Chengdu Vs Xiamen





Here are a few differences which I found between Chengdu and Xiamen. Because Chengdu is situated in the West of China, while Xiamen is in the East, it has a more Westernised feel to it.

People walk much faster in Xiamen. Chengdu is known as being a relaxed city… they actually walk too slow sometimes!

Because Chengdu has an army of street cleaners and sweepers, it’s really quite a clean city, whereas Xiamen is unfortunately much dirtier. It’s a shame; the weather is great and it’s such a touristy place, you would imagine they would keep it cleaner.

Xiamen is definitely more expensive. Rent is also ridiculously expensive… but also food and drink also costs more than Chengdu. Also, during the Summer, they increase the prices of things for tourists. We got charged more for bananas we bought at a stall because we were ‘tourists’.

I was really surprised to find out that there were not many foreigners in Xiamen. Instead it was bustling with Chinese tourists, mainly from Taiwan. I heard that many Westerners leave Xiamen during the summer, but to me it was strange not to see many. There are increasingly more Western people coming to Chengdu, so you are bound to see one now and again.

Because Chengdu is in the West, the people there are kind of sheltered from the influences of the Western culture. This means that they are still sort of surprised when they see a Western person. They would rather shout “HALLO” to you when they have actually passed you….instead of saying it directly to you. In Xiamen, they are definitely not afraid to try and speak English to you. They are braver.

I thought Chengdu had a lot of fruit.. but Xiamen definitely has more.. and it’s more delicious! The mangos are huge…. and they have a much nicer juicier taste. Also the bananas taste much better.

I think because many Chinese tourists visit Xiamen, both myself and my boyfriend have noticed that the Chinese people there look different to the people in Chengdu. In Chengdu, they have rounder faces (I think anyway), whereas in Xiamen, they have a different looking face. I’m not sure how to explain it, but a lot of women have more oval faces… they just look different to Chengdu people. I’m guessing it’s because there are a different mix of people in Xiamen.

Chengdu is overflowing with e-bikes, we also have one too…. because they are just so handy and cheap to get around with, and because the ground is flat, e-bikes are everywhere. In Xiamen, there are not as many. I think Xiamen has a different regulation with having an e-bike, so not as many people have them. From what I’ve seen, it’s usually just for people who have a business; so they can transport their goods easier.

I missed Sichuan food so much in Xiamen! And no Hot-Pot to be seen! For people who don’t know what Hot-Pot is, it’s a large pot with simmering oil and spices. You put different food into it to cook it in the spicy oil; like  sliced potatoes, boiled eggs, meat. It’s great to eat during the Winter. In Xiamen, there was no Hot-Pot restaurant to be seen. That is one thing that I will miss if I move to Xiamen.

Coming from Sichuan, where most of the food is spicy…to eating sweet food from Xiamen is quite strange! They prefer to eat food that is more sweet in taste. The food really reminded me of the Chinese food I would get from our Chinese take-away shop in Ireland. The taste is really similar. In Xiamen you could order ‘Sweet & Sour Pork’, whereas in Chengdu you would never see that on the menu. Also, the food in Xiamen is not as oily as in Sichuan. Sichuan food can be too oily sometimes.

One thing that really surprised me was that shops in Xiamen would play Western English music. It was so weird to hear! In Chengdu, you rarely hear English music… they always have Chinese music playing in the background. I’m not a huge fan of Chinese music… so it was nice to hear English music being played in shops.

There are too many people in Chengdu! Everywhere you walk there are people. Compared to Chengdu, Xiamen is so so quiet! You could walk in a park and not meet one person the entire time. It was great walking around the island.

No Tea-houses in Xiamen. We were walking in a park and I noticed ‘Huh… there are no tea-houses here’. In Chengdu, you could find 4/5 of them in one park; people sitting for hours drinking tea and chatting or playing Mahjong. In Xiamen however, this tradition simply doesn’t exit.

Those are some differences that I noticed between the two cities… If I remember any more I will add them.

Xiamen is a much more beautiful than Chengdu, but Chengdu has more charm I think. It is more traditional and has kept more of it’s old culture than Xiamen. Xiamen has become more Westernised. I love both places in different ways!



Checking Out Xiamen

The flights are paid for and the hostel is booked, so it wont be long until we check out our (maybe) future city where we plan to move to. Having had our eye on Xiamen for a while, we decided the summer is the best time to visit, with us going on a little trip with our friends to Western Sichuan, then with my boyfriends sis and boyfriend visiting in August, it was now or never.

Because Uni finishes the 24th of June, we decided to travel the 27th for a few days. We can see the city, check out the weather, food, environment, apartments, and where we may be working at. From what I’ve seen, it looks very nice, and we have gotten in touch with 2 people who already live there and they are very positive about the city, so I hope we will enjoy it too. Although I know for certain that apartments are much more expensive than Chengdu.

What’s also good is that there are direct flights from Amsterdam straight to Xiamen, so only a short flight from Dublin to Amsterdam, then plain sailing to Xiamen. That’s definitely good… especially when my family comes to visit one day.

But if this city isn’t up to what we expected, I suppose we’ll just have to research more about another city that takes our fancy. Ideally we would like somewhere that has Western supermarkets like Metro, Carrefour and the likes, the winters aren’t especially cold… oh and good weather!

When the weather is good in Chengdu, there aren’t very many places to go and enjoy it, unless you have the opportunity of being able to get onto the roof of your building. Or you have a balcony, which we don’t.  When you go to a park, masses of people are there… so every seat is taken. Plus, every one of these seats will of course be in the shade. Damn it, I’m from Ireland, we don’t get ANY sun, let me enjoy it in Chengdu at least!

Furthermore, my boyfriend is from Mexico where the weather is great, so he really isn’t keen on the weather here.

So our time here in Chengdu is ticking away… and just maybe I might be posting from Xiamen next year.



My visit to Hangzhou.

Since my last post, we have travelled east to Hangzhou. Because I have been in a bubble in western China, when I came here, I now realise how vastly different western and eastern China are. I’ve become used to Chengdu’s life, with its more laid back style, it’s more traditional shops and restaurants. I now realise how much more modern eastern China is! Although I’ve been to Beijing, I couldn’t compare it to Chengdu as I didn’t visit it yet, but now I see it!

There is a saying ‘In heaven there is paradise, on earth there is Hangzhou.’ I must say, there is a truth to it. My Chinese friends would ask me ‘Where are you going during Spring Festival?’ I say Hangzhou, with the reply ‘Hangzhou is a beautiful city’. And it is. The city is modern, the buildings are nice, the weather is much better than Chengdu. The famous West Lake is iconic in the city. There are beautiful walkways along the lake. A vast expanse of mountains where you can hike and visit pagodas and temples. For those who like hiking, this is a perfect place to do it.

For foreigners, this is a city for us. A lot of restaurants have English, or at least pictures. There are bikes to rent all over the city so it’s a lot handier to travel around the city. A lot of signs have English. In comparison to Chengdu, it’s a city that is more foreigner friendly. This is because it is a major city to visit with regards to both Chinese and foreigners.

We have been here about 7 days and within those days, we didn’t even see half the things that are here. Our last few days we are going to relax and prepare for our trip back to Chengdu.

There is a certain charm to the city, and I think its a great place to visit. It is close to Shanghai, Suzhou and a 5 hour train ride to Beijing, meaning you can visit many more places around the city.
In Chengdu, we are limited to only one other major city to visit, Chongqing.

So here is a list of the good and bad that I’ve experienced from Hangzhou.

1. Restaurants (usually) have English menus. There is also a variety of different food on offer, from Hangzhou, Muslim (Xinjiang province) and Korean.

2. There are many cultural places to visit; West Lake, Hefang Street, Wuzhen Water Town, Six Harmonies Pagoda among many many more.

3. Rent bikes from stalls found all over the city.

4. Beautiful scenery around the Lake and the mountains.

5. Close to Suzhou and Shanghai.

6. Good drivers. We were so surprised that drivers actually stop for us when we are crossing the road. Drivers are much more patient, much less honking of the horn, and generally they are better drivers.

7. More conscientious about the environment. There are blue busses that are electric, and I have seen some electric cars also. It’s nice to see that somewhere in China they are thinking about the environment.

8. The city is quite small, with around 7 million people,  meaning it is easier to travel to more places.

1. People are not the friendliest. From my impression, the staff in restaurants and shops aren’t very polite or helpful. Maybe this was because it was Spring Festival, I’m not sure. In Chengdu, because there aren’t as many foreigners, we are treated with more respect. In Hangzhou, I’m sure they see a lot more of us. You won’t get many smiles in Hangzhou.

2. It is more expensive. This is seen especially in restaurants where the food is dearer. A 2 person meal in Chengdu would cost between 40-60 yuan, whereas in Hangzhou, it would be 100 yuan and upwards.

3. More foreigners. Although some people may like this, I personally don’t. I like the more authentic experience of living in China with Chinese people, and not bumping into foreigners all the time.

4. During the spring festival, the traffic was MAD, and there were Chinese people everywhere! But this was during the spring festival so It wont be as bad during normal times.

Although we planned on visiting Shanghai, we decided not to. During this time, it is too busy with people travelling and it would much harder to get train tickets. Also, we booked our hostel for 10 days, meaning if we stayed in Shanghai for a night, we would have lost money in our Hangzhou hostel.

But it is a beautiful city and the lake is beautiful. Although we were quite unlucky in that the weather isn’t great here at the moment, I can just imagine what the city would look like during the summer when the sun is shining.


Mexico in Pictures.

Here are a few pictures that I took during my time in Mexico.IMG_4967

So, I’ve encountered my fist venomous spider in Mexico, and it happened to be a BLACK WIDOW. Of all the spiders I could come across, it had to be this one! We found it in the garage. And I belong in the category terrified of spiders. It’s scary though, to think that such a small thing has the power to kill you in a matter of minutes.

It also makes me think what other insects and reptiles there are in Mexico that are dangerous. In Ireland, the only thing we have to worry about are wasps and bees. Thats it.



This picture was taken in a museum in Cuernavaca. A thing I noticed was that there was no information in English. There was a a little just stating the overall main point about each room, but there was no English explaining each artefact, which I was surprised about.


During the week, we headed to a theme park called ‘La Feria’ in Mexico City. It was a great day, where I went on loads of rides, and I even got a small, no a TINY tan. That tan has now decided to hide unfortunately.


The last pictures see’s us visiting the zoo, again in Mexico city. Just like the museum, all the information about the animals was in Spanish. No English!! So that again was surprising. But the zoo was good, where one of my favourites was the black bear ( It was enormous, I can’t believe how big they are).

So after all the hectic days, my body couldn’t handle it all, meaning I’ve got a LOVELY cold now. We have just over one week left in Mexico (cry), so I hope we get to see a lot more of the area but also, I hope this cold will go away too.  Or I will not be a happy bunny.




From one non English speaking country to another.


So I’ve moved half way around the world to another non english speaking country. Although my body is in another country, my mind however, is still stuck in China.

Although the visibly different architecture, the gorgeous weather, and the facial difference’s between Mexican and Chinese; all of which SHOULD give it away that I am no more in China…. they surprisingly don’t.

Like China, I have no knowledge of Spanish. I never studied it at school and the only thing I knew (before meeting my boyfriend) was ‘Hola’ and ‘Como estas?’

So when I came to Mexico, I didn’t realise how confusing it was going to be.

I’ve spent a year in China and learning the basic Mandarin to get by. So, when I came to a Spanish speaking country, my mind was still thinking Chinese.

Someone would start speaking Spanish to me and, in my head, I would think ‘wo ting bu dong’. ( I don’t understand). Before I blurt it out I have to think You’re not in China.

In China, when I am with my boyfriend, I am the laowai (foreigner) and he is Chinese. Because he has darker skin, black hair and brown eyes, Chinese people think ‘’yes, he is definitely Chinese.” Me however, I stick out like a sore thumb.

When we are together, it is always him that the Chinese speak to. They don’t notice me because they know I most likely don’t speak Chinese, and because I’m ‘obviously’ with a Chinese person, they would rather speak to him.

So I became used to my boyfriend repeating ‘wo ting bu dong. ‘Wo bu hui shuo Zhongwen’. ( I don’t understand, I don’t speak Chinese.) I’m pretty sure he gets fed up with them presuming he is Chinese. Whereas I get away with their non stop blabbering to me.

So when we arrived in Mexico airport, my head was (and still is) in Chinese mode. In the airport, a man came over to us and talked in Spanish to my boyfriend. In my head I was thinking ‘aw god help him, he doesn’t know he can’t speak Spanish’

Then, to my amazement, my boyfriend replied to him, in Spanish! My automatic reaction is ‘Jesus he understands what he said’. Then I suddenly realise that of course, he’s a native Spanish speaker. It’s difficult to get used to this.

So, I’m in another country where I STILL don’t understand anyone, and I STILL cant read anything. But it’s 100% better than trying to read Chinese characters.

My head needs to find out what country I’m in.


I’m Sorry!

I promise I haven’t disappeared! I’m very sorry for not writing a blog in quite a while, my excuses were, number 1: I’ve lost the habit of writing one each week. Number 2: My computer is now broke, so that has given me an extra excuse not to write one.

I’ve read countless of blogs that were once very active, but have now gone quiet, promising myself that I would never do that to my blog. And looks whats happening. . . But I will try and do one each week.

So a little catch up from my life in Chengdu.

As the famous Ted Stark from Game of Thrones always said ‘Winter is coming’, it sure is coming to Chengdu. Although today there is blue sky and it is around 24 degrees, winter is definitely coming. Today I plan on buying a jacket because its starting to get cold. And I hear at home there is supposed to be a mini summer.. in October!

I’ve also been having some trouble with one of my groups that I teach. (what a surprise). We’ll see how the next few weeks play out, but to be honest, I’m sick of the kids disrespecting me and the Grannys saying I haven’t taught them anything. They have been out of class for the summer so when they came back they (naturally) forgot a lot of things. So I planned on reviewing everything with them. Whats the point in starting something new when they can’t remember the previous things?

But of course the parents were wondering why was I reviewing things with them, they just want me to teach them new things. So thats what I”m doing now. Then the Grannies are giving out that they don’t remember anything. Duh, thats why I was reviewing it, so they would remember it again. One day I might actually just snap and say ‘Fine then, If you think they are not learning anything, then I’m not going to teach them anymore’.

But on a lighter note, I’m planning a trip to Mexico with my boyfriend in December to visit his parents. I thought the whole process would be easy: give my form to my Centre Manager for approval, she signs it, and there you go, I’m going to Mexico. But that didn’t exactly work out.

I found the form without her signature so I asked her again would she sign it for me. She said its a very long holiday and she doesn’t want to give it to me. (the holiday). Its mainly due to the fact that because we plan on going for 5 weeks, there will be no one to cover the classes for that time.

Yet, there are loads of teachers that go on holidays sometimes for 2 months, or holidays every 4/5 months. I haven’t gone on any in 7 months. I think I should deserve this at least.

But we shall see if she signs it. My boyfriend has gotten his signed no problem.

Or I may be spending Christmas alone again this year.


P.S; This is for my Mum and my friend Sarah S. They have wondered where my blogs have disappeared to.

Chinese Children

In the classroom, I’ve picked up a few Chinese phrases that the children say quite a lot. One of these is shénme [shuh muh]. This is Chinese for ‘what’. One student in particular, if he doesn’t understand something I say, he says shénme to me. Another phrase I hear quite a lot is gĕi wŏ [gay woh] which means ‘give me’. This is usually said when one student has something the other student wants.

Also, I keep hearing is xià kè [sha kuh]. This means ‘class is over’, even though there could be another 45 minutes left. I have to disappointingly say ‘no… not yet!’

Another interesting thing I have noticed is, for example, is if they are colouring something and I ask what colour do they want. So many students LOVE the colour yellow! Half the time they pick this one… and I don’t like when they are using yellow, because when they start, they realise the colour is too bright and they can’t see the colour on the paper, meaning they end up taking another 2 minutes picking ANOTHER one out, usually a dark brown.

It’s also amazing to see how the 3-6 year olds love hugging you and being held. It’s quite a nice feeling, to know that you actually mean something to them (however small that may be). Two girls I teach live a few floors up from the campus, so sometimes when they are passing, they come and say ‘HI AISLING!’ and off they go again. One student offered me a biscuit and the other gave me a green, thin (almost like paper) thing, which smelled remarkably like fish.

And the parents have even passed the ‘utmost importance’ of drinking warm water down to their children. One student, she’s 6, brings in her flask with her warm water to class. There are flasks specifically designed for children, which Mickey Mouse and other cartoon cartoons on them. Sometimes during a 1 and a half hour class, I would ask them do they want some water. Sure enough they add cold AND hot water from the water dispenser. First of all, at home, we rarely have water dispensers. Anyway, if we did, I’m pretty sure not many people would drink the hot water.

They are obsessed with hot water. Chinese people think, if you are sick…. “you should drink hot water”. If you have a cold….”you should drink hot water”. If you have a headache…”oh… you should drink hot water”.
And during the winter I have heard, numerous times…”you should wear more clothes.” Now I’m not here wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I’m wearing proper clothes, like with a coat and scarf. But still I’m cold. Once I say “It’s cold today!”….. the reply is, “you should wear more clothes”. You just can’t win!

Also, I have noticed how many Chinese people cannot recognise Western sarcasm. One of the teachers was talking to a Chinese staff and she mentioned something about having to do something that will be boring and non-interesting. The teacher replied “oh that will be exciting”. I heard them talking and I knew straight away, by the tone of his voice, that he meant that in a sarcastic way and that he knows it will be boring. However the Chinese didn’t get it, and she said “oh no it won’t be exciting!”

We also have our teambuilding workshop, ie; going for hot pot together. I love hot pot, so we are going there after our classes have ended.

Oh and its getting hotter. In the mid 20’s now. I can just about bare this heat, imagine what I’ll be like when it hits the 30’s!