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Beiljing or Chengdu

Guest pawel_d

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If you had to choose between a one semester beginner mandarin course in Chengdu, or a similar course in Beijing - what would you choose?

I guess the Sichuan Universitu is much much smaller than the one in Beijing, but that might be quite good from the perspective of learning language, but how about social life? How is life in Chengdu? (I have been both to Chengdu and Beijing but never actually lived there :-)

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I've been to Chengdu three times, but never for more than a few days, and am starting my third year in Beijing.

As far as night life goes, Chengdu seems to have a small, but thriving nightlife. There are a number of cafes and bars catering to the backpackers who pass through en route to Tibet and Yunnan, not to mention the local ex-pats and foreign students. You might not get the range of options you will in Beijing, but I don't think you'll find yourself standing on a street corner at 12am on a Friday night with nowhere to go . . .


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I studied Chinese in Kunming, which is probably similar to studying in Chengdu, at least compared to Beijing.

Both are big cities, and you definitly will be able to find plenty to do. I was suprised to learn that Kunming is actually about the size of Dallas. Both attract a large number of backpackers who stop through on their way to Tibet, Dali, Lijiang, etc (as Roddy said). The South West of China is a really interesting place to live. You'll have the chance to get to know people from different minority cultures and you'll also have lots of exciting places to visit nearby.

Of course, Beijing is an entirely different creature. You've been there, so you know what to expect. Its the *big* city.

I really enjoyed studing in Kunming. I'd study in the SW again. The only real drawback is the non-standard Chinese, but once you get used to it, its not really that big of a deal. The SW tends to be a little more laid back than the rest of China, and I liked that a lot. I don't think you'd be disadvantaged at all by studying there. A lot just depends on your taste and what you're looking for though. Personally, Beijing is too much for me.

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  • 2 months later...

as a chinese, my opinion is studying in beijing(i m not a beijinger actually). one thing is certain, the language's environment is very important for language's studying (that's the reason u r going to china), as u know, the pu tong hua(mandarin) is based on beijingnese and northern dialect, and most of people from the other provinces they speak mandarin with serious problems of accent , a few of them, their mandarin even chinese can't really understand it... anyway, if a foreigner spoke chinese dialect, dont you think thats a little strange? so, if u wanna speak standard mandarin, my suggestion is "go to the center!", though beijing is not a good choice for living.

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by the way, i m a part-time english learner right now, its my third language, the second one was russian(but its not useful really), as a native speaker, i would like giving u some suggestions of chinese studying, if u had any questions, Pls feel free to contact me, and if u corrected my english, i would be appreciate it!

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  • 1 month later...

Actually, the longer I lived in Chengdu, the more contact I had with Chengduers who did speak very clear putonghua. A lot of the more educated folk will switch back and forth between dialects: sichuanhua with their family and friends and putonghua in more professional situations and for us foreigners who don't quite have the hang of hard-core sichuanhua.

Don't let the threat of a regional dialect scare you. With time, you will be able to understand it and your putonghua will most certainly improve.

As for nightlife in Chengdu, as Roddy said, it is small but thriving. The nexus of the expat nightlife is hinged on two places: Carol's by the River, your standard expat men + Chinese women meat market, and Shamrock, the Irish pub with the nice pool table and dart boards.

Along Renmin Nanlu, south of the river, there are several copycat pubs that may or may not be hopping on any given Friday or Saturday night. These are more expensive than most, and are frequented mainly by Chinese. They usually offer live music.

The Little Bar has become a Chengdu institution. The bar even released its own CD a few years ago. This is THE venue for up and coming rock bands in Southwest China. Live music usually starts around eight-ish on Saturdays. The scene here is definitely cutting edge. Think grunge.

The Empty Bottle is an up and comer. A manager from Carol's opened up this pub and it seems to have a lot of promise. The beers aren't that expensive (as of April, 2003 had Carlsberg on tap for 12 RMB) and there is also usually live music. Foreigners do come here, but it seems to be a bar mostly for Chengdu's nouveau riche and yuppies.

I am biased but I would definitely recommend Chengdu. It'd be a good place to spend a semester and adopt a "work hard, play hard" attitude.

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