Shanghai expat community gives its view on its members

Published:  20 Apr at 6 PM
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Expat communities aren’t always one big, happy family, according to a recent Shanghai media survey.

Shanghai is officially the most popular Chinese mega-city for expats, with literally several hundred thousand making up the expatriate community. The vast majority are enriching the city with their contributions, but what do expats in general think about their co-inhabitants? Nowhere’s perfect, and every community has its rogue elements committing indecent, immoral and even unlawful behaviour.

The good, the bad and the occasionally extremely ugly find their way to Shanghai as they do to the rest of the world’s expat havens, with the Shanghai community a mix of long-stayers, digital nomads, expat professionals, English teachers at all levels and entrepreneurs looking for a place to hang their hats whilst they struggle to get financial support. Reactions to the exotic environment with its ethical and cultural differences vary, with many expats believing they’re more welcome in the booming city than in their homelands.

Mexican expat Danna, however, resents the fact that Chinese nationals receive more benefits than do expatriates as well as being able to bend the rules more easily if they’re caught breaking them. Foreigners, she says, are always guilty until proven innocent. Cesar arrived from Spain six years ago and is grateful to the Chinese government for the city’s stability and safety, with USA expat Andrew feeling more welcome than in other countries. Others don’t appreciate unwelcome attention from local people, although some foreigners take advantage of their status to act in a bad way.

Danna believes every country attracts the bad as well as the good, with some Westerners arriving simply to prey on Chinese females. Because they have more money than the average Chinese and are relatively good-looking, they believe they can get away with their behaviour. Indian expat Kawaljeet agrees, adding every country has the best and worst of humanity, making it difficult to differentiate. Russian expat Tatania said Chinese males also chase foreign females, but rarely catch one.

Most of the expats questioned by the survey believe China’s strict laws have the effect of keeping out real undesirables, also noting that respect for the host country should be shown by all expats. Foreigners, they say, don’t really dare to commit crimes as they’re fully aware how tough the Chinese police and courts can be on expats who knowingly break the law. In general, it seems Shanghai’s huge foreign community just wants to get on with its life in a land almost all find friendly, welcoming and supportive.
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