I have now been living in China for 2 months, easing into my classes, getting to know the city, and becoming more comfortable with life in Tianjin. I am now used to the half past six start and the crazy public transport. My level of Chinese is proficient enough to politely ask for a canteen meal and do my shopping and I have joined a taekwondo club, a choir, and help with an English class on a Sunday morning. I can’t believe it has been 2 months already; so much has happened that time has simply flown by. I always catch myself by surprise that I am living so comfortably here as though it was home.
Tianjin is a beautiful city, never short of places to explore, and buildings and scenery to be awestruck by. The university campus is such an interesting place too, swarmed with foreign students who bring a variety of different cultures and languages. I had never considered that living here would open me up not only to Chinese culture but would allow me to be immersed in the culture of all the other foreign students coming here to learn Chinese. I have been amazed at how easy it is to make friends here in the international building by just practicing simple Chinese in the lift, such as “Ni hao, ni shi na guo ren?” (“Hi, where are you from?”).
We love our international friends. They are all slightly mad in their own way, but I now don’t know what life in China would be without them. We celebrated the Autumn Moon Festival with our Chinese friends who are both English majors and come from the south of China, swapping mooncakes and stories about festivals and traditions. Our Korean friend (whose English name is “Johnny Depp”) gave us Korean names – mine is pronounced “Seung-a”. Our Chinese friends who study Japanese at the university we live at, have taken us to many different places, Chinese Karaoke ‘KTV’, HaideLai hot pot, a nearby Japanese restaurant and the large shopping centre ‘Joy City’. Steven and our Japanese friend Lillie celebrated a joint birthday together at an Italian restaurant, and they taught us how to say “’itadakimasu” (the phrase spoken by Japanese people before eating). Meanwhile, we have been introducing our friends to a good bit of Scottish culture, allowing them to try our secret stashes of shortbread and tablet and teaching them to say “haud yer wheesht” and “I canny dae it”, phrases they now love to say!
We also had a great time celebrating Halloween, and despite the fact that the festival isn’t widely celebrated in China, all the Scots turned up in full costume, introducing our friends to the Halloween festivities for the first time. Rowen and I even handed out goody bags to our friends and admittedly spent a while perfecting our costumes (Her as Lilo and Stitch and me as a jellyfish…). We even managed to rustle up a last minute costume for our friend Johnny!
Overall, I am loving life here. There’s a lot to get used to, but I see my Mandarin improve with every interaction and it is the people here – Chinese, Scottish and other nationalities – that make me feel so at home.