Taicang, China: An Expat’s Guide–What to Do & More
Just over three years ago, I decided to try my hand at living in Taicang, China.
After over a year abroad living in Guangzhou, China with short stints in both Japan and Thailand, in 2015 I decided to see what it would be like in the cooler, quieter, smaller city of Taicang in Jiangsu Province, not far from Jiading in Shanghai. As I have been in this area for over 3 years now, I have a good understanding of a lot that goes on here so I’ll give you both a practical guide to area AND my opinions about anything I feel is relevant.
What is Taicang? Taicang is a city classified as “county-level” by the Chinese government, under the jurisdiction of Suzhou City, located in Jiangsu Province.
In this article I’m going to delve into these areas:
- Location of Taicang
- History & Background of Taicang
- Transportation in & around Taicang
- What it’s like to live in Taicang
- Working in Taicang
- Climate and Pollution in Taicang
- What to eat in Taicang
- Places of Interest in Taicang
- Things to do in Taicang
- Pros & Cons of Taicang
First allow me to introduce just a bit about how and why I came to be in Taicang, as well as my general, overall experience here!
I originally moved to Taicang way back in March of 2015 after becoming weary of multiple aspects of Guangzhou, not the least of which being the weather. If you aren’t familiar with the geography of China, then all you really need to know is that Guangzhou is “southernly hot and humid” as it would be in America.
After living in GZ and then Tokyo for three years, I felt like a move to a third large city—Shanghai—wouldn’t be exactly what I was looking for, but I also didn’t like the idea of being far away from a major city and unable to move around very easily. After looking into many different areas, I narrowed it down to two: Kunshan and Taicang—both in Jiangsu Province and nearby Shanghai.
After weighing some rather simple differences I ultimately decided upon Taicang—a decision I wouldn’t have made at the time if I had known about the unavailability of high-speed rail to Shanghai! Nevertheless, I made the right choice and don’t regret my decision at all. Overall, I think that it was still the best place for me.
What is the Location of Taicang?
Taicang is located in the Province Jiangsu, which is situated in eastern China just northwest of Shanghai and on the west side of the Yangtze River.
Shanghai is one of the most famous cities in China but since most people aren’t up to par on their China geography, I’ll make the location simple for you: it’s in Eastern China, close to the East China Sea which is connected to the Pacific Ocean.
Like every large city in China, Shanghai is divided-up into different areas which are basically like small cities themselves. In the northern area of Shanghai, this area is called Jiading, which is connected to Shanghai by subway/railway Line 11, which runs from North Jiading all the way down south to The Disneyland Resort.
Taicang itself is situated nearby Jiading, north-northwest of Shanghai, and has its own port connected to the Yangtze river. For a very, very long time this port has been vital to not only China but especially to Taicang City itself because it directly controls the port.
From what I understand—and many locals have said this to me—Shanghai would really, really love to get its paws on the port, and even Taicang itself, as both are quite valuable and have been doing well for a while now. I’ll talk a bit more about the port later.
Speaking of controlling another area: Taicang itself administers over seven different “towns” or areas:
What’s the History & Background of Taicang?
Taicang has an ancient background, in particular an ongoing storage and shipping area with a large, natural port, and an important history of naval exploration.
First, I’m going to tell you what all I was told, and then I’ll try to correct and clarify it by researching!
Taicang, The Great Storehouse
The Chinese character which represents the first part of the name–“Tai,” or “太”–is the same word used to mean “too” as in “tai gui le” (tai gway luh) meaning “too expensive” or “tai shuai le” (tai shwai luh) meaning “too handsome.” The second character “Cang” or “仓” (pronunciation is sort of like saying “sang” with the “ah” sound instead of “ei”) could mean “warehouse, storehouse,” etc.
Now I’ve been told by a couple of locals a folk tale that may or may not be true but it sounds true to me so I choose to believe it.
They said that the original name of Taicang was actually Dacang, but some leader or king or something wrote the name incorrectly one day as “Taicang” and so everyone just naturally changed it as to keep from opposing the leader. Naturally.
The Chinese character “Da,” or “大,” is very similar to “Tai” so you can see that one extra, tiny little stroke completely changes the sound and meaning. “Da” is another character with a super-common use, and its meaning is like “big, great, large,” etc. So, it makes perfect sense that Taicang used to be called Dacang, or “Great Storehouse,” as it was at one time very, very important for receiving, shipping, and storing granary, goods, and food for many parts of China, thus being known as “China’s Storehouse.”
Online I found some traditional medicine books which also reference the word “taicang” as meaning “the stomach” so I find that interesting to include.
Taicang, home of Explorers?
One day while I was riding around the streets of Taicang with my girlfriend, she asked me if I had ever noticed the peculiar street lamps which were here and there across the city. I had noticed them but I told her that I never really wondered about their design because, to be frank and honest, I see a LOT of odd, strange, or just down-ride laughable architectural designs everywhere I go in China. To me, it was just par for the course!
(The government itself even began imposing some laws within the last few years which limits just how odd or crazy these architectural designs can be).
However, she told me that the reason wasn’t random as I thought it was, but that it was connected to a famous Chinese explorer Zheng He who originally hailed from Taicang. I thought this was interesting of course, and I’ve also heard about this famous explorer-captain from several other locals as well, so it seems everyone knows about him–although not everyone seems to know about the street lamp design!
What my lazy research say about Taicang’s history:
I didn’t see anything immediately about the story of how Taicang’s name got changed but I did get some other info that verifies the rest, essentially.
According to the Wiki info, Taicang’s port was indeed in its hay-day between 1271 and 1368, which set up the stage for Zheng He’s famous treasure ships and expeditions. There is quite a bit of information available about this history by doing some browsing online so I won’t cover it here. However, if you look at the map above and see just where Taicang is located, then you’ll easily understand how and why it’s location has always been so important for it, China’s leaders, businesses, and the people.
I will also add that although the Wiki article says that the booming days of Taicang’s port was almost 800 years prior, I would disagree simply because today it’s quite busy with foreign and domestic trade that must surely be much larger in scale and all-around busyness than it ever was back then.
Add to the fact that many foreign factories have made their production homes in Taicang and Jiangsu–with special deals being made locally with other countries such as Germany and even Japan–the area is making money and keeping that port super busy from what I know of it.
What kind of transportation is there in Taicang?
The primary means of transportation around Taicang are local and long-distance buses, taxis, and public rental bicycles, with high-speed rail scheduled to connect before 2020.
While Taicang isn’t as up-to-date as its administrative city Suzhou with a subway system, train options, and a high-speed rail connection, it does have the basic ways of getting around, isn’t far from some important access points, and is steadily improving.
Does Taicang have a high-speed railway station or train station?
As of October 1st, 2018, Taicang doesn’t have a train station but is completing a high-speed railway connection which is expected to be in service in 2019.
The city isn’t large enough to warrant having its own subway system and, unlike neighboring Kunshan, doesn’t yet have a stop on the high-speed train network as of 2018. However, according to my local friends, the HS train connection should be connected within the next year which will greatly improve the speed at which you can get back and forth from the center of Shanghai, or to other major cities in the area such as Nanjing, Suzhou, or even further.
Does Taicang have taxis?
Taicang does have taxis and currently it is the primary way to get around the city.
Normally it isn’t very hard to find one, especially if you are at the more popular shopping centers such as Wanda Plaza on Shanghai Road or Nanyang Square on The People’s Road (Renmin Road). If you download the Chinese app DiDi–which is sort of like Uber, basically–then you can drum-up a ride faster so you don’t have to wait or just in case you are somewhere without a taxi nearby, such as a park.
You can download the DiDi app here:
Does Taicang have local buses?
Taicang does have local city buses which are interconnected and scattered throughout all seven of its areas.
For me personally, the lack of Google Maps here in China is down-right annoying–as if the internet censorship is bad enough already! So, if you’re wanting to get around Taicang using the bus system then you’ll need to either have a VPN handy or be really good at reading the bus stop names as you come to them.
There is a lack of English at the bus stops because, as is unfortunately the case in every Chinese city I’ve been in so far, only the stop itself has its English name printed clearly. If you take the time to look at the bus routes, what you’ll see is nothing but a bunch of Chinese. I can read just a tiny bit of Chinese so if I can recognize the name of the place or area I’m wanting to go, then I can see which bus number I need to take and how many stops away it is from where I am.
However, if you can’t figure out this information yourself by looking at the bus stop schedule, then you’ll definitely need to rely on either an English map to instruct you, speak Chinese, have a Chinese friend handy who speaks English, OR just hop on a random bus and ride it around to see where it takes ya!
Does Taicang have long-distance buses?
Taicang does have a couple of coach stations with medium-to-long-distance buses.
The two main bus/coach stations in Taicang are:
- Taicang Coach/Bus Station
- Chaoyang Coach Station
Back before I got my first electric motorcycle in China, (check out my exhaustive article for what it’s like) I used to just take a taxi over to Chaoyang Coach station and catch the next bus directly to North Jiading Subway Station, which is part of Shanghai. From there, I just hop on the subway line 11 and enjoy a nice, longer-than-necessary but cheap ride.
There are buses at Taicang Coach Station which will take you directly to multiple major cities, so if you want to go to Shanghai and completely skip the subway (at least until you get to Shanghai Station), then you can just sit your butt on one of these.
What it’s like living in Taicang?
Overall, the living experience in Taicang isn’t bad but it will also vary depending on what you are personally accustomed to.
It’s not as busy as a larger city, with a population of around 800,000, which is small for a Chinese city and often referred to as a “village” by many Chinese, which I find funny.
My first impression of Taicang was that it was just too hard to get to, especially compared to what I was used to. However, since I’d lived in two large cities prior to arriving in Taicang, pretty much any small city would be similar. Still, for a city that is darn close to Shanghai, if you don’t have a car then it’s just not quick to get to the major airports or into the heart of Shanghai itself.
After living in the area for several months I began to realize that it’s not quite as difficult to get to Shanghai as I’d originally thought, but it still wasn’t “fast” and definitely not enjoyable. I’m a 100% drive yourself or take a train guy, but driving in China isn’t an option for most foreigners and even if you do, it’s more like a video game than I care for it to be. There are just too many terrible drivers here and that’s not just in Taicang.
As for the train, your only option is going to be the subway line 11 from North Jiading until the high-speed railway opens up in 2019 (if it makes the planned deadline–which it’s already missed a couple of times from what I’m told). Still, you have to take a bus from Chaoyang Coach Station (cheap) or taxi (so-so price) to get to that subway terminal, and then you’ll be sitting on that train for quite a while as it plods along, one stop at a time.
I am so spoiled on Japan’s train system–local, semi-express, express, airport express, shinkansen–that taking the subway in Shanghai has become more annoying to me than anything, but what’s the alternative? Get a license and car, but of course even that isn’t fun due to terrible drivers and lovely traffic conditions. I also feel like the roadways have less space than I’ve seen while driving through Dallas–and there’s a HUGE population difference!
How People Treat You
If you a clearly a foreigner then prepare to hear “laowai” and “waiguoren” often, as well as many children and even adults pointing at you, staring at you, and telling their friends or family to look at you. This is commonplace and will happen every single day in Taicang, whether you like it or not.
I’ve seen people take pictures of me so often there’s no telling how many posts I appear in on WeChat, which is the most popular form of messaging and social sharing in China. Many girls like to pretend that they’re taking selfies but will place foreigners in the background. I find this type of behavior very strange, but it shows that many people in China–even in places which think themselves more “international”–are still underexposed to other peoples and cultures.
I would say that in general people are rather hospitable and that it’s easy to make friends. It may take you some time to cultivate a small group of local Chinese friends who really are more along your style, but it’s 100% doable. Part of the reason why is that many people here are very interested in foreigners and if you can find some who are active in their work and proficient in English, they may turn out to be a lifelong friend–especially if they have or desire experience in other countries.
Sometimes it’s a bit TOO easy to meet people because when I just want to sit in Starbucks and be left alone, people here will actually walk over–even if I’m in a corner–and lean over to see what I’m looking at or doing on my computer. There really is a lack of private space awareness in China as a whole and it exists in Taicang, too. Usually, and thankfully, they don’t mean anything rude by it because that’s just how they are.
People do still cut in front of me sometimes or run a red light or almost run me over, but this isn’t because I’m a foreigner–they do this stuff to everyone so don’t feel that you’re being singled out. Trust me–everyone here is a target! lol
In general, the people don’t treat foreigners bad here and many are interested in meeting you, talking with you, and even having their kids say hello–sometimes whether you want them to or not!
What’s it like working in Taicang?
Working in Taicang can be more relaxing if you’re teaching English or more demanding if you’re working for a foreign company.
I have no personal experience working for a non-Chinese company in China so I can’t speak to that. However, as a resource developer, trainer, educator, and curriculum maker for a couple of language schools which are based in Taicang, I can definitely tell you my observations of the teaching positions.
Teacher’s pay in Taicang is moderate but can be higher if you are really good AND popular with the students. The companies here are all about making money of course, so when a teacher comes in who provides students with great value, then that teacher becomes invaluable to the company. The result is that after the first contract is up, negotiations can be made for higher pay–especially if you’re planning to leave. From what I can tell, this is typical in China and it seems that they’re much more willing to give a pay raise to keep someone than try looking for someone new, as I feel most would in the US.
I have some knowledge of several local language (English) training centers in Taicang, including Web (now Webi), World, and Longwell.
- Webi: it is a larger and well-known company with many branches throughout China. Their system is based on Dyned software and the students have classes of 4, 10, and social classes of up to around 50 with the foreign teachers. The company itself isn’t “bad” but how good your experience is with one of these centers is basically up to the center director and local staff. If you have some good leaders, then you should have a good experience, but if they’re bad, well…
- World: I don’t know as much about World except for a couple of facts: one is that they have purposefully copied, to a large degree, much of what Web(i) has done in order to create their own business which is like a cheap replica. Even some of my friends who’ve studied there or taken some free demo classes say the same–even about their courseware (English software connected to the private classes). Furthermore, I have seen World pick up quite a number of “rejects” who had problems with the other schools and retreated to their open arms. I have no good impression about the leaders nor some of the teachers at World.
- Longwell: is a brand-new school which opened near the beginning of 2017 and has grown to a large degree during that time. I know a lot about it because many of my friends started this school and I helped them to build it up. I took part in multiple levels of curriculum making, lesson plan development, presentation classes, training classes for local staff, foreign staff, and students, and more.
Initially the company utilized the same software (Dyned) which was being used by Web(i) and based their private class lessons on them. Since Dyned is an independent company and allows any customer to use their software, this shouldn’t have been an issue but Web(i) corporate wouldn’t let it go, so Longwell switched over to Rosetta Stone software, which you’re probably familiar with, and had to completely change a LOT of curriculum.
All in all, I support Longwell the most because I’ve known many of them for years and, while they’re not perfect, they really are nice people and do the best they can do work with the foreign staff. This is the total opposite of my experience with the leadership of Hampson in Guangzhou, which was my first full-time teaching gig in China.
Do local companies in Taicang have good management?
Management in Taicang is generally passive and indirect.
In my personal opinion of course, I would say that management in China overall is often indirect or passive, which isn’t good for situations where something really needs to be done. More than a few foreign “teachers” need to be reprimanded or even fired but the leaders don’t always get on top of these things.
To them, unless the students are really complaining about it nonstop, they won’t really do anything. So, if you want them to listen to you, then remember that the squeaky wheel gets the grease!
Are there English teaching opportunities in Taicang?
Yes, there are a few different English teaching opportunities in Taicang from language schools to public schools.
Apart from the ones I mentioned above, there are also quite a few young children’s English training centers, as well as some public schools which also offer positions to foreign teachers.
If you are interested in any of these, then you can check these locations, which have at least one or two children’s training centers:
- Taicang Public Library
- Wanda Plaza
- Nanyang Square
Does Taicang have English training schools?
Yes, Taicang has a few different English training schools.
As I mentioned above, the main ones I’m aware of are Longwell, Webi, and World. You can read more about them above.
Are there many foreign companies in Taicang?
There are many foreign companies in Taicang: German, Japanese, American, South Korean, and more.
I don’t know all of the details but I do know that Jiangsu has made special agreements with Germany and as a result they have piled up quite a number of companies here, and in particular Taicang. I would imagine that a large part of the reason is the Taicang Port, which I mentioned earlier.
There are, however other foreign businesses and not just a few. The Nike factory used to be operated here until it moved most of its operations to Vietnam, but it still does a few things here and has an employee store, which you must have a guest pass for in order to go in. I’ve picked up two over the past three years and am currently wearing an authentic pair of retro Air Jordan shoes which I picked up for under $75.
Some of the foreign companies in Taicang that I can recall immediately are:
A friend of mine just moved over to a German company but she also speaks fluent Japanese, which she used at her last company. I also had a local manufacturer help me to create a design I came up with two years ago and they exclusively make clothes for a Japanese brand also.
Is there much foreign trade business in Taicang?
There is ongoing, busy trade in Taicang as it has its own port which has been used for hundreds of years.
I mentioned before that Wikipedia lists the high-life of the Taicang port as being several hundred years ago but after being in this area for a few years myself, I find that hard to believe.
Many foreign brands have reached out to Jiangsu and Taicang in particular in order to manufacture a range of products and the province itself has given special provisions in order to make it beneficial for them to do so. As a result, many local Chinese are spending more time improving their English so that the opportunity for advancement is even higher.
What’s the climate like in Taicang?
Taicang has four unique seasons and experiences a larger-than-average amount of rainfall, but each season is typically not extreme.
The hot summer days are more or less confined to July and August, with warm days leading up to them and just after.
Spring offers up some lingering cool days and then the rains come, but as I love the rain it matters not to me at all.
Winters vary and can get as cold as -9 C but this isn’t common. However, last winter we did get several days of snow, which was great–but rare. So much for “global” warming!
Fall comes with some cooler days which creep in almost unnoticed until you feel the nice wind coming through your window. I felt one of these last week while making coffee in my kitchen with the window open. It felt great!
Overall, I think that Taicang, while having cold, cool, warm, and hot days alike, isn’t extreme on either end. So, if you like a place that offers a taste of each season, then you’ll get it there.
What’s the pollution like in Taicang?
Pollution in Taicang by China’s standards is moderate but still often suffers from larger-than-acceptable levels of PM 2.5 and other pollution.
For me, I can tell if the air quality is good just from being outside for a few minutes. If it’s good, then it not only feels good and fresh but is also easy to breathe and flows smoothly.
If the pollution is too high, then the air is heavier, the sky is not clear, and within a few minutes of being outside I develop a cough that will persist as long as I stay outside and the pollution levels are high.
There is a popular expression in China and you can hear it practically everywhere you go outside of Beijing. Simply tell a local “The pollution in this city is too high,” and they will most likely say “Yeah, but it’s not as bad as Beijing!”
This of course is a ridiculous comparison because comparing Beijing to local pollution is like comparing a bleeding gash on my arm to not having an arm at all. Who actually thinks that either one of these is good? Better, sure, but man…there’s so much denial in China sometimes!
The bottom line for me is that Taicang has a string of good days and a some bad days. Overall, I find it unacceptable to stay here forever and raise a family as it is now–and I don’t see it changing drastically any time soon. I can handle it for a short time, but it is quite hard at times! I haven’t lived in a Chinese city yet that has acceptable levels of pollution, unless you want to count my friend’s parents’ farm home in the middle of the Sichuan countryside–at the end of the road in a valley surrounded by lakes and small mountains.
How clean is the air in Taicang?
The cleanliness of the air in Taicang is generally moderate.
I often check the PM 2.5 levels by looking them up online. Due to various domestic reports of the local government giving out false information about pollution levels, I always use independent sources which are more trustworthy and accurate.
According to what I experience, the pollution is much too high to be an acceptable place to live for an extended period of time. According to my regular checks of the PM 2.5 levels in particular, they are usually moderate but too often severe and even dangerous at times. For the current report, you can view Taicang’s PM 2.5 levels here.
When the sky and air is clean and clear, it is nice and blue and the sunset over the lake is very nice. However, due to many rainy, overcast, and even a somewhat polluted atmosphere, too many days cause visibility issues.
Does Taicang have four full seasons?
Yes, Taicang has four full seasons.
You can read a bit more about them above under the question “What’s the climate like in Taicang?”
How hot is it during the summer in Taicang?
Taicang is considered a sub-tropical environment and therefore summer can be quite humid, varying from upper 20 C to 38 C on average.
Luckily, the really hot and humid summer days in the city don’t last too long so you don’t have to bear such nonsense as you would in Guangzhou down south, or like where I’m from in Louisiana (terrible, terrible weather!).
It is, to me and most others, definitely too hot during the summer in Taicang but it does have two benefits that I don’t see in many other places:
- The rain almost always cools things off a bit and brings some relief with a temperature drop.
- The evenings are almost always cooler than the daytime, which was rarely the case in Guangzhou.
How cold does Taicang get during the winter?
Taicang gets cold and occasionally has some snow but normally doesn’t get any lower than 0 C to -5 degrees.
I’ve spent a few winters in Taicang and I’ve seen a few snow days which is cool, but in general one winter could be a bit chilly (got down to -9 C) and another winter just barely freezing at 0 degrees C. I think that the winter days are nice and while it does stay cooler longer, it is mostly light jacket weather and much better than battling many months of heat!
How often does it rain in Taicang?
The rain in Taicang is higher than the average with some drops falling on almost exactly 50% of all days over the past year (October 2017 through September 2018).
According to the statistics at World Weather Online, Taicang had 179 days with rainfall over the last 12 full months, which is almost exactly half of the year! This may seem like a lot–and it is compared to the average–but not all of those days are heavy rain and it is not always covering the entire region. Some are isolated showers or affects from storms and typhoons coming in from other areas, which might only affect certain regions.
One day I was at a German company helping them with some training and the sky suddenly became very dark. By the time I got outside and onto my motorcycle, it was pouring rain down in buckets! I got soaking wet as I headed back to my office but when I got about 5 blocks away, suddenly it stopped and all of the streets were dry! When I walked into the front door, the receptionists were both amazed and confused as to why I looked as if I had just climbed out of the river.
Welcome to Taicang!
Do typhoons affect Taicang?
Typhoons do occasionally affect Taicang with wind, rain, and some mild flooding, although not generally severe.
Taicang isn’t a coastal city but it isn’t far from it, and being that it’s also near the Yangtze river delta and has various rivers and waterways, any weather which yields larger-than-average amounts of rain affects the city. This affect would be felt whether it’s a short, fast and heavy rain shower, or a days’ long steady rain.
After living through over three years here, I’ve seen some strange weather to be sure. Last year there was a sudden storm which blew in so fast that I had to take shelter for over an hour in 85C, a bakery I’d stopped in to by a snack. I was riding my bike that night and when I saw metal pieces and tree limbs flying around, I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to go outside. Moments later, there was water actually pouring in the front door of the bakery due to the fast, heavy rain coming down so quickly onto the sidewalk outside. The street outside suddenly became like a river and when I finally headed home it was over a feet deep in some places, with trash and tree pieces littered everywhere.
It was madness!
That has, however, been the craziest time for weather but it was short-lived, lasting only a couple of hours at best.
Typhoons basically affect Taicang via their lessened but still considerable affects. There will sometimes be lasting but mostly moderate rain, some bearable wind, and just perhaps too much water in many areas. Many Chinese cities don’t seem to have taken flooding into account so the streets fill up too fast and even many apartment areas become like lakes due to lack of proper drainage design or consideration.
Overall, however, I would say that the typhoon affects are tolerable and don’t bear a huge threat apart from the rather terrible city planning. There really is too much concrete in most Chinese cities and Taicang is no exception.
Does Taicang have any tornadoes, flooding, or extreme weather?
Overall Taicang has relatively moderate to slightly harsh/extreme weather.
As I mentioned in the area above about the affects of typhoons in the area, Taicang has a problem with drainage which is common throughout China. Essentially, whenever there is either heavy rain or lasting rain, some areas fill up with too much water and take a little while to drain.
I did hear about an area in Jiangsu which had some tornado activity a couple of years ago but it wasn’t very close to Taicang. During my 3.5 years in the area, I have never heard or witnessed any tornado warnings. The wind does sometimes become a bit strong but it’s only occasional and almost always manageable, with a few exceptions like the time I mentioned before!
Flooding could be worse than it is simply because of the poor design but if your home is an an apartment above the 1st floor, then my guess is that you’ll never have to really worry about it affecting you much, if at all.
What’s there to eat in Taicang?
Most of the food available in Taicang is a familiar Chinese-style with a few local specialties, but few foreign food options outside chain brands.
Anywhere you go in China you can nab yourself some type of noodle dish or bowl of rice–that is, assuming they don’t say “mei-you” (may-yo) and that doesn’t mean “mayonnaise.” In Chinese, this would mean “We don’t have it” or “We’re out.” I know that to us foreigners it sounds crazy, but…the truth is that I have indeed been to many, many places and been told they’re out of rice or noodles. Insanity? I think so. Welcome to China!
Actually this occurrence isn’t restricted to noodles and rice alone as many restaurants seem to be rather lazy about keeping things in stock, prepped, and ready to be ordered for whatever reason. My entire life in America–including my time in restaurant management–I’ve never witnessed such a large percentage of “We’re out of that,” and they never seem sorry about it–just a common thing, I guess!
So, when there actually IS food available to order, what is there to eat in Taicang?
I will sort of narrow it down for you the best I can into these categories:
- Taicang local food specialties: what are the main, unique foods that it’s known for, what foods do the locals feel are special, and what do I personally like the most?
- Places to eat in Taicang: what are the best areas to find restaurants, street food, international food, or buffets?
- Foreign restaurants in Taicang: what foreign restaurant food choices are there and which ones are the best?
What are the local food specialties in Taicang?
I’m neither a Chinese food expert nor am I the local Taicang culinary authority. I can, however, offer you a little guidance as to what you can find here and what the locals would suggest you try that is uniquely “Taicang.” I will now lean on my local friends in order to help you out!
Taicang’s Unique Foods
- Meat Floss — If you’ve never heard of meat floss then it’s my guess that you’ve never even been to China. I have actually seen this stuff in a variety of forms and in every city I’ve been to but the locals swear that it’s a strongly Taicang thing. I think that what they mean is that the type they make here is a famous variety, but they are definitely surprised sometimes when I mention to them that I’ve seen meat floss in multiple areas of China. I guess they don’t travel as much as I do!
The floss I’ve seen most sits atop (and sometimes inside) of a pastry or piece of bread. It reminds me a bit of cotton candy in its consistency, simply because it looks similar except for the fact that its coloring is not as pleasing as the pink or blue of its sugary counterpart. Like cotton candy however, it can be pulled apart and chewed.
It is typically made of pork and therefore has never been appetizing to me in either appearance, texture, or materials, so therefore I can’t recommend it. Many here like it, however, and my good friend “Emma” says that her grandmother used to give her meat floss whenever she would catch a cold. No chicken soup? Interesting.
- Mutton Noodles — While mutton noodles are definitely the most famous from areas such as Inner Mongolia in the northern, colder areas, it is definitely a staple food during the colder seasons in Taicang. As a fatter of fact, fall has crept into the area as I write this and my friends have told me that the mutton noodle shops are opening up since the weather has cooled off.
I haven’t been eating meat for a while but I can say that if you are interested then you can definitely try it here, but if you have the opportunity to travel to the north, then I can vouch for their wonderful hot noodle bowls as I’ve experienced them for myself.
- Vacuum-Packed Pheasant — this is something that I haven’t personally tried but my friend Lucas told me that according to Baidu (China’s answer to Google), it is around 1600 years old and famous from Taicang. Basically you can find it by going to your local supermarket in China to pick some up, as it’s mostly sold pre-packaged.
When I asked him about some special foods and he mentioned this one, he called it “wild chicken” but when I looked up the translation it came out as “pheasant,” which makes sense based on what I know of Chinese. Many words here just don’t exist for a particular animal so they’ll use one word to encompass a variety of animals or things and then use modifiers to show the difference (in this case, “wild” chicken) but this can often be confusing for foreigners because we often have a word for every single thing!
- Green Dumplings — these dumplings are called “qing tuan” or “ching twan” in Chinese and are typically purchasable during the Qing Ming (Tomb Sweeping Day) festival on April 4th or 5th each year. They are filled with a type of bean paste and the outside wrapping consists of glutinous rice mixed with some types of greenery–grass, to be exact. It isn’t particularly easy to make in other times of the year because apparently the grass needs to be at a particular stage in order to be edible, which is why it’s popular during this time.
What places are good to eat at in Taicang?
Taicang has a variety of Chinese restaurants, a small selection of foreign restaurants, and some street vendor foods.
What food is famous in Taicang?
Taicang’s famous foods are green dumplings, vacuum-packed pheasant, mutton noodles, and meat floss.
For a detailed description of these, read the section just above!
My Personal Favorite Foods in Taicang
- Malatang — I know that you can basically get this most anywhere in China but there is a nice place on Funan Road which is quite nice. Many of the malatang shops I see are small and too dingy, with low-quality goods. If you read the news, then you might already know that fake food and even “recycled” cooking oil (used oil that is filtered and then reused) are indeed problems in China, so you should really be careful about where and what you eat. Since a good friend of mine knows the owner, I have a connection and can trust them a bit more.
Malatang is an easy concept: there are typically two or three open coolers which contain fresh (or supposed to be fresh!) vegetables, meats, tofu, and some various types of noodles. You grab a large, plastic bowl and tongs and then set about plopping anything you fancy into your bowl. After you have everything you want, you take it to the cashier who will weigh it for you and then give it to the cook in the kitchen. She will also ask you how spicy you want it, because normally malatang is a bit spicy.
When you get your food back, it’ll be hot and served soup-style in a large ceramic bowl. From here, you can add a few extra little ingredients to taste such as green onions, sauces, chili pepper, garlic, etc, and then grab your spoon, chopsticks, and a smaller bowl if desired.
- Chinese-Style Hamburgers — I haven’t actually had one of these in a while but they are both cheap and tasty. I wouldn’t recommend them as healthy food for sure, but I really like the bread they put them on and the simplicity of the design and ultimate taste make them definitely something to try if you’re a meat-eater and like sammiches as I do.
There is a small food-court style area in the very center of Nanyang Square which has many small walk-up food shops with a variety of foods. You’ll find hot, cold, and spicy noodles, fried rice, meat skewers, sweet treats, juice, and of course, Chinese hamburgers.
They have tables and chairs in a covered area so you can sit and eat at your leisure, rain or shine.
- Chinese-Style Pizza — this has become increasingly popular as of late and a few places have popped-up. You can now get these around Nanyang Square and even in Wanda Plaza. Basically, it’s a long, flat piece of bread upon which they put a mixture of meat and vegetable pieces. I haven’t eaten one as I can’t find one with just vegetables, but other foreigners and Chinese alike seem to like them very much, so I think you can do as the locals always say, and “have a try!”
- Chinese Bakeries — if you’ve lived in China for a little while then you probably already know that these are popular everywhere. While quite different in many ways from the bakeries I know back in America or even the ones in Europe, they do offer quite an interesting variety–and sometimes this is too strange for me! Still, it may just be right up your bakery alley.
If you’re interested in finding some meat floss like I mentioned above, then you can probably find some here! The most famous Chinese bakery chain store, 85C, is in practically every city in China, and there are a couple of them in Taicang at Nanyang Square and Wanda Plaza.
- Chinese-Style Wraps & Snacks — my good friend Jean, a local gal, sometimes is tasked by me to find a vegetarian option and one day she found a shop which makes a type of wrap which is quite delicious. I don’t know exactly what to call it in English apart from “wrap,” but if you’re interested in finding one, just ask a local to use Waimai (food delivery) to find one for you and I’m sure they can.
There are a variety of little shops which offer many different things and this is one good way for me–and you–to find new, unique, or different things to try. If you consider yourself a “foodie,” then you absolutely must learn to try some different things via delivery!
- Dumplings, Noodles, Rice — granted, you can get these things anywhere in China but there actually are some good options here and not all of them are the same. I would say about half of all the people I know in Taicang are actually not locals, and I believe that this also shows in the food choices of the area. There is a good variety of other-region Chinese food here in Taicang, which is perhaps the best thing about the local cuisine (it’s definitely not the foreign food, as there aren’t too many choices). If you need halal, then there are also many restaurants here which can accommodate you.
- Xin Mei Hua Restaurant — this is perhaps the most well-known local Chinese restaurant and serves staple fare. It is easy to find, located near the intersection of Shanghai Road and Renmin Road, and offers good prices as well. You can take a large group and sit around a large, round table and enjoy a typical Chinese dinner after picking which foods you’d like to have. They’ll bring them out one at a time and you’ll just spin the glass around and pick off what you’d like!
- Beijiang Restaurant — this restaurant is Xinjiang (northwestern China) style and is located in Nanyang Square. I love their freshly-baked bread, fried rice, yogurt (a must try!), and vegetables. However, they have a variety of meat dishes which everyone loves very much!
- Hot Pot — this is mostly famous from Sichuan Province and can be had anywhere in China, but there are some good places you can have it locally. My favorite place is on Shanghai Road West, two blocks away from Xin Mei Hua restaurant.
If you’ve never had hot pot, then all you need to know is that you’ll sit around a table with a cooker in the middle with a large pot (yes, it’s hot) in the middle, filled with water and some seasoning. They’ll bring out a selection of meats and vegetables, depending on what you’d like, and then you just add them one-by-one to the water to cook it. As each thing becomes ready to eat, you simply take them out and chow-down.
Before you begin your meal, you will go the the sauce and condiment area to grab a bowl and make your own perfect concoction in which you will dip your food. This can be sweet, spicy, or however you like it. Most places–including the one I mentioned above–don’t have any English menus or tags, so you should go with a friend who is able to help translate for you. There is a place along Haiyundi Road which has English tags on its sauces but I can’t recall the name of the place now. I think, however, that it has elephant statues outside the entrance. If you feel like exploring, then perhaps you can find it!
Is there a Starbucks in Taicang?
There are four Starbucks locations in Taicang city as of 2018.
Currently there are four Starbucks locations in Taicang so it’s quite easy to grab your desired latte, coffee, cappuccino, frappuccino, or simply cup of tea from almost any main area of the city.
The four locations are listed below:
- Starbucks on Haiyundi Road — This location is relatively easy to find but isn’t so easy to see from the road. However, if you cross the bridge over the river on Renmin Road (the People’s road) and then take the first left, you’ll soon see a large square on your left and this Starbucks is on the left of that square. If you’re driving then you can park underground for free and then go upstairs. If you’re riding a bicycle or e-bike then you can park next to the square in the covered parking area.
This one is the largest and also has an upstairs area. In the early weekday mornings, it is rather quiet, as well as late in the evening. Weekends are basically a nightmare with tons of people and too many screaming kids, but this is also the case in all of the other locations, as well! They have their own toilet with western-style seating.
- Starbucks in Huaxu Square — This location is directly across from another square called Nanyang, which is quite popular. It’s also on Renmin Road and very easy to see as it’s not only facing the road but also very close to it. If you can find the Wal-Mart at Nanyang Square then you can see Starbucks across the street. There is also a KFC and Pizza Hut across the street and at an angle.
The good thing about this location is that it is right in the middle of two shopping centers and one supermarket. There is a lot to eat, some things to do, and even shopping to be had.
The major downside is that they got rid of their private bathroom after the last remodel and so you are forced to use the terrible bathroom in Huaxu Square which looks older than dirt and smells about 1000 times worse.
- Starbucks in Wanda Plaza — This location is inside the plaza but also can be seen from the road as it’s not only beside the #1 entrance to the mall (if my memory serves me correctly) but it also has some windows and patio furniture outside, making it rather obvious. Wanda Plaza is on East Shanghai Road.
This one is also convenient because of its location in the mall but depending on the time of day you go–or if it’s a weekend–it could be quite loud and in hospitable for anyone looking to get some work done. I avoid it on the weekends unless I’m looking to get a drink to-go.
This Starbucks has its own private bathroom even though there are also public bathrooms in the mall. However, I avoid public bathrooms as much as possible in China because the guys here, for some reason I haven’t quite figured out yet, have basically all decided that the stinky toilet area is the best place to smoke cigarettes, despite all of the posted signs which say “NO SMOKING.” I hate this restrooms for their deadly combo of toilet stink + cigarette pollution and evil uncles!
- Starbucks in Wuyang Square — This location is actually where I’m sitting today as I write this part! It’s located on the corner of Shanghai Road and North Dongcang Road, on the first floor and also at the corner of Wuyang Square, another food and shopping area in Taicang, though not as popular as the others.
This one is well-located as it’s between some important locations in Taicang. It’s also easy to see and find. The room inside is just medium-sized but it can be nicer than the others if you are there during the right time of day. It also has its own bathroom which is great in case you want to camp out for a while and work on your computer as I often do.
Are there coffee shops in Taicang?
There are quite a few coffee shops in Taicang, including four Starbucks and several independent shops.
I most often go to Starbucks of course, but there are a few other places I stop at for drinks sometimes, the main one probably being Maancat.
- Maancat — the main draw I have to this place is the location and the layout of the interior. They have a large upstairs area with pillows and rows of (fake) books. It is located at Wanda Plaza, outside of the main shopping mall, along the shopping/restaurant street.
There are several independent places where you can get a freshly-ground cup of coffee in Taicang, as you can in many areas of China. However, I personally stopped going to them and I’ll explain why in one word before I expound:
When you go into a locally-owned Chinese business, be prepared to be bombarded with the stench of secondhand cigarette smoke. This occurrence is a staple of life in China because most guys just don’t think anything about lighting-up anywhere and everywhere. These places include elevators, children’s birthday parties, restrooms, classrooms, fitness centers, basketball or badminton courts, bakeries–you name it, they’ll smoke there.
The result is that a Chinese coffee shop–even though it has “no smoking signs,” as many places do but people always ignore–will always, and I mean always have people smoking. As I neither smoke nor tolerate smoke, I simply cannot and will not go to such places anymore, no matter how good the coffee may be or how nice the atmosphere may appear.
Do they allow smoking in Chinese Starbucks?
No, Starbucks in China never allow smoking inside the cafe.
This is one of the main reasons I keep going to Starbucks despite the higher prices and overall busyness. The loud crowds are something that you pretty much can’t get away from in China, so just try your best to find headphones that shut it out and then listen to something relaxing while you’re on your computer. If you want to have a calm, quiet conversation with a friend, then it’s very hard to do here and I wouldn’t recommend leaving your home for such a thing.
As for the smoking, I have seen several guys get asked to leave immediately after they enter with cigarettes–most of which complained loudly, but they were still made to go. Unfortunately, several of these locations have tables and ashtrays just outside the doors so you have to walk through it and if you sit near them, you’ll not only catch regular whiffs of the puffers outside, but you’ll also get some nice, big doses of smoke because many people don’t think about closing the door behind them.
If you want to get to Starbucks during the quietest time in Taicang, then I recommend the mornings (especially weekdays) and late evenings (people go home kind of early, especially before work/school days).
What foreign restaurants are there in Taicang?
Taicang has a few foreign-style restaurant options which includes both chains and independent restaurants.
Most every Chinese city has a KFC, Pizza Hut, or maybe even a McDonald’s, but there are many places which have little to nothing beyond that.
Taicang, while not being a very large city, has a handful of places where you can pick up some foreign food but you definitely won’t be impressed at all. In all truth, the only “Chinese” city which has a good selection of foreign foods is Hong Kong, but HK is special due to its history of being controlled by Britain.
There are many people who say that Shanghai is an international city but I don’t yet subscribe to this idea for several reasons, and one of those reasons is the food. I will say, however, that the choices in Shanghai are definitely expanding and that’s good!
As for Taicang, it currently has at least six KFCs that I’m aware of (just saw another location pop-up the other day in a newer shopping center), two Pizza Hut locations (one at Nanyang Square and one at Wanda Plaza), a Mr. Pizza (also in Wanda), two Ajisen Ramen noodle restaurants (Nanyang and Wanda), and that’s about it for foreign chain locations. There used to be a Subway sandwich shop but it closed over a year ago.
Independent places include:
- Schindler’s Tankstelle — Haiyundi Road, across from Starbucks. This is a large German restaurant which offers a selection of meats and sausages (of course), but also has a rather large menu and even has a buffet at certain times.
I haven’t been eating meat so if you would like some salads or other options, then they have a few dishes you can try as well. I really like their spinach dish and have had it many times.
- Nolita Italian Restaurant — also near Starbucks Haiyundi, across the main square, opposite Schindler’s. You’ll have to take the elevator upstairs but it’s the only restaurant up there so it’s easy to find. When you see the pool table after the elevator doors open, you’ll know you’re in the right place!
I like their calzones, bread, and selection of wine.
- Wursthaus Austrian Bar — also serves a variety of foreign foods, located on The People’s Road–Renmin Road, just a few blocks north of Nanyang and Huaxu Square.
I am not a night-owl bar-hopper but I do like to go to this place early to get a sandwich sometimes, as there aren’t many places in Taicang to get a good sammich.
They also have a live band sometimes and you can even sing with them, which I’ve done before. It’s pretty cool.
- Home Base — a bar on Dongcang road, nearby several other restaurants. This place also sometimes offers brunch with a few foreign options. I had some quesadillas and nachos there. To my knowledge, it’s the ONLY place in Taicang that actually has nachos! My Chinese friends like their quesadillas and they are rather good, and nice enough to make them for me with vegetables and cheese only!
- Mezzo Lily’s Bar — located on Yueyang Road, right around the corner from Home Base. This ristorante has some tables outside and inside, with a bar in the middle. It will be busier in the evenings and is a popular place for many people to drink and enjoy some food–some friends and I also watched the most recent World Cup Football games there.
They have some foreign fare on the menu but for some reason get soft and hard tacos confused, even when I point at the picture. haha
- Yumway Bakery — located on Yueyang Road, just a few doors down from Lily’s (Lily’s is near the corner). This little place is one of my favorites because not only do they have a “foreign” style selection of breads, they also offer custom-made sandwiches AND pizza! This means that when you place your order, you take a sheet of paper and select which toppings, bread, crust, side item, and drink you want.
In truth, I like it better than Subway so I’m not too upset about Subway being gone. However, it’s just not as close to my home and not as fast, so I guess you have to sacrifice one thing to get another! The owner is a local man who speaks excellent English and also does custom, large orders for local businesses, so if you are looking to buy a ton of bread, you can contact him.
Is it safe to eat the street food in Taicang?
Eating street food in Taicang is generally acceptable but should be consumed in approved areas.
The street vendors aren’t allowed to be out during certain times of the day, so after 9:00 pm you’ll start to see them creeping out and setting up shop.
We’ve probably all heard the stories of eating street food in a different country and then getting sick from it–and this happened to me twice while I lived in Guangzhou–however I think that you can safely have some in Taicang if you use some common sense.
- First, take a look at the vendor’s overall setup. Is it clean? Are the utensils and cooking apparatus cared-for? Does the food appear fresh?
- Next, consider the location or area. Is this a popular, common, and approved area for selling food? Are there other sellers? Is it clean enough?
- Last, ask a friend! There are definitely locals who can tell you where you should or shouldn’t eat street food so just take the time to tell them your concerns and they’ll help you out for sure. Even my closest friends admit that there are some things which they know are unhealthy but they eat sometimes anyway, BUT they can recommend better options if you’re worried about your health or getting sick.
The main street food area after 9 is along Renmin Road, a couple of blocks from Nanyang Square and close to the hospital (perhaps this is a good thing? haha!). It’s very easy to find because there are many vendors and lots of people eating, generally. There are also places to sit (who doesn’t love a small, plastic chair?).
There is also another road called “Barbecue Street” by the locals (Luoyang Road) which is just a popular street filled with many little shops and restaurants. While these are not all “street” food because they have actual shops in the buildings, they are very much like street vendors in my mind because the food, prices, and quality are often similar. Once again, use your own best judgment: if you think that it might not sit well with you, then don’t eat it!
What are the places of interest in Taicang?
Taicang offers a few places of interest which include old towns, parks, lakes, museums, a theater, and shopping centers.
While Taicang definitely doesn’t have very famous places or a large variety of places, it does offer some nice locations which are available for regular outings. There are a couple of larger parks which include lakes, as well as several smaller parks scattered throughout the city. There are also a lot of bike lanes on most of the roads so getting around by bicycle or e-bike is convenient. If you are going to be here for at least a couple of days, then you should definitely check out one of the old towns, as well.
What parks are there in Taicang?
- Tianjing Lake and Park
- Jincang Lake and Park
- Riverside Park
- Binhe Park
Are there any lakes in Taicang?
- Jincang Lake
- Tianjing Lake
Are there any historical places in Taicang?
- Shaxi Old Town
- Liuhe Old Town
Are there any modern places in Taicang?
Taicang has a few modern shopping centers and apartment communities, as well as a theater and expo center.
The most modern-appearing structure is located at Tianjing Lake and is the expo center for Taicang. Inside you’ll find a lot of the city’s history and even a huge model of the city itself. There are some interactive exhibits detailing various aspects of the area and it’s quite interesting to see in my opinion. The cost is free but the last time I went (September 2018) they had the upper floors closed for upgrades and repairs.
The only other modern place worth checking out will be Wanda Plaza, I believe. It has lots of places to shop for clothes, many restaurants, and even an IMAX movie theater, easily the best in the area. If you’ve never had popcorn in China, then you should know that it’s sweet like candy–not buttery and salty!
Are there any museums in Taicang?
- Taicang Art & Calligraphy Museum
- Taicang Museum
Does Taicang have a convention center or expo hall?
Yes, Taicang has a small convention center located at Tianjing Lake.
Is there a theater in Taicang?
Yes, Taicang has an active theater which hosts a variety of performances throughout the year.
Does Taicang have a sports center?
Yes, Taicang has a sports center with track which is available to the public and regularly hosts various sports events.
Are there places to shop in Taicang?
- Wanda Plaza
- Nanyang Square
- Huaxu Square
What things are there to do in Taicang?
What movie theaters are there in Taicang?
- Wanda Cinema
- Wuyang Cinema
- Nanyang Cinema
- Huaxu Cinema
- Mini Cinema
Is there an IMAX movie theater in Taicang?
There is an IMAX cinema located in Wanda Cinema at Wanda Plaza in Taicang.
Is there a bowling alley in Taicang?
Taicang has a small bowling alley in Nanyang Square at Nanyang Sports.
Is there a pool hall in Taicang?
Taicang has several places to play pool, as well as snooker.
Is there a gym or fitness center in Taicang?
- Tingbin Gym
- Jingshibao Gym
- Tiyugongyuan Gym
How good is the massage in Taicang?
It gives you a happy ending.
What are the Pros & Cons of Taicang?
Taicang has been my home for over the past 3 years and there are several good things about it, but there are also some downsides to life here from my point of view as an expat so I will share them with you now!
Pros of living in Taicang
- Noise: It is definitely much quieter to live here than it is in larger or less-developed cities in China. It can still be dense in some areas but most all main places have shut down by 10 pm and the vast majority of families have all gone home for the night, making it much quieter than it ever was for me in Guangzhou, a large city that seemed to stay up eating and drinking all night.
- Cleanliness: So far, Taicang is definitely the cleanest city overall which I’ve visited in China. When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I thought it was dirty, but when I got to Guangzhou, I changed my mind. After visiting many other cities, including Beijing, Chongqing, Shenzhen, and more, I still haven’t seen a city quite as clean as Taicang in general.
- Close to Shanghai: This was the main reason I was interested in coming here to begin with, apart from the reason that the weather isn’t bad. The high-speed rail isn’t open yet and there’s no direct train to hop onto, but it’s not particularly difficult to get to Shanghai. Pudong Airport is roughly 2.5 hours away if you want to do the bus-subway route, and if the traffic isn’t bad, a shuttle could feasibly get you there in under 2 hours.
- Slower Lifestyle: If you live or have lived in a large city, then you probably know that the lifestyle there is much faster, busier, and more hectic. In Taicang, the lifestyle is definitely more relaxed and it’s easier to get that “escape” feeling from the busyness of your job and life’s expectations.
- General Friendliness: The basic friendliness of the local people is very good and while I still get pointed at by children and hear the words “laowai” and “waiguoren” often, it’s not typically meant in a bad way and usually interactions are quite nice. While it is true that general manners–or rather, what we foreigners consider manners–aren’t quite so prevalent in China as a whole, I can say for sure that there is a HUGE improvement in Taicang over Guangzhou, and GZ is a much bigger city!
- Safety: If you’re concerned about crime then Taicang is rather low in that area. I was stolen from several times in Guangzhou and the pickpockets are very bad, especially in the subway. They even stole my locked bicycle while I was in a coffee shop–and it was between a cop and a security guard! In Taicang, I have noticed that it’s actually safer than my hometown and that’s great.
- Cost of Living: If you want to get a decent apartment here as opposed to Shanghai, then the first thing you’ll notice is how much more you can get for the price. Granted, Taicang has advanced a lot and still isn’t considered “cheap” by the locals, but for a foreigner the price differences here are evident, especially when renting a house. Furthermore, you can get more smaller-town restaurant prices than you can in the larger cities.
Cons of living in Taicang
- Noise: It’s just one of those paradoxical things that is quintessentially Chinese to me: extreme on both ends! While it is definitely a lot quieter than a larger city, Taicang itself is also too loud in ways that shouldn’t be a problem–at least in my own opinion. They still allow fireworks but, as opposed to America where we have a couple of specific, expected days to fire them off.
It’s darn possible–nay, assured–that if you stay here for a length of time, then you will inevitably be awoken abruptly to the sound of cannon-like booms just outside your window because someone has chosen this day to get married–and they want everyone to know about it…at the butt-crack of dawn on a Saturday. Just so you know, the fireworks in China are far beyond the legal limits of which would ever be allowed in the US–and they are L O U D.
Another part of this is the speaking level in public, but I’ll cover that below in the Different Standards section.
- Cleanliness: As much as it pains me to say this, the cleanliness still isn’t good enough and probably needs decades more of education in order to get everyone on the same page. While it’s a marked improvement over Guangzhou and most areas, it still just isn’t taken care of as well as it could be. There’s still a cheap aspect to buildings and construction which makes structures and shopping centers look much older faster than they should, and things just aren’t cared for and maintained as they ought to be.
Recently, I saw a man power-washing the main walkway alongside a popular shopping plaza, during the day, blasting all of the junk not only into the street but also directly onto all of the e-bikes and bicycles which were parked there (in their proper places). Not only was this absolutely causing many problems simultaneously to cars, pedestrians, and parked bikes, but he also wasn’t actually “power-washing” anything. The result of his quick once-over was a wet, muddy sidewalk which was merely free of debris–debris which was now either stuck to everyone’s e-bike or in the street.
Luckily, my motorcycle was parked behind a large tree with a sort of potted surround so it was shielded from this nonsense. If it hadn’t been, I would’ve ran out there and yelled at the guy. I still wonder, though, who actually told him to do that in the middle of a weekend shopping day? This explains in my mind why the walkways always look dirty, as opposed to what I see in larger, downtown areas of major cities, as well as anywhere in Japan which always looks like food can be eaten off the street.
- The Drivers: Perhaps this is an all-China thing but I will say it anyway because there are just too many people who just don’t consider other people when they’re out and about–and the road is no exception. The locals argue, and rightly so, that they are much better here than in most other cities, but to an experienced American driver such as myself, that doesn’t make me feel any better.
I walk, ride a bike, and drive an electric motorcycle in Taicang, and I can tell you from experience that if I am not extra careful, then I will definitely get hit by someone who isn’t following the traffic laws or being considerate of others. That’s just the way things are.
- Different Standards: This can apply to a variety of things so I’ll just mention a few. One of them is the above con “noise,” which is a common problem everywhere.
While it is better here than a larger city, it is still often unbearable to me–and mostly I’m talking about the level at which people speak. When I’m sitting in a Starbucks with just twenty other people, there’s no reason why I should have to don my earphones and crank up some symphonic metal just to drown it out–but be unsuccessful! This is absolute madness to me, but that’s China in general.
Other regular etiquette issues are: talking on the phone where we shouldn’t (classrooms, movie theaters, etc), smoking in the worst possible places or where it’s not allowed, not holding doors open for others coming behind (I’ve been or almost been hit with many swinging doors this way), running red lights or ignoring stop signs, and cutting in line.
There are actually a few more but I want to make it clear that while these need to improve for certain, they are still not as bad as GZ or where I visited in Fujian earlier this year. It’s like inconsideration for others is taught in school!
- Pay Rate: For most, the pay rate of working in Taicang wouldn’t match what you could make in a larger city which offers not only a higher standard of living but also larger variety of opportunities. Still, I believe that you can excel a bit here if you are very good at what you do and care about your work performance.