Before I moved to Grand Rapids, I never knew that sister cities were a real thing.

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What are sister cities?

According to Grand Rapids Sister Cities International, sister cities are friendships that are formed between a United States city and a foreign city.

After World War II, the concept of a sister city was started by President Dwight Eisenhower. His plan was to get to know and ultimately understand other people from other cultures.

What is Grand Rapids Sister Cities International?

Grand Rapids Sister Cities International, or GRSCI, is a non-profit organization that establishes and cultivates relationships between the city of Grand Rapids and its respective sister cities.

GRSCI states that:

"Sister cities create relationships through the exchanges of culture, education, business, and humanitarian efforts."

As of today, there are 1,200+ sister city relationships between 780 United States cities and 86 foreign countries.

Grand Rapids has six sister cities:

  1. Omihachiman, Japan
  2. Bielsko-Biala, Poland
  3. Ga District, Ghana
  4. Gangnam-gu, South Korea
  5. Perugia, Italy
  6. Zapopan, Mexico

Known as a farming community, Omihachiman, Japan is known for its important agricultural goods: rice and beef. The city is located at the foot of the Hachiman-yama mountain and east of Lake Biwa. Like Lake Michigan, Lake Biwa is Japan's largest inland freshwater lake.

Credit: Google Maps
Credit: Google Maps

Omihachiman is the largest student exchange program that Grand Rapids has with all of the sister cities.

United in 1975, Bielso-Biala was once two cities separated by the Biala River. The city is the 3rd largest in the textile industry in the Austro-Hungarian empire. It is also one of the most technologically advanced cities in Europe, according to GRCSI.

Google Maps
Google Maps

In January of 1994, Ga District, Ghana became sister cities with Grand Rapids. The Ga District is a part of the Accra Metro region within the capital city of Ghana.

The city is most known for pineapples, textiles, wood carvings, and gold, bronze, diamond, and beaded jewelry.

Google maps
Google maps

Gangnam-gu makes up one of the 25 districts within the city of Seoul. They are mostly known for their advancements in finance, technology, entertainment, and health care.

Perugia, Italy is known for its wineries and historic architecture. Perugia's La Maggiore Music Academy and St. Cecilia Music Center typically complete a student exchange on a yearly basis.

Google Maps
Google Maps

Zapopan, Mexico is home to Mariachi, which is a traditional Mexican style of music. The city is one of the fastest-growing cities in Mexico.

If you want to get involved with GRCSI, there are several ways to do so.

  • You can become a committee member
  • You can become a membership committee member
  • You can use your artistic skills as one of their graphic artists
  • You can become a supporter by providing homestays for visitors, serving as an interpreter or tour guide, or sponsoring exchanges in the Grand Rapids area and around the world.

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