Ningbo, Zhejiang province, is drawing foreigners with its diversity and hospitality, local expats said on Monday.
Samy Snoussi, owner of Mon Epoque, a French bakery, settled in Ningbo in 2006. Over the past 16 years, he has shared French culture with residents through authentic French breads. The city makes him feel at home.
"Mon Epoque means 'my time' in French. It brings back good memories, especially of when my grandmother and my mother were preparing food when I was a kid," Snoussi said. "In France, the taste, smell and flavors are treasures of food culture."
He recalled starting his business in Ningbo during a news conference themed "Dialogue with expats in Ningbo". Every day, the bakery is crowded with customers enjoying bread and coffee.
"It's a pleasure for them and a pleasure for us as well because we know they like our products. We bring something new to Ningbo, not only in Mon Epoque but also in many other places. The cultural exchange is two-way. Now I feel my duty is to introduce Chinese stories to the rest of the world," Snoussi said.
Another expat, Ehsan Hosseini, who has lived in China for nine years, also shared his stories about the city at the event. The Iranian businessman speaks fluent Mandarin and has completely integrated into the local society.
"I'm engaged in foreign trade business," he said. "The most important reason I decided to live in Ningbo is its location. The city is near Shanghai and Hangzhou and has China's largest port. It offers great convenience for our company to receive customers and export products.
"We also established a factory in Ningbo. Over the past few years, because of the improvement of our products and the port, we've expanded our markets and achieved booming performance."
In addition to Ningbo's business climate, the city's lifestyle attracted Hosseini and his family, joining him two years ago. His mother is a good cook and always prepares a spread of Iranian food for Hosseini's local friends.
"She is so happy that they like her dishes. She has also established a good relationship with neighbors. She likes Chinese square-dancing with residents her own age."
During Ningbo's COVID-19 resurgence in April, Hosseini, who was touched by the selflessness of medical workers, volunteered to help with anti-pandemic efforts.
"Dressed in the protective gear, I thought I would not get any attention. But they noticed I was an expat and thanked me warmly with thumbs-ups. I was impressed by the warmth of the city," he said.
He regards Ningbo as his second home and is now applying for permanent residency.
According to the government, more than 5,500 expats live in the city. They are college students, scientific researchers, teachers and enterprise managers.
Nyameko Ishmael Bottoman from South Africa is an overseas communication officer for Ningbo, a title granted by the local government in 2021 to encourage expats in Ningbo to tell stories about the city from their points of view.
For him, the main reasons he fell in love with the city were the people, convenience and potential.
"The locals are well known for their kindness and welcoming nature. They usually accommodate people and are always ready to learn about other people and cultures," he said. "It feels like a city built for people and living. You can get around easily and there is always something new being built to make life easier."
Yu Yin in Ningbo contributed to this story.