The 6th Annual Hub Culture Zeitgeist skids into place having rounded the bases a bit slower than usual, with a focus on the heavyweights and gradual power shifts. This is the year of determined resolve – everyone seems, dare we say, pretty optimistic?
Signs are that the US and European economies are finally evening out from their death spirals, income inequality is being addressed via pop culture platitudes, emerging markets are ticking over, its an Olympic year, etc. etc.. (Just how do we create this ranking?).
And its São Paulo for the win – again! While the main cities remain on the list in different positions, power is shifting – with more BRIC cities in the top positions than ever before. It really is all about Brazil and China, but at the same time, growing signs of slow downs in both markets make the future difficult to predict.
1. São Paulo (2011 rank: 1)
Perched at the top of the list for a record third year is São Paulo, where the defining topic of conversation continues to be how hard it is to find good help. You know things are going well when staffing your dinner party adequately is a major topic of concern. It is however a harbinger – inflation and class ambition do not make a tranquil mix forever. The strong currency and commodity growth at large aren’t the only thing fueling Brazil – property and consumer retail are continuing to enjoy enviable growth rates despite a 4Q dip last year. Meanwhile, the city is ever more popular, and ever more desirable for corporate postings, regional businesses, and those looking to experience the Brazilian boom first-hand.
2. Hong Kong (2011 rank: 7)
Hong Kong hits a high note this year – a cosmopolitan mix, fantastic shopping and epicenter attitude for business make it the world’s drop-in city. But the downsides – pollution, overcrowding, and little thought for public space – have often held it back.
Despite these issues, lately the world just seems to bend more toward Hong Kong – maybe because there is an ever stronger air of confidence and derring-do in the city? HK simply doesn’t care what everyone else thinks anymore, and that makes us all care even more (especially big brother to the north). As the world navigates the shift of power from west to east, Hong Kong remains perfectly balanced between the two.
Plus, try going out on a weekend – holy schmodel! HK is ground-zero to the world’s young, rich and beautiful, tomorrow’s bright lights rocking today’s late nights.
3. Beijing (2011 rank: 14)
While its still a bit rough around the edges, one gets the impression that Beijing is the new Manhattan, but on a much larger scale. Yes, its still under construction. Yes, you can still ride a rickety rickshaw from a man with no teeth through teeming traffic, but now he’ll charge you $40 bucks. Yes, its freezing cold half the year and choking with dust the other half. But it will rule, and therefore, people are building and innovating and spending and earning and just plain living. It’s very alive right now, Beijing, in a way other places aren’t.