Why I like Shanghai


I had only been in Shanghai for a few months when I was pushed onto the stage at a school concert to sing Ye Shang Hai, a song from the bad “good old days” of Shanghai. I was awful, and to this day I apologize to Zhou Xuan for murdering her 1937 hit song. But learning about the song and getting a cheerful response from the Chinese audience, despite my incomprehensible accent, was a great introduction to this relentlessly robust and enduring city.

In 2004, when I arrived, there were still some reminders of Zhou Xuan’s Shanghai. Many old laneways and buildings remained. Street vendors were everywhere. And crowded Wujiang Road still sold the best Shanghai snacks in town. Little of that remains and, today, Zhou Xuan would feel as lost as I sometimes do.

Shanghai is now a cosmopolitan city on a par with Paris, London and New York. In many ways it surpasses those great cities. It is cleaner and more modern than any of them. From the daring architecture of its gleaming new skyscrapers, to its state-of-the-art subway system, Shanghai ranks second to none.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is haipai: Shanghai style. The people are still open and friendly, eager to try new things and to enjoy life. The face of Shanghai may have changed, but the heart of Shanghai remains the same and that is why, after all these years, I still enjoy living here so much.





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