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‘We love Pudong:’ Why expats find it so attractive
From:Shanghai Daily  |  2020-11-19 09:29

THERE’S an old Shanghai saying: “People would prefer a bed in Puxi to a house in Pudong.” No longer. Nowadays, housing is as popular on the eastern shore of the Huangpu River as it is on the western banks, and foreigners are no exception.

In the last 25 years, when Pudong was undergoing phenomenal transformation from farmland to glittering metropolis, the expat population surged 125-fold to about 25,000 last year. That’s about 20 percent of all expats living in Shanghai.

Curt Larson, assistant head of School for Finance at Concordia International School Shanghai, has been living in the city for 25 years, all but three of them in Pudong. He still expresses amazement at what he witnessed in the evolution from paddy fields to Jinqiao’s modern green, developed area.

Larson told Shanghai Daily he first visited Shanghai when Pudong’s development was still just a dream on the drawing boards.

Concordia International School Shanghai, an international school with an American Curriculum, was founded in the Jinqiao area of Pudong in 1998.

“I moved to Pudong that year,” said Larson. “Although streets were paved, our school was located in a big field filled with grass, frogs and a pond. Thanks to the hard work of the Shanghai government and Jinqiao, it is now quite a remarkable place.”

The Biyun International Community in Jinqiao is often called a “mini-UN” because it houses more than 3,000 foreigners with many nationalities from across the world.

But things were a lot different when Larson landed there. Little housing was available in Jinqiao and only a couple of restaurants were open.

“The grocery stores were several kilometers away,” he said. “Currently, shopping is in walking distance, and anything can be quickly assessed through online platforms like Taobao. Home delivery has made a big difference to a quality lifestyle.”

Larson added, “The air quality has improved greatly, and the Metro system has made transport very convenient. It is a great place to live.”

Newcomers lack experience of the dramatic contrast of the past 30 years.

Brazilian Andrisa Arruda, who came to live in Shanghai with her husband, a teacher, two months ago, said Pudong is simply a great place to live.

“I was under the impression that China would be full of buildings everywhere, with more skyscrapers than green areas,” said Arruda. “But Pudong has proven me wrong. The area so lovely, clean and well-kept, with lots of green spaces for my kids.”

She said her children’s school is not far from home, and a relatively new Metro station nearby puts her in easy access to all parts of Shanghai.

“You can go anywhere!” she said. “I do miss more shops near my house, but I can definitely buy anything online, so in the end, Pudong is very pleasant, affordable living.”

She added, “China is the future. How is it possible that so many people in the world don’t understand China’s capability and how life is here? There were so many stigmas attached to China before I came here, and everything is so totally different from those perceptions.”

Arruda said she would like to learn Mandarin so she can better communicate with local residents and more fully integrate in the community.

Pudong takes care of its expat community. Eighteen service centers catering to foreigners have been opened, and 59 professional social workers are on hand to assist them, enhanced by some foreign volunteers.

It all began in 2010, when Pudong police developed an online system for overseas people living in the area. They set up a service station in the Lianyang community, home to thousands of expats, in the Huamu Subdistrict.

When the city was enduring the outbreak of coronavirus earlier this year, social workers in the Lianyang service center dispensed information about the virus to the community and posted guidelines for expats on epidemic control and prevention on social media platforms like WeChat.

When everyone needed to book facial masks, the workers helped foreign residents through the process. Some expats, wearing masks, took selfies or made videos holding up placards promoting the use of masks and posted them online.

Russian Mishunin Ivan — a well-known community volunteer and professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, who has since returned home — bought boxes of masks in Moscow and sent them to the Chinese embassy in Russia when the pandemic broke out.