Shanghai vs. Beijing

10 Mar 2004

Shanghai and Beijing are the two most talked about cities in mainland China, and for good reason. Shanghai is the most populous city in China, a very modern economic powerhouse. Beijing is the capital, the political and cultural center of the nation. Beijing is the emperor’s seat in the north, Shanghai the giant of the south. Comparisons are inevitable.

Obviously, I now inhabit Shanghai, and I want it to fare well in an honest comparison of the two. I’ve been to Beijing twice, but not recently, and never for an extended visit. Today I discussed the matter with an American co-worker of mine. He seemed an ideal, objective observer because he lived in Beijing for a year, and now, after staying in Shanghai for a little over a year, is leaving China. He speaks good Chinese, and he’s a shrewd observer of his surroundings. Here’s the breakdown of his opinions:

Climate. Beijing is colder, but you don’t feel it too much because everyone bundles up like mad, and central heating is quite widespread. In Shanghai the buildings are built with the hot summers in mind, and there’s precious little insulation. That, combined with the people’s strong desire for “fresh air” in the middle of the winter makes Shanghai “the coldest place I’ve ever lived.”

People. Both Beijingers and the Shanghainese feel a sort of superiority toward outsiders. Nevertheless, Beijingers are widely regarded as very friendly, and any sense of superiority is exhibited only subtly. The Shanghainese are not widely regarded as friendly or as subtle in their snobbery.

Culture. Do I even have to say it? It’s all in Beijing.

Language. Beijingers speak Chinese with as much “rrrr” as possible, as if they only “speak with the throat.” Despite the superfluous R’s, Beijingers’ Chinese is quite close to the national standard. The Shanghainese, on the other hand, speak a dialect that could easily be classified as a separate (but related) language. This affects their Mandarin, making it less standard. The Shanghainese, like most places in the south, have much less “rrrr” in their speech, relying instead on other standard variants (e.g. nali instead of nar, meaning “where”).

Western Conveniences. Shanghai’s got Beijing beat hands down. Sure, Beijing has most of the products Shanghai does, but in Shanghai they’re much more readily available. Some things that you can buy in Shanghai’s convenience stores you might have to go to a specialty store for in Beijing. In addition, Shanghai has a lot more late-night and 24-hour stores.

Entertainment. Beijing’s Sanlitun is a bit better than Shanghai’s bar streets. Beijing also has a lot more cheap entertainment options. Going out on the town in Shanghai often will deplete your funds fast.

OK, I think you see the trend. Shanghai is taking a wicked beating in the comparison. I’ve heard other people say it too: “Beijing feels so home-y and special. Shanghai is a soulless concrete capitalist jungle.”

I consider myself a reasonable person. Why, then, when faced with such evidence, do I still feel that I will never even consider moving to Beijing? I want to know this for myself. I think the reasons are:

1. I’m from Florida. That’s the American south (with northern flavor). I like it. I don’t like New York or Boston accents.

When I studied in Japan, my school’s program just happened to be in Osaka — Japan’s southern giant. I like the southern Japanese dialect, and feel Tokyo’s to be boring.

When I came to China, I chose Hangzhou — partly with climate in mind, but largely because I had a Chinese friend from there. Hangzhou was my home for 3 1/2 years. It’s where I learned Mandarin Chinese.

2. I hate the “rrrr” of northern Mandarin. I can’t help it. It sounds really dumb to me. Sometimes I find it amusing (I like hearing actor Ge You talk), but I can’t really take it seriously.

I also feel that it sort of impoverishes the language. The “-r” suffix can go on the end of words ending in a vowel, -n, or -ng. When the “-r” suffix starts going everywhere, you don’t hear the original syllable ending, and it reduces linguistic diversity.

(That’s probably just a dumb rationalization for in irrational dislike of a particular accent, though.)

3. “Beijing” seems so cliche to me. “Oh, you want to learn Chinese? Then go to Beijing! The Mandarin is so standard there. Dashan studied there!”

No thanks. I think I’ll tough it out amongst the hoardes of asshole expats.

4. I like the linguistic diversity of the south. I like that the Shanghainese speak a whole separate language from their northern overlords. It’s badass. It might seem exclusionary or snobbish to you, but then you’re also probably too lazy to learn it.

Somehow, I don’t really think any of this is totally it, though. Everyone says that Beijing is better, but I’m not gonna buy it. I guess deep down, I’m just stubborn. I’m in Shanghai now.

Related Links:
Bokane.org, journal of an American Peking University student.
Kaiser Kuo, a writer in Beijing.
Ape Rifle’s Chinese city comparisons.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. So, apart from it’s weird dialect lacking Beijing’s eryin, what does Shanghai have going for it? I live in Beijing, but a friend of mine from Shanghai keeps telling me to go there, and there must be some reason why you’re there.

  2. I never realized that Beijing was such a hot destination besides for semester-long study abroad programs. When I was in Nanjing, nearly every American student there wanted to get a consulting/paralegal job in Shanghai. I was one of the few people who wanted to go to Beijing (and look what happened to those plans).

    I’ve only been for a couple of brief visits, but I never saw the appeal of Shanghai myself. Maybe the jobs were more plentiful there, but I’m pretty much in agreement with your assessment. Some of the conveniences are nice (if you want conveneient, you should check out Taiwan. 24-hour 7-11s in even the smallest piss-poor village) but I thought it was lacking in culture and character. Another thing you could mention is the Puxi/Pudong distinction. Living in Puxi could be interesting, but Pudong seems like a nightmare of ill-conceived skyscrapers and suburban sprawl.

    While I have always mildly disliked Shanghai, my feelings towards Beijing varied wildly from unbridled love to pure hatred. Even being from Boston, I never got used to the wind chill during Beijing’s winter or the smogginess in the summer or those apocalyptic dust storms in the spring. It’s impossible to walk around. The punk clubs were really cool. People are really friendly in a chummy, baijiu-drinking way. You get the idea.

  3. Comparing Beijing vs. Shanghai is like comparing China Disneyland vs. China Disney World :)On the surface, they are both cities trying way too hard to prove themselves to the world.

    Seriously though, I’ve spent more time in Shanghai than Beijing, but still prefer the latter.

    I’ve heard so much about how “modern” Shanghai is over my time here that I’m half-expecting it to launch into space any day now. Truth is, I found Beijing to be every bit as “modern” as Shanghai, if not more so. The buildings just aren’t as tall (although that’s changing fast).

    Sure Beijing is a showcase (what capital isn’t?), but I found it felt much more like a natural big city. In Shanghai I often felt like I was walking around in Sim City, lots of flash but not quite so much substance. It seems to be a city that is super modern just because, well, everyone says it is. Frankly, Hangzhou for its size is not that far behind. The area around West Lake is definitely nicer (and dare I say more luxurious!) than most of what I saw in Shanghai.

    In the end, what Shanghai has going for it is this: it better represents its region. The Chang Jiang Delta area is boomtown. Beijing, on the other hand, is definitely a diamond in the rough up there (think Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong,etc)

  4. packr ther baqsr, mar, i’mr movingr tor thatr tharr bigr cityr!

  5. I guess the best way to decide which one ya like more is to go see them both!

    hehe, hopefully one day…

  6. “Both Beijingers and the Shanghainese feel a sort of superiority toward outsiders. Nevertheless, Beijingers are widely regarded as very friendly, and any sense of superiority is exhibited only subtly. The Shanghainese are not widely regarded as friendly or as subtle in their snobbery.”

    I think this holds true regarding to other ethnic Chinese. Is this still true when it’s other westerners?

    I would think Shanghainese are more friendlier toward foreigners than Beijingers since they don’t have a lot of “culture hang-ups” Beijinger have (inter-racial dating comes to mind).

    • wrong, not shanghainese are more friendly to foreigners, but they are known in china for preferring foriegners to date so that they can go to the west or show off. the women in beijing on the contrast are known for being sincere and as long as she loves, not saying other things dont matter, but they seem to care them secondly. not trying to generalize, but you seem what im saying?

  7. I think dxw hit an important point. Shanghai has been a Western-looking international city for a looong time. Beijing has been for about a week. So I think certain things are more “acceptable” in Shanghai compared to Beijing (dating, etc.) This might make the feel of Shanghai more comfortable for Westerners (despite some of the other advantages of Beijing).

  8. I went to Beijing twice, never like there because a) the culture there are too political b) the historical sites do not offer much since Beijing only became the capital city of China since Yuan dynasty. If I want to experience ancient Chinese culture, I may just go to Xian instead. c) never like the way Beijin(g)ese talk because I have hard time to figure out if they mean what they say or they are just bragging :).

    I’ve never being to Shanghai but heard a lot of nice words about the city. Shanghai is more westernize and people there seems to be more practical.It is the place I want to visit, and maybe work for a few years.

  9. they both have their charms and I’d probably tend towards Beijing, but neither is my favorite city in China.

    I like Chengdu the best, primarily for the food and it also has the best vegetarian in all of China; it’s also close to some really cool mountains. I can’t for the life of me get the dialect down, although I can understand it at a ‘fair’ level.

    I also enjoyed Kunming, if only for the weather, but I never stayed there for any length of time.

    As far as northern cities go–I’d have to side with Qingdao.

    West: Lanzhou–if you can get past the awful pollution. But great people there. And it’s a great staging area for some great trips along the old Silk Road route.

  10. Yes, hating a dialect because it flows with “r”s is not so rational. People in the north do use a much larger vocabulary than the southerners and it makes it interesting if you can get beyond the sound. Maybe it is the lack of such a thick local dialect that frees the mind up for the words.

    If it is mall shopping you want then Shanghai is the way to go but saying it has more “western” things or that they are more readily available is shortsighted. Only in Beijing have I seen a huge variety of fresh “western” herbs and vegetables in shops not to mention the beer and liquor selection.

    The Shanghai government\people also have the strange inclination, when compared to the rectangular giant in the north, to let people rennovate old establishments. Being able to go to Charlie Soong’s house and have a beer is more than fine.

    Foreign people in Beijing feel more ashamed when they don’t speak Chinese.

  11. Da Xiangchang Says: March 11, 2004 at 11:43 am

    For a Westerner, just about any Chinese city is fascinating. The mixture of the old with the new, the capitalist with the communist, the Eastern with the Western–man, what a fascinating pastiche! Both Shanghai and Beijing are wonderful cities, and anyone with a good job would be lucky to live in either. Personally, however, I feel great affection for Nanjing. I went there in early 1999 for two months–having not been in China since 1980 or something–and the experience blew my mind. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone, the place was so different from southern California.

  12. Anonymous Says: March 11, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    I would think Shanghainese are more friendlier toward foreigners than Beijingers since they don't have a lot of "culture hang-ups"

    Friendlier? Perhaps, but one thing that really annoyed me when visiting Shanghai is that people in shops and on the streets would persist in speaking to me in English (and i’m talking sales-people and shop assistants here, not eager students), even if I approached them first using Mandarin, and even when I continued answering their questions in Mandarin – still they kept up with English. Ok, I can understand that Mandarin quite probably isn’t their native language, and they might not particularly want to speak it, but English sure as hell isn’t their native language either. I can also see that they are just trying to be “helpful”, but if i’m making it pretty clear that I don’t want to be speaking English, then surely they could take the hint.
    Anyway, I guess this rant can be taken as compliment of sorts about the level of English proficiency in Shanghai vs. Beijing – and that is just one of the reasons I prefer the latter over the former. Sure in Beijing people might use a lot of rrrs, but at least they don’t mind using them when they’re speaking to me 🙂

  13. FreeJack Says: March 11, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    I dunno man…are you sure you wouldn’t be singing another tune if your girlfriend lived in Beijing, and you were there now? 🙂

    I have been studying “putonghua” for a year, which might not have quite as much “r” as Beijing dialect, but it’s close. Personally, I think it sounds cool…but that’s because it’s what I grew up hearing in the movies I watched. Now I’m at the point where it’ll be kind of a pain to conciously use the alternative words/pronunciation. So that’s my rationalization!

  14. Well, as far as impoverishing the language goes, all the rrrs in Beijing hua might sound strange… kesi zai sanghai, tamen de putonghua ye suo de qiguai 🙂

  15. dxw,

    I think you’re right — the Shanghainese are quite friendly to foreigners. They tend to be happy to talk to foreigners that speak Chinese (the clueless salespeople are a separate category). If a Chinese outsider can speak Shanghainese, he is much more accepted, but if a foreigner can speak Shanghainese, he is adored.

  16. Some people might be wondering why at least 10 comments suddenly disappeared from this post. Rest assured that I did not delete them. I don’t know why they disappeared, but my server has been acting very strangely lately, and it makes me extremely uneasy.

    I’m doing what I can to fix the problem, but when I contact my hosting provider in the USA and they say the servers are fine, what else can I do??

  17. Damn and I loved my lil post too….

  18. The site appeared to be down for the past day or so, accessing from SoCal…

  19. If i wad to pick a city right now I’d pick beijing, Shanghai is just to yuppish for me.

    If I had to pick a city ten years from now, i’d definitly pick Shanghai. Beijing has been in decline since the late qing. It reeks of bureaucracy and old politicians with too much power. Shanghai is china’s new york. It’s where the money, and increasingly, the power is. Apathetic bohemians will no doubt follow this money and make some good modern art.

    Plus the layout of shanghai is so much nicer than Beijing. Shanghai has winding streets and reall differences between different areas of the town. Beijing is a sprawling blandness.

  20. i lost my previous comment~~
    hope u’ve read it, john.

  21. Alright, I’ll repost this:

    I’m John’s coworker and I have to say I’m gloating a little that the above comments seem to be leaning towards Beijing. That said, I feel the need to defend Shanghai a bit.
    I often hear that Shanghai doesn’t reflect Chinese culture or that it’s not the “real China.” I completely disagree. The glass and steel skyscrapers of Shanghai are every bit as much a part of Chinese culture as the Forbidden City in Beijing or the rice paddies of rural China. Shanghai represents the Chinese Dream, if you will. I guarantee you that every last farmer in China (and especially every city’s urban planners) would love to get a piece of Shanghai’s “soulless” “suburban sprawl.” If the tourist revenue from the Forbidden City ever drops off, Beijing’s urban planners would gladly bulldoze it to build something akin to Shanghai’s Jin Mao Building. Don’t forget Deng Xiao Ping’s slogan for modern China, “To get rich is glorious.”
    I think the comment by nitespaz, the “typical Shanghainese,” is very telling: “… people from other provinces who think they can get rich just by coming [to Shanghai].” Beijing sees its fair share of migrant workers looking for better jobs, but Shanghai resembles New York at its peak of immigrant traffic. I wouldn’t be surprised if rural China abounds with rumors that Shanghai’s streets are paved with gold.
    The dark side of Shanghai is the backlash from the Shanghainese in the face of the city’s uber-development. It’s also very telling that nitespaz says some of these migrant workers contribute nothing to Shanghai but a higher crime rate. I’ve heard others here put it in stronger terms; any crime committed in Shanghai must have been done by a “wai di ren,” or outsider. Sure, Shanghainese treat Westerners (the white ones anyway) better than they would any wai di ren. Unfortunately this is either because we have money or they get a certain amount of “face” by associating themselves with us. It is very difficult to find a genuinely friendly Shanghai ren. Sorry, but that has been my experience here and that of the vast majority of my foreign friends. And that’s why I’ll always remember Beijing more fondly.

  22. I have to say I have never really noticed that Beijingers and speakers of Putonghua tended to roll their R’s so heavily. It has always sounded so natural to me. On the differences between Nali and Nar, I never even realized that they were different pronunciations for the same word until now. Whenever I heard the word Nali I would mentally assume someone had said Nar and vice versa. But that is probably due to my native command of the language more than anything else. Leave it to a foreigner to teach someone about their own language.

    p.s. Beijinger’s are the ones with queer accents :P. I’m originally from Jinzhou and from my perspective everyone further south sounds strange. I’m saddened to see that there aren’t more expatriates in the Northeast. Liaoning maybe part of the Rust Belt, but it has its own rustic charm.

  23. Hello,
    I’m currently visiting Shanghai. I was born in Beijing, but went to school in the US. I have to say, having never been to Shanghai before, I had some stereotypes about its ppl. But after meeting a Shanghainese mother & daughter on the train & some people here in Shanghai, I think they might not be that friendly to strangers, but once you get to know them they’re just like any Chinese in China–veli nice :).
    I really like Shanghai, to me, it’s more like Paris b/c of Huang Pu Jiang. I love Beijing as well, sometimes the streets of Shanghai and the way ppl hang out on the sidewalks remind me of Beijing. But what Beijing lacks is a river running through the city, which adds so much romance to the place~
    Shanghai seems very peaceful at night as well.
    ps- This discussion seems to have taken place a while ago; it’s Aug now, and everyone posted in March… but still, just wanted to add my 2 cents :).

  24. […] Update: John O’ Sinosplice reminds me of a relevant podcast here. He also refers me to ome discussions on the topic here, and here. […]

  25. I prefer Beijing for language and culture reasons. It’s funny though, these things are very, very personal. I lived in Taiwan for a number of years, in Taibei. Taibei to me is a very intimate city with lots of nooks and crannies and a vibrant street life. Shanghai to me (where I’m living for a few months) is a cold city with little to recommend it. Imagine my surprise when I ran into a guy who described the two cities in reverse. Obviously it comes down to which place you know and it’s not always rational. Of course, I would recommend living in Beijing to anyone who has no attachment to any city (and wants to learn Chinese). Shanghai and Taibei both are substantially populated by people who preferentially speak another language than Mandarin. Even though my Taiwanese accent and phrases were gently made fun of in Beijing, I am still fond of them. I love the culture, the cuisine, and I love the retroflexive -r. It makes everything way clearer for me. That r creates seperation in sentences and you can’t beat that. Plus, I’m a sucker for people who like their Hs. But it just isn’t logical at the end of the day. It’s all according to taste and there is no one right way.

  26. Funny, I lived in Shanghai for 10 weeks this past summer and feel the same about the dialect aspect. I used to be more into the “standard mandarin” but definitely grew to love southern dialects and soft sounds.
    Besides, Beijing is almost too big to get around. Shanghai is nice and compact which I enjoy greatly.

  27. China….translated in Chinese: Center of the world/Kingdom. It makes sense that the Chinese feel proud of their culture and country, they have a lot to celebrate. One person wrote, “Both Beijingers and the Shanghainese feel a sort of superiority toward outsiders”…. in my opinion, good for them. I see that as a positive viewpoint. The French and the English feel the same, SUPERIORITY and they make it clear to outsiders so why not the CHINESE?

    For me, I didn’t feel a bit slided by anyone, in fact, everyone was so nice once they noticed we couldn’t speak Mandarin, but English.

    I just came back from Beijing (April 2007) and they treated us with great respect. We traveled with our child and it was difficult for her to adjust, but the people we met in Beijing were so kind and helpful.

    My child (9 years old) has been learning Mandarin since she was in pre-school (in the United States) and she was able to communicate and help guide us get around. For a small child to understand and not comment about “r” sound, makes me wonder why all the commotions. This must be an adult issue.

    cc

  28. Ji Xianzu Says: August 15, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Considered Hong Kong, anyone?

  29. I have been to both Beijing and Shanghai but only for a short while in both. To me Beijing has a little more substance to it where as shanghai felt like more of a put on. On the other hand I loved the skyscrappers in Shanghai and its nightlife. Also In Shanghai you go to a modern shopping district and then slowly descend into old neighborhood communities that are going to peices. The fact that you can literally see the transition just leaves you in awe and a feeling of sadness.

    Anyway I can’t decide where to go to study in China (beijing or shanghai). I like them both but wonder if the fact that in shanghai they Shanghaiese would inhibit my learning of mandarin there. Though when I went people seemed fine with speaking mandarin. ANy thoughts?

    Also (to the writer) what are you doing in shanghai for a job? what are good oppurtunities to look into?

  30. I’d like to second the thumbs up for Lanzhou, which I lived in for a year. It is associated with pollution – which it has due to be being situated between two mountain ranges, with some einstein putting the industrial sector up wind. However I’ve been to Chengdu and Beijing, the pollution I saw there on my brief visits to either was as bad as anything in Lanzhou. Also in Lanzhou the people are friendlier (Laowai’s are still a novelty); there are far less beggers, and you may find this hard to believe – NOT ONCE did a taxi driver try to rip me off!! Its more a melting pot of chinese ethnic groups, with a strong Hui presense and its not uncommon to a see a Buddist monk stroll down the street – more often than whitey’s anyway. People seem to have a phobia of getting away from the bigger cities and the western conveniences (WTF), but if you want something less westernized – 加油兰州!

  31. BaPaLaPaLoo Says: June 24, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    i find tis absolutly fasanating ;).
    nice work dude/dudeett.

  32. Shanghai is just like newyork city and Bejing is just like Washington.Which city do u like in America?

  33. Ok, Being an ABC [American Born Chinese] and I’ve been to both city, I must say I have pretty good idea what each city is like.

    Shanghai > Beijing. Period.

    1) Beijing’s Air Pollution is unbearable. For all you Beijing Lovers, Have fun with lung cancer =]

    2) “Nevertheless, Beijingers are widely regarded as very friendly, and any sense of superiority is exhibited only subtly. The Shanghainese are not widely regarded as friendly or as subtle in their snobbery.” Excuse me? Shanghai people are rude if you:
    – Don’t have money
    – It’s our culture
    Shanghai is a city, get used to it. Beijing people are nice, I admit, even though they are cocky and stuck up, but Shanghai’s got attitude. I think younger people will like Shanghai better because if you got attitude, know what you want, and have money, welcome to the Shanghai family. But, 1, we aren’t snobby. Leave that to Beijing.

    3) Shopping? Beijing has, what, a couple malls? Shanghai is Shopping Paradise.

    4) Shanghai’s air quality is wonderful compared to Beijing

    5) Eating in Shanghai is the best in the world. Only city I can compare it to is Hong Kong and maybe New York. But Anything Hong Kong has, Shanghai Has.

    6) Shanghai PEOPLE aren’t westernized, at all. We have our own culture. Ever heard of Shanghainese [Language]? Look it up.

    Nuff said. Shanghai is better.
    Btw, if anyone wants to go to Shanghai and enjoy it to the max:
    1) Bring lots of Money, foreal.
    2) Learn a bit of Shanghainese

    Shanghai is a city where if you don’t have money, you shouldn’t go

    • annoymous Says: August 25, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      Well, if you keep that exact attitude up, its because of that more foreigners, and other Chinese (from other regions) will grow less fond of Shanghai.

      Why don’t you do yourself a favour, and explain to your fellow Shanghainese why everyone should have money? Right, the point, Shanghai is to be enjoyed by everybody, from many walks of life.

      Who are you to say who should have much money and who what not? Everyone wants to visit Shanghai for many reasons, whatever that might be. That’s their choice. Who are you to decide for them, right?

  34. Hi Guys

    I think this is an interesting debate regarding the Chinese cities.

    I will be heading to Beijing soon so I stumbled upon this little debate after googling. I have a comment on hong kong and Taipei

    In would imagine that Shanghai people would act the same way HK people do towards Mandarin. In Hong KOng (HK), even though its an SAR with Cantonese as the official language along with english, most people can speak mandarin if they have to. However, they will always speak Cantonese amongst themselves. Luckily, knowing mandarin helped me get by quite well seeing that almost everyone tends to understand the language even if they dont’ speak it.

    Contrasting it with Taipei, many younger people in Taipei can’t speak the Minan dialect (Taiyoo, Minanhua, or any other names its known by) but many still can in the smaller cities and villages of Taiwan. Therefore, Taipei was quite mandarin friendly and it seems like I overhead many people speaking mandarin although they mix in taiwan words and say ” 真的嗎?“ a lot. I wouldn’t say that it’s a city where the majority tend to speak another language besides mandarin (like the above poster said).

    I never liked or knew much about Cantonese before I ever went to HK but now I fell in love with it and am currently learning it along with my continual Mandarin studies. It may be beneficial for those scared to of Shanghaiua to go to Shanghai. Who knows, maybe you will fall in love with Shanghaiua or the Shanghai dialect of Mandarin?

  35. i am a shanghaier. although i used to prefer shanghainese mandarin, i have totally fallen in love with beijing mandarin. beijing IS the place to learn standard mandarin. if you want to pronouce the “yins” correctly and properly, go to beijing. being shanghainese, i have noticed an accent when i speak mandarin. at first i didnt notice, but then after listening to myself speak and listening to my family speak mandarin and pretending that i didnt understand the language, i noticed a pretty big difference. southern chinese tend to really exaggerate the middel of words. this becomes more and more exaggerated when you move more south. for ex. proper mandarin or beijing mandarin, they would pronouce “chharrrr” while southern mandarin speakers would pronouce “ca.” best places to learn proper mandarin would be anywhere besides shanghai and below, not chengdu either. places like beijing and dongbei are great places to study and learn actual mandarin. btw before i noticed the difference between my shanghainese mandarin, and beijing mandarin, ive always thought the difference was simply that beijingers add “rr” or use “er hua” and my mandarin, i do not. but its pronouciation of whole word.

  36. one other thing i want to point out. southerners believe they can speak proper mandarin, if they actually wanted to. FALSE. for ex. i used to think the difference between proper mandarin and southern mandarin was simply southerners pronouce”shi” as “si” and northerners pronouce “shi” as “shi”. but even when southerners do pronouce “shi” as “shi” it still sounds different from proper “shi.” proper “shi” is “shhhhherr” not “she” like “SHI” in the word “shit.” that is another reason why learning “proper” mandarin in hangzhou or shanghai will not work. because proper mandarin there does not sound proper like mandarin. btw if you really cant or really want to learn “proper” mandarin in hangzhou, then its fine, as long as you dont, DONT learn it in taiwan or hongkong, guangdong, guangxi. you will sound like ducks. even shanghaiers (southerners) make fun of people who speak mandarin in those places. i highly suggest learning mandarin in beijing. its true. best place to learn PROPER mandarin. im goin back to beijing to study mandarin with no shanghainese accent in 2010 after i volunteer at shanghai world expo. cant wait.

  37. William Says: June 21, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I went to both, and I definetely preferred Beijing. It has more things to see, and those things are amazing.
    Shanghai was kinda dark (Gotham city anyone?)
    At least Shanghai had better night life.

  38. scarletcheeks Says: March 23, 2010 at 1:45 am

    To those who are saying that Beijing has “more history and culture” and Beijing should be considered “real China”, that is completely not true. Despite the fact that the Great Wall and the Forbidden Palace is a “must see”, it does not exemplify Chinese history. These historical palaces show the history of the royal families, the king and queens and rulers of the past. 99.9% of the rest of the Chinese popualation lived different and common lives, amongst the green hilly slopes of Hangzhou and by the seaside of Ningbo. Shanghai, on the other hand, is equally as cultural. It indeed shows the traces of imperialism and a desire to modernize, but that is as much part of history, of a people’s cultural salad bowl as the rest China.
    I personally prefer Shanghai, and I do have to disagree with the previously stated comment. I actually had a worse impression of Beijing people when it came to “friendliness”. Because my family and I didn’t have the “rrr” accent (we had more of a non-standard shanghainese/taiwanese/cantonese mix of mandarin b/c we live in the U.S.), they knew we were “foreigners” and ripped us off a lot. Pretty mediocre impression of Beijing the first time I saw it, if you ask me.
    When we were at Shanghai, everything was a lot more casual (less political) and all in all easier to live in. We visited traditional temples, nearby historical landmarks and scenery. Shanghai, to me, has a more cultural feel because we didn’t have to “pay at the gate” or “buy tickets” to see these sites. Culture was just there for you to look at. Take it or leave it.

  39. Kahan Demirkol Says: September 28, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Hi guys, a very interesting debate going on, for sure! I am a third year International Tourism Manegement student from the Netherlands. I have to go on a 6 month placement , beginning in Januari 2011. One of my options is to go Beijing, but I have a friend of mine, who is currently in Shanghai and he is saying that Shanghai is a much nicer city.

    I have now my doubts…
    I visited Singapore a couple months ago, And it was fun for one week, but I did not like the city so much, because I thaught it was fake, and they tried to much to be moders, and from what I read, Shanghai is kinda like singapore than…

    I am so confused right know, dont know what to do.

    PS. my other option is New-Zealand.

  40. […] het politieke; Shanghai is het toonbeeld van moderniteit, Beijing ademt vooral traditie. De ( meningen over beide steden zijn in die zin dan ook verdeeld. Het is daarom wellicht interessant om een introductie van Beijing […]

  41. Being a native Shanghaier who grew up in Canada, I feel the need to correct a few misconceptions:

    1- 99% of Shanghaiers speak Mandarin. The only exceptions are the very elderly who grew up before the Liberation.

    2- At first sight, Beijing, being the Capital, seems to have more culture than Shanghai, but that is only true if you restrict Shanghai to the downtown core. Go a bit further, and you’ll find ancient villages such as Qi Bao, Zhou Zhuang, and Zhu Jia Jiao, every bit as steeped in Southern Chinese culture as Beijing is in Northern culture. Go a bit further, and you can reach cities like Hangzhou, Suzhou, Zhengjiang, Yangzhou, all within reach of a short train ride.

  42. Tianjin is better than Beijing and Shanghai!!

  43. there is a huge difference between the two places. For a few seconds of setting foot in one of them, one can feel which one is more for them. Sh is more metropolitan and bj urban spraw. Sh is more like nyc and BJ more like LA. I am from LA and i always wanted to live in NYC. I like denser living area…i like the Sh trees, streets, and what i see daily on the street. It is more human scale. In BJ the scale is intimatidating, and almost un real …..i don’t like to be in transportation all the time. SH is more unpredictable and have more subtle surprises and much more beautiful place to live, and that bit is more inspiring to be for me.

    Cultural both have it. Beijing, you can come and visit for a few days and experience all the cultural area. Sh has it’s history too…look at Wekipedia.

    My daily activities contribute most of time and find it much more pleasant in SH. It’s more diversed too interm of people, food, shopping, parks, streetscene, attitude, and getaways.

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