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Expat marvels at Qingdao's remarkable urban development

By Angela Patterson|| Updated: August 17, 2023

Editor's note: We have asked expats living in China to share their stories about the cities they work and live in. Angela Patterson is from the United States and she has been living and working in Qingdao, Shandong province for over 20 years.

I first arrived in Qingdao in July 2002. As a young teacher beginning her international school career, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from my new home. I was astounded by the natural beauty where the mountains meet the sea, but I was even more inspired by the artistry and innovation of Qingdao and the people who live here.

In 2002, Qingdao was a sleepy, seaside town from October to May. You would be hard-pressed to find a shop open any later than 9 or 10 pm each evening. But as the sun rises early, so do the people. Each morning on my way to school, I would travel past locals completing morning exercises along the seaside, and you could always rely on the "polar bear club" – the men who met on the beach across from the iconic Sea View Garden Hotel and plunged into the icy ocean to swim every morning of the year.


Angela Patterson takes a selfie with the prominent bright red whirlwind sculpture at the May Fourth Square of Qingdao. [Photo provided to]

In the early 2000s, Qingdao was already internationally known for its most famous export – Tsingtao Beer. The city always seemed to come to life in the summer months when tourists descended upon the Qingdao International Beer Festival and other seaside activities. People of all ages could be found outdoors enjoying meat-on-a-stick, Qingdao gala (spicy clams), and beer-in-a-bag at late-night pop-up restaurants. Music and art were never far away, and the comfortable summer climate meant that most people enjoyed the entertainment outdoors.

The pace of life was slower then. Only a handful of people had personal vehicles, very few people had cell phones, and weekends and nights were spent in the markets bargaining for daily essentials. The fabric market was always busy as most clothing was specially crafted by tailors for each customer. Locals were always proud to own a Qingdao-made Haier refrigerator or a Hisense television.

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