environment, expat laowai from North America and Europe almost always prefer this more “sophisticated” southern city over us northern barbarians in Beijing.
Beijing has welcomed the world and hosted the Olympics, but it is still in-your-face Chinese at almost every turn, the same cannot be said about Shanghai, where you can easily forget you’re in China. Short term tourists love Beijing for its “authentic Chinese” feel, but long term expats tend to choose Shanghai.
It’s the “acceptably Chinese” city, where you can earn the big bucks, brag about being in China to your friends back home, and yet live no differently than you do back at home. The large foreign population and diversity of quality, foreign restaurants makes living in Shanghai easy for the expat, though its still not that hard to find “Chinese” experiences in the city. Just like Beijing expats lust over hutong housing, in Shanghai its the French Concession homes that are the things of their dreams, offering Chinese history and the comforts of modern living (very different from most of Beijing’s hutong housing).
I admit it. I prefer Shanghai to Beijing for the reasons mentioned above. I know Beijing is where the power/government is and it is where the news is and it is where the art is and it is where the writers go, but I prefer Shanghai for the following Laowai reasons:
1. It’s less polluted than Beijing.
2. There are more great restaurants.
3. The Bund is so cool. I love the Forbidden City and all, but the Bund is a much more repeatable experience.
4. Xintiandi is cool.
5. Shanghai has better Laowai-centric restaurants.
6. Shanghai just feels more…. Western, easy, sophisticated, action-packed….
7. It’s where my firm’s clients are, by maybe a two to one margin over Beijing.
8. I actually really like Shanghai cuisine and since I don’t eat meat….
This cushy boy says Shanghai.
What do you think?