Five thousand miles, two continents and
the largest unpopulated lowlands on earth
are not enough earth to break the unity that
Liverpool and Shanghai share.
Twinned in 1999, the two cities, although
a seemingly unlikely partnership, are
connected by dozens of similarities,
some of which originate from hundreds of
Most notable is the rich shipping trade that
both cities experienced in the 18th, 19th
and 20th Centuries. Their positioning on
major rivers, the Mersey and HuangPu,
make them ideal locations for building ports as well as importing and exporting goods. In the 19th century, 40% of the world’s trade passed through the Liverpool docks, which greatly helped the city’s expansion. Today, Shanghai exists as the busiest port in the world, dealing with the largest amount of cargo each year.
With this come the cities’ stunning waterfronts, which both date back from the early 20th Century and make them just like real twins. Liverpool is home to the iconic Liver Building, one of the most recognisable buildings in the city. In Shanghai, the Bund’s gothic, renaissance, baroque and neo-classical buildings are home to the Asia branch of the world’s biggest companies, including AIG insurance.
Similarly, both cities are also key economic centres for commerce and 35 of the world’s Fortune 500 companies call Shanghai their Asian home. Liverpool, although having suffered gradual economic decline in the late half of the 20th Century, is now one of the largest office markets in the UK. Each city has undergone massive urban renewal and regeneration to get to where they are today.
But it isn’t just history and shipping tales that the
cities share: there are in fact many more trivial and
usual likenesses between Liverpool and Shanghai.
First are the strong local dialects that their citizens
speak. Similar to Liverpool’s defining Scouse
accent, Shanghai locals speak ‘Shanghainese’,
which is a slang equivalent of Mandarin. This accent
is usually found along the elder generation of
Chinese people who have been living in the city
since the darker days of Chairman Mao’s leadership.
The best advice is to don’t try and speak Mandarin
to Shanghai taxi drivers and elderly shop owners
as a tourist’s Mandarin is far too prim and proper.
Hand actions, pointing, simple words and a few
nods of the head will just have to do…
Another bizarre parallel is the people’s interesting penchant for wearing nightwear during the day and outdoors. Shanghai locals, who don’t have an air conditioned home normally wear pyjamas and nighties throughout the summer as the loose fitting clothing helps in the humid temperature. However, younger people wouldn’t be seen outside their bedroom door, never mind on the streets, in their PJs. In resemblance some Liverpool lasses I know love a stroll to the shops in their bedtime attire, although perhaps as more of a fashion statement instead.
And it seems clear that Liverpool’s ladies’ obsession for designer handbags and clobber is mirrored in Shanghai, where there are more designer shops than you can shake a platinum card at. Whilst Liverpool has the renowned ‘Cricket’ boutique and Met Quarter, Shanghai has Plaza 66, a six storey metropolis where you can pick up the latest Jimmy Choos and Stella McCartney clothing.
Clothing, however, is only just the start of creating the perfect
image for which Liverpool and Shanghai women spend a great
deal of time on. Rather bizarrely, the two cities share an
addiction for skin colouring agents – but on opposite ends of the
tanning spectrum. Whilst in Liverpool the roads are packed with
tanning salons and sun centres, in Shanghai the ladies flock to
the pharmacy for skin whitening treatments. That’s right – the
whiter the better – as this implies wealth because you aren’t a
farm worker, grafting in the sun all day! So obsessed are they
with achieving the whitest skin colour that they carry umbrellas
to shield themselves from the sunshine and wear flowing clothes
during the summer.
Finally… Who can forget Liverpool and Everton FC, two teams
so passionately loved by Scousers and fans from all over the
country? Yes, Shanghai is just as obsessed with football and
their beloved Shanghai Shenhua FC. Over 33,000 people
descend upon the Hongkou stadium every weekend for 90
minutes of the best football around. Having finished first in the
premier league every year since 1994, I think it’s safe to say they’re the best team in the East.
Admittedly, Shanghai is far more excessive than Liverpool, which is something you might expect from China’s hub of industry, commerce, trade, finance and shipping. Yet, although different in size and international recognition, the cities are uncanny in the way they both prosper and grow today. Add to this the unique people who call each city home, and it’s obvious that there are real links between the twins today, and not just memories written in history.
By Lara Richards
Shanghai in pictures
In the first in her series of features on Shanghai, Lara explores the remarkable connections between Liverpool and its twin city in China. Look... they've even copied our famous skyline!
Look familiar? Shanghai's Bund is just like the Liver Building
Shanghai picture © Pete Harlow: Catnip Corner Photography
Looks more like New York from this angle...
Picture by Lara Richards
Nanjing Lu shopping at night
Picture by Lara Richards
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