April 5th, 2013, 9:55 am PDT by Greg

I decided to go to Shanghai this weekend, for various half-reasons, but mostly because I wanted to see more of it. We previously spent about two days here on a tour. That’s not enough time to experience a city of 23 million.

Random tourist crap I did aside, I’m glad I came. It has really put my China experiences into perspective. Basically, Shanghai is a global city in a way that Hangzhou really isn’t.

Sure, Wikipedia has a very in-depth definition of “global city” but here’s my functional definition. A global city is one in which the ethnicity of the food people are eating is not well correlated with their ethnicity.

As an example, take Starbucks. There are a couple of Starbucks (Starbuckses? Starbucki?) in Hangzhou, but in them I get a vibe of “let’s try the coffee drinks westerners have”. In Shanghai, it feels like people got there by saying “let’s have Starbucks”. Starbucks is part of the culture here.

In the same way, dim sum, sushi, Thai and Indian are part of Vancouver. To my mind, Beijing is less of a “global city” than Vancouver. Manila more than Montreal (I daresay).

So I think what I’m really getting here is something I didn’t know I was missing: time in a global city. I can have a burger if I want because I fit in exactly as well as the Shanghaiese group at the next table. Same at the xiaolongbao place, or an Indian place. Damn… I should find an Indian place.

It also puts Hangzhou into better perspective for me. Despite having a population of 6 million, it really is a small town. That’s not a bad thing, just a thing that’s true. The outside world is still a bit of a novelty, because the world hasn’t all come to visit yet. Some of the difficulties I have had living there boil down to that, and I think I have a better understanding of the place with that in mind.

2 Responses to “Shanghai”

  1. Curtis Lassam Says:

    If you eat xiaolongbao, butter chicken, california rolls, and a cheeseburger all on the same day, you are given a secret award.

    I’ve already said too much.

  2. Kat Says:

    Challenge accepted.