Jump to content
  • Sign Up

From Scandinavia to the far East


Recommended Posts

  • New Members


I am a young professional just finishing up my bachelor in Finance in Norway this spring. To diversify my background, and as a way of postponing my Ms.c, I am planning to go to Harbin and study mandarin. I have been to China several times before, but never Harbin. I have now read a lot of what is being said about the place, and the schools, but I could need some help summing up a few of the points.

1. Many people refer to Harbin as a "tougher" place to study mandarin. Would somebody like to elaborate on that?

2. In the same context I guess, I've heard you would gain from being a "lone wolf". That's fine by me, however, during my stay there, will I run into some native English-speakers? I do not need a lot of foreigners around me (then I would go to Beijing or Shanghai), but in the beginning of my stay it would be nice to perhaps have a chance to speak to some westerners.

3. Harbin is said to be one of the best (if not, the best) place to learn Mandarin, that's why I'm moving. However, what would you say about your insights into the Chinese culture after a year in Harbin?

4. Besides the school, what would you say is the most efficient way to learn the language, live with a native? Work?

All answers are greatly appreciated! If somebody would like to have dinner or perhaps a few drinks with me in september, don't hesitate to let me know.

Best Regards


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome on the forum!

1-3. I don't know anything about Harbin, others might tell you more about that place. If you chose it because its the coldest part of China, well, the summers are still said to be hot and humid. :wink:

I just wanted to say that Beijing is huge, so huge in fact that it includes places like Changping, which is very I live, and in a year I see about 30-40 foreigners here, a majority of which are (probably lost) tourists. I am not specifically recommending this place, just saying that although its part of Beijing (on paper), its really not. But, there is a subway, and I can reach the city center in about an hour, hour and a half at most.

4. There are many topics here on this, my approach is to learn Chinese on many different levels at the same time. Try to go shopping by yourself, as soon as possible try to read some books in your fields of interest, make contact with the locals, get married :-) Find something specifically Chinese (religion, sports, arts etc.) and study it, together with its vocab of course. Watch movies, or as a beginner animations maybe, listen to radio. And most importantly: buy Pleco, if you don't have a device for it, buy that as well, its a life-saver for many, me as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm also Norwegian and studied in Harbin (at Heilongjiang University) from 2010-2011, so my experience might be relevant. (Og ja, jeg er vennen til Baoxin, det er bare å sende en PM eller be henne om kontakt-detaljene om du har mye du lurer på :) )

1. I'm not entirely sure what they mean by "tougher," but I assume they meant "harder." It refers to the fact that, unlike Beijing or Shanghai, Harbin lacks any kind of foreigner-friendly amenities. There's almost no information in English anywhere, and only a very few establishments cater specifically to English-speaking foreigners. I would argue that all this makes it easier to study there, as you will have to start dealing with the language from day one; no only learning a few pleasantries and the going to the restaurant with the English menu for the rest of the first semester. It makes things really intensive and frustrating in the first few months, but you will progress way fast, -even if you aren't studying particularly hard.

Another meaning could be that Harbin is considered to be a pretty "rough" town (by Chinese standards). There's an image of north-easterners as sort of aggressive and brutish, which combined with the large Russian population gives the city a very palpable macho-vibe. This threat is greatly exaggerated, and the only real danger is getting into a fight around the clubs in the early morning. These fights can get really ugly, with people getting smashed over the head with bottles, and knives, bats and metal rods appearing disturbingly fast. However, during my two semesters there, I saw maybe four or five such fights, and they are easy enough to avoid.

2. While most of the foreign students in Harbin are Korean or Russian, there's plenty of westerners there as well. When I was there I spent much time with an Englishman, some Spaniards, a couple of Argentinians, some Italians, an Hungarian, a German, an Austrian, a couple of Australians as well as several Canadians and Americans. And that was only at my university. Additionally, many Russians are (at least) conversational in English, and so are many of the Chinese students. You won't be alone unless you specifically try to be.

3. Harbin is as Chinese as it gets, so you certainly won't learn anything less about Chinese culture than you would anywhere else in China, and since you are the one who will have to adapt, you will probably learn more. However, there isn't much in the way of good museums, famous temples or historical ruins, if that's what you were referring to.

4. The most efficient way to learn Chinese is a matter of great debate on this website. One thing many aren't aware of, however, is how tiresome it is to study a brand new language intensively for at least four hours every day (especially one such as Chinese that requires a completely different set of skills than what you are used to). I would often be completely exhausted after class every day, and more than happy not to deal with Chinese for the rest of the day.

Ask away if there's anything else!

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...