My First month in 天津
I can’t believe it’s the end of 九月 already! This last month has been a bit of a whirlwind -settling into my new life in 天津. For the first two weeks we had no classes, so we had loads of time to explore 天津and try as many new things as possible.
One of the first things I did was decorate my room with pictures, cards and fairy lights to make our room feel a little more like home. I’m really surprised at how big the rooms are – much bigger than my room at home, and the en-suite bathroom is also quite a luxury for me!
From the start of our free time we quickly got the hang of the subway (地铁), which is a really cheap way to explore the city. Every journey is between 2 and 4 元 which, when changed from 元 to £, is less than 50p! We made the most of our time by visiting some of the most famous tourist spots in 天津; including the Ancient culture street (古文化街 ), the Tianjin Eye (天津之眼) and the Italian quarter (天津意式风情街)。In 古文化街I tried these amazing little potatoes (土豆) [pictured below] I will definitely be going back just for those!
Eating food from different places every day is improving my Mandarin so quickly. As a vegetarian I have to go through quite a few things to find a meat-free dish and also explain sometimes that chicken counts as meat! One of the most important words I have learnt so far is 素菜 (sùcài) which means a vegetable dish. Saying that, I’m quite surprised at how easy it is to be vegetarian in China! There is always at least one option for me.
Before we started classes, we had a test to determine what level of 中文 we had already, despite doing Higher Mandarin I found it quite difficult. I’m very excited to see how much my 普通话 improves over the next 10 months！Currently this is what my timetable looks like, it changes slightly depending what class you are in but we all have the same contact hours.
The classes are quite small compared to in Scotland, about 15 people, but it’s perfect as we get to know our teachers really well. During the first week we were all given Chinese names 中文名字based on the pronunciation of our English names. Honestly this is something that I have been so excited about! 我的中文名字是艾伦 (àilún)。你有中文名字吗？
It has been really busy this last week getting all of our admin done: applying for bank accounts and residency permits but the ease of paying with Alipay makes all the stress worth it! I have still to make my first Taobao purchase, but I’ll update you on that in my next blog post. The most exciting purchase I’ve made with Alipay is definitely hiring bikes(自行车). It cost me 20 元 (just over £2）to rent a bike for 30 days! I was a bit nervous cycling on the Chinese roads for the first time due to their size and the number of vehicles. However, I actually now feel safer cycling in China compared to 苏格兰. The bike lanes are about the same size as the car lanes and the cars are never going that fast. Although I have had a few near misses with other bikes and mopeds!
One of my worries before making this massive move was finding a Catholic church in Tianjin. I had done some research back home and found the closest one was St. Joseph’s Cathedral which is a 40-minute walk away from our accommodation, very different from my 2-minute walk to St. Joseph’s in Clarkston! I didn’t realise until I actually got here and started using the 地铁 that it is only 2 stops away (about 10 minutes) which is very convenient. It is such a beautiful cathedral and it feels like home already!
Hopefully you can tell that I am having the most amazing time in 天津，and I can’t wait to share more of this incredible experience with you! If there is anything in particular you want to hear more about, please let me know.