Shanghai Shake and the Beijing Boogie

Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
Trip End Mar 28, 2010

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Just got back from a fantastic trip to Shanghai and well... this time I did not take the tourist route.  I went to meet with some old co-workers from Zurich also friends and we celebrated the New Year's.  The following is a re-cap with comparison to Beijing.

- Shanghai is more dog eat dog, and Beijing is more bumper cars.
For whatever reason, I saw a lot more tension there.  In just a few days, I observed:
1.  A man acting like he needed money for a bus, just to cheat people.
2.  A taxi (that I was in) cutting off another driver which led that driver to come out and swear in Shanghai-nese banging on the trunk.
3.  Taxis swarming like vultures in a post-New Year's party refusing to use the meters.  Little did I know, that you can threaten back to write down their license places and report them to their company.
4.  Adolescent arguing with a store owner demanding money back for fake cigarettes which he claimed to have purchased.
5.  Woman waiting in the cold for a taxi, then another woman mercilessly fighting her way in before her and ignoring the accusations of having no class or respect whatsoever.
Incidentally, I have seen none of the above in Beijing over the 3 months that I have been here.  Yes, Beijing has the infamous black taxis, yes people still get in fights (even physical)... but one has to admit, it was a bit shocking for the 3 days that I was there!  Street smarts seem to be more essential there.

- Shanghai is more compact than Beijing.
Although equally (if not more) congested in terms of traffic, Shanghai is easier to walk around.  Once you are in an area, you do not need a taxi.  Over the course of 20 min, I was able to walk across 3 metro stops along Nanjing.  This is not feasible in Beijing.  Three metro stops could easily be over an hour.
- Shanghai is definitely more Westernized than Beijing.
A fitting motto could be, "Out with the old and in with the new."  I didn't see much evidence of the old life of Shanghai.  Everything is being built and re-built.  (Tianzifang was a charming exception and good use of an old hutong area, however.)  There are expats wandering on almost every block.  Granted some could have been tourists, but still... the amount of Westernizes is clearly higher.  At least the feeling of an international city is present.  Then there is the Nanjing St.  A stretch of consumerism which can only have been facilitated Western culture.  Note that I am not saying anything negative about this... only that it is a difference.

Overall I am glad that I picked Beijing.  Even though it may not have Western comforts (food, culture) or quick public transportation, it is a fair trade-off to be around people who won't erupt if you step on their foot. =P  On the other hand, Shanghai is worth another visit and I hope to get a better picture of it in the future (i.e. food and nice sights).  And at least, the city did not get pummeled with snow to the point where planes could not fly!
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