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More, better services lined up as Shanghai seeks to better integrate expats


Kong Fu'an, director-general of the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office, has recommended that local expats get a taste of "jiu niang yuan zi coffee," a coffee product with the flavor of fermented glutinous rice dumpling, a famous Chinese dessert, citing it as a symbol of the integration of local and foreign cultures in the city.

He noted that Shanghai is an international, innovative and inclusive global city, pointing to the large percentage of residents from other parts of China and from around the world, and global restaurants, including over 8,300 coffee shops of different types.

Kong said the city's foreign affairs office and the Shanghai People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries are stepping up efforts to introduce more services to help foreign nationals better integrate into the local community.

"Next year we plan to launch a new official website as well as an official account on social media to help foreign nationals to better integrate into the city of Shanghai," he said.

The office and and the association have been dedicated to helping foreigners enjoy an easy and happy life in Shanghai.

This year, the office and the association have jointly released the "International Services Shanghai: A Guide to Shanghai for Expats" handbook which offers information ranging from useful apps, public transportation, education and medical care, to cultural venues, international events and shopping zones.

They have appointed a group of "International Experience Ambassadors" in Shanghai to provide more useful input and ideas based on their specific experiences to improve the services and resources available to expat residents, and help transform Shanghai into a warmer, more inviting, and desirable global metropolis for all.

A "Shanghai Weekly Bulletin" was also launched to send the most updated legal guidance and various kinds of information to foreign nationals in the city.

Kong made the recommendation and announcement on Tuesday, during the closing ceremony of the "Foreigners, But Not Outsiders" exhibition, which featured dozens of paintings created by Shanghai artist Li Shoubai of how expats have integrated into local communities.

After being on display for a year and admired by more than 10 groups of Chinese and international visitors, the paintings were given to the people based on whom they were created.

He stated that the exhibition was an expression of Shanghai's gratitude to expat friends for "choosing Shanghai, loving Shanghai, taking root in Shanghai," even during the most difficult times.

"It has vividly shown the people-to-people, face-to-face, hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart exchanges and touching stories between the Chinese and foreigners. It is also a perfect interpretation of the world community of a shared future for mankind proposed by President Xi Jinping," said Kong.

"Look into the future, I think Shanghai and China boast lots of possibilities, given the size of the economy and the innovation scale. I think we boast good potential for the future."

Alexander Bushroe, an American reporter with Shanghai Daily; Beecher Brown, founding partner of recruiting software company AJINGA; Armenian Astrid Poghosyan from the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra; and Edwin Montealegre, a Costa Rican student at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, shared their personal experiences of the convenient life and business environment in Shanghai and China.

Bushroe, who has made a lot of online videos about services and life in Shanghai, shared one of his latest programs, which introduces the city's three-way payment service system – swipe cards, scan QR codes, or pay in cash, which makes consumption in China really convenient for everyone, including expats.

Poghosyan, who has been in China since 2009, said that expats living in the cashless and digital society here have been spoiled in that they have forgotten there are places in the world that don't function this way, which makes it difficult to leave China.

Montealegre said that Shanghai is a new world center for music with important artists from around the world and innovative performances, including concerts conducted by famous conductor Tan Dun with water and paper as instruments.

Brown shared an experience in which he traveled to Beijing to see a client by bullet train and on his way back, he had a one-hour conference call with another client in the United States on the train with 5G network.