German sausages, craft beer, and hearty meatloaf with mashed potatoes, once a rarity in Hefei, the capital of China’s Anhui Province, are now gaining widespread popularity. This culinary transformation has been driven by the growing number of Germans choosing to call Hefei home.
Hefei, known for being home to several car manufacturers, including NIO, BYD, JAC, and Volkswagen Anhui, is actively developing its new energy vehicle (NEV) industry. Volkswagen, with a planned investment of 23.1 billion yuan (about 3.2 billion U.S. dollars), is constructing a new NEV hub in Hefei, encompassing research and development, manufacturing, and sales. This venture, Volkswagen Anhui, represents the German automaker’s first majority-owned joint venture for NEVs in China.
As automotive engineers and business professionals from around the world, particularly Germany, flock to the city due to the burgeoning NEV industry, the food and beverage sector catering to expatriates has experienced a remarkable upswing.
A slew of newly established exotic restaurants and bars not only cater to Hefei’s international residents but also serve as vibrant social hubs for locals looking to embrace foreign cultures and socialize.
Stefan Suckow, a German engineer at Volkswagen Anhui, expressed his appreciation for the local dining scene: “The food here is pretty good. It’s much needed for us foreigners that are far away from home countries.” Suckow and his colleagues frequently enjoy authentic German dishes at places like the recently-opened Der Landgraf Beerhouse Restaurant.
Suckow noted the transformation, saying, “When we first arrived in Hefei, there was only one German restaurant. Now there are four places where we can get authentic German foods.” He attributed this culinary expansion to the rapid growth of the NEV industry in the city over the past two years.
Recently, Der Landgraf hosted a beer festival named Octoberfest, drawing over 100 Chinese and German food and beer enthusiasts. Every beer is imported directly from Germany, and each dish is meticulously prepared with the guidance of German gourmet experts to ensure an authentic taste.
Wang Gang, the owner of Der Landgraf, who brought the restaurant brand from Beijing to Hefei, explained the restaurant’s philosophy, saying, “We aim to provide an authentic German dining experience. All beers are imported directly from Germany, and every dish is meticulously prepared with the participation of German gourmet experts to ensure authentic flavors.”
Situated just 50 meters away from Der Landgraf is Noah’s, a German bakery and cafe that opened around the same time. This establishment is owned and operated by a German couple, Max Herwig and Magdalena Herwig, who came to Hefei in 2021 to work with Volkswagen.
Magdalena, who named the bakery after her child, shared her motivation: “We are the first German bakery here. I used to miss our German bread, and I also wanted to create a place that is like our second living room, a cozy place for all the people, for the families.”
While Western restaurants and bakeries, including German ones, were initially popular in major Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, the expanding culinary landscape reflects China’s growing global engagement and cultural exchange initiatives with the West.
It’s estimated that around 300 Germans now reside and work in Hefei, with approximately 40 German companies, including Volkswagen and Continental AG, investing in the city. Erwin Gabardi, CEO of Volkswagen Anhui, emphasized Hefei’s transformation, stating, “Hefei is a city with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and plenty of new opportunities. It’s becoming more international with more foreign talent being attracted to settle down here.”