There’s no getting around it – 2020 wasn’t a great year for travel, not to mention a terrible year in general for the whole world. But while there’s still a long way to go for things to go back to normal, there’s hope on the horizon in 2021 for happier times ahead. And lots of us are already thinking of our next trips for when it’s safe to travel – we can’t wait to start expanding our horizons again.
We’ve briefly mentioned how there’s nothing like travelling to a country to better learn a language. But while travel in itself is a great way to experience different cultures and learn a language faster and in context, there are ways to absorb even more during your time abroad. So here are five reasons why you should take a trip to China to learn Chinese, and how you can truly make the most out of your adventure.
1. You have the chance to be more than a tourist
Of course you’ll want to visit world-famous places like the giant panda sanctuary in Chengdu, or Tiananmen Square in Beijing, or the Jing’an Temple in Shanghai. But once you’re done visiting the ‘must-sees’, don’t forget to explore beyond the main attractions themselves. What do the people who actually live there like to do in their spare time? Find this out, and you’ll get a better feel for the real culture of the place.
Travel challenge: Download Dianping (a Chinese review app we mentioned in the blog post ‘5 Apps You Need In China’) to see what activities people rate highly and are talking about in the area you’re in, and pay them a visit.
2. You have the chance to see how people really live
There are things we do at home that we just assume everyone in the world also does. But once in a different country, you’ll start to see little differences if you pay attention. For example, seeing people popping out first thing in the morning to buy freshly-steamed buns for breakfast to take home, instead of staying in and pouring out a bowl of cereal. Or visiting the market to buy fresh meat and vegetables every day, instead of buying a larger amount of vacuum-packed produce to store in the fridge for the week.
Having a good walk around is a great way to catch glimpses of how people go about their daily lives, and gain more insight into the similarities and differences between cultures.
Don’t forget to escape the city centre and explore more rural areas if you can, too. After all, only a small percentage of people live in city centres, so you’ll learn a lot more about the people of the province you’re in by widening your travel zone.
Travel challenge: When taking the metro to travel into the city, get off a stop or two earlier than you usually would, and walk the rest of the way to take in what’s around you.
3. You can enjoy delicious dishes that you wouldn’t find at home
One of the best things about travelling to any country is enjoying the local delicacies. In China, these vary greatly from province to province, and even from city to city.
Make sure you do a little research about what’s popular in your area, and don’t be afraid to try something you might not have tried back at home.
Travel challenge: Order food in Chinese at a local restaurant (bonus points if you challenge your reading skills too and order from a menu without English translations).
4. You’ll be making precious memories as you go
It’s one thing to learn about something from a book or watch it on video. But seeing it with your own eyes and experiencing it for yourself stays with you forever, and every moment travelling is a new memory. Not just for learning the language, but on a deep, personal level too.
Travel challenge: Take a bus instead of the metro once in a while. Taking the metro is a fast, convenient way to get from A to B, but most of the time you won’t be able to see much beyond the inside of your carriage. Not only is taking the bus a great way to see other places up-close that you wouldn’t be able to while on a train, but it’s also cheaper.
5. You can make some amazing friends
Travel has a magical way of connecting people, whether it’s striking up conversations with locals, meeting fellow travellers on the road, or comparing stories when back at home. One great way to make connections while you’re in China is to join a short course outside your scheduled language classes – thinking painting, cooking and crafts etc.
Travel challenge: Join a workshop and get chatting to the people in your class. Not only is this an opportunity to hone your Chinese language skills in an authentic but different setting while learning something new, but it’s also a chance to meet lots of different people.
So when you’re on your travels in China, don’t forget to get out of your comfort zone a little. After all, we learn and remember the most when we go out and get involved.