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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

Overcoming inter-city prejudices

By Ni Dandan (Global Times)

15:09, December 04, 2011

The soap opera A Life in Two Cities has recently gained much popularity among television audiences. The series, featuring the life of a Shanghainese husband and his Beijing wife, reflects many deep-rooted prejudices that people in Beijing and Shanghai hold towards each other.

Scholar Yi Zhongtian, in his book Reading Chinese Cities, states a general but precise summary of the mutual attitudes. “Beijingers are generally tolerant of people from outside – but they seem to make an exception for the Shanghainese, whom they treat unfairly. Meanwhile, although the Shanghainese tend to have a humorous sense of superiority towards anyone who is not from Shanghai, they do have a sort of grudging respect for people from Beijing. This is not perceived by the Beijingers as a particular honor.”

As a Shanghainese who lived and worked in Beijing for four years, I personally experienced instances of rejection and acceptance. I was able to assimilate quickly, although this may have been partly due to the slight Beijing accent I had picked up from my college roommate. I was also frequently told that I did not “look” like a Shanghainese, which apparently was a traditional way that the Beijingers compliment someone from their rival city.

Nevertheless, I did make some more conscious efforts to be accepted. When asked where I was from, I often told people that I came from “the South,” hoping to avoid being pigeonholed as a penny-pinching, finicky, self-centered Shanghai girl, intolerant of any hardship. I even worked harder on my Beijing accent in order to get more involved in the local community.

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