Life and Culture


Upon returning from our various October holiday travels, we were shocked to discover that the weather in Tianjin (天津的天气) had changed dramatically. We went from wearing T-shirt’s and summer dresses to jeans jumpers and scarfs practically overnight. However this drop in temperature has not stopped us from exploring our city by any means! One of the most convenient ways to get around Tianjin is by bicycle, and despite not having ridden a bike in Scotland since about the age of 6 (and admittedly never without stabilisers), exploring the city by bike has became one of my new favourite pass times! Chinese roads although constantly busy are actually very well designed for bikes, and it’s a good thing they are because it’s one of the most popular modes of transport here. Everywhere you go there are rows and rows of bikes to hire such as Alipay, Mobike, Meituan, and more. For most of these services you pay a mere 15 yuan (less than £2) a month, and you can use the bikes whenever and wherever you want. Then when you’re done you just park it up in one of the designated bike spots and walk off!

I’ve totally taken advantage of this when trying to find new places to eat and things to do, as it just makes getting around so much more convenient.

While exploring this month we stumbled upon a tiny little restaurant which serves cheap and tasty food and is owned by a lovely little lady that we all refer to as 桃阿姨 (peach auntie), as she’s so kind to us and runs around making sure we have everything we need and more. Last week she even invited us over to make dumplings with her which was so exciting as dumplings always seem to taste so much better when you’ve made them yourself! I also learned that the verb for making dumplings is 包 (bāo- to wrap) 饺子, which I think is very cute because it’s quite similar to the word for hug 抱 (baò). The dumplings were so delicious, I’ll definitely be attempting them when I get home!

Some photos of us and 桃阿姨’s family^

We also had the opportunity to experience some more of Tianjin’s history and culture as our teacher decided to take us on a class trip to the museum. It was very interesting, especially as there is a whole floor dedicated to the history of the past 100 years in Tianjin. There was also a photography exhibit which I loved as it focused mainly on Chinese people and food, and featured lots of happy smiling faces from around Tianjin. I’ve put some of the photos below, try and spot Colin attempting to be as happy as the little old man with no teeth!

With the weather getting colder and the days getting shorter, I was beginning to miss one thing in particular- Homemade soup. Usually in Scotland it would get to this time of year and in our house there would constantly be a fresh pot of homemade broth or something every few days. And so, after searching multiple food markets for the right ingredients and ordering OXO vegetable stock cubes off of Taobao (you really CAN get anything on there!!) I was able to make a big pot of vegetable broth in the Chinese equivalent of a small slow cooker. This was to become the first of many such pots as lots of the other scholars could relate to the need for an autumn soup, and loved the fact that it tasted just like home. We even managed to find some (albeit a little expensive) baguette bread to go with it!

On a completely other cultural note from Scotland OR China, this month I also had the opportunity to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali with one of our Indian friends, Gautami. We spent the day eating Indian food, doing henna on each other and drawing traditional Diwali lamps. It was so interesting to learn about yet another culture, and it reminded me of just how lucky I am to be in such a diverse international community environment.

^try and guess which of these henna was my own very shaky first attempt!

November is now just around the corner and it’s crazy to think I’ve spent 2 months in 中国 already. But with mid-term exams, my 18th birthday, a Ceilidh and the St. Andrews ball in Beijing to look forward to, I’m excited to see what new challenges November will bring.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite discoveries this month, a ton of Heinz baked beans found in a tiny international shop not even 5 minutes cycle away from where we live.