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 long time 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 Shanghailanders 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 to give back the concessions to China that started in the 1930s .
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.
“The Shanghailander” was also the name of a monthly magazine published in English in the 1930s by Carl Crow. Giving information about events in the city and financed by advertising, it was the ancestor of today’s That’s Shanghai and others (see post Reading “the Shanghailander” for more details).
3 thoughts on “Why is this blog called Shanghailander ?”
I would not fully agree to this statement and explanation, since not only highlanders served in Shanghai – and especially after the unification of the International settlement, there were no more army men but only police constables serving under the Shanghai Municipal Council. Most of which were of Indian or British origin.
Thus, where did the name come from ? It came from the fact, that Shanghai was the only city in the whole world NOT requiring a visa to enter and settle. Therefore, starting with the Russian Revolution, Shanghai saw a huge influx of refugees who losing out on their homeland, became stateless. The term Shanghailander is actually from German and means “Citizen of the country Shanghai” (Shanghailaender) – similar to “Englaender” (the German term for a Brit). The term was thoroughly established by the 20,000 Jewish refugees flocking the city after 1933, mainly arriving from Germany and Austria, when fleeing the terror of the Nazis.
you write: 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.
How an you stay “for life” in SH? they do not give “green cards” to foreigners. I have lived in SH for 3 years and love the city, but if you have no business or professional reason you cannot live in SH! At “best”, you need to leave every 90 days to HK, Taiwan or Korea and come back for another 90 days only. Costly!
Thanks for your input. However, the name Shanghailander was documented to be used by the foreign community many years before 1933.
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