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What I Like about Shanghai

March 22nd, 2009

I realize that most of the posts I’ve written about Shanghai are pretty negative. And I have got to admit, my view of the city has been a pretty bad one. In an unbalanced way or not, I don’t know. That’s just how we’ve reacted this time.

But that’s not to say that there’s nothing we don’t like here. While street interactions have been less than ideal (as I’ve noted), getting to know people socially is a very different deal; people here are kind, patient, and friendly.

Shanghai is also very cheap. Yeah, western places like Starbucks and Pizza hut maintain prices that are equivalent to prices overseas, and that can be jarring. But most prices are very low. A 15-minute taxi ride costs a buck and a half. A new SIM card for Sachi’s phone with 400 minutes on it cost about $15. A yakiniku lunch for two with really good beef, a salad, drink, and soup for each totaled only $10. And KFC keeps prices low even if other foreign fast food places don’t–a 6-piece dinner with large popcorn chicken and a small salad cost only $8–less than you’d pay in Japan for just three pieces (and Japan’s KFC doesn’t have Popcorn Chicken, another reason I like Shanghai!).

I also like the way that traffic is designed, if not how people actually drive. China has enough room, and uses it; big roads abound, and each has a fenced-off lane just for scooter, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic, unmolested by the cars that will just as soon run you over than they will give way. And I really like the traffic signals; they have several extra indicators to let you know when things are changing. They blink green before they turn yellow. They turn from red to yellow before they go green. And at the end of the green or red light, you often get a countdown before they change.

I’m sure that if I stayed longer, I’d come up with a longer list. It is by far not all bad–as I said, we just probably got a bad look at parts of it, and probably our filtered memories from a few years back colored our expectations. Nevertheless, I doubt that we’ll be coming back again soon.

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  1. Kensensei
    March 24th, 2009 at 14:13 | #1

    Although traffic, noise and pollution can take their toll on the quality of life here in Shanghai, I agree with your comments about the good points of living in Shanghai, eg the cost of lving.

    One could argue also that Shanghai is one of the most expensive places in China to live. So if you want cheap, you would do much better out in the countryside. In addition to the higher salaries, the main reason Westerners flock to Shanghai is the lack of ‘staring’ here. Just like Japan was many years ago, there is an intense curiousity about foreigners in China’s countryside, so that being stared at makes us feel constantly uncomfortable.
    One can get used to local food and cramped living conditions, for example, but ‘staring’ at Westerners never seems to go away in rural areas, no matter how long one stays there.

    Note that this phenomenon can also impact a Westerner’s social life. I have read comments from Westerners who were forced to end relationships with locals due to the awkwardness just going on a lunch date or strolling through the park; the ‘staring’, pointing and gossiping became too much to bear, especially for the local companion.

    So when one considers the reality of living elsewhere, Shanghai is one of the more comfortable options for Westerners choosing to live in China.

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