Many people ask if and how the city has changed since it hosted the 2010 World Expo. The complex answer is that a lot has developed and adapted and progressed, while at the same time many underlying aspects have remained the same. Yes, the city has changed, but it is a structural shift, not a psychological one.
The city has changed its face multiple times since its inception as a small fishing town on a relatively fish-less river. It grew and prospered and, when the internationals came to Shanghai, it became their home as they created government concession areas and built up area that resembled their homes, explaining the presence of such areas like the ‘French Concession’ which even today goes by this name in English. The city changed again after the economic reform and opening up after Mao, and citizens of Shanghai could watch, in one lifetime, the island of Pudong spring from a swampy grasslands (post WWII) to the developed maze of high rises and sky scrapers that it is today. Shanghai is a city that constantly adapts, and in that grand scheme the World Expo of 2010 left a relatively small dent in the city.
True, new subway lines were added to the already vast metro system of Shanghai. The bus system was the largest in the world before the Expo, and it was expanded to cater to tourists and national guests during the Expo. Roads were closed for repair for years up to the expo, but they are open now and benefiting the city a great deal. One major example of this is the road along the Bund. These transportation changes have benefited many residents, and will continue to do so long term.
Before the Expo, a massive advertising campaign swept through the city, similar to the campaign in Beijing pre-2008 Olympics, that reminded people not to spit, to toss rubbish in the bins provided, and to wait in line rather than push to the front. These measures, though they had some affect during the Expo, were not lasting. There was no fundamental shift in the behavior and psyche of the residents in Shanghai for the Expo. Many people thought that a huge surge of foreigners in the city would open people’s minds, making them think about their city as a truly international and modern place, but instead there was no real shift or interaction in a lasting way. Residents saw foreigners, but they were in fancy hotels more than interacting with locals, and there is always the deep language gap to contend with.
In answer to this oft asked question, the city has changed, as it has since it was founded, but the Expo had a relatively small impact on the city and it will grow at a large rate, develop and even ebb at times at its own pace, regardless of what events are held there.