China is one of those countries where it’s hard to pinpoint a specific vibe, simply because it’s so diverse and so big! Susan Zhou (周睿) comes from Hangzhou, Zhejiang (a province in China) and is studying a Bachelor of Commerce (International) at UNSW Sydney. Due to the scale of China, Susan’s perspective will be largely based around her home town and not the whole country.

Disclaimer: These are personal opinions and perspectives of the interviewees and are not a perfect representation of the whole country/experience.

Edited by Megan Chen

The title image for this post is the Summer Palace in Beijing. Much like other similar countries, China is a whimsical blend of ancient history juxtaposed by the bustling and modernised city.

File:Map of China (en).png
Map of China
Source: Cacahuate, amendments by Peter Fitzgerald and ClausHansen (2008) Wikimedia Commons.

Imagine you’ve met someone who has never heard of your country before. How would you introduce China?

I would say China is a country with a long history (as early as 1250 BC), a diverse culture (56 ethnic groups) and kind people. China has many magnificent landscapes, historical sites and UNESCO heritage sites.  Food is an integral part of Chinese culture. There are a variety of regional cuisines for you to explore!

Here’s a little introduction of my hometown too: Hangzhou is a lively city with many tourist attractions and big firms. It is a combination of ancient and modern China. It’s quite interesting to live in Hangzhou because you can experience the most traditional part of Chinese culture and the most cutting-edge ideas in technology and commerce. 

Editor’s Note: Hangzhou is where the Alibaba headquarters are! To get an idea of the place, take a look at this video.

Try to encapsulate the culture of China.

As China has a population of 1.4 billion (at the time of writing) and a wide geographical size, the culture is very diverse across the nation. The cultural traditions in Northern China can be opposite of Southern part. In general, Chinese people are relatively conservative and modest. Instead of being distinct and aggressive, we prefer “harmony”. Respect is paid to seniors and elders, hence, honourifics do exist in our language and hierarchy is emphasised in work and life to a certain extent.

In terms of culture shocks, there are a few that you might find interesting. For example, tea or hot water (at least room temperature!) is offered at most of the places instead of iced water, because cold water is perceived to be bad for your health.

Also, please download Wechat and Alipay (can’t live without those two apps). They can make your life much easier as many places don’t accept cash! Of course, the headquarters of Alibaba in Hangzhou means it is a “cashless” city.

Lastly, some people may be concerned about safety. I can ensure you with my integrity, China is very very very safe. Walking alone at late night is a norm for me.

What are some famous places to visit in Zhejiang?

The most obvious one is West Lake. There are many temples and sight-seeing attractions along this lake to see.

West Lake

A great place to appreciate the long-lasting history of China is to visit water towns. Depicted below is Nanxun Water Town – although it’s not the most famous, it is one of the most peaceful attractions.

What are some must-try foods?

There are too many…I tried hard to make a selection and here you go:

  • Dragon-well tea! One of the most famous green tea in China and was once used to serve the emperors. Also, a signature dish of the city is called “Dragon Well Tea Prawn”.
  • Xiao Long Bao (小笼包)! Yes you are right, the famous soup dumplings. Just as famous as the Shanghai style.
小龙包Xiao Long Bao Dumplings - Camy, Melbourne | Good 小龙包Xia ...
Soup Dumplings
Source: Alpha (2009) Flickr.
  • Beggar’s Chicken. The name originated from an ancient story. According to Wikipedia, it is a chicken dish “that is stuffed, wrapped in clay and lotus leaves, and baked slowly using low heat.”
  • Noodles! Dry noodles, soup noodles, fried noodles and etc. I love them all.

For some more delicacies, check out this list right here!

What are some local travel destinations that tourists might not typically go?

One thing weird about Hangzhou is that locals (me!) love going to all the touristic places…
Some activities I find fun to do:

  • Rowing a boat on West Lake
  • Walking around West Lake
  • Watching the light show at “City’s Balcony”
Light show seen by Qiantang River in Hangzhou
City’s Balcony also known as ‘Qian Tang’ River Light Show
Source: Xu Kangping (2016) China Daily.
  • Walking down “Southern Song Imperial Street” neighbourhood.
  • Picking tea and making tea at Long Jing (Dragon Well Village)

What’s the best way to get around the place?

Subway + Bus+ Hangzhou Public Bicycle for inner city activities. High speed train for short trips.

What are the most well-known universities in your country and what are they usually known for?

Tsinghua University– Engineering, Science & Computing etc.

Peking University– Economics, Politics, Mathematics & Physics etc.

Zhejiang University– Computing, Medicine & Agriculture etc.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University – Mechanical Engineering, Business & Medicine etc.

Usually there are more courses per term than Australia and longer study hours.

UNSW Exchange Partner Universities: Beijing Normal University, Fudan University, Nanjing University, Peking University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Tsinghua University, University of Nottingham (Ningbo), Xi’an Jiaotong University, Zhejiang University

Finally, what is your favourite part about China?

Food. There are so many choices that I can choose from…

For a taste of exchange in a Chinese university, check out our interview from a returned exchange student who studied at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

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