Article by XIANEASE
Hit Those Streets
Modern technology and the ever increasing ease of transportation in the city have lulled many into a bubble of routine spots that are accessed at the touch of a button. However, you’ll often find that a great deal of the city remains technologically uncharted, and the advantage of a slow moving form of transportation such as your own two feet can allow you to discover places that you might not otherwise be able to discover. Alleyway restaurants, random stores, and hidden gems are all around the city, but rarely are visible from taxis or the metro. Getting a little lost, taking a random shortcut, or just wandering around a bit will yield a bounty of information. Heading out at different times of day, early morning or late in the evening may likewise reveal a previously unknown experience, as things are constantly shifting in this city.
No, it’s not very convenient. Discovery rarely is. However, your new favorite coffee shop or restaurant may be just around the corner that you have yet to turn. Walk places and find what you didn’t know you were looking for.
It’s a strange thing, being a stranger in a strange land, especially in one where the people are more interested in you than you might expect. Often living in larger cities, the local populace is more than accustomed to seeing foreigners, so often the reaction is, at best, apathetic. And while this may be slowly changing as the city continues to grow and develop, it is still the case where people may be genuinely excited to meet someone from a different country. The local Xianese are intensely proud of their local culture and are exceedingly happy to share it with guests. This provides you with an opportunity to find that which you may not otherwise be able to.
So, if someone invites you to one of their favorite local spots, go. If someone tells you that you must try this local delicacy, try it. You may like it. You may not. Either way you’ll be able to form an opinion, which will be important for the next point.
Caveat here. Most people here will mean you absolutely no harm. This is one of the safest places you can be. But if you’re instincts are telling you something is off, politely decline.
Talk to People
People in Xi’an love to talk. Now, you might not be fluent. You might not even be able to string a whole sentence together. But if you really want to get in locally, you’re going to need the language on your side. You’re Chinese will be absolutely terrible in the beginning and that’s fine. After several years of practice, your Chinese will still be terrible, and that’s still absolutely fine. People are still going to talk to you, and they will tell you that your Chinese is great. Even when you know that’s not true. Pick up as much as you can. If you don’t know what to talk about, there are two topics that are winners, without fail. Food and spending less money. You can spend literal hours talking about the best places to get certain foods and how much things cost and where you bought them. People compare notes on these things all the time. Those restaurants that you went to? Perfect conversation fodder, good or bad.
Just be prepared, if you say you don’t like some food, your conversation partner will guarantee that you haven’t tried the best, and will insist that you try again at their favorite spot. Pride in the local food and all that.
Engage in the
Chinese culture is deeply rooted in the city of Xi’an, perhaps more than any other place in China. The history exists all around us on a daily basis, and failing to engage with and learn about the history and the culture is one of the mistakes most often made by those living in the city, local and foreign alike. Exploring the different facets of local culture is essential to a deeper understand of the place we are living. While, as previously mentioned, the food is essential to the culture, there is so much more out there to find. Both the ancient and the modern exist here in tandem, and it would be a shame to miss out on either.
A Familiar Space
Getting to know the people that you interact with at your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and street side stalls helps to create an important bond that is going to help to cement your life in Xi’an. These places will go from being ‘a place’ to ‘your place’. Eventually you will find that you’ve got a guy or a girl for everything. Being open for a bit of a chat goes a long way towards developing these relationships, and having people that are happy to see you walk in the door will make life here just that small increment better. Later on, when you encounter new people who have moved to the city, you’ll be able to likewise introduce them to your favorite places, endearing you to shop owner and friend alike.
Venturing into a new place is never easy, and building a life in a new city can be hard, even when it’s a city in your own country, let alone one in a foreign land. If you are able to approach this process openly, exploring your new space and engaging with the culture, you will make major strides toward familiarizing yourself with your new (or old) home away from home. We at XIANEASE will continue to attempt to aid in this process by providing you with the best information, context, and guides that we can that can help you discover your Xi’an.
Tell us about your tips or tricks for assimilating into life in Xi’an by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org