Friendly and curious locals welcome foreigners

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 10:39am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 10:47am


Just five years ago, few expatriates would have ranked Wuhan as a city in which to live and do business. It is, therefore, testament to the city's development that the expatriate population in Wuhan is not only growing rapidly, but also finding the metropolis to be a comfortable and exciting place to live.

A subway line is set to open later this year and the overall infrastructural improvements - road, rail and public transport - are proceeding quickly enough to be a minor issue for the major foreign firms establishing operations in Wuhan. The government has also made it a priority to help foreigners adjust to life in an industrial powerhouse, far from the well-known metro areas along China's eastern seaboard.

The efforts by the government, and the blazing speed with which Wuhan has attracted foreign firms, has contributed to a unique environment in which foreigners with little or no China experience are mingling with Chinese with little or no experience with foreigners.

"We were really amazed at how friendly and curious Wuhan people are," says Beat Rohrer, who works with a Swiss logistics company in the city.

"The university student community is huge, and very interested in all things foreign."

As the number of companies grows, and the level of interaction between local Wuhanese and foreigners increases, the inevitable result will be co-operation on various levels.

One notable example of foreigner-local contact is embodied in a group of expatriate women, Women of Wuhan, who have banded together around an eponymous website to help each other adapt to living in Wuhan and to aid interaction with the city and its environs.

The group has members from at least 26 countries and meets regularly to discuss everything from international schools in Wuhan to the latest fashion available in the city.

There are also many informal and formal groups that help the two disparate groups of people come closer together and learn from each other, including social and environmental groups, business-related groups and school-related activities.