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City to Country? Or Country to City?


Harvey

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Hi guys, I'll be going to China this year.

I plan to stay 3-4 years.

Right now I'm considering goign to school for 1 year in a smaller city, like JILIN or Harbin or something, to learn the language.

After that, I woudl consider moving to Beijing or Shanghai or Dalian to work.

Some peopel tell me it would be better to Study also in the big city, and just take vacations back out into the country to visit.

I figure I should take the chance to live out in the country while I can... because once I try to get a job (i do IT) I'll probbably end up in one of the big cities anyway...

What do you guys think about this?

- Harvey

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Be careful abt those "small" cities. There seems to be some debate abt how small they really are, at least population wise. What is the population of Harbin, anyway?

http://chinaspeaks.sourceofhope.com/2005/11/harbins-population.html

When I was in Harbin residents told me 九百万, or 9 million. Yeah land area is probably a lot smaller than Beijing or Shanghai, but ain't no tiny city. Does anyone know if they've widened the streets in recent years? - seems the rest of China's infrastructure is getting a makeover. When I was in Harbin (6 years ago, seems like yesterday) seemed the streets were impossibly narrow considering how many cars there were - the traffic was AWFUL. ( And it was already snowing 1st day of October)But the people were so friendly and the food was great, and seemed like a good place to learn Mandarin. I was just there 2 months living with a great Chinese family and it really helped my Chinese. I would definitely go back there again if I had a chance. This post not much help with your decision but seeing the words "small" and "Harbin" together brought back a ton of memories.

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When I first arrived in China, I lived on a small island in Zhejiang province. The population of the whole island was about 1 million. It was the BEST experience of my life. I'm currently living in Shanghai studying at University and let me tell you, I miss that island everyday.

There are many pros and cons to living in a small city, however I still believe it's the best option. I learnt so much about traditional Chinese culture, as the were only three foreigners living there at that time. You are forced to use Chinese in order to survive.

Bigger cities like Shanghai are overcrowded, polluted and packed with thieves and swindlers. If you miss foreigners, you can always hop on a bus and go to a big city on the weekends.

Good luck!

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Thanks for all the tips guys.

True, Jilin and Harbin aren't exactly small :-)

Question, are there any small interesting cities anyone could recommend in a Poutonghua speaking area?

My main goal in the first year or two is to really learn Poutonghua, and I want to do it in a place where I can eavesdrop on natives (to borrow language from another thread).

I wouldn't mind hanging in a small remote place for the first year, finding myself, and finding China! Like what dalaowai did... and then later moving to Beijing or Jilin or Harbin to go to one of the bigger language schools to finish off my language education. And THEN moving to Shanghai or Beijing to get a job.

dalaowai: Tell me the story! How and why did you end up on that island!? Were you able to learn Mandarin Chinese there? Did the natives normally speak a minor dialect?

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How many times have we recommended cities to you? Get on the plane already :wink:

To be honest I'm not sure you want to be anywhere smaller than a second-tier city - that will give you the chance to get away from the dangerous language-learning-opportunity-destroying English-speaking foreigners, have reasonable transport links for getting around, and pizza and bar options for when you want them, along with a selection of provincial level universities to chose from for studying. Anything smaller and you risk being in the middle of urban nowhere - I'm not saying don't do it, but speak to people who've been there before first.

Harbin and Qingdao spring to mind as 'interesting' cities, but to be honest life is as interesting as you make it . . .

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Jilin is small enough - and can be rather remote depending on where you end up. I did three years teaching English in Jilin myself before coming to Beijing. Your plan will work out fine, there - one thing to remember is that the millions quoted for population figures include suburbs and satellite cities included in the administrative area. Jilin is supposedly 1.5 million or something, but I'd be surprised if more than 500,000 lived in the city itself; the remainder live in other, smaller population centers in the surrounding districts. If it's still too big for you, once you arrive you could probably have the opportunity to spend lots of your time in one of those other towns, even.

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How many times have we recommended cities to you? Get on the plane already

You guys are hilarious :-) Thanks for all the help though!

Most schools start in Sept, so I think that's about the time I'll be getting on the plane! Right now I'm cramming down as much chinesepod.com as I can before it's time to get up and go.

The trap you described is exactly one of the things I'm trying to avoid roddy! I think we're on the same page. I don't know anything about Qingdao, will do some research, thanks!

I'm also going to try to pull off a teaching while studying at the school gig, and depending on where I get offers it will affect my decision of place to go.

zhwj - 3 years in Jilin! How did you end up in that situation?

Man. Leaving Japan is going to be a -huge- change for me. I hope I can really do it!

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I was in Canada and life was boring and unexciting, therefore I put my resume on the internet on some ESL sites and stated "Anyone who sends me an airplane ticket and have an apartment ready for me, I will leave immediately."

I got replies from various countries and the description of the Chinese island sounded really great. They mailed me the ticket and sponsored my visa. Once I got on the ferry I knew that I had made the right choice. I lived on the main island of 1300+ archipelago (Zhoushan 舟山)and it was truly the most beautiful place I've ever been to.

Inside the school, students and teachers alike only spoke Putonghua, however on the street it was a mix between Zhoushanhua and Putonghua. Zhoushanhua heavily resembles to Shanghaihua.

I would recommend finding a place with few foreigners so that you can really let Chinese culture sink in.

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Actually, I think I'm getting you at least partially mixed up with randall_flagg, who posted these two 1 2 topics, which you might find handy.

I was in Canada and life was boring and unexciting, therefore I put my resume on the internet on some ESL sites and stated "Anyone who sends me an airplane ticket and have an apartment ready for me, I will leave immediately."

Excellent stuff - Harvey, just do the same.

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I was in Canada and life was boring and unexciting, therefore I put my resume on the internet on some ESL sites and stated "Anyone who sends me an airplane ticket and have an apartment ready for me, I will leave immediately."

Excellent stuff - Harvey, just do the same.

That's some hardcore stuff!

One question though. With near zero Chinese background, would you recommend I go somewhere to teach English, and take private lessons in Chinese at the same time... OR... enroll in a language school full time, while teaching English in my free time privately?

Some how, I think that seriously enrolling in a school first will get me on my Chinese feet faster.

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Well, enrolling in school will certainly get you on your feet faster - but then you need to find a school in your small city.

Lushun is small, and very pretty - the topography is fantastic - and it's very near Dalian. But opinion is divided as to whether it's open to foreigners or not - I think there is a sub base there.

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  • 2 weeks later...

You know. I just realized I hate cold weather.

I imagine that most places in China where people speak putonghua on the street... are freakin cold.

Dalian is cold right? Harbin is Freakin Freezing right? Beijing isn't exactly warm...

I guess if I go south I'll end up in 四川 or something and around heavy dialects right?

What to do what to do.

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Dart. Map. Blindfold. Throw. Sorted.

You aren't going to get a warm winter and crystal clear putonghua together, but bear in mind that the parts of China that don't have very cold winters have damp, overcast, fairly cold winters, and less efficient heating. Harbin in winter is great fun.

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Speaking as someone who lives where it get's almost as cold as Harbin (Minnesota, USA), the easiest way to get used to the colder weather is to arrive when it's warm, and let the body adapt as the days get colder.

Some diet changes help, and wear layered clothing too.

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hehe. Harbin is a bit colder than Minnesota, I think, but I'm not letting it stop me. You're going to be inside writing characters for most of the day, anyway.

You can learn Mandarin anywhere in China (Taiwan is a nice, warm island), but if you're really going to study (and not to bar hop) then it's the right choice.

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  • 3 weeks later...

大家好,

I've been considering Dalian and Harbin. I'm giving up because I really want to learn Mandarin, even though I told myself no more cold weather after I moved from Cleveland, Ohio (shudder). What Universities do you have any experience with in these cities? If you could provide links to their English websites, you'd be a godsend.

谢谢你们。

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This is not a direct link to the websites of the universities you mention, but it does give you lots of info about univs in the towns you mention - in fact it probably gives you more info than the univ websites themselves. Just click on the univ pages on the left-hand toolbar.

http://www.hyccchina.com/english/araq/index.htm

P.S. This is the website of the company I run - set up precisely for the kind of people like the thread-starter. Hope the info on it is useful to people.

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