Outsiders get warm welcome
Chengdu is fast becoming the city of choice for foreigners doing business in central and western China. It has great economic advantages over other cities in the region, but most expatriates would agree that Chengdu is just a very liveable place.
Geography plays a large role. The city is flat and the major roads run east-west and north-south, with ring roads defining the central and outer districts. This set-up allows newcomers to quickly acquaint themselves with the layout.
Chengdu is in the centre of the 'Land of Abundance' and has developed a sophisticated society of intellectuals, skilled artisans and outgoing people who are willing and eager to accept an outsider.
Whereas other central and western cities are trying to become the economic and cultural equivalent of their larger, richer neighbours, Chengdu is displaying the deep cultural and economic benefits it already possesses.
For expats, the choice is often very simple. Chengdu has the best hospitals in the region and a Global Doctor office, which employs foreign doctors. Expats can choose from several high-end maternity hospitals and a host of kindergartens, plus international schools such as Leman International School, Quality Schools International and Chengdu International.
Other services for children include the Music Box, a large learning centre run by a British woman, and dozens of playgroups and playhouses for local and foreign children.
Maxxelli Real Estate manages Tianfu International Garden and several other properties that were built specifically for incoming multinational companies and their staff. The city government is active not only in improving health care and education options but also in providing the type of housing that executives and their families appreciate.
The city also has a vibrant and active expat scene and the tightly knit community is growing. Chengdu has the largest number of foreign consulates in western China and the largest number of Fortune 500 companies with operations in the city.
There are also hundreds of students, teachers, creative people and entrepreneurs who help to round out a diverse community.
Expats often meet up at established locales such as Bookworm Chengdu or the Shamrock to exchange information and be together.
The Bookworm Literary Festival has been a huge success and people from all over China and the world converged for last month's event.
When you ask expats why they are in Chengdu, there are generally two answers. The first is that the city is extremely easy to live in, very laid-back and comfortable; the second is that Chengdu is growing fast and the potential is great. Those two factors make Chengdu the clear hub for the international community in western China.