By Jessica Suotmaa, from Finland, her husband is from Chengdu, so she has spent some time living with her in-law there.
Foreigners who have not heard of Chengdu are either fobs (fresh off the boat), or hermits living under rocks. Many expats may not react to the name "Chengdu", but once they're reminded it's the land of panda and spicy hot pot, they smile wistfully. It reminds us of our last vacation, lazy pandas, and how we really need another vacation.
Chengdu has become a dream for those of us living in the busy hubs of Beijing or Shanghai. An odd phenomenon considering Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province and a developed metropolitan city with a growing international community - but even in my mind all I think of when I hear the name Chengdu are vast green parks, hot pot, and chill Chengduers who seem to have all the leisure time in the world to spend hours in a tea house playing mahjong and enjoying foot massages. So why are foreigners flocking to Chengdu for vacation or for their next job? For the same reasons why you should consider moving to Chengdu!
A City with Convenient Location
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province, which is located in a convenient location in the southwest, so many foreigners use it as a jumping board for other travel destinations (and the outbound flights from Chengdu international airport reflect this demand). Living in Chengdu means short weekend getaways to the beautiful mountain regions to the west or visits to the ethnic minority areas in the south (ex. Yunnan).
A City Famous for Its Laid-back Lifestyle
Local Chengduers are famous for their laid-back lifestyle of walks in the park, half day long tea sessions, and mahjong addiction. Chengdu is speckled with parks and other greenery, tea houses, and mahjong spas (yes, spas) to fill that demand. Living in Chengdu means slowing down, learning to enjoy the moment, and embracing a more relaxed meditative lifestyle.
A City with Variety of Sichuan Dishes
Sichuan hotpot is the most famous dish (and restaurant type) you can find in Chengdu, but the hot, spicy numbing dish is not the only option on the menu. Did you know that Mapo Tofu and Gongbao Jiding are originally from Sichuan? Living in Chengdu means enjoying a variety of Sichuan dishes, which admittedly are mostly spicy, drenched in red oil, and splattered with peppercorns, but given how slender and healthy Chengduers are, we shouldn't worry too much about our waistlines.
A City Known for Its Literature, Architecture and Religion
In a hurry to internationalize, many first tier cities have copied western architecture and welcomed globalization in the form of restaurant chains and multinational clothing stores. While Chengdu is on a fast track to first tier (some would argue that it already is first tier), and has the foundation for an international community and the industries to attract foreign talent, yet it still manages to preserve its original culture. And Chengdu has brilliant culture! It was the capital of the southwest Kingdom of Shu (221-263), and has been known for its literary, architectural and religious (Buddhist) contributions. Living in Chengdu means having access to a rich selection of Chinese museums, heritage sights, and panda reservations that has been well preserved compared to other cities.
A City Fulfilling Both Desires
Generally, foreigners moving to China choose to either live in an international city where they can enjoy the comforts of home, or a very typical Chinese city where they can quickly learn the local language and culture. While in terms of language, Chengdu has its own dialect (Chengdu dialect) and most of its inhabitants speak Sichuan dialect as well (or as their main language), many foreigners still prefer Chengdu because it can fulfill both desires. Foreigners in Chengdu are immersed in Chinese local language and customs, while at the same time able to join the expat community and take advantage of the imported western goods.
So there you have it! If you haven't decided on a Chinese city yet, you're tired of the crowded metropolitan capitals, or you just want to mimic the Chengduers' admirably relaxed lifestyles, you should move to Chengdu!