Why is this blog called Shanghailander ?
One may find this name of Shanghailander a bit strange, but I did not invent it. In Old Shanghai, a newly arrived foreigner was called a griffin from the time he arrived. This meant that he was a fresher, a newcomer and that he did not know much. After one year, one month, one week, one day, one minute and one second spent in Shanghai (generally in one stretch as people did not go home often) the griffin became a Shanghailander. This meant that he reached some understanding of life in Shanghai and was not a newcomer anymore. If you spend a few years in China, you could be called “Old China Hand” (rough translation of the Chinese Zhong Guo Tong) but that took quite a few years.
The word “Shanghailander” is actually a contraction of Shanghai and highlanders, as many of the British troops in Shanghai and the rest of the empire were Scots. The highlands came with them. Expatriates of the time, i.e. people sent by large companies on a contract, were often in opposition with the proper Shanghailander who were mostly people who really had a stake in Shanghai. Owners of real estate and businesses, they tended to take a very conservative stance on various topics, in particular against raising taxes. They were clearly against the negotiations in the 1930’s to give back the concessions to China.
Interestingly enough, the same difference between Shanghai freshers and older ones can still be felt very clearly. The later making sure that the former understand that they are sooooo knowledgeable about the city, when they have barely left the barriers of their guarded compound. Similarly, entrepreneurs in Shanghai and foreigners working here often take a strong interest in their adopted city. After a few years, they often feel that Shanghai has become their new home and quite a number decide to stay here for life. By taking a stake in the the city’s life and development, they are the new Shanghailanders.