David Jacobs (2nd L), a 72-year-old Australian, speaks while others listen at a meeting yesterday organized by the Zhaoshang Subdistrict Office in Nanshan District for expats to share their stories with Shenzhen. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first special economic zone of China. Liu Xudong
As the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (SEZ) celebrates the 40th anniversary this year, a number of expats were invited yesterday by the Zhao-shang Subdistrict Office in Nanshan District to sit down and share their stories with the city and the changes they have witnessed along the way at the Shekou Net Valley Party-Mass Service Center.
David Jacobs, a 72-year-old Australian who first came to Shenzhen in 2003, said he loves Shenzhen with a passion, and it has been good for and to him in such aspects as amenity, health care and transportation. “Shenzhen has had impressive and consistent growth in terms of amenity with varied structure and infrastructure styles. The air quality also keeps improving significantly,” he said.
Jacobs was in the wine import & export business between 2004 and 2008 and opened the “Xpats” Bar, the first Western bar in Futian District in 2008.
Jacobs said he cares about health care. He said Shenzhen provides well integrated medical services including diagnosis, treatment and medication, adding that affordable care is also accessible to almost everyone, be he a legal resident or just someone visiting.
In terms of transportation, Jacobs praised Shenzhen for its “excellent integration of public transportation systems and road system with clear planning.”
In particular he mentioned the fact that all the buses and taxis have gone electric helps cut air pollution.
The bar owner suggests that some Metro lines should consider extending services on weekends for commutes to hospitality hotspots.
Kevin Alan Arvidson is the CEO of technology company ZED Tech Solutions, whose business was founded on the early experiences in Huaqiangbei in 2012 when he became the first foreigner to open a booth on the renowned electronic street.
Arvidson said he had incredible experiences in Huaqiangbei. “I was never asked to pay [extra] money and never harassed by local people because I am a foreigner. Instead, the government and people around kept encouraging me to do my business,” he recalled.
He is thankful for Shenzhen’s spirit of growing together and for allowing foreigners like him to share with Shenzhen dreams. “No city like Shenzhen encourages entrepreneurship and start-ups,” he said.
Folke Engholm from Sweden shares the same feelings as Arvidson. Engholm, CEO of Viral Access, an AI and data-driven social communication company in Shenzhen, opened his first company in 2006 after graduating from Tsinghua University with an MBA degree.
Engholm loved China for its kungfu when he was a little child. Now he loves Shenzhen as an entrepreneur.
“As a businessperson, it’s hard not to love Shenzhen because it provides a very open and fair business environment in which I never feel threatened. Shenzhen changes every day, but one thing that has not changed is the city’s open and welcoming spirit,” he said.
Lalit Sharma from India joined the sharing event from Guangzhou through a video link as he is under quarantine.
Sharma, who first came to Shenzhen as a mechanical engineer in 1998, was among the first batch of Indians to start businesses in Shenzhen. In his eyes Shenzhen has developed tremendously — transforming from a small city to a metropolis over the past two decades.
He also said that Shenzhen has changed its role from a learner to a leader. “Twenty years ago Shenzhen was learning; Now Shenzhen has become a high-tech city leading the world in innovation, AR & VR development and drones,” he said.
Jerome Wertz, a 40-year-old German, is the owner of Baia Burger Restaurant in Sea World. As an experienced businessman in hospitality, Wertz said he was drawn to Shenzhen by its startup mentality, welcoming expat communities and a unique vibe that people can create something and make a difference.
Wertz opened his first restaurant in 2013 and never regretted it. “I have received tremendous help and support from local community and city government,” he said.
Gary Isse from California has been very active in the Shekou expat community and has been engaged in gathering and sharing what’s hot in Shekou for expats as well as organizing cultural events for local residents.
Isse has been in Shenzhen for 13 years. He met his Chinese wife not long after he came to Shenzhen and they have a pair of twin girls.
Wei Tingting, director of the Party-Mass Service Center of Zhaoshang Subdistrict, said there are 6,547 expatriate residents from 100 or so countries in Zhaoshang Subdistrict and six of the city’s eight international schools are in the subdistrict.