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Changning: Home as One’s Own
02/14/2016 Wenhui Daily (Shanghai) 区政府办公室

In addition to its widely known elegant appearance and leisure life, Changning, with the flow-in of more and more foreign residents, is taking on another feature known as a ‘multi-culture district’. Boasting of its 28 consulates in Shanghai, more than 120 diplomatist mansions, nearly 3,000 foreign-funded enterprises and working bodies, and about 69,000 foreigners from 150 countries and regions, Changning is almost a mini-UN with dwellers of different languages, nationalities and colors.

As one of the most internationalized urban districts, Changning is striving to create an world’s top district featuring innovation, fashion and livability. With the improvement of education environment, and health and business service and supporting facilities, most foreigners find themselves no longer missing their faraway homes so much but take to this home from their own homes. Foreign residents and enterprise representatives in this interview talked happily about their life and work in the district.

Convenience and comfort for living has convinced her to buy an apartment and settle down in the district.

Interviewee: Ms. Wu from Oasis Riviera, Indonesian

I’ve been in Shanghai for 5 years. I have my both kids study in a high school in Shanghai, and my elder son is now in the UK for his university studies. We used to live in Suzhou, and then we moved here as we wanted them to enter a better school. After they were enrolled into the Shanghai High School, I went to the School Bus Office to learn about the residential communities where the largest number of children were taking their bus, as I believe that might point to a more internationalized community and my children could thus find pals more easily there. When they told me where, I chose to buy an apartment there.

This area is turning better and better these years, and I do think I made a right choice. The Owners’ Committee has been very earnest in their work, holding meetings frequently to discuss about public affairs in the neighborhood, such as lawn maintenance, gate and path repairing, and car parking. They perform their duty in a very standardized manner, like putting up notices in advance. Owners in the same building also have a WeChat group, which allows exchange of information about activities and problems much more easily.

My husband needs to go on business trips often, and it’s very convenient for us to arrive at both Pudong and Hongqiao airports, solely by taking Line 2. When he needs to go to their branch in Suzhou, he can take high-speed rail at Hongqiao Railway Station without worrying about traffic jams.

Interviewee: Ms. Deguchi from Oasis Riviera, Japan

We’ve living here for 6 years. Many knowledge and skill courses are offered here by the community, and I take Shanghainese, tea art, English salon and Chinese for foreigners, with tuitions for the first term exempted and the subsequent ones are very inexpensive.

My favorite is the tea art class, in which the instructor has taken us to a farm in Qingpu and Chongming for rural fun and learning; we have also been to a tea plantation in Anji of Zhejiang for tea-picking and tasting, where we bought very nice tea leaves. I would take my husband and my child with me every time for our activities, and they all had great fun. All we need is to share the cost, no need to worry about other matters.

I usually shop for food in the neighboring food market, where the groceries are fresh and cheap. In the last one or two years, some Japanese and Korean food supermarkets were opened around here, which I can easily reach on foot or by bus. And sometimes I would go shopping at the Carrefour in Gubei or Zhongshan Park.

Interviewee: Ricardo living at Golden Avenue Community, resident from Spain

I came to Shanghai nearly 20 years ago, when the infrastructures in Changning were not so good as today. But it has developed so fast. It seems all of a sudden, old houses are vanished and new ones sprouted, and more and more green belts, supermarkets and shopping malls are brought in. In 2008, I bought an apartment in Gubei, because my family and I love the place.

I believe Gubei is a miniature of the future Shanghai. Many foreigners are living here, which makes our community as internationalized as metropolises like Paris, New York and London. People of different nationalities are living together in harmony, which I think will in turn boost mutual understanding between countries. The best friends of my two grandsons are from Korea and Japan respectively.

Many of my friends overseas have asked me if Shanghai is a good place, and I would always say “sure” without hesitation. Why? Firstly, because the city is really safe. Everyone behaves well in the public, and there’s no robbery or burglary here, so that you don’t have to worry about your family when on business trips or about being robbed when driving.

And most importantly, people are so nice and honest here. I lost my iPad in a neighboring park about 2 months ago, and when I went there to look for it, a sanitation worker took it out and gave it to me smilingly, saying that someone picked it up and left it to him till its owner was found, so he stayed there to wait for the owner. I was trully moved.

Correspondent’s notes:

Gubei New Area, the first residential area for foreigners in Shanghai, and “A Window to Know China” Shanghai Reading Center and Shanghai Hongqiao Int’l Library, the first int’l library in Shanghai, are both located in Changning. In the recent years, Changning District is evolving into a major pool of visitors, materials, information and capitals, making itself an urban district featuring the best traffic, ecological, living and cultural environment and higher internationalization, and contributing to being one of the most preferable district for foreigners to settle down in Shanghai.

Abundant cultural activities add colors to life

Expanded channels of employment service absorb more talents.

Interviewee: Student of Dongzhan Primary School from South Korea

Our teacher took us to Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall to see the changes of the city, and I find it developing so fast. What has impressed me most deeply is the Chinese shadow puppetry we watched there. I love it very much. It is a video clip in which the shadow puppets displayed a family where some are drinking and some playing the fireworks. So interesting and wonderful.

Interviewee: 5-grader of Dongzhan Primary School from Finland

I first came to China 2 years ago. Back in Finland, I used to go to the Spring Festival fair, where there’re so many amazing articles to see.

I am taking the paper-cut class in my school after school. Our teacher teaches us to cut snowflakes, Chinese characters of “spring”, “happiness” and “pair”, animals, Chinese zodiac signs and different shapes. For the Christmas of the year before the last, we made many paper-cuts of snowflakes and pasted them on windows as decoration. I plan to do some and paste them on windows this Spring Festival when I return to my mother’s hometown in Northeastern China. It must be very beautiful.

I learned to play the Guzheng, a classical stringed instrument of China, at Loushanguan Rd. for a year. At a gathering last year with participants from Northern European countries, I played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on a five-stringed Finnish instrument, using the technique of Guzheng playing, and everyone found it amazing.

In the community library in Finland, we had someone teach Chinese calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting. After coming to China, I learn to do both of them at the place where I learned to play the Guzheng, and I love painting grapes, cherries and cats.

Interviewee: Mr. Mukesh, resident at No. 388 Furongjiang Rd.from India

My wife takes classes of Chinese folk song singing and tea art at the community and learned to sing the famous Chinese song “Jasmine”. She could speak a little Chinese before coming here, and she can speaks it very well now. She enjoys herself every day.

Two months ago, our family took the City Orientation Contest and had a chance to have a closer look at Shanghai with many others. It’s full of fun.

Correspondent’s notes:

Traditional folk culture is an ideal platform for exchange between people from different countries. Changning Folk Art Center and cultural institutions, schools and training organizations in the district offer diversified programs of folk culture, and sub-districts and residential areas usually sponsor folk culture activities, contests and classes for public welfare. These efforts to transcend language and race attract many foreign residents and tourists and add to their happiness in Shanghai.

Expanded channels of employment service absorb more talents.

Interviewee: Ricardo, a Spanish resident at Golden Avenue Community

I’m the chief representative of a foreign trade administration of an autonomous region in Spain. In 1997, our representative’s office was the first to open in Shanghai Mart. It’s very convenient to work in the building, and there’re ideal infrastructures and supporting facilities in the neighboring area. My colleagues and I have never found anything inconvenient even though we are foreigners. And it’s also easy for our family members to apply for their residence permits.

I hear that there’re now more and more preferential policies on employment of foreign residents in Shanghai, and I think it’ll be good for attracting more talents from all over the world.

Interviewee: Ms. Cao, HR Director of JSR (Shanghai) Co., Ltd.

I’m in charge of personnel service, and it’s usually my job to apply for working and residence permits for Japanese and South Korean employees and their families.

Foreigners’ Employment Office of Shanghai Employment Promotion Center is located at No. 77 Meiyuan Rd. in Zhabei District. I used to travel a long way to get to my office there. In Nov. last year, Hongqiao Linkong Park Sub-center of Changning Talents Service Center was opened, and that’s where I am working now. My job is not heavy. I only need to go there to process certificates for foreign employees who’re lately employed. The work there is quite efficient.

Correspondent’s notes:

Changning District has facilitated various channels to absorb talents from the world. In mid-Nov. last year, Hongqiao Linkong Park Sub-center of Changning Talents Service Center was launched for trial business, which handles mainly applications for Foreign Expert Working Permit (Foreign Expert Certificate) and Type-B Shanghai Residence Permit for foreign talents. It’s the fourth special point for foreigners business, a great progress in Changning’s efforts to provide service for the high-end foreign talents. It is learnt that the applications for employment permit for foreigners and people from Chinese HK, Macau and Taiwan, which are handled in Changning, take up about 30% of the city’s total.

Foreign volunteers for charity activities increase.

Interviewee: Ricardo, Spanish resident at Golden Avenue Community

I’ve been in Gubei for many years and I’m almost half-native now. I’m Vice Chairman of Rainbow Bridge Volunteer Association in Hongqiao Sub-district and a member of Gubei Civic Chamber, mainly in charge of the area around Gubei Rd. I convey my neighbors’ complaints and suggestions to the community for discussion, and I’ll also introduce int’l practices into the community and offer suggestions as a foreigner. When it comes to a mediation case between my Chinese and foreign neighbors, I can use both English and Chinese languages, which helps remove misunderstandings. My neighbors place trust in me.

Interviewee: Ms. Wang, a Philippine resident at South Yili Rd.

I came to China in 1987, serving at first as an architect in Beijing, and then my family moved to Shanghai in 2000. In 2009, after much consideration, I finnaly chose to buy an apartment at South Yili Rd., as I believed Gubei would become better and better.

I joined in a non-governmental charity organization Beacon of Love founded by a foreigner in 2005, and now I’m the chairwoman. With other 25 members, I try to raise funds to rescue Chinese children suffering from CHD. Every year we raise more than RMB1.2 million to save more than 40 children. Starting from 2002, Beacon of Love has raised tens of millions yuan to help 259 children out of the disease. Shanghai is known for its high-quality medical care. We cooperate with Shanghai Children’s Foundation to look for the children in need beyond the city and bring them to Shanghai for surgery, so my team and I need to visit different provinces every year.

The annual charity meetings and weekly meetings of Beacon of Love are mostly convened in Gubei. Grand Millennium Hongqiao Shanghai is so kind as to provide us with a venue for free, and many other enterprises and individuals offer their donations. I often have to visit many companies and individuals to raise funds or negotiate with our partner hospitals about surgeries.

While caring for my family, I’m also a member of Gubei Civic Chamber to care for community affairs. I offer many suggestions and help promote good behaviors, because I want to make this place homier.

Interviewee: Andrea, American resident at Yanlord Riverside Garden

I love Shanghai so much. I’ve been living in Changning since I came to the city 6 years ago. Our community offers wonderful activities and I have learnt a lot. I’m a volunteer with Zhoujiaqiao Sub-district. When foreigners who first come to Shanghai have any problem, they may call me and I can act as an interpreter for them. I am so happy to be able to help.

Correspondent’s notes:

Chinese and foreign residents in Changning are all very active about voluntary services. By the end of 2015, registered volunteers in the district have outnumbered 113,000. The district’s foreign volunteer’s team enjoys a nationwide fame. Instances include: Ronghua Residential Area established Gubei Civic Chamber to engage both Chinese residents and foreign residents together to offer ideas and suggestions for community affairs; Chengjiaqiao Sub-district launched service Weibo account for foreigners and encourage foreign volunteers to participate in community activities; and a multilingual translation volunteer group was set up to serve people.

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