The story appears on

Page A3

October 23, 2012

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro

Volunteer bridges gap among foreign, Chinese residents

The 143,200 foreigners living in Shanghai is firm evidence of the city's opening up and its mingling with the world. But for day-to-day society, foreigners remain far from being flawlessly assimilated with their native neighbors.

The toughness of the task is being put to the test in one multinational housing compound, where a particularly community-minded foreigner, or laowai, has been welcomed onto a management committee to help unite residents of different nationalities and bridge some social gaps.

Brazilian-American Rosangela Christine Muller began volunteering last month as a "promoter of cultural progress" in Yanlord Gardens, an upscale neighborhood in the financial heartland of Lujiazui. Sixty percent of Yanlord's 1,200 homeowners or tenants are not Chinese.

The role involves helping organize culture-based recreation for residents, both Chinese and foreigners, and today will be a big test of how much progress needs to be made in this regard.

Muller's first assignment was to mobilize residents to participate in Yanlord's activities for the Double Ninth Festival (the ninth day of the ninth lunar month), an important occasion to show respect to seniors. The festival falls today this year. But she is not optimistic about her chances of success.

The 41-year-old says the calligraphy-writing on offer for the occasion has little chance of drawing non-Chinese, particularly young ones. "The committee tried to attract foreigners to this old people's festival, but they are not going to come," she warns. "They are younger. I told them to make something for kids because families will bring their little ones. I have found the job rather tricky so far. Foreigners think in one way and Chinese think in another."

But Muller seems like a good candidate to strengthen Chinese-foreigner relations in her community in the longer term.

After moving to Shanghai last year with her husband, the housewife gained acclaim for helping stop a conflict over a resident's pet. A foreigner's dog barked at a Chinese resident, with the incident eventually escalating into a brawl due to the language barrier.

"Rosangela, who can speak a little Chinese, managed to calm it down," remembers Zhang Wenxia, Yanlord's committee head. "That's how we saw we had to get her involved in some way.

"I realized we cannot follow the beaten path to apply old management methods. We have many foreign neighbors, so we should change our service mentality."

Since arriving, Muller had been struck by how unassimilated Chinese and non-Chinese were. Although global business rules have formalized strong international relationships but not in day-to-day society.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend