An Asian super-city pitted against the Middle East’s most famous and loved desert oasis. Which one will prevail in the battle for your heart? There are things to love in both places, and of course things that you’ll have to learn to tolerate. Read on for a more detailed comparison of these two exciting cities.
The Makeup of the Cities
Shanghai (literally meaning “Above the Sea”) is a renowned international metropolis drawing more and more attention from all over the world. Situated on the estuary of Yangtze River, it has become one of the most influential economic, financial, cultural, and technological cities in China.
Originally a fishing and textiles town, the city gained its identity after the 1842 Treaty of Nanking opened it to foreign powers. The growth over the past century has been staggering, and Shanghai is now home to over 23 million people.
Dubai, by comparison, is a young and small city. With origins as a pearl-mining destination, as well as a stop on the trade route from India, it has flourished over the last 30 years in a way that defies belief.
With a current population estimated at around 2.4 million people, Dubai is now a city that stretches a length of about 60km, with residential areas spreading further and further inland.
Culture & Lifestyle
With the signing of the treaty in 1842, the British, French, Americans, Germans, and Russians moved in, setting up their distinct Western-style banks, trading houses, and mansions. This left a permanent architectural legacy that was further developed in the 1990s with the dramatic investment in the redevelopment of the city.
The result is a city with a multicultural flair, which endows it with a unique glamour. You can find the perfect blend of cultures: the modern and the traditional, the western and the oriental. New skyscrapers and old Shikumen stand side by side to paint the skyline of the city. Western customs and Chinese traditions intertwined to form the city’s culture.
Easily China’s richest city and the leading trendsetter in fashion, design, and the arts, Shanghai is the best city in the country for dining and shopping.
Locals of the city (considered frank, efficient, and progressive) are creating the country’s most outward-looking and modern metropolis, replete with legions of futuristic skyscrapers, glitzy restaurants, bars, hotels, brand awareness, and shopping savvy, competing with rival Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore.
In this sense, Dubai is quite similar. With strong Arabic traditions and values held firm, the city and its people have also embraced change, welcoming in external influences and different ways of thinking.
Modern skyscrapers, including the world’s tallest building and the world’s only 7-star hotel, have put Dubai on the map.
The world’s largest shopping mall tempts all who wander through it to spend their money on the current fashions and trends. Education has become increasingly important over the last decade, and many local families now send their children abroad so they can attend the world’s most prestigious universities.
The beauty of Shanghai’s diverse and unique culture extends into its food. Although there is plenty of variety, there are also foods that are typical to Shanghai. Some of them have become so famous that they are now enjoyed worldwide.
Try the Pan-Fried Steamed Bun, one of Shanghai’s famous Han Chinese traditional snacks dating back to the 1920s. Another option is Spare Ribs with Rice Cake, also a unique Han meal in Shanghai. Believed to have a high nutritional value that can provide nutrients, especially benefiting young children and the elderly.
Chinese Tea culture refers to how tea is prepared, as well as the occasions when people consume tea in China. Even today, tea is consumed regularly, both at casual and formal occasions. In addition to being a popular beverage, tea is used in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as in Chinese cuisine. Green tea is one of the main worldwide teas originating in China.
Dubai cuisine has a great and varied offering. The traditional Arabic food is of course a staple, and high quality food is readily available, whether you prefer your dinner setting to be in a stand-alone restaurant, in a mall, or in a hotel.
The food is intended for sharing: large plates of grilled meat, as well as dips like hummus, mouttabel, and muhammara are loved by all. No meal is complete without a salad such as fattouch or tabbouleh. Due to the large expat community, there is also an exciting variety of international cuisines available throughout the city, meaning that you can explore dozens of different tastes a month.
Cost of Living
A major consideration when deciding on a base for your future is always the cost of living. Dubai is notoriously expensive, and according to website Numbeo, it would cost about 35% less to have the same standard of living in Shanghai as in Dubai, if you include the cost of rent in your calculations.
That said, a lot of Dubai employers provide accommodation, or at least an allowance towards the cost of accommodation, which would offset the additional cost and give a more balanced result. Many Dubai employers also contribute towards school fees for up to 3 children.
Interestingly, although rent prices in Shanghai are about 50% lower than in Dubai, the house prices – if you’re looking to buy a city centre property – are 170% higher in Shanghai per square meter. Grocery prices work out almost the same, with Shanghai prices averaging about 2% higher than Dubai.
The use of public transport in Shanghai is strongly recommended, and the prices reflect this. Public transport is almost 50% less in Shanghai, while the price of petrol per litre is 90% more than in Dubai.
Utility bills, as well as membership to sports and leisure clubs, are all about 50% lower in Shanghai, while certain entertainment, such as cinema tickets to international film releases, are 22% higher than in Dubai.
Whichever city you choose, you can look forward to a wonderful experience in a place brimming with culture, vision, innovation, and endless possibilities.