Love and more, Frenchman enjoys life in Suzhou
2018-09-03 16:38:00

Flanked by old buildings, Shiquan Street in Suzhou, Jiangsu province is full of historical charm. Sylvain Rossi, who is from Montpellier, France, is the manager of a French restaurant on the street who happily said he has both French parents and “Chinese parents”.

Long engagement with Suzhou culture

Rossi, 30 years old, has been living in Suzhou for five years.

The Chinese man that he regards as a father figure is Mao Lianqun, president of Suzhou Gene Engineering Co., Ltd. In 1987, Mao, who was still working at the Fifth People's Hospital of Suzhou, went to study in France. Under the tutoring of Rossi's father, Mao completed his doctoral degree and later the two became good friends. In 1998, Mao started his business in Suzhou, winning an "Entrepreneurship Certificate of Returned Overseas Suzhou Talents” issued by the Suzhou Government, numbered 001.

In 2013, with the encouragement of his “Chinese parents”, Rossi came to Soochow University to study Chinese. “I am really lucky because many French people didn’t know China before coming here, but I have 'Chinese parents’ who helped me adapt to the life quickly,” said Rossi. 

Attracted by the culture and people here, he decided to stay in the city. "When you arrive here, there is definitely a culture shock. It’s like another planet. But little by little, you manage to find actually a lot of things are in common. The Chinese people are very welcoming. This is really amazing," Rossi added.

French wine and lion's head meatballs

After graduating from Soochow University, Rossi worked as manager at a French restaurant on Shiquan Street. Rossi said the unique location with its fusion of history and modernity allows him to better understand China.

Rossi often describes the exotic restaurant as "authentic." With a glass of red wine, people can sit down and have a nice chat. Rossi hopes guests can experience French romance during the meal. Privately, he has a soft spot for lion's head meatballs, a signature dish in Huaiyang cuisine.

When seeing Suzhou people practicing tai chi in the park or listening to the gentle Kunqu Opera, Rossi is so fascinated and has to stop to appreciate the moment. "In fact, this is the process of conflict and integration between Chinese and Western cultures," he said.

Opening a French restaurant in Suzhou

Looking back at his five years in Suzhou, Rossi said: “Every day I can feel the new look here. China has undergone tremendous changes, exceeding the achievements that some European countries may have achieved in more than a decade.”

"There is a change that may be surprising to the Chinese themselves - more and more foreigners can now speak Chinese. It’s one of the languages most demanded by the French students, so I think it’s also an example of opening of China,” Rossi added.

Data from Suzhou Municipal Education Bureau shows that all the foreign students in the city have chosen Chinese language as a course since the province’s first Chinese International Promotion Center was established in Suzhou in 2013.

The reform and opening up has nurtured abundant opportunities and added charms to China. Very few foreigners were willing to come to China in the past, but now there are more than 50,000 foreigners working and living in Suzhou.

Rossi also said he wants to open his own restaurant, starting a business like his “Chinese father” did 20 years ago.

There are many foreigners who’re pursuing their dreams in China like Sylvain Rossi, and Jiangsu is taking its own unique strengths to attract “dreamers” from all over the world. Editor:Dylan

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