Which City should you study in?

China is a gigantic country with 22 provinces. Foreigners from all over the world are attracted to China and learning Chinese. However, the question that poses on everyone’s lips before they make the great leap to China is; which city is the best city. Truthfully, there is no best city only the place for you.

Before you pack your bags and run out the door on the next flight to China, list down what it is you want from The Middle Kingdom.

-How long will you be in China?

-How fluent do you want to be in the language when you leave?

-Which dialect of Chinese do you want to learn? Standard Chinese, Guangdonghua?

-Do you prefer the city life or the country life?

-Do you appreciate ancient history, old buildings?

-Can you handle long, cold winters? What about snow?

These are just some basic questions, but they will help jumpstart your way to finding out which city is the right fit for you.

Beijing versus Shanghai

The most popular cities where foreigners tend to gravitate towards to are Beijing and Shanghai. However, both these cities are opposites to each other.

If you Google which city is the best to study Chinese in China, a majority of the links will say the capital Beijing, however it depends on your preferences. While Shanghai speaks the Standard Chinese or Putonghua like Beijing, there is a slight difference in their accent. Shanghai has their dialect, Shanghainese and many Shanghai people talk Guangdonghua.

Beijing is considered a university town filled with some of the country’s best universities like Peking University and Tsinghua University. Other top universities like Fudan University and Jiaotong University can be found in Shanghai.

The best time to be in Beijing is during the Fall where you can watch the leaves turn golden. As Beijing is surrounded by wide mountain ranges, the city has dry, frigid winters and hot summers. If you cannot live in minus degrees or high temperatures, Beijing might not be the city for you.

Shanghai is located further south beside the East China Sea, which means there is more humidity in the air with longer summers. Shanghai will have less pollution than Beijing as wind and rain will come in from the neighboring sea wiping it away.

For those who love to party, Beijing has a simple nightlife. Limited to Sanlitun, Wudaokou and Houhai, the bars & clubs have reasonably priced drinks and great music. Shanghai has a larger nightlife than Beijing with bars & clubs scattered all over the city.

If you appreciate a more cultured city filled with museums and old historical sites like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, then Beijing is the city for you. However, if you prefer a cosmopolitan lifestyle, Shanghai is right up you alley.

Cities versus towns

If you’re looking into integrating yourself into the Chinese culture and language, you could perhaps look to move to a smaller town instead of a city. Cities like Beijing, Shanghai and even Guangzhou have become quite westernized and the culture shock is small. In most occasions, foreigners tend to gravitate towards each other and find themselves not practicing their Chinese often.

Going into smaller cities like Chengdu, Kunming or Xi’An gives you the chance to live more locally as foreigners have not yet discovered them yet. Of course, settling in smaller cities might be a lot tougher due to the cultural differences. You won’t have the comfort of finding fast food restaurants, and it will be hard to make friends if you don’t speak the language. Although with patience and determination, you will be able to push through and enjoy the simple yet happy life.

Amongst locals in smaller cities, you will be treated like royalty as foreigners speaking Chinese are not ordinary. If you speak English, you will find young, educated Chinese are eager to make friends with you in hopes to learn the language and have an opportunity to go overseas.

There are plenty of smaller cities to look for; of course it all depends on what your preferences are. If you are not a winter person, look for the cities in the South and vice-versa.

Choosing that city to live in is not easy but for those who are brave to immerse themselves into China will find the rewards to be undeniable. You would have learned the different ways of seeing a culture that has been innovative throughout its time.


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