Expat volunteers in Shanghai help their community understand Chinese laws

Published:  19 Aug at 6 PM
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Ten expat volunteers in Shanghai’s Chengjiaqioa district are helping their compatriots to understand Chinese culture and laws.

A dedicated team of long-term foreign residents are working with local police in Chengjiqioa to spread awareness amongst fellow expats and newcomers to China of the country’s social rules and laws. The group, part of the district’s 30 per cent foreign residents, includes students, business people and artists from France, the Netherlands, Italy and Argentina. One of their most important tasks is to make sure newcomers register with the local police with 24 hours of their arrival.

Other activities include spreading awareness of traffic rules and regulations, patrolling the area on the lookout for threats to safety and warning the expat community about fraud and other criminal activities. Shanghai is a popular destination for expats, with over 170,000 now living in the city, many of whom are unaware of local laws and the unique Chinese culture.

According to local Chengjiaqiao police officer Lin Yi, it’s difficult for foreigners to adjust to the Chinese way as most tend to interpret local laws as relating to their own mindset. He appreciates the help the volunteer group gives as an intermediary between East and West, saying it helps create good relationships between the two communities. One volunteer, Pakistani Habib Jan, told the media his first task as an intern before volunteering had been to help police direct non-motorised traffic at a large intersection.

He noted that expat owners of electric bikes weren’t always aware their machines needed to be licensed, and that it’s not legal to cycle against the flow of traffic. His main job now is to interpret between police and expats, as he’s fluent in Mandarin, English and the local Shanghai dialect.

He’s also able to help local lawmen with security management and issues at Shanghai Hongqiao International Pearl City, as he’s a shop owner selling handmade floor coverings in the massive retail area. All the volunteers are more than happy to give their time and experience to help newly arrived expats and even long-stayers who still can’t quite get their heads around the workings of this unique country.
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