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China native grounded in Vail

Dora Zhu
Community Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” The Olympics electrified all the sports-lovers in the world. China is now a buzzword. I am proud of it, my home country ” China.

I feel very fortunate that I was born in a great country with impressive heritage and now live in an equally great place, Vail. I am so proud of my motherland, China, and I am also in so much in love with my new home, Vail. I have the best of both worlds.

I was born and grew up in Shanghai and went to college and graduate school in Beijing. I spent my first 23 years of my life in a communist country. It may sound depressing, but it was not really that bad in certain way. I got the best out of the system ” a free undergraduate and graduate education and traditional Chinese culture ” respect for elderly, education, good work ethics and family value.



My love for Vail has been an evolving process ” it s a love story. The first time I visited Vail was a so-so experience ” a very long drive, high altitude adjustment, boring mountains and heavy Austrian food.

My question was “Why did we come to Vail? What is the big deal? There are only mountains here. It’s pretty, but so what?



“Where are the skyscrapers? Where are the people? How come they dress like cowboys? Don’t they need to get dressed up to go to work in an office building?”

Nevertheless, I came back to Vail for social and professional engagements. My attitude changed. I began to fall in love with Vail. Why? It is the people in Vail and it is the energy in Vail that draws me towards to Vail.

Vail people are happy people. Vail is a happy place. Happy people live here and people come to Vail become happy. It is almost contagious. When I used to spend weekends in Vail, I became happier the moment I arrived.



Vail people are successful people. Vail people have been my great business partners. In my previous banking career, the Vail Valley made me top sales banker in the nation. Vail put me on a pedestal. Vail made me a star professionally.

I recently became a full-time resident in Vail. I love my new life in Vail. While I am exploring and redefining my life in Vail, I noticed all sorts of fine and interesting differences and similarities between Vail and China.

1. Concrete jungle vs. beautiful mountains

Shanghai was and still is a concrete jungle. There are 20 million people living in the city. The population density is hard for Vail people to imagine. It is a 24-hour city, still all the restaurants are full and all the retail shops are full. Something is going on all the time.

Construction cranes are the Chinese national birds. On the average, buildings are of 66 to 118 stories high. Any building under eight stories h is been replaced.

One person per square meter is the living space for Shanghai residents. While in Vail, most of the huge Alpine houses are occupied by one or two people.

There is no walkout basement or backyard or front yard you can go to in Shanghai. Public parks are always part of extended residential space in warm weather. You often see three couples on a date sharing 10-foot long bench in a park. To make it more a private date, the couples will sit criss-cross to each other.

2. Food

Both Vail people and the Chinese people love good food. Both Vail and Shanghai have lots of great restaurants within walking distance. Both Vail and the Shanghai restaurants serve fresh vegetables and fruits.

But Shanghai restaurants will serve more live seafood while Vail will serve more gamy meat. Shanghai restaurants will serve more tofu while Vail restaurants serve more cheeses.

3. Shopping

Both Shanghai and Vail have small boutiques rather than huge modern malls. Window-shopping is a big part of Shanghai life. People enjoy browsing boutiques more than standard malls. A one-of-kind present from a highly priced retailer is more appreciated by the receiver.

4. Outdoor vs. indoor

Shanghai people are very indoor oriented. They live and work indoors. They don’t like to exercise, don’t like to get sweaty, and don’t like to get tanned. Only farmers get dark and sweaty.

Vail people love to play, work outside and get a nice tan.

5. Extraverted/introverted

Shanghai people are not so outgoing or warm as Vail people are. Shanghai people don’t trust or like other people readily. They don’t welcome outsiders.

Shanghai people will speak Shanghai dialect (understood primarily by Shanghai people only) to each other only.

While Vail people welcome people from all over the world, especially during the ski season. You can hear Spanish, German and other foreign languages throughout Vail.

6. Weather

Vail is sunny most of the time. Shanghai is over cast and rainy most of the time.

7. Kids

Shanghai kids, especially high school students, spend most of their time studying. There is a national college examination every June. Sixteen- and 17-year-old students usually study 18 hours a day while Vail’s 17-year-olds probably study only six hours a day.

8. Dress code

Shanghai people get dressed up all the time, even going to the market. Shanghai people don’t like the blue-jean color unless it is for a blue-jean outfit. Shanghai people don’t like the cowboy design either, definitely not the cowboy hat. It is too rural or too rigid.

9. Family values

Both Vail and Shanghai are family oriented. You often see three-generation groups going out to a restaurant, shop or an ice skating rink.

10. Forever young

Seasoned people both in Vail and Shanghai enjoy a great life ” happy, physically active and mentally stimulated. In both places, the more mature generation has the time and luxury to indulge themselves in hours of outdoor physical activities and mental games.

Yes, I live in a dream world. I feel extremely blessed. Arrabelle is an adult Disneyworld (or downtown Shanghai in my own imagination) nested in the middle of beautiful mountains (just enough mountains and blue sky for me).

Yes, I live in a dream world ” my husband, my neighbors, my extended family members and friends at Arrabelle, all have made my life very special here in Vail.

Yes, I live in a dream world. I no longer just look at the mountains, I climb Eagle’s

Nest on a regular basis both in the winter and the in the summer. I run on Piney Lake. I ski and I play tennis here.

My husband and I got married at Piney Lake in 2005. I feel I am getting very grounded in Vail, thanks to the welcome and support from Vail people and Vail energy.

I would like to give back to the community, to the generous people in Vail Valley. I am happy to offer free Chinese language lessons, Chinese cooking lessons or feng shui discussions to anybody who is interested in. I am only a phone call away, (970)-754-7777 x. 343, or e-mail me at dorabanker@yahoo.com

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