The big difference between really living in a city and not is, you have better sense of the relative environment of a city.
There are many reports on living cost. Shanghai sometimes ranked very high in the list – in the top 10 most expensive cities. The recent 2005 report says, Shanghai is the 30th most expensive city in the world. One of the key factor is the change of RMB price.
What is the Standard
I don’t doubt that the report has been generated in a scientific way. However, I don’t know what the standard they are using. I didn’t check out the questionnaire, but I guess they may use a western standard. For example: the price of Hamburg. The price of a Golf course, the price of car, the price of apartment, the price of gym…
The problem is, there are many things like Golf and Gym that is not necessary in the life of Shanghai. The average cost of those rare activities is much more expensive than many cities, just like everywhere in the world. People in Shanghai can make good live with only several thousands RMB, while using the standard,, 10K USD may not be enough.
Living the Chinese Way
So my conclusion is, living the U.S. way in Shanghai is much more expensive than living the U.S. way in U.S., but to live in the Chinese way in Shanghai is much more cheaper than living the U.S. way in U.S.