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Foreigners find home away from home

By Wang Ying in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-17 09:31

A night view of Shanghai on Oct 7, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

Tony Tovar, a teacher from the US, has spent the past 18 years living in Pudong New Area, giving him a front-row seat to the area's transformation from farmland to financial hub.

In 2001, he moved to the Jinqiao area, which is now known as Biyun International Community and has the largest concentration of foreign residents in the city.

Today the community is home to more than 2,000 international families from over 60 nations and regions - including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Italy, Spain, India and Switzerland - making up over 50 percent of its population.

"When I first came to Shanghai, I thought I'd only be here for three years and then move on to another place," said Tovar, 50, an experiential learning coordinator at Concordia International School Shanghai.

He said the area was mostly fields back then and that farmers would visit his school campus on evenings to catch frogs in its marshes.

"There were not so many Westerners here as there are now," he said. "Sometimes, when I went outside, local people would ask me to take pictures with them. At grocery stores, people would just come up and look at my shopping cart to see what the foreigner was buying.

"In the past few years, this has changed and I'm not that 'popular' any longer."

Biyun is one of more than 40 international communities across Pudong. It has 19 residential areas, including a mix of high-rise apartment blocks and villas, and six serviced apartments offering daily necessities, legal advice, healthcare and cultural activities.

Maria Szymanek, a mother of two from the US, recently moved to Biyun with her French husband, who works at a multinational corporation in Shanghai.

"It's just a very happy, fantastic city," she said.

Tovar said there are several reasons people tend to stay in Shanghai for such a long time, with one of them being the city's nice neighborhoods.

"The flowers, trees, grass, the open spaces, they've done a very good job in making this (Biyun) a beautiful place for families to live and to work," he said. "I can't imagine anywhere else I'd rather live in Shanghai."

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