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?

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Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com). Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.