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China Daily Website

A feeling of connection a reason for expats to stay

Updated: 2013-09-09 10:37
By Sun Ye ( China Daily)

The Australian finds Guangzhou to be brimming with engaging neighborhoods with distinct characters and has mapped several walking tours based on his own on-foot explorations.

Fjellstrom believes the city's marketing has overemphasized parks and monuments while glossing over its lively communities.

Even though he dislikes the off-street parking, spans of dull buildings and decelerating development, he gives Guangzhou a 10 out of 10. And he plans to stay.

Miguel Esteban, a Spanish scientist with the Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health, says: "It destroys me to see the students don't believe in how good they'll be."

He worries his best students seek to go abroad rather than stay with the academy. Many of his colleagues work diligently but with a "punch-card attitude", he says.

He believes announcements of national-level grants filter to Guangzhou too late and their translations are often poor.

But he adores his life and work in the city and plans to stay indefinitely.

It seems to me you can only make constructive criticisms if you've taken life in a foreign place to heart.

There's a Chinese proverb that says the more you love someone, the more faults you'll find with them. Again, places are like people.

So, you'll have well-intentioned critiques if you love a place.

Overseas Chinese who return to China share similar feelings about Guangzhou.

RIBOBIO chairman and Chinese Academy of Sciences lab director Zhang Biliang says he wishes he had more options for educating his children other than the American International School of Guangzhou.

"I think I can speak for a lot of people my age when I say good schools are the reason people leave cities," says the Zhejiang province native who 10 years ago moved to Guangzhou from the United States, where he lived for about two decades.

Zhang also believes his lab is riddled with bureaucracy and has repeatedly advised trimming administrative personnel, he says.

"But, no, I wouldn't leave," he says.

"I wouldn't even think of it. My career and family are here."

It's not always culture that lures foreigners to China. It's often a career. Many are posted by their employers, rather than opting on their own to relocate to the country.

And those who feel most content seem to be those who evaluate their lives in the country according to non-financial criteria.

CRGBanking senior manager Ulrich Rosenbaum has come to love Guangzhou, a city he'd never heard of and had to look up on Wikipedia before moving there from his native Germany.

"I love being fully integrated into the local community, the street vendors, the witty bargaining."

He encourages other foreigners to step out of their comfort zones. It takes commitment to China if they will last in the country, he believes.

"It should never be just a job," he says.

"Be open-minded. In the end, it all depends on if you find what you want."

I couldn't agree more.

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