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Jan Finster

Best place to study in the winter for a month?

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Jan Finster

I plan to do a 1-1 intensive month in December in China. (as much as I would like to go in spring or summer, it has to be December for several reasons...). I do not want to go to cities with lots of smog (e.g. Beijing, Shanghai...) and I do not want to freeze my ass off indoors. I wonder if you can help me decide where to go and/or answer some of the following questions:

 

Here are my thoughts so far:

1) Kunming (?): 

Sounds nice (eternal spring), but temperatures seem to be around 3-15C and I read heating is not guaranteed (?) Is there, for instance, heating in schools like Keats (dorms and classroom)?

What is Kunming like in December?

 

2) Dali or Lijiang (?):

-The only school I have found is here:https://learnchineseinyunnan.com/locations/

Does anybody have any experience with this school?

-What is Dali and Lijiang like in December? Heating problem? Overcrowded by Chinese tourists vs dead boring? 

 

3) Hainan (?)

Weather looks nice but I have not found any language schools that were recommended. Any suggestions?

 

4) Xiamen (?)

Smog levels are supposed to be low and the weather looks nice but I have not found any language schools that were recommended. Any suggestions?

 

5) Harbin (?)

Sounds like hard-core winter and if prepared and heating is avaiable may be OK. I just wonder if I would enjoy staying there for a month in winter (??). Any language school suggestions?

 

Other suggestions...???

 

Thanks! :)

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thechamp

Personally I would go with Yangshuo. It's quite warm and there are a couple of language schools there and lots of tourisity things to do (rock climbing, Chinese cookery, boat trips, hikes etc).

 

There are also a lot of restaurants there (touristic town) and bars and things. Also the foreigners there are pretty quirky!

 

Because it's touristic the level of English is not as bad as some places of a similar size.

 

I prepped for my HSK 5 there, in 2014, for a month. I did HSK 5 preparation classes at a school called Omeida. It was decent and not too expensive. I passed

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Jan Finster
20 minutes ago, thechamp said:

Personally I would go with Yangshuo. It's quite warm and there are a couple of language schools there and lots of tourisity things to do (rock climbing, Chinese cookery, boat trips, hikes etc).

Thanks for the suggestion. What is the situation regarding temperature and availability of heating. I read it is kind of the wet cold (bone chilling?) (?) Is rock climbing and hiking realistic in winter?

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zhouhaochen

I work for LTL Mandarin School, so please keep that in mind!

 

If the main concern is to not freeze indoors and Beijing and Shanghai are out, my recommendations would be these three cities (we have schools in all of them, which might have something to do why I recommend them, but we mainly have schools there because I do think that they are very good places to learn Mandarin):

 

1) Chengde: very warm inside, but definitely cold outside (though nowhere close to as cold as Harbin). This is a complete immersion experience though, so this is definitely not for everyone. Chinese Forums thread on https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/44346-learning-chinese-in-chengde-ltl-chengde-reviews-discussions-and-information/?tab=comments#comment-331298 or the website https://ltl-school.com/immersion/

 

2) Taibei: I actually havent spent a winter in Taibei yet, so I can personally comment on the heating situation, but it is a developed city and when I visited last winter my AirBnB was very warm. December temperatures are between 15 and 21 degrees according to google. The environment and air quality is also very good. https://ltl-taiwan.com/

We also just started a threat about it on here about our Taibei school, but not much useful has been said yet unfortunately https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58498-ltl-mandarin-school-taiwan-taibei/

 

3) Beihai: 13-21 degrees average temperature in the winter, so like all Southern Chinese cities there is no central heating. So you would use the air-con and an electric heater.

www.ltl-beihai.com

 

If it was me, I would go to Chengde, but I like the whole snow and cold winter thing (Christmas at a beach in the sun wouldnt feel right to me), but if you are considering Harbin, you clearly arent too afraid of winter. Also I am a big fan of complete Chinese immersion, but thats definitely not for everyone so if this fits for you I dont know.

 

As a long term Beijinger, I would also like to say that air quality in Beijing has improved significantly over the last few years - though admittedly its still not that great.

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Jan Finster
10 minutes ago, zhouhaochen said:

2) Taibei: I actually havent spent a winter in Taibei yet, so I can personally comment on the heating situation, but it is a developed city and when I visited last winter my AirBnB was very warm. December temperatures are between 15 and 21 degrees according to google. The environment and air quality is also very good. https://ltl-taiwan.com/

We also just started a threat about it on here about our Taibei school, but not much useful has been said yet unfortunately https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58498-ltl-mandarin-school-taiwan-taibei/

 

3) Beihai: 13-21 degrees average temperature in the winter, so like all Southern Chinese cities there is no central heating. So you would use the air-con and an electric heater.

www.ltl-beihai.com

 

Thank you so much for the suggestions.

I was considering Taiwan, but since I am learning simplified hanzi, I was concerned about getting confused with traditional hanzi, differences in some tones, accent and the like (??)

Also, I realised the "same" 1:1 class in Taiwan is significantly more expensive than in Beihai (!?)

 

Beihai sounds nice. If I am not mistaken however, people on the street speak Cantonese (?) So, the immersion aspect would be somewhat lost (?)

 

 

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DavyJonesLocker
14 minutes ago, zhouhaochen said:

 

If the main concern is to not freeze indoors and Beijing and Shanghai are out,

 

Do LTL not provide heating in  their schools? Haha 😎

Beijing has no issues regarding heating in the winter . Your places are pretty modern right?

 

I've avoid Beijing in the winter and Harbin unless you want to see the ice festival but that's just one or two days. 

Still great to see. 

Beijing winter  pollution as mentioned  above has improved a lot but its still pretty grim here . 

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zhouhaochen

@DavyJonesLocker

1 hour ago, Jan Finster said:

I do not want to go to cities with lots of smog (e.g. Beijing, Shanghai...) and I do not want to freeze my ass off indoors.

sorry I phrased that maybe a bit wrong. I was referring to the fact that the OP said that he didnt want to go to Beijing or Shanghai so that they are out. Especially Beijing indeed is very well heated (including our school, which is in the middle of the Central Business District with central heating🤩).

 

@Jan Finster Yes, Beihai is a lot cheaper, because costs are much lower than in Taibei or other bigger cities. So thats one of the great things about studying in a smaller, less known place: you can get a lot more bang for your buck. Like all of Southern China, Beihai is not a Mandarin speaking city originally, however due to the great influx of Northern "climate refugees" Mandarin is the predominant language in Beihai now. However Cantonese is still alive and kicking there, so while the Mandarin level is higher than in most other places in Southern China, it is definitely not as widely spoken as in Chengde or Beijing.

For Taiwan, yes the traditional characters are quite a big difference - however I wouldnt say not one that cannot be overcome. You are of course free to learn any kind of character you want, but in the streets you will only find traditional characters. For me personally, I get used to the traditional after about a week in Taiwan, so its not a bit issue.

The Mandarin in Taibei is more "Southern“ but still very standard (Many Taiwanese people would in fact tell you that is it "the standard Mandarin"). Taiwanhua (or Hokkien/Fujianhua/Minnanyu) is still spoken by the older generation quite a bit as well, though in Taibei everyone knows Mandarin.

Its a lovely place (I am there at the moment and loving it).

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thechamp

I was there for August into September and I think took my exam in Shenzhen in October. I then moved to Shenzhen to work.

 

Whilst living in Shenzhen I went back a few times to climb (I had a few friends living there teaching english and climbing etc or studying chinese/bumming around rock climbing etc).

 

It was not really cold at all and totally fine to climb. I even swam without a wetsuit in the river there in (I think) November.

 

Although I'm English and I surf in the Atlantic so maybe I'm used to the cold more than someone from e.g. Spain. I would actually say though that the summer there is really too hot to climb (if you're on a South facing crag). As soon as you get above the tree line it's insanely hot and you sweat so much your grip suffers.

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abcdefg
21 hours ago, Jan Finster said:

1) Kunming (?): 

Sounds nice (eternal spring), but temperatures seem to be around 3-15C and I read heating is not guaranteed (?) Is there, for instance, heating in schools like Keats (dorms and classroom)?

What is Kunming like in December?

 

Usually blue sky and very pleasant in December here. Dress appropriately, indoors and out, and you will find it comfortable. Very seldom snows. 

 

No indoor heating here, homes nor schools. Not at Keats, not in restaurants, not anywhere. Easy to adapt if you set your mind to it. Lots to do here. Good place to live or spend a month. 

 

Lijiang is higher. Colder with quite a bit more snow. Dali is more or less the same as Kunming. 

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DavyJonesLocker
10 minutes ago, abcdefg said:

 

No indoors heating, homes nor schools

 

Do people not install their own central heating? I.e. gas combo boiler?

Is what I have here in Beijing 

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abcdefg
2 minutes ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

Do people not install their own central heating? I.e. gas combo boiler?

 

No. Not needed unless you are an invalid. 

 

 

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889

But I've found that in hotels these days -- including hotels in S China -- you'll nearly always get a dual A/C unit for heat in winter and cool in summer. Even in fairly basic hotels.

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abcdefg
38 minutes ago, 889 said:

But I've found that in hotels these days -- including hotels in S China -- you'll nearly always get a dual A/C unit for heat in winter and cool in summer. Even in fairly basic hotels.

 

Yes, that's true and it drives me nuts. Some official sends out a memo in the middle of November and all the hotel heaters in the province turn on. They don't go off again until sometime in March, regardless of whether it's cold or hot outside. The individual room thermostat seldom works. I always pray to heaven that I'll get a room with window which can be opened. 

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Jan Finster
2 hours ago, abcdefg said:

No indoor heating here, homes nor schools. Not at Keats, not in restaurants, not anywhere. Easy to adapt if you set your mind to it. Lots to do here. Good place to live or spend a month. 

 

Thanks for your personal account. 

 

Hmmm... Does "proper clothes" include sitting indoor with a winter cap and keeping your coat on in restaurants?

 

Kunming was my personal favorite, but I really dislike the cold indoors and especially when I sit all day in class, I tend to get cold more easily. I guess  my personal comfort zone indoors is above 17C and I would still be wearing three layers at 17C...

 

3 hours ago, thechamp said:

Although I'm English and I surf in the Atlantic so maybe I'm used to the cold more than someone from e.g. Spain.

 

Thanks! Yeah, I will take it with a grain of salt (I have seen Brits wearing flip flops and shorts at New Years Eve in the UK when it was below 5C... 😉

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abcdefg
21 minutes ago, Jan Finster said:

Hmmm... Does "proper clothes" include sitting indoor with a winter cap and keeping your coat on in restaurants?

 

Yes, afraid so. 

 

21 minutes ago, Jan Finster said:

Kunming was my personal favorite, but I really dislike the cold indoors and especially when I sit all day in class, I tend to get cold more easily. I guess  my personal comfort zone indoors is above 17C and I would still be wearing three layers at 17C...

 

I don't think you would be happy in Kunming. (Or Dali or Lijiang.) 

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snowflake

While you're not keen on Taiwan, there are schools in cities like Taichung and Kaohsuing where the accommodations are less expensive and they also have material with simplified characters. When I was looking at going there for classes, was targeting Taichung....that was a while back so cannot suggest any particular schools. 

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thechamp

Yeah I'd second that. I lived in Taiwan for two years (but separated by a year in Sichuan) and Taiwan satisfies your requirement for warm/mild weather and there are some very cheap places outside of Taipei. It really depends on what your level is like and what kind of level you want to get to. If you want to get to a pretty high standard then you'll almost certainly end up learning traditional characters as well, so might as well start now!

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Jan Finster
15 minutes ago, thechamp said:

Yeah I'd second that. I lived in Taiwan for two years (but separated by a year in Sichuan) and Taiwan satisfies your requirement for warm/mild weather and there are some very cheap places outside of Taipei

 

Yes, it looks like it narrows down to Taiwan, Beihai, Xiamen....

 

Yes, Taiwan does sound like a reasonable choice. Do you have any suggestions regarding cheaper and good language schools outside of Taipei?

 

I am also still open to suggestions about language schools in Xiamen (!?)

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thechamp

Can you be a bit clearer about your level of Chinese and your ultimate goals with it? If you're pretty advanced you could live somewhere very cheap in a small town and then just get a tutor. Bring your own materials and study with the tutor and ask questions a couple of hours a day, and self-study textbooks/films/TV shows the rest of the time. If you're a beginner this would be hugely impractical, however, because you won't be able to get around/buy food/find a place to stay etc

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Jan Finster
42 minutes ago, thechamp said:

Can you be a bit clearer about your level of Chinese and your ultimate goals with it? If you're pretty advanced you could live somewhere very cheap in a small town and then just get a tutor. Bring your own materials and study with the tutor and ask questions a couple of hours a day, and self-study textbooks/films/TV shows the rest of the time.

 

Great idea. This would make me independant of language schools.

 

About my level: since I am not folllowing a structured programme, it is difficult to determine. Until December I should know the vocabulary and grammar of HSK 4 and hopefully 25-50% of HSK 5 vocabulary. Speaking skills are still pretty elementary, but with the help of my online tutor I will hopefully reach HSK 3 speaking level until December.

 

With private tutors it is a bit trial and error (?) Also, I would ideally like to study with someone, who has a teaching qualification in Chinese as a second language. I hope such people are better at picking up mistakes and explaining things than a random native speaker.

 

So, the big question is how do I find a good tutor in Taiwan, Hainan, Xiamen and the like? 

 

Another idea I had was to ditch the whole "immersion" aspect this time (since December sounds suboptimal). Instead I could stay in Thailand at a beach and take online Chinese lessons for 4-6 hours a day and study 2-4 hours at the beach by myself. I wonder how inferior such a non-immersion trip would be (?) 

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