At age seventeen, I was awarded a one-year scholarship to study in Tianjin, a two-tier city around 100km from Beijing. Five years later and here I am, my fourth time in China, and interning in a brand new city, Qingdao.
Tianjin was an amazing place to live and is where my true appreciation and understanding of Chinese culture developed. After my Tianjin experience, how could I turn down another opportunity to live in another fast-developing tier two city? Even though they are more than 500 km apart, I have already noticed some similarities between the two cities.
Tianjin and Qingdao, throughout history and up until now, are very important treaty ports. This meant that in the past they were very desirable to foreign powers. The cities are unique as there still remain numerous European-style buildings, such as churches and villas, which stand as legacies from the time of foreign concessions during the Qing dynasty. A direct contrast to the new modern buildings found in every Chinese city, they are an absolute must see when visiting either city!
In true Chinese style, food culture is huge in Qingdao and Tianjin. Due to proximity to the sea, the seafood in both cities is particularly fresh and delicious. A must try Qingdao dish is spicy clams (蛤蜊), which are pronounced as géli in standard Putonghua but in local Qingdao Hua are pronounced gála. Although Tianjin is known for its seafood, Goubuli Baozi (狗不理包子) and “Cat can’t smell” dumplings (猫不闻饺子) are also some well-known delicious dishes.
Before I arrived in Qingdao, I was under the impression that Qingdao locals would have a southern accent. I realised very quickly that this was not the case as the accent is just as northern sounding as it is in Tianjin, with plenty of er’s(儿)! Tianjin was the perfect environment to not only learn Pǔtōnghuà, but also the local dialect (天津话). The locals were always enthusiastic and patient with me as I bumbled my way through sentences in my early days of learning Chinese. The locals also became especially excited whenever I tried out some Tianjin Hua. For example, instead of saying hen(很 )for very, locals will say bèr(倍儿). Qingdao also has its own dialect (青岛话). For instance. here they pronounce hē（喝）, meaning to drink, as hā. So, it’s dōuhāshui!
As much as Tianjin will always be my home in China, Qingdao is rapidly becoming my Chinese home away from home! I can’t wait to see what else Qingdao has to offer!
Tempted by the two-tier city life? Join us! We have branches in four fantastic tier two cities!
Last Saturday we took our Zhuhai interns to the exciting city that is Macau. Being at such close distance – the border is just next to downtown Zhuhai – we can go pretty much any day or time we want (if we have multiple-entry visas), but it’s always more fun when you have a big group and lots of attitude!
Instead of walking across the border, we decided to take the ferry early in the morning, because it is faster to get through and we wanted to make the most of our day. After landing on the other side of the bay, we walked to downtown Macau and up to Senado Square. Macau is a great mix of Cantonese and Portuguese culture, so just walking around and looking at the colonial architecture is extremely interesting.
From there we walked through the alleys around the square, past shops selling typical Macau food like cured sausages and almond cookies. The best part is that every shop gives you free samples, so we were able to calm down our hunger before we went off to lunch.
We then arrived at the Ruins of St. Paul, one of Macau’s most famous landmarks and a very exciting sight for us who come from Catholic cultures, since it is very odd to see a huge cathedral facade in the middle of an Asian town. The fort with all the cannons facing the casinos was also very cool to see!
After checking out the sights in the city centre, we decided it was time for lunch and took taxis to the casino side of Macau. We arrived first at the Galaxy, where we had lunch at the food court. From there we walked to the Venetian, by far the most lavish and extravagant of the casinos.
The boys, of course, wanted to try out their luck so we went inside the gambling area and sat at the electronic roulette. Dina and I – the Intern China interns and the only two girls in the group – are not really into gambling so after a while we got bored and decided to check out the shops around the canal on the second floor. If it’s your first time at the Venetian, you might get a bit disoriented when you realise the sky is actually a ceiling and the great Venetian canal (with gondolas and all) is all a big replica.
As with all games of luck, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and this time the boys had to go home with a few hundred RMB less than they came with. But no one can take away the fun they had betting it all away!
We ended the night on a great note at a small, cozy Portuguese restaurant where we ate a delicious grilled chicken, French fries and salad. Some of us took a chance with the lime-juice-and-chilli sauce: it was spicy, but greatly refreshing after a long day of walking! Then of course, some well-deserved beers and sangrias and soon it was time to cross the border and arrive back home in Zhuhai.