Hangzhou: My land of opportunity

By Benjamin Speyer | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-06-08 15:56
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Benjamin Speyer delivers a speech on cross-border investment at the 2019 Global Trade in Services Summit. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

The next day I was on a high-speed train from Shanghai to begin my new life in Hangzhou.

The first two weeks were idyllic. I toured the beautiful West Lake and Longjing tea fields, visited temples, talked (or tried to talk) with locals, and gorged on delicious Chinese food. But after that initial honeymoon period, I began to feel a sense of loneliness and isolation.

Coming to the city without a network of friends or colleagues, I spent my days exploring the streets and my evenings reading or watching television. I had no real friends, no business opportunities, and started to worry that I'd upended my life to move to the other side of the world only to fail.

That all changed when I discovered a local bar called Maya – owned by an American expat who also co-owned the fantastic English magazine MORE Hangzhou. Within a few hours of being there, I'd grouped up with welcoming locals and expats, many of whom I'm friends with to this day.

Here was the companionship I'd been missing and an entry point to Hangzhou's community. I even met my future wife, a Hangzhou local, there a few months later. With a social group and access to information on the international expat and business community, I began to search for economic opportunities.

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