It didn't take long after he arrived in Guangzhou in July 2014 for Didier Boschung to be impressed by the modernity of the city, its thriving daily life and the friendliness of its people.
"Guangzhou is a vibrant mega city but it also has a green environment and a lower degree of pollution compared to other major cities in China. It is certainly offering a friendly and comfortable atmosphere to live in," Boschung, consulate general of Switzerland in Guangzhou, told China Daily.
Located in a subtropical zone with Tropic of Cancer running through the northeastern part of the city, the Guangdong province capital stays warm in winter so that green trees and colorful flowers can been seen all year round. Historic documents record that people in Guangzhou started to grow and appreciate flowers from the days of the Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), more than 1,700 years ago, which earned it the reputation of being huacheng, or the "Flower City".
As Spring Festival approaches, flower markets open in the city, a centurylong tradition, so that people can buy bouquets and floral decorations to brighten up their homes during the important period of celebration.
A citywide survey last September revealed that "Flower City" was the most popular nickname for Guangzhou, with 81 percent of all respondents voting for the moniker. Other options included "Capital of Lingnan Culture", "Pearl of South China", and "Business Capital of the Millennium".
The results of the survey coincide with the municipal government's recent strategy to sharpen its brand as "Flower City" and branch out not just domestically but globally.
"We plan to make 'Flower City' Guangzhou's global image with wide recognition and strong characteristics in three years," said Wen Guohui, mayor of Guangzhou.
According to its blueprint, the city will improve flower arrangements and displays in its central park and 11 district-level parks, sometimes collectively referred to as the "Guangzhou Garden". The area has the most parks, the largest variety of flower species and the biggest blossoming season in China. Recently, government departments completed a project to create "flower corridors" which saw the fl oral decoration of 353 bridges and flyovers, with an accumulative length of 309 kilometers. "I always tell friends or relatives to come visit Guangzhou. Once visitors are here, they are always very surprised to find such a modern, inclusive and exciting city and hospitable people," Boschung said.
Jean-Jacques Verdun, a Frenchman who has lived in Guangzhou and South China since 2001 and runs a PR agency called San Jiao Ling, said the city has a strong cultural identity, is safe and convenient with many business opportunities.
"The city's quality of life and living environment have improved year-on-year since I have been around and especially since Guangzhou hosted the Asian Games in 2010," Verdun said.
Mike Bruines, from the Netherlands, has lived in Guangzhou since 2013 and runs an event production and management agency.
"What I have always loved about Guangzhou is its energy and entrepreneurial spirit, as well as the location of the city between Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao," Bruines said.
The Dutchman said many of his friends and family members have visited Guangzhou. "A stroll down the river banks with the Canton Tower as the night scenery is always a must in my opinion," Bruines recommended.