Chengdu is the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province
Chengdu is considered one of the most desirable cities to live in for expats coming to China. It is well-known, like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, but generally for more positive reasons. As the capital of Sichuan Province, it is obviously associated with the internationally renowned cuisine. It is also known for pandas – another of Sichuan’s most famous attractions. In addition, Chengdu and Sichuan are very laid-back compared to most of China, and so while Chengdu may have a population of around 14 million – making it one of the country’s largest cities – it is not as hectic as the others. With parks abounding and only a short hop to the fields and mountains that surround the city, Chengdu is not only a great place to visit, but one of the best Chinese cities to call home.
Living in Chengdu
Chengdu offers expats a wonderful balance that tends to keep its foreign population very happy. It is a somewhat international city where you can find foreign goods and Western bars, or even take direct flights to Europe. Yet at the same time it is very Chinese in the traditional sense that is perhaps lost in other big cities. Chengdu has kept its original charm, and presents a slowed down version of life that is very different from that offered in, for example, Shanghai.
An extensive public transport network makes it extremely easy, not to mention cheap, to get around most of the city. The subway system is relatively new, having opened in 2010. There are now two lines that cross the city.
Food in Chengdu
Sichuan, of course, is famous for its food. Perhaps it is better known in the West by older spellings, such as Szechuan, and certainly in the West the flavour is changed somewhat, too. However, for people who can tolerate spicy food, it is heaven. It draws heavily upon an ingredient known as “Sichuan pepper,” or, in Chinese 花椒 (huajiao). This has a unique flavour, which is fiery and also oddly citric, and yet also numbs the tongue. It is found in numerous Sichuan dishes, including the ever-popular hotpot.
If you are looking for something more exotic – or rather, from back home – Sichuan offers many Western and foreign restaurants, including pizza places, Thai houses, and sushi joints. There are also many large supermarket chains where you can purchase ingredients to cook for yourself at home.
Things to Do and See in Chengdu
Sichuan is a huge and fascinating province, and with Chengdu lying at its heart, it offers the perfect base from which to travel out and visit some amazing places. Of course, the most famous of all is the panda research base, where for a sum of money you can hold a baby panda. Pandas are a symbol of China, yet they can only be found in Sichuan. The research base here is instrumental in keeping the species alive, and you can take a look around or help out.
Chengdu itself also has a lot of museums, parks, temples, and other attractions. It’s a rather open-planned city, and there are numerous places to take a peaceful stroll and relax.
Teaching in Chengdu
Like all other big cities in China, Chengdu has numerous teaching jobs (for details on our latest positions, check out www.teachersforasia.com/jobs/). It might, however, be considered more appealing by some teachers because although it generally offers lower salaries than Beijing or Shanghai, so too is the cost of living far cheaper. As with other aspects of life, teaching in Chengdu can also be less stressful than in other top level Chinese cities.
Teaching opportunities exist in various capacities, including at universities, training centres, kindergartens, high schools, and even with businesses who want their employees trained in English by a native speaker. Salaries vary based upon responsibilities, hours, and experience. As with elsewhere in China, often the best schools “pay” in prestige and offer salaries a little lower than those of their less famous counterparts.
Many of our teachers have chosen Chengdu as their top choice to start their teaching career in China since back in 2012 when we first placed teachers in this location. TFA are always hiring for a wide variety of teaching positions, including Public Schools, Private Academies and International Schools. Check out our Jobs page to learn more about what positions are on offer. If you are new to teaching you can look at our many opportunities for English Language teaching and if you are coming from a more experienced teacher background, check out our International School Jobs with a wide selection of highly sought after positions teaching in your specialist subject.
By David Wills