Qingdao: A city of unparalleled charm and hospitality

By Karen Anderson | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-08-28 16:40
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Editor's note: We have asked expats living in China to share their stories about the cities they work and live in. Karen Anderson is from the United States and she has been living and working in Qingdao, Shandong province, for about 15 years.

Karen Anderson (left) poses for a photo with her friend at a party. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"Welcome to China!" was a greeting I often heard during my first month in the country. I had arrived in China the same month the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games began, and Qingdao was buzzing with pride and hospitality.

From taxi drivers to store clerks, crossing guards and bus drivers, everyone had learned different languages in preparation of the global event. I felt welcomed and safe in my new city.

The night of the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, my friends and I went to a bar in Qingdao to watch the ceremony and enjoy the event with others. I did not see one car on the roads – everyone was glued to the television to see the incredible opening.

It was a proud moment for the Chinese people, and for those who call this country "home". The world took notice.

The opening ceremony of 2008 Olympics sailing competitions in Qingdao was a spectacle!

Friends and I joined the hundreds of thousands of people at the May Fourth Square to celebrate the opening of the Qingdao-based events.

Karen Anderson wanders along the beach in Qingdao. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

My mornings started with watching the sailors practicing just outside my apartment complex and my evenings were spent watching the other sports happening across the country. It was a wonderful time to be living in Qingdao and in China.

Through the years of working and living in Qingdao, I have seen many changes. One of the most visible was the change leading up to the 2014 International Horticultural Expo.

The streets were transformed: thousands of trees were planted, road medians burst with green life, horticultural installations appeared in busy locations.

Many of us wondered how the city was able to do so much in such a short span of time. They were determined and focused and the result was astounding.

Qingdao has always been a beautiful city and hosting this event only enhanced its beauty. Once again, Qingdao was a gracious host and took pride in being a destination city.

In 2018, Qingdao had the honor of hosting the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit. The intense preparation to host several heads of state was not in vain – the city and venue were gorgeous.

My building's exterior was refreshed, the roadway medians updated with fresh greenery, and multi-lingual art installations were put up.

It wasn't just the venue on display, but the entire city. The downtown buildings became a scene for storytelling with lights, pictures, and music – something everyone could enjoy. It was an event I'll never forget!

The city has continued to grow and expand to entice new brands and restaurants to join the community.

The Qingdao International Beer Festival has been a landmark event which moved from the east coast of Qingdao to the West Coast New Area, and allowed more people to experience the astonishing annual event.

I had the great joy of going to the east coast beer festival in 2008 and the west coast festival in 2023. While there were many similarities, the venue in West Coast New Area, namely the Golden Beach Beer City, was massive and filled with something for everyone!

Karen Anderson (left) poses for a photo with her friends at a shopping mall in Qingdao. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

During my time I have seen many events hosted in Qingdao, seen millions of visitors come to the city from all over China and the world to enjoy what those of us who live here already know – it's a fantastic place.

But the best part of the city is not merely the events or places. There's a pace of life in the city unlike any other place I've been.

It's not rushed but it's not calm. The people are kind, curious, open and proud. They have seen the city transform over the years through innovation and hosting events.

They love their hometown and are gracious hosts to those who come to the city for work or fun; it shows in their upkeep of the roadways and medians, in the new buildings and retail spaces, and in continuing to innovate and revitalize the landmarks that people know and travel to experience.

Qingdao is a place I'm so thankful to call my home these last 15 years and I've become the person who says "Welcome to China" to all the new arrivals.

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