Shanghai, a global financial hub, and one of the biggest cities in China with the highest population of over 25 million people. This buzzing city is complete with fluid streams of hustling businesspeople, a raging nightlife, and endless architecture of legendary skyscrapers. While we had the opportunity to say “hi” to Shanghai, we greeted the Yuyuan Gardens(Chinese: 豫园; pinyin: Yù Yuán; Garden of Happiness), Jade Buddha Temple (Chinese: 玉佛禅寺; pinyin: Yùfó Chán Sì), and TaiKang Road – TianZiFang (Chinese: 田子坊; pinyin: Tiánzǐfāng) former French Concession. In my first blog, I briefly mentioned my interest in the feud of the North and South – Beijing v. Shanghai.
Previously, my experience of working at a Shanghai based financial services company, I met many Shanghai natives, which was a drastic change for my Beijing cultured, American Family. For background, my Father was born in Shanghai but raised in Beijing; my mother was born and raised in Beijing. Typically, it is very rare to see a marriage form from a “northerner” and “southerner”, mainly because Beijing and Shanghai are both very powerful cities, and the culture tends to vary as well. Additionally, families would most likely reject such blasphemy. Beijing and Shanghai are arguably China’s two most famous and most important cities. One is the center of government, the other the center of modern commerce. You would think that these two cities would get along, seeing that one lacks what the other perfects, but these two regions actually have a very infamous rivalry.
BEIJING V. SHANGHAI
There are many theories as to why the rivalry started. Many say that it deals with macroeconomics and geopolitics, others say it dates back to agriculture (wheat vs rice farmers). Though none of these theories are proven, here are a few of my minor observations of the two cultures:
CLIMATE is extremely different, where Beijing tends to be more dry, Shanghai tends to be more humid. AIR POLLUTION is much more severe in Beijing than Shanghai. ARCHITECTURE is also vastly different, Beijing tends to show its ancient and historic side, while Shanghai displays a more modern side. CUISINE is different as well. Salty foods are appreciated sweeter in Shanghai, as chefs believe that the savory flavor further brings out the aromatic taste. MAPS of the city are built differently: Beijing forms in circles, like a target, as Shanghai moves vertically and horizontal like a grid. LANGUAGE is a big tell-tale. Beijingers have a very noticeable accent that is decipherable to mandarin speakers, however, Shanghainese people have their own dialect, and is almost unrecognizable.
PERSONALITY is something that I believe creates the biggest divide between the two cities. People from Beijing tend to be loud, outspoken, and (for lack of a better word) obnoxious; at the end of the day, however, Beijingers are more likely to be helpful and inclusive. People from Shanghai tend to be more soft-spoken and silent, but do not exhibit as much friendliness to outsiders. There is also a saying in the north that men in the south tend to be more “feminine” and “passive”, while men in the north tend to be more “manly” and “aggressive”. While touring the two cities, Lisa our Beijing tourguide warned us to not fight or argue with natives because they would without doubt fight you, and break your face. Shanghainese men tend to yell and cuss, but will most likely never make the first move.
Overall, both cities are good at what they do, and both are great. It’s a very similar comparison as to the United Sates with the east coast versus the west coast. Both residents of their cities are quite proud of their own cities, their food, linguistics, and their particular way of living. I love both cities, and see the rivalry as a competition to be number one.
SHANGHAI STOCK EXCHANGE
On a side note, I really enjoyed seeing the Shanghai Stock Exchange. It was quite different than the NYSE. An interesting fact was that the Shanghai Stock Exchange is actually the biggest, in terms of stocks being traded; from this past January, it has increased 300%. Everything that is practiced in Shanghai Stock Exchange was applied from Wall Street. However, it was unconventional to learn that the stock market has no market makers, but is market driven. Thus, running by 30 billion algorithms, or so…crazy. Throughout our tour it was interesting to hear the finance professor speak of ethics and accounting, seeing as though he believes both are “impractical” when doing business in China. He believed that ethics cannot be learned, for it is innate and slowly ingrained in a person, thus morals and values will not change from merely being lectured. He also said something I believe is quite…intriguing. He said that “if money matters enough in what you do, ethics is not questioned”. Additionally, it was mind boggling to hear that most/all companies have two books, both of which are cooked: one to show internally, and one to show externally. It was definitely an experience, and showed exactly how different industries differ country to country.