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Putonghua in Chengdu - getting by or flourishing?


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So, I've seen quite a few posts on this subject but none that I think really offer a great amount of insight and I'm hoping that some kindly and highly experienced expats will help me out...


I have an opportunity to work in either Chengdu or Xi'an and I'm a little stumped as to which will be my best choice.

In my mind Chengdu is the winner as far as being a bustling, exciting and upcoming metropolis but I'ts very hard to get past the fact that the dominant dialect is Sichuanhua....


I love learning foreign languages and have an advantage with Mandarin in already being fairly fluent with Japanese so the thought of studying hard and still not being able to understand most of the discussions going on around me is a little daunting.


I'm wondering what other people's experiences have been using Putonghua in Sichuan?  

Does it make life difficult?

Do you have a lot of meaningful interactions with Chengdu locals or do people lose interest if you only use Putonghua?



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Everyone understands Putonghua, and since you are a foreigner, most will speak to you (with the exception of older people or younger who despite being able to speak it will speak Sichuanhua for the fun of it). I've been living for a year and a half and have had little problems with the dialect. It rarely makes life difficult, and actually makes Chinese more fun. It might be a pain at first, but after a month you will get the hang of it.

Xi'an also has a dialect, and when I was there, I didn't understand a lot of what was being said around me. 

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Probably because I live in Chengdu and know it better I prefer it of the two.  Xi'an is a really cool city, but I was just visiting it. If I lived there I would probably rarely go to old city and where the Wild Goos Pagodas were, and those were the areas I frequented the most of the 3 days I was in Xi'an. In terms of history and historical sites to see, Chengdu has nothing on Xi'an. I didn't see the provincial museum, but it has to be better then the city museum, which was awesome as it was. Chengdu has way more art galleries, but they aren't very good and doesn't have much in comparison to the museums in Xi'an.

Outside of those things that can be only seen a couple of times, Chengdu is much more developed in its nightlife and infrastructure. The expat community of Chengdu is very developed and often do things for each other. Don't let that turn you off since most places are a good mix of foreigners and local people, so your opportunities of speak Chinese are still very high, you just have to push yourself to not speak English with Chinese people. The subway system goes more places and web-layout of the city makes the traffic smoother. Xi'an traffic is horrible and the ring roads aren't actually ring roads but squares where there at certain intersections you have to turn in order to stay on the ring-road. The pollution of both suck, but Xi'an is (slightly) better.

Both cities have awesome food, but I prefer Sichuan food. When I was in Xi'an I barely ate at any restaurants as there were tons of small stands around in the old city. It's mind-boggling how many good restaurants there are in Chengdu, and I only know one part of town.


There are still a lot of people who cant really speak Putonghua. I found myself in an awkward conversation with an older guy on the train yesterday who couldn't speak Putonghua and despite him calling me "xiongdi" and all I barely understand anything he said.

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Thanks for the replies.  Turns out the shcool I was looking at working with wanted to do something a little dodgy and send me to Xi'an or Chengdu with a Z visa for the wrong city so I'm back to job hunting and looking at alternative cities again.


Currently looking like a choice between Chongqing and Dalian with Tianjin as another possibility!

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