My Foreign Friends in Changsha| Changsha is my only home

Changsha Evening News | 07 01, 2024

  Editor's Notes:

  There are 845,697 registered foreigners living in 31 provinces of China, an increase of more than 250,000 from the previous census, according to the Seventh National Population Census of China in 2020. Crowds from different countries with diverse cultural backgrounds come to the open China to manage their dreams.

  Changsha, capital of Hunan Province in Central China, has made fruitful achievements on the development of inland reform and opening-up highland since the 18th CPC National Congress. “My Foreign Friends in Changsha”, a bilingual column written by CICC, aims at telling you more details about these achievements by our foreign friends’ stories in Changsha.

  Changsha is my home, the true home.

  ——Denis Nurmela

  Profile of Changsha Expats

  W.Denis Nurmela, American

  Chinese name: Xia Shili, aka Lao Xia

  Identity: Former Foreign teacher of Foreign Languages School in Changsha University

  Residency duration in Changsha: Six years

  "Moving to China needs courage, while he has carved out a life here and established a second home..." This is a description on the channel "Lehe Laoxia" in charge of Denis Nurmela. With his innate American humor, Denis shares his love for food, travel moments, and life insights by this channel. Many have seen this outgoing American in his original videos, while some admire his bravery in relocating to China and the distinctive charm of Changsha as an internet-celebrity city.

  The Seventh National Population Census of China reveals that over 42% of foreigners in China have resided in the country for more than five years, Denis is one of them. In the past six years, he has witnessed the evolution of Changsha: more expanded roads, more delicious eateries, and more inclusive and dynamic the city is day by day.


  The 61-year-old Denis is a jack-of-all-trades in the eyes of his students and colleagues, always ready to embrace new challenges in life. Over the past six years, from initial adjustments to falling in love with Changsha’s cuisine, convenient transportation, online shopping, and the warm hospitality of the people – all of these have made his every day in Changsha extra special.

  "Hello everyone, I'm Denis, and I'm a local here in Changsha," he often declares earnestly in his not-so-fluent Mandarin on his video channel.

  His channel homepage is full of a plethora of scenes capturing the essence of Hunanese life in Changsha – from engaging with street vendors at Si Fang Ping night market, savoring popular snacks like cheese pancakes with durian flavor, proudly introducing the city's landmarks – Juzizhou Island by the tour bus, participating in typical Changsha cultural activities, and night hiking Yuelu Mountain, and his v-blog always ends with an exclaiming "Delicious!" One of Denis's proudest moments is guiding tourists around Juzizhou Island.

  "I'm a local here in Changsha, and people treat me like family and friends," Denis frequently mentions in videos, even though he has traveled to over 50 countries and experienced diverse cultures as a public speaker. His experience in Changsha is as warm and spicy as the chili he enjoys – it fills him with warmth and vitality.


  In Denis’s opinion, muti-generation and friendly are two best suitable words for Changsha.

  Chosen as the "UNESCO Capital of Media Arts" and "Culture City of East Asia", and bagged the awards for the Most Competitive City for Attracting Business and Investment, the Most Attractive City for Investment and also the Benchmark City for International Business Environment, Changsha extends a welcoming embrace to the world. Its 16 consecutive titles as "China's Most Happy City" demonstrate the city’s unwavering commitment to providing a fulfilling life for its residents. Happiness and openness are now the defining traits of the city.

  "In Changsha, no matter how old you are or where you come from, you can find things you want to do and reap the benefits of happiness," said Denis. Having visited numerous cities since coming to China, he confessed that Changsha remains his favorite. "Because Changsha people are simple, kind, hospitable and happy to make friends." His affection for the locals makes it difficult for him to imagine leaving.

  "It is a rare chance for a foreigner to get such an invitation," he says, recalling his honorable experience of delivering a speech at one of his Chinese students’ wedding ceremony in March 2023. His dedication to students wins their trust and respect to him. "In the United States, I only have six children, but in Changsha, I have hundreds or thousands of students who can be all my children."

  "Changsha is not my second home, but my truehome," Denis stresses, revealing the significance of the city in his mind.


  Last year, Denis participated in an event of "Foreign Nationals Viewing Changsha." After visiting the Changsha-based manufacturers Sany and China Railway Construction Heavy Industry, he expressed his positive feedback to the engineering machinery manufacturing industry of the city. "It’s my first time learning machinery production like shield machines and concrete pump trucks, and also their application in urban infrastructure construction. It amazed me a lot," commented Denis.

  "As a new resident of Changsha, I indeed witnessed the growth and development of the city," Denis notes.

  During his past stay in Changsha, he rode his electric motorcycle through streets and lanes, watching the emergence of high-rise buildings, the popularity of local brands, and experiencing the bustling night economy and the vibrant city.

  In November 2005, Changsha issued the first batch of permanent residence permitsto four foreignnationals, known as Chinese "green cards" in Hunan Province. At the beginning of this year, the Changsha Immgration Administration issued the first batch of "Five-Star Cards" (the new version of the Permanent Residence Card for Expats) to four high-level foreign talents in Changsha. Besides, Changsha authorities now provide many hospitable services to express its openness and sincerity to the world, including but not limited to personal employment, children’s education, "one-on-one" business guidance, and "one-stop" acceptance.

  Denis regards Changsha City as his true home for the friendly people and heart-warming city. "In the future, I want to be more involved in the development of Changsha and contribute to a better Changsha with my efforts," Denis ends.
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