“Beyond the Great Firewall of China” – Living and Studying in Suzhou Pt. 2
Posted on: 19 January 2017 by Jenika Pankhania in 2016/17
Part two of Jenika Pankhania's insight in to Suzhou life
Perhaps one of the greatest realities I experienced during my first trip to China was when I realised just how big the country was.
This may be the best thing about China because coupled with the fantastic transport links and the fact that it’s the 3rd largest country in the world, is what makes China such a wonderful place to explore, very easily and cheaply – which is great for us students!
The Chinese population itself is made up of 56 ethnic groups each with their own customs and traditions. Not only this but China is home to a vast range of regional diversity from weather, culture, language and food.
One of the great things about China is how cheap everything is compared to the West. The fact that you can go from one side of Suzhou to the other for just 30p on the bus and buy a chicken and rice dish for 80p would just not happen anywhere else!
This also means my living costs are considerably less than living in Liverpool therefore meaning I have more money to pursue my interest in travelling.
China’s rich history and culture means that there are many national days and holidays throughout the year providing ample opportunities to travel within and outside of China.
My dream of living in China also became a reality when I felt the full force of the Great Firewall of China and couldn’t access Snapchat to send my aeroplane selfie. Nevertheless, that didn’t change the fact that I was in one of the greatest countries.
Instead I learnt that WeChat would now become my most used app, as I quickly observed the wonders of this 5-year-old cross-platform app. Multilingual in 52 languages it’s an all in one Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Uber, Deliveroo and live map!
Best of all this powerful app also has the ability to support payment and money transfers meaning you can use it almost everywhere to pay for things.
Having to eat a meal without a knife and fork and instead a pair of chopsticks felt like an impossible and unfamiliar task at first, but when there’s a will there’s a way, especially when you’re presented with such beautifully looking and tasting food.
Before you know it you’ll be fluent in Mandarin, although your favourite phrase will always be “tài guì le” as you’ll quickly notice as you learn the art of bartering with the market sellers.
I think it’s fair to say that life in China is very culturally different to that of the West but that’s what makes it such an interesting place to live and study.