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August 12, 2011

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Amusing Italian muses the city

FIORENZO Brioschi remains a true Italian, even though he has been living in Suzhou for more than five years. "Of course I can fit into the city and the local life very well, but I still remember that in my heart I'm an Italian," Brioschi says.

Italians have a minor presence in Suzhou compared with South Korean and Japanese communities. There are about 200 Italian people and 160 Italian enterprises, of which more than 60 are manufacturing companies.

"So we have to be very united," he says. "As a matter of fact, Suzhou's Italian community is a big, warm family for us."

As the general manager of Zamperla, a 70-year-old Italian family business that produces various amusement rides from giant roller-coasters to pirate ships, Brioschi's daily schedule is always packed.

A typical day at work for Brioschi lasts from 8am to 8pm. "Because of the time difference between China and Italy, my colleagues and I have to work late often to catch up with the Italian time," the general manager says.

Stepping into Brioschi's office is a marvel in itself, adorned with brightly colored amusement rides and models, such as mini Ferris wheels, space shuttles, swing rides and ghost trains.

Probably as a result of such a fairyland-like work environment, Brioschi smiles often and speaks softly. "It's my job to bring people joy and amusement," he says.

The Italian's experience of China began when his job brought him here in the early 2000s. Having travelled and worked in many Chinese cities, Brioschi says he is quite familiar with the country.

The obvious differences to his native Italy he notices are people sleeping on the street, wearing pajamas in the supermarkets and sometimes talking loud in public places, but the Italian says he understands and accepts them. "I think it is the people's lifestyle. You can't say it's right or wrong," he says.

However, one thing Brioschi cannot tolerate is that Chinese are not the greatest respecters of rules. "People like to jump the queue; and when I'm going to exit (an elevator or subway), people can't wait to enter first, which causes congestion," Brioschi says.

The upright man says he would always step out to condemn such behavior and tell them to respect the rules. "Maybe it's because I'm a foreigner, they will listen to me and apologize," Brioschi says.

Before Suzhou, he lived in Shanghai and Nanjing, Jiangsu Province for two years, which makes him evaluate the cities in a fairer way.

"Shanghai is, of course, more international, joined by talents from all parts of the world. It's quick-paced, full of energy and power," he says. "On the contrary, Suzhou is more exquisite, quieter and family-oriented, which is exactly like we Italians."

In his eyes, Shanghai is a city for fun and entertainment, while Suzhou is a place for peaceful living.

"I find no difficulty communicating with locals in Suzhou as everybody can speak some English and they are all very willing to help," he says.

Brioschi thinks Suzhou people are gentle and collaborative.

Having been in Suzhou for five years, Brioschi has visited almost each of the famous ancient gardens and historic sites in the city.

The beautiful wood-carvings, green bamboo forests and winding cobblestone walkways fascinate the Italian.

His favorite place is the ancient Pingjiang Road, a 1,600-meter old street lying in the northeastern corner in the city's old district.

A cup of green tea or a light walk along the river can idle away a whole afternoon. "It's an escape for me to get away from the busy daily work, have a moment of peace and recharge myself," Brioschi says.

Sometimes he will listen to a short local opera, though he doesn't understand it all. "I try to learn some Chinese but my busy work makes it hard for me to continue," he says.

Seeing the city growing and developing so quickly in recent years, Brioschi is a little worried that old things are disappearing.

"I hope the government can do more to protect and keep the old side of Suzhou," he says.

The Italian admits that Suzhou food is not to his liking. He has tried many local dishes, such as deep-fried fish with sweet and sour sauce, red-braised crabs with niangao (glutinous rice cake) and sweet and sour pork, but "they are too sweet for me."

Unlike many other foreigners who often shrink back at red hot chilies, Brioschi loves his food spicy.

"I prefer spicy Sichuan food. In addition to the Italian restaurant, I'm also a patron to many Sichuan restaurants in the city," he says.

Fiorenzo Brioschi

Nationality: Italian

? Impression of Suzhou:

Exquisite and peaceful. Hope more old traditions and architecture can be kept.

? Motto for life:Work hard and play hard.

? How to improveSuzhou:

The government should attract more Italian investment.

? Strangest sight:

No sight is strange to me. I see them as people's lifestyle.

? Self-description:

Open-minded, gentle and comprehensive.


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