You’ve probably heard a lot about China, its fast-paced development, its magnificent cities, the Great Wall or the spectacular hiking and trekking locations in the south. But these are not all there are to explore in this amazingly vast country, there are plenty of other activities that you can find if you are looking for an adventure.
We have asked some of our foreign teachers living and working in China about the things they do during their weekends and time off from work and have compiled a list of ten below.
1. Mountain Climbing or Hiking
Many of China’s oldest and most treasured temples and other important monuments are built in the mountains. Many of these mountains are considered sacred and there is no better way to appreciate then to hike to reach them. There may be other ways to reach them, like a car, a bus or a cable car however, there is a reward for those who break sweat to reach to the top – the chance to experience nature and the opportunity to interact with the locals along the way.
2. Learn Mandarin
Learning Chinese is not just about acquiring a new language but also opening up to China’s culture, history and archaeology. It is also beneficial to your future career as international businesses nowadays prefer to hire bilingual or multi-lingual candidates. As China and the US are two of the world’s largest trading partners, knowing Chinese may open a pool of employment opportunities for you in the future. This will also give you a chance to meet the locals and speak to them. If you are not very much interested in formal classroom or one-on-one settings, you may also join language exchange groups where you can teach locals who are interested in learning English and they can teach you Chinese in return.
3. Visit other Asian countries
Being in China, gives you an easy access to its neighboring Asian countries. If you book your tickets ahead of time, you may even find cheap tours and tickets. Asia is rich with extravagant architecture, ancient history, breath-taking landscapes and hospitable people. Explore the Imperial Palace, visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Vietnam and go island hopping on the beaches of the Philippines and Indonesia. Not to mention that Asia is home to plenty of the world’s best dishes. Each country has its own specialties and unique cuisines.
4. Join expat activities
The first natural thing to do when you just arrive in a foreign country is to find people who speak the same language as yours. It is important to find a community or a support group of people that are similar to you especially as you are away from your family, friends and your comfort zone. Aside from the people you work with, there is usually a small circle of foreigners working together in the same city. You may travel together, explore different sights and landmarks, complain about the local people and the food, go to clubs and movies and even form a team of your own. Foreigners who like sports usually form small leagues and sometimes arrange to play with the locals.
5. Find a new hobby
Have you ever given table tennis a shot? Learn the art of Chinese calligraphy and painting?
Try grabbing a copy of their manga or comic books and amuse yourself by trying to figure out the stories. Learn about the Chinese tea culture, consider buying your own tea set and perform your own “Tea Ceremony” with your friends. Buy a local cookbook translated in to English and try cooking some of the local dishes and surprise your family next time you go home with your new skill.
Many have claimed that riding a bicycle in China’s countryside provides the best way to appreciate and experience the country’s natural beauty. It’s also a great way to witness the age-old lifestyle of those who live in the countryside. There are bicycle tours that can be arranged whether you are a beginner or an experienced cyclist. Some of the most attractive routes for riding a bicycle are the sceneries along the Great Wall, Guilin and Yanshuo.
7. Try Chinese Meridian Massage
Chinese meridian therapies are quite popular in China. This includes, massage, acupuncture, cupping and herbal tonics. These methods are believed to be able to cure sickness completely with no side effects. They are designed to enhance the flow of “qi” or vital energies that flow through the meridians of your body. These therapeutic methods have been gaining popularity worldwide and are now being widely practiced and taught in medical schools. More and more foreigners are trying these and China Daily even made a report in 2008 that more and more expats are coming to China to learn traditional Chinese medicine.
8. Explore ancient China before they destroy it
China, one of the world’s oldest civilizations, is developing very fast and you can see the changes happen right before your eyes. Progress, as we know, comes with a price and that price is paid for by the ancient sites which are made to look petty by the desire to modernize. In June of 2013, a number of ancient Chinese Tombs that were between 2,200 to 3,000 years old were demolished by contractors to build a subway. It wasn’t the first time that they have done that. Irresponsible tomb raiders are also rampant to rob the future generation of China of its history by using dynamite and bulldozers. There is a lot to learn from these ancient sites and cultural artifacts. With this kind of trend happening, we can’t tell what may happen in the years to come. So while they’re there, take the time to explore and appreciate them.
9. Try all kinds of local dishes
Chinese food is known all over the world for being one of the best and for having tons of variety. Some of these foods are not a stranger to you as you may have tried them in Chinatown back home. But are you sure you want to order the usual kung-pao chicken or chow-mien? Why don’t you try something you have never seen or tasted before. Make it an adventure to order a dish that you have no idea about or ask for the same food that the customers across your table ordered.
Allow yourself to be surprised and create a whole new definition to the word “delicious”. But of course, if you are the type who wants to stick with what you’re familiar with, you can always go for the usual. We understand that most menus in China are in Chinese. Some restaurants may have pictures in them but you still couldn’t tell whether that’s chicken, fish or pork intestines. We created a Chinese food menu for you with Chinese characters translated in English and pinyin with tones if you feel like practicing your Mandarin in a restaurant.
10. Learn Tai Chi or Kungfu
You probably won’t miss seeing old locals practicing martial arts in parks or public squares early in the morning or in the evening. This is one of China’s traditional Kung-fu known as Tai Chi. It features slow movements and strong mental focus. It not only helps in building strength but is also a form of meditation; helps improve your breathing as well as your blood circulation. There are plenty of other forms of martial arts. Although its original function is self-defense, its true purpose is to advocate peace and virtue rather than aggression or violence. Chinese kung-fu is one of China’s traditional heritages which originated as early as 256 BC.
These are just some of the things that English teachers in China commonly do during their free time. If you have other suggestions or tips for your fellow expats, feel free to share your thoughts and unique adventures with us.