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Beijing or Shanghai - which one do you prefer?


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I know the answer to this question will depend on your tastes/experiences. If you live (have lived or are moving into) any big city in China, please tell me which one you prefer and why.

I like Beijing because of the culture -- old monuments, etc. and has enough modern facilities. I don't get that feeling in Shanghai. Shanghai is more 'modern' / fast paced and sometimes feels like Hong Kong to me (another city I don't enjoy as much). But then there are some good jobs there....

I haven't spent as much time in Shanghai as in Beijing. Maybe that is the reason.

Which city do you like?

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I'd prefer Shanghai, but then I also like Hong Kong. While Beijing is certainly older in terms of culture, Shanghai is not without an interesting history. The museums in Shanghai are very good quality. However, you don't need culture all the time, for living you need facilities. When I want my dose of culture I can travel. So I'd visit Beijing but live in Shanghai. Actually, I'd visit both and live in Hong Kong.

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Depends on you definition of Big city.

Nanjing has 6 million residents with it's suburbs and is considered a medium sized in China though anywhere else it would be big. It is Scenic. I doesn't have the dust or cold winters of Beijing. It is not as crowded as Shanghai though has a decent western population and bar area. I has big bicycle lanes on most roads with french oak trees that provide shade and beauty in the sometimes humid summers.

Between Shanghai and Beijing, I would take Shanghai as it is a more dynamic place and the is a feeling of more openness. Though Shanghai may be a bit more expensive than BJ it is less expensive than HK.

Come to Nanjing, it's like Boston but in China.

have fun,


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I also prefer Beijing. I like the 哥们儿 attitude, and the more laid-back approach to things. Now if only we could have clear air

Stole what I was going to say word for word!

I love Beijing. It's obviously the political and power center of the country, and it's easy to meet people who are into cultural, political, and artistic things.

I lived in Shanghai for almost three and a half years, and I think it is also a great city with a lot of energy. Beijing and Shanghai have more in common than not when comparing them with 2nd or 3rd tier cities. But I never completely liked Shanghaiese food, and I couldn't speak the language of the locals (Shanghaiese), which always creates a bit of emotional distance, even if you can both speak Putonghua. Also, I'm not a huge fan of shopping/fashion/business, or the party and clubing scene.

My wife always prefered Shanghai more, whereas I always liked Beijing more. Now we live in Hong Kong, which we both agree on! :D.

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I much prefer Shanghai. Fast paced, exciting, modern and cutting edge in many regards, and has some beautiful spots. There are significant downsides of course (I wouldn't really want to live in Shanghai, even) but the downsides of Beijing to me are especially heinous. Terrible pollution, excessively dirty and dusty, old and boring, political; I don't personally know as many people in Beijing as I do in Shanghai though.

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Well I wasn't going to chime in to this post since I haven't lived in Shanghai.

But I thought about the main reasons I wanted to be in Beijing to begin with and share some aspects about an important topic for most people on the board - studying Chinese!

The main reason I have to stay in Beijing is because of the language.

I wrote about it two years ago on our website Studying in Beijing versus Shanghai. Admittedly biased here since it's for our Chinese school in Beijing.

Mind you if I had my way I would love to move to Kunming or elsewhere where there would be a lot less competition and the air is cleaner (seems to be the largest complaint about Beijing) but I don't think it is the best environment for our students.

But then again there was John's own post about Beijing versus Shanghai..

Despite the fact that he lives in Shanghai he says some of the same:

"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. "

Finally, there is this classic post from another famous Shanghainese blogger who also recommends Beijing over Shanghai for the language factor.

The SH factor is one thing, and easy to deal with. But a lot of Shanghainese don't seem to be able to distinguish some of their finals either. gen vs geng xin/xing shen/sheng etc. This seems to be a much bigger problem for a learner since nearly every word with a "g" will have to be double checked. (Also makes looking things up twice as slow on average because half the time you'll have to look it up twice)

Edit: P.S. unrelated to the language factor but just to keep from posting twice: I can't really give a comparison but I do agree with the sentiments about the ge1men® attitude. I don't get out much, but I really like Beijing people. They seem very down-to-earth and friendly.

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