Shanghai is my home
June 27, 2014
What comes to mind when you think about the People’s Republic of China? Perhaps your mind goes to pandas, rice paddies, or maybe even communist dictators with squinty eyes and falsely benevolent smiles. To the Western world, the truth about China, its people, and its culture have long been shrouded in a thick veil of smog that is not only hard to see through, but noxious to boot. As someone who is Chinese, and proudly so, I see myself as an air freshener to the West’s polluted views on the Orient and the 1.351 billion people who inhabit what I affectionately call “the motherland”.
I was born and raised in Shanghai, the largest city by population not only in China, but also in the world. It is the global financial centre, with busy container ports, streets absolutely bursting with energy, and a high rise population that seems to rival the city’s 24 million. Along with its exceptionally eclectic culture and surprisingly large amount of expats, Shanghai also has a fascinating history that is apparent in the architectural styles of many buildings, a considerable amount of which are located in the Bund .
Shanghai’s cultural richness and allure is also evident in its popularity with foreigners. According to the BBC, Shanghai is the “number one” city for expats, an opinion that I think should be a fact. On one street alone, you can find authentic food from one end of the globe to the other; there’s even American Chinese food available in clichéd white takeout boxes, so if you are ever craving some good old Lo Mein or General Tso’s chicken, we’ve got you covered. The fashion is equally as varied. You may see middle-aged housewives dressed in fluffy pink pyjamas covered with weirdly creepy teddy bears jaywalking on one end of the street and extremely chic fashion bloggers who have that bag you totally want breezing by on the other. There is more to my favourite city in the world of course, but it is nigh impossible to encapsulate the energy, the passion, the charisma, the richness that is inherent to my hometown in a 500-word article.
Although China is home to large, concrete jungles such as Shanghai, there exists a large economic disparity between different regions of the country. Moving away from the coast and further inland, you see desperately impoverished pockets of the country that shatter the urban utopia front. Even in the bustling economic stronghold of Shanghai there exists areas of poverty that is heart breaking to see, and the stark contrast between the activity of downtown and the dusty Steinbeck-esque streets of the suburbs makes the difference all the more jarring.
Ultimately, despite all of its environmental, social, economic, and political faults, I am glad to call China with its 5,000 years of history, my home.