Shanghai World Expo 2010>Video>Days and Nights in Shanghai>Cover Archive
UPDATED: July 16, 2007 NO. 29 JULY 19, 2007
Shanghai Through Foreigners' Eyes
Beijing Review has conducted a survey on how foreigners view the city, sometimes referred to as China's Big Apple

Survey respondents included: an anonymous 30-year-old UK male, who has lived in Shanghai for five years and works for an import company focused on high-end market products; Steve Bisogno, a 28-year-old American, who resided in Shanghai from 2001 to 2004, working there as a teacher at the Sydney Institute of Language and Commerce and as a writer, while attending Shanghai International Studies University (he is now a commercial underwriter for a European insurance firm based in New York and contributing writer to Beijing Review); Australian Elyse Singleton, 33, who has been in Shanghai since 2001 (on and off), working as a freelance writer and designer; Sami Zabel, from Maryland, U.S., who studied in Shanghai for half a year in 2006 after graduating from a U.S. college; and an anonymous 43-year-old U.S. male from Maryland, who works as a business consultant and is married with two children.

What is the most frustrating thing about living in Shanghai?

Anon UK: Noise, air pollution, spitting.

Steve Bisogno: The poor air quality is perhaps the most frustrating thing.

Elyse Singleton: Wow--that is a big question. The two main difficulties--and I think this does not just apply to Shanghai--they are language and culture. While I speak Chinese to a reasonable level, I still cannot understand everything and I might have problems in emergency situations, for example. But I am trying to improve my listening. It's really frustrating to be speaking Chinese and to be ignored, or to be spoken to in English in return or to have the Chinese-looking person you are with spoken to even when you are speaking--hahahaha--but that happens in France too! Also, culture-I must say, I find what I, from my cultural upbringing, perceive as rudeness so unbearable--pushing, shoving, spitting, staring, bad service, even after six years. So much so that if someone is actually nice, and it happens, I talk about it for days. Also, I must add, expats who think they own the joint because they have a big fat expat package and a driver and goodness knows that else. Ick. Oh--and the traffic. It's scary seeing the increase of private cars and no one seeming to care about the effects. Oh--and lack of environmental responsibility in pursuit of a fast buck, or indeed, because people just don't care. But, is that just Shanghai?

Sami Zabel: Other than the language barrier, it was very frustrating when people tried to cheat me out of money, even when I wasn't trying to buy anything.

Anon U.S.: shanghaihua (Shanghai dialect), inconsiderate drivers, utter lack of traffic safety awareness and basic social etiquette is still not grasped or understood, but that's true all over.

What do you like most about living in Shanghai?

Anon UK: Opportunities.

Steve Bisogno: The number of business opportunities is incredible and the transportation to and from them is also a strong point. As well, businesses have spread out around the city, making the commute more convenient for those not living downtown.

Elyse Singleton: Haha--dumplings. What keeps me in Shanghai are two things. One is the opportunities--that is, here I am able to do things that I wouldn't be able to do in Sydney or France or London and other places I have lived, or at least wouldn't be able to do so easily. I am talking professionally here of course as China is "so hot right now," and everything is growing meaning there are so many cool things to do. Secondly, and this is related to the growth, is the energy. There is new stuff happening everyday.

Sami Zabel: There is always somewhere to go and someone to meet.

Anon U.S.: Numerous convenience stores.

How safe, from a security point of view, do you feel living in Shanghai?

Anon UK: In terms of crime, it is safe.

Steve Bisogno: Very safe, physically.

Elyse Singleton: Hmm--there have been some urban myths, but in general, I feel pretty safe. I have had stuff stolen, phones and the like, but mainly through my stupidity, leaving them in my coat pocket in a crowded market, etc. When I used to live downtown it was no biggie to walk home late at night...there are always people around.

Sami Zabel: I never felt in danger anywhere.

Anon U.S.: Very safe.

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