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6.3 - Summary: Defining Expatriates through Home-making Strategies

The division in identity and experience between postpats and corporate expatriates is best illustrated by the popular stereotype of the river as a dividing line between two extremes, with new, Western, family orientated, brash and business-like Pudong on one side and the old city, Puxi, "the fun side", on the other. As with all such structural opposites the reality is much more complex and fluid, with expatriates moving across this boundary reg-ularly - both in the physical sense and symbolically. Enclaves of corporate expatriates also exist on the Puxi side, and while it is less common, some postpats I met had also settled in Pudong.

Although I have drawn the division between these two groups of expatri-ates to reflect stereotypical views within Shanghai's expatriate population, these views are also broadly reflective of the different ways expats live in and relate to the city. Examining the ways that postpats and corporate expatriates make their homes in Shanghai both illustrates these divisions and illuminates the underlying oppositions which structure them.

Because corporate expatriates usually only intended to be in China for a set length of time, they tended to be less interested in putting down deep roots in the city. Generous salaries and relocation packages made it pos-sible for them to more accurately recreate familiar home-spaces from the West. High-end expatriate compounds provided corporate expatriates with an idealised Western, suburban landscape onto which they could transpose existing conceptions of home. Popular compounds and ser-viced apartment complexes were also usually located on the outskirts of the city, offering a space physically and symbolically cut off from the local and from China. Walls separated these self-contained Western spaces from the rest of Shanghai and uniformed staff served as literal gate-keep-ers, keeping the local world at a distance. Corporate expatriates, with their

local Chinese drivers, rarely moved beyond this Western bubble, travelling easily between their homes and other implicitly or explicitly Western spaces - international schools, expatriate supermarkets, international res-taurants, malls specialising in Western brands and Western mediated corporate workplace.

When corporate expatriates did engage with the local, they inevitably did so as tourists, choosing experiences that highlighted their own cultural, and perhaps more critically their class, difference. Often they framed these experiences as having occurred in "the real China", relocating them-selves and their home-space outside China in the process. Conversely local Chinese residents were usually described as out of place in the com-pounds, apartment buildings, neighbourhoods or even the districts where corporate expatriates made their homes. Corporate expatriate framings of Pudong in particular frequently echoed Anais' description of the district as "a big place for foreigners" (p 73).

In contrast, postpats were both less able and less interested in recreating the homes they had left behind in the West. Instead their homes reflected new blended, transnational identities. Postpats usually favoured the older parts of the city, closer to its historic semi-colonial centre. In so doing they laid claim to a historical imaginary, in which the foreign presence in Shang-hai is framed as an expression of traditional, local Chinese values. This helped legitimise postpat emplacement, allowing postpats to see them-selves as part of a continuity of Western settlement in the city, rather than as temporary migrants.

They often chose apartment complexes in which they and their roommates or partners were the only foreign residents, or where foreigners were in the minority, narrating these as "local buildings" or as "Chinese compounds".

Shanghai's historic longtang offered an concrete embodiment of Shang-hai's haipai style - the meeting of East and West - but were also narrated, by the postpats who lived in them, as quintessentially local spaces.

The interiors of their apartments sometimes reflected a compromise between the local Chinese design sensibilities of the owner and the West-ern tastes of the postpat tenants. Minimalist interiors were also common.

However, unlike corporate expatriates who were able to project existing notions of home onto their new places of residence, postpats usually came to Shanghai with only a small number of personal possessions.

Although apartments in Shanghai are typically pre-furnished, there were obviously some things that postpats had to supply for themselves. While postpats prided themselves on living a more cosmopolitan lifestyle, most were unwilling to give up Western expectations of home life completely.

Knives, forks and large dinner plates were difficult to find, and not having enough of them, when entertaining guests, could act as a reminder for postpats of how shallow their roots in China actually were. By eating from a wide range of different Chinese and international cuisines postpats enacted new cosmopolitan, transnational identities. However, Western foods and foods from the home country continued to hold a central place in the eating habits and culinary desires of most postpats.

They populated their homes with objects collected from their time in China, selectively admitting those that were safe, or familiar, or had a personal significance. The narratives that surrounded these objects lent a sense of fixity and continuity to fictive kinships networks, which were in reality under constant flux. Western media also helped to make postpats feel at home, bringing the warmth of the "family hearth" (Morley 2002) into home spaces that typically existed in fluid but uneasy counterpoint with the local world outside.

For both postpats and corporate expatriates, home provided an important reversal of the outsider status that is usually ascribed to laowai by local Chinese. Inside the home-space itself, the things which mark expatriates as outsiders "whiteness", inability to speak Chinese, relative wealth -were normalised, and local Chinese -were themselves marked as out-siders. How expatriates managed this boundary - between inside and outside, between local and foreign and between the West and China - was dictated, in large part, by whether they framed their presence in China as long-term choice or as short-term necessity. Corporate expatriates, "the sents" in this dipole, tended to have a more strictly bounded notion of home. They inhabited self-contained Western bubbles, rarely engaging

with the local, except as tourists. Postpats, who might also be referred to as "the wents", tended to have a more fluid relationship to China and their definitions of home reflected this. They engaged selectively with the local in their choice of home-space, in their food choices, in the mementoes they had on display. However, they also relied on Western food, and Western media to familiarise and Westernise the home-space.

Postpats also tended to react to the tension between a Western inside and a Chinese outside by forming strong attachments to the area around their home, constructing discontinuous cosmopolitan neighbourhoods of familiar places and people that could act as an extension of the home. A discus-sion of these broader bubbles of cosmopolitan, neighbourhood space is the subject of the following chapter.

7.0 - Networking & Support