Charming Shanghai | Beyond expectations
Foreign residents share their views about how Shanghai has turned out better than they previously expected, Xing Yi reports.
Foreigners regard Shanghai as an international metropolis with a large number of cultural institutions and events, according to a survey published on Nov 27.
Conducted by the China Institute for Urban Governance of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the survey polled 436 international students and travelers at Pudong International Airport as well as foreign residents in the city.
More than 97 percent of the participants view Shanghai as an international cultural metropolis. In their words, the city is "modern", "welcoming" and "diverse".
"People are polite and cultivated. They like to talk and have social interactions... I enjoy talks with taxi drivers about food. The first meal I learned to cook was hongshaorou (red braised pork)," says Cyrille
Champagne, a French businessman who traveled to Shanghai for the first time in 2004.
"I imagined the city to be like New York... with the Bund, like in an old postcard," recalls Champagne during his bus trip from Pudong airport to the city center.
As most of the foreigners polled had learned about Shanghai before their visit, 95 percent of them said the city lives up to or exceeds their expectations, while 61.2 percent think that Shanghai is much better than what they imagined it to be.
The survey also found most respondents learned about Shanghai online, and the longer people live in Shanghai, the more positively they think of the city.
Bahar Jena Vossoughi says that her initial impression of the city was one filled with temples, local markets and people dressed in traditional attire.
"Arriving to Shanghai, I was more than surprised to see how the city is modern and extremely well-developed. Shanghai is a vibrant city and is an amazing place where East and West can meet in peace, go together and coexist," says Vossoughi, who moved to the city in 2019.
"The management of the COVID-19 outbreak has changed our impression about the city and the country in a very positive way. We feel very safe in Shanghai and we catch each and every opportunity to discover the city. I will try to bring my friends and family from France to visit this awesome city as soon as possible."
Monika Lin, a US artist whose father emigrated to the United States from Fujian province, says:"I knew that much of the media portrayal of Shanghai, both positive and negative, was inaccurate, orientalist or incomplete. Nonetheless, when I arrived in 2006, I was surprised by how welcoming Shanghai is.
"Although massive and extremely fast-paced, it has a walkable scale to its infrastructure which makes it accessible and manageable. What continues to impress me is that most neighborhoods are comprised of networks which include residential apartments and businesses, diverse populations, small interior parks and courtyards creating integrated living rather than segregated areas as occurs often in the West," she adds.
According to the survey respondents, their perception of the city has been influenced by the city's cultural infrastructure, including libraries, theaters and museums.
Lin, who now teaches art at the Shanghai campus of New York University, says she has witnessed the astounding growth of the art scene in the city.
"When I arrived in 2006, contemporary galleries could be categorized into large-scale commercial endeavors and small, intimate spaces, with very little in between. There was no contemporary art museum. The majority of the galleries exclusively represented Chinese artists with little international-artist presence," Lin recalls.
"Today, there is a huge upsurge in contemporary art with both a Chinese and international presence," she says. "I love that I can see art inside an apartment-gallery, or a museum such as the Power Station of Art, or at the Pompidou Center, or at art fairs and expos, and underground events."
In terms of cultural activities and events, more than 50 percent of the participants say they are satisfied with the city's light shows, concerts, indoor exhibitions and other performances.
The large number of coffee shops, teahouses and bars was also highly rated by foreigners, and the Oriental Pearl Television Tower and the historical architecture on the Bund were seen as cultural landmarks of the city.
Richard Martin Saul, general manager of Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund, says,"The city has improved tremendously over the 17 years since I first visited. It continues to regenerate districts and improve infrastructure like no other major global cities that I know of.
"Shanghai's citizens have a thirst for lifestyle－travel, food and fashion, which is powering such industries to global leadership over time. Venues are terrific. Events are normally aplenty. There are always many things happening in Shanghai," he adds.