I’m not sure what our little “Venice of the East” did to encourage it, but in the last six months to a year Suzhou has gone from having virtually no English city/culture magazines to having no less than three – and with the official launch of that’s Suzhou last night, there’s little doubt the mags mean business.
When I arrived in Suzhou back in mid-2006, really the only thing on offer for hungry (and thirsty) literate expats was a couple Japanese magazines that threw in some rough English translations as an after-thought and What’s On Suzhou, an advertisement posing as a calendar.
Then in the autumn of last year Hangzhou’s premier expat glossy, MORE, entered the Suzhou market about the same time that the English-Japanese OPEN magazine kicked up its efforts to reach the English half of its market.
And as of yesterday, we officially have the biggest-backed one of them all, a that’s magazine. that’s Suzhou is published by Urbanatomy, which also publishes that’s Shanghai, that’s PRD, and the Urbanatomy guidebooks.
Though the inaugural issue hit expat haunts earlier this month, last night’s party at the Sheraton down by Pan Gate makes it all official. Nothing like free flowing booze and hors d’oeuvres to make things “official”. The event was outdoors in the Sheraton’s stunning classically-styled garden, and the light showers and oppressive humidity were nothing that a few glasses of wine couldn’t negate. Besides – rain and humidity… THAT’S Suzhou. 😉
I got the invite to go to the party from the magazine’s managing editor, Paul Collins, and editorial director, JFK Miller, two stand-up guys whom I foolishly agreed to allow question me about my Suzhou knowledge earlier in the day (it’s shameful what I’ll do for a Starbuck’s mango frappuccino).
The magazine is starting a new section called “How Suzhounese Are You?” in which they find some witless and willing expat (as myself) who has lived in Suzhou for a while, and they ask him a bunch of questions and see how poorly he does. You’ll have to check out the August issue to see how I did, and take the test yourself.
As a consolation, they let me show up to their fancy digs and get a bit liquored up. The crowd was pretty heavy on the Shanghai imports, but there were a few Suzhou-laowai faces I recognized, and despite the rain, it was a great time.