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Big city attracts expats with small-town feel

Updated: 2013-01-10 15:33
By Deng Zhangyu (China Daily)

Big city attracts expats with small-town feel

Chengdu's biggest community to accommodate expatriates is located in the city's high-tech development zone. Photos Provided to China Daily

Big city attracts expats with small-town feel
Pandas are a great tourist attraction in Chengdu.

Walking around Chengdu, a big city in southwestern China, tends to make people feel about the same as they would in Beijing, Shanghai or other big cities.

Yet, lying beneath the modern face of the city is "a small-town feeling", said Andrew Barnett, a restaurant manager at the Chengdu branch of the Bookworm bookshop, where he has worked for several months.

"It's a big city with a small- town feeling, very comfortable and hospitable," said the 39-year-old.

The Korean-American restaurant manager has lived in several big cities, including Boston and New York City. Barnett stayed briefly in Hong Kong and Shanghai last year before moving to Chengdu.

"I love big cities," he said. "Chengdu is just another big city where I don't speak the language."

Barnett is among the increasing number of expatriates who are moving to Chengdu amid the city's quickening modernization.

More than 14,000 expatriates from 125 countries and regions now either work or study in the city, and the number keeps increasing, according to the 2012 Chengdu Investment Guide.

Barnett said living in Chengdu is like jogging, and living in Shanghai is like running. He said that doesn't mean the pace of life is slower in the southwestern city, only that people's attitudes in both places differ. In other words, he explained, Chengdu residents are more relaxed.

Sascha Matuszak, a German-American who came to Chengdu 10 years ago to work as a freelance writer, had similar thoughts.

"People always say life in Chengdu is slow," he said. "It's not slow. Things are happening very quickly - metros, skyscrapers and airports. But people here are cool about it."

He said Shanghai and Beijing residents find the fast pace of those cities to be stressful. Chengdu residents, in contrast, find respite from those pressures in the city's food and tea, Matuszak said.

Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province, is home to many famous dishes, including mapo tofu and kung pao chicken.

Barnett said dining in New York is a serious ritual.

"But in Chengdu, people care more about food and taste," he said.

Barnett has worked in the food industry for more than 20 years.

He said diners in New York City are serious about matters such as the way a plate comes out, when it comes out and how it's served. People in Chengdu, in contrast, care only about one thing - taste.

Matuszak agreed.

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