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Living in Suzhou

A comprehensive guide about living well in Suzhou

Thanks to its favorable position, Suzhou is an important center for the local economy and home of many diverse businesses. Moreover, good education and transportation systems, along with the rich Wu culture, make living in Suzhou an attractive prospect for many expats.

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Life in Suzhou

Suzhou is the second largest city in the Jiangsu province of Eastern China. Situated within the basin of the Yangtze River, just south of the great waterway and at the heart of Wu culture, Suzhou is a hub for commerce, trade and economics. It is hardly surprising that Suzhou has attracted so much business, given its location; in fact it has been a hub for traders for over two and a half thousand years.

Higher Education in Suzhou

Expatriates or expat kids who are planning to continue their studies while living in Suzhou can look forward to a broad selection of institutions. There are eight main higher education institutions within Suzhou and its surrounding area, many of which are twinned or connected in some way to colleges and universities in the West. As such, there are a multitude of opportunities for foreign nationals. 

Suzhou University itself has existed in many guises since its inception in 1900. Nowadays it encompasses many schools, covering a diverse range of studies. These study areas include education, politics and social sciences, business, law and languages, as well as sports, art, and the sciences. The university is linked with education institutes in Canada and the US, and many classes are taught in English.

There are five other major higher education establishments in Suzhou itself, including the Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, which is twinned with Liverpool University in England. There is also a medical college, a specialist agriculture school and a university of science and technology, as well as other establishments just a short journey away.

Transportation in Suzhou

The roads in and around Suzhou — where like in the rest of China they drive on the right — can become very congested at certain times of day. However, this issue is currently being alleviated. A large metro network is being built underneath the city, consisting of nine lines in total, two of which are already operational.

Cycling is also very popular in the city and Suzhou has a very good bus service to all parts of the city. Taxis are also readily available and are generally very cheap.

For travel farther afield, the rail links in Suzhou are extensive. In fact, the city sits on the Beijing to Shanghai line, making its main station one of the busiest in all of China. Shanghai is only a twenty-five minute journey away by high speed rail. 

The Port of Suzhou has been called the busiest inland river port in the world, with many millions of tons of cargo moving through it every year. The smaller rivers within the city are used for tourist and commuter traffic. There are also three major airports in the wider area, including two at Shanghai.

Culture and Leisure in Suzhou

The Kunqu style of opera originated in the area, and is a central part of Wu artistic culture. A form of storytelling called Pingtan is also popular in Suzhou. This involves singing and speaking, as well as musical accompaniment, and can often be found in performance on the streets.

The Suzhou Gardens draw large crowds. Dotted around the city, these beautiful gardens date back to 600 BC and are designed to be viewed as artistic landscapes, or paintings.

Expatriates living in Suzhou can head to the Suzhou Museum to learn more about their new home. The museum features artefacts and displays depicting the rich history of the Suzhou area, including exhibitions about the rich silk industry that continues to prosper today.

The Yunyan Pagoda is also always worth a visit. Built over a thousand years ago, the tall structure makes for a striking sight as it is now leaning to one side due to its shifting foundations. Another, slightly younger, pagoda is the Beisi Pagoda. The octagonal building was once two stories higher than it currently stands, but got damaged in a fire during the Song dynasty.

There are many sporting opportunities in Suzhou, such as cricket, soccer, racket sports and cycling. Running is extremely popular, with the Suzhou half marathon held annually. The Suzhou Hash House Harriers running club was in fact started by expats in 1930.

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Updated on: May 13, 2015

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