Just after arriving in Chengdu I wrote a post about my first impressions of China. I feel like after living here for the last month, I should definitely re-visit some of my first impressions to see if they’ve changed. So read on to find out more about life in Chengdu.
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So when I arrived in Chengdu, I was most nervous about having to stand up in front of 25 3-kids and teach them English. It’s a very challenging job at times but the kids are so cute!! Teaching also gives me a chance to be a kid myself which I definitely can’t say no to. Teaching has been one of the best things about life in Chengdu.
However, teaching in China is very different to in the UK. Teachers are highly respected and school is very strict. Once they go on to Chinese schools after our kindergarten, they cannot misbehave or will be sent home straight away. This means I must keep a certain level of strictness in the class. This can be difficult sometimes; I do feel for the kids when they are upset or struggling to concentrate. After all these are 3-year old kids we’re trying to get to do work.
When I first arrived in Chengdu, I got the impression that the people here are very polite and helpful. This was definitely correct! Still now anytime we struggle to communicate, the people go out of their way to try to speak to us, including trying to type on our translator apps and asking if anyone else in the restaurant can speak English. This has definitely helped me to settle into life in Chengdu.Booking.com
Since arriving I feel I’ve learnt a lot about Chinese etiquette. The people here are very polite and much of their culture revolves around not losing face. Westerners and native English speakers are also seen as a novelty.
This is very alien for me!
For example, in my school I work alongside two English liaisons (they help with translation and the kids), they are trained in education and are more qualified than me. They see me as in charge, but I rely very heavily on their help and support to teach, and am very grateful for it.
Ok so one point about Chinese etiquette that is so different in Chengdu to what I see in the UK, is the spitting. My morning walk to work is broken up by the loudest spitting sounds I’ve ever heard! Here it is completely ok to do this, and its definitely something I’m still trying to get used to. This has definitely been one of the worst parts about life in Chengdu.
The western side of Chengdu
Chengdu and indeed all cities in China have a big expat population. This is catered for by many bars and restaurants so most if not all food and drink from home are available here.
There’s a McDonalds, KFC and a Starbucks on every corner. However, the costs are similar to the UK, and expensive for China. However, most TEFL teachers earn a pretty solid salary so eating this type of food relatively often is no issue for expats. Chengdu offers all these comforts with a slower pace of life than many of the eastern cities. This has made life in Chengdu closer to life back home than I thought.
China has changed so much in the last 40 years. Even the Chinese teachers I work with, most of whom are in their late 20s to early 30s, have seen Chengdu change vastly. Shopping malls have sprung up everywhere. Cars have replaced bikes on the roads and the number of foreigners is constantly increasing. It’s easy to see why my boyfriend and I still get stared at here. Go back 40 years and foreigners rarely entered China.
The weather and pollution
So the weather here is much milder than I expected. During winter, the temperature remains around 10 degrees C, with very bad pollution. During summer, the temperatures hit well over 30 degrees C.
The pollution for me is what I find the hardest, It is often so bad I can’t see 50 metres in front of me – definitely time to think about buying a mask!
The light pollution here is also horrendous. I haven’t seen a star since I left England, and the night sky is always relatively bright. I even read a news article recently saying they want to install a fake moon in the sky to lighten it!
I have to say the pollution is a difficult part about life in Chengdu.
The traffic and noise
The traffic here is pretty crazy, although the road networks are much better than in the UK – taking just 30 minutes to cross the city. The real crazy part in China is the scooters. There are so many scooters and tuk-tuks and no road rules for them. For example, a friend did the driving test here for the scooters and got told off for signalling when he turned!
I’ve nearly been run over by stray drivers multiple times – keep your eyes open! Drivers love pressing their horns, but generally aren’t aggressive. I’d say the roads seem much better than many other countries I’ve visited such as Italy and Peru. Although admittedly significantly worse than in the UK.
The food in Chengdu is incredible. It is sooo tasty and I know already I’ll miss it as soon as I leave. From the spicy hotpot to the cook your own BBQ, there couldn’t be anything tastier.
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Chengdu has definitely become a new home to me. The city, the people, the food and the culture have all welcomed me with open arms! There are many interesting facts about Chengdu which have drawn me into the city. Overall, life in Chengdu has been amazing.