Stella from England: Our oldest 'Expat of Shanghai'

80-year-old Stella, from England, really enjoys her regular three-month holidays in Shanghai every year, in which time she became a loyal Shanghai Daily reader.

Holin's words:

On a normal weekday afternoon, I saw an older foreign woman standing beside our office’s reception desk, passionately discussing something with my colleague. 

After some conversation, I knew that Stella, from Britain, has stayed in Shanghai for three months of every year for years. As a loyal reader of Shanghai Daily, Stella specially came to ask us why our newspaper disappeared from kiosks near where she stayed, and to find out how to buy it every day. This was not the first time she has popped in for a visit.

I learned she got used to reading Shanghai Daily — she must know Shanghai well — and she loves the city — a great candidate for this series!  

I printed out a question list and made an appointment with her. She was willing to come back a week later. 

I put those questions to her again when we met for the second time, but she often diverted from the topic to complain about her life in France and England, both places she has lived in for a long time. I stopped her politely, trying to get some more details about Shanghai. Then, to my surprise, she gave me a USB flash disk, telling me she had written down all the answers already, like a well-behaved student doing her homework.

While reading her “homework,” I still saw many complaints. But to my surprise, Stella was over 80 years of age. When facing the question about where she will be in ten years, our oldest interviewee for 'Expats of Shanghai' answered frankly and openly: “With luck, I will be in The Happy Hunting Ground…”

She said she would keep coming back to Shanghai to spend her “three-month holidays," something she looked forward to every year.

We decided to give Stella a free, three-month subscription, but she didn't know where she'd be living next year. I wanted to let her know when the story would come out, but without an email address or a cellphone that would be impossible.

I hope I have the chance to meet Stella and show her the article next time she's in town.

Holin Wang / SHINE

Name: Stella Baum
Nationality: British
Job: Retired
Years in Shanghai: 4 (2004-2007 studying in Shanghai, and from 2010 till now, three months here every year)

Holin: Hi Stella, why did you choose Shanghai as a place to stay for a long period every year?

Stella: I studied Chinese when I was younger and I've forgotten a lot. By the time I retired at the age of 66, I decided it was now or never and came to Shanghai to study Chinese again to keep my brain ticking over in old age.

The reason I chose Shanghai is that I had been trying to come to Shanghai for ages when I was young, but at that time I failed for some reason. I had read previously how international Shanghai had been in the 1930s and was intrigued what it would look like when I saw it.

Holin: Do you have any impressive story related with China or Shanghai?

Stella: What impressed me most about China was that China had been trying to have General Practitioners as we have in England for years, but could not afford them or may be could not manage to arrange it throughout China as China is so big. 

Holin: Yeah, we are still trying to make it even throughout Shanghai.

Stella: Anyway, when I came in 2016, I saw a GP and thought, I must take advantage of that. That was the best thing I could have done, as in Shanghai I found a doctor at the local hospital who actually gave me some tablets that worked. I was more than impressed with your medical system.

Holin: How do you spend your leisure time in Shanghai? 

Stella: When I first came obviously I explored the city as I always do when I arrive at a new place. But every time I had just found the kind of shops I wanted, it had disappeared the following year, for obvious reasons — redevelopment. 

Now that is a great disappointment when you have spent I-don’t-know-how-much-time trying to find a place like that…

Holin: What do you like best about Shanghai?

Stella: I like to read the Shanghai Daily to find out what is going on in Shanghai, and sometimes the world. That keeps me fairly busy when everyone else is working, but it also keeps me up to date with Chinese life, which I like.

What does Stella want to say to herself in the future? Have a look! Stella is sending a message to herself in the future 10 years from now!

Filmed by Holin Wang and Joan Zheng. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Translated by Jack Zhou. Special thanks to Andy Boreham.

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