For me, Shanghai is like a collision of countries, particularly India and Japan.
Transportation - The metro is reliable with schedules in both Shanghai and Nagoya. There is no subway in either Khartoum or Bangalore and transportation is often unpredictable.
Traffic - It feels as if I’ve experienced a miracle every time I manage to safely cross the streets. The concept of lanes seem to be better understood than in India and Sudan, and almost on par with Japan but drivers are extremely comfortable zipping in and out of lanes at fast speeds. Add in pedestrians in the middle of the road and things get real exciting because vehicles just go around you. In India, they do the same. In Sudan, vehicles speed up while still aiming for you. In Japan, you wait for the lights to cross the street. Thankfully, Shanghai does not have the cows of India and goats and donkeys of Sudan wandering into the road.
Food – I will not order Chinese food in China without the help of a Chinese speaker/reader. I’m a picky eater. In India, there are scores of vegetarian only restaurants. In Sudan, I ate mostly middle eastern food. In Japan, I expect most foods to have pork but am usually able to establish (with my limited Japanese) whether a dish has meat or not.
Service – I often feel like a minor inconvenience in Shanghai. In Bangalore, people followed me and told me the (obvious) purpose of common goods. In Khartoum, you had to hunt down someone for help. In Japan, service people are unfailingly helpful, considerate and polite.
People – People sometimes do a double take when they see me. Admittedly, I saw no other black people outside of my conference and the Expo site. In India, everyone stared ALL THE TIME. In Sudan, dark skinned people called me “my sister” and everyone else ignored m e. In Japan, I seldom catch people staring although a couple of older ladies have openly stared and called me “kawai” (cute).
Aesthetics – Shanghai = over the top gaudy. India loves over the top gaudy too. Sudan: well, I’ve heard that it will one day be the Dubai of Africa though I cannot imagine it right now; gaudy is in there too. Japan favors understated and conservative designs.
Cleanliness – Shanghai – lots of unpleasant smells and garbage in some areas. A friend and I used to joke that we would create the scents of India line for the homesick. I think that the scents of Shanghai line would provide great competition. There weren’t as many smells in Khartoum but flies were a big problem and there were discarded plastic bags all over the place (birds of Sudan). India had a similar problem with plastic bags and lots of garbage. Japan is quite clean on the surface although it is possible to find garbage discarded in hidden areas (off the beaten path).
Queuing – I’ve had to practice my shoving and pushing and butting in front of people skills this past few days in Shanghai. It brought back not so fond memories of doing the same in Sudan and India. The Japanese seem quite obsessive with queuing.
I wonder what (except higher prices) China (and the world) would be like if they incorporated the meticulousness of Japan into their design/manufacturing process …