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Chitchat - Matthew J. Zavala


What do you do here in Tianjin?

I am currently the Academic Director for an education company called U-Excel. I am also teaching English and history, and have really enjoyed getting to know all of my students and the friendly and warm staff at my company. I am planning a trip to Mongolia in a few weeks and would like to travel more while working and living abroad.



What’s your age and hometown? How long you have been in Tianjin?



I am 28 years old and came from Londonderry, New Hampshire, in the United States. It is a small, quiet little town with a small community of people. It is very different than living in a city with a population of about 12 million! I have been in Tianjin for 6 months and plan on staying for a few years.



Favourite place to get a quick bite?


There are so many good places to eat- it is difficult to choose just one. I am not sure of the Chinese names of the restaurants but there is the Bavaria Beer House, a small restaurant located on Anshan Dao, and a really good noodle place close to my office.




Favourite place to unwind?


I would have to say either going for a walk around the Haihe or just watching a movie in bed in my apartment. A nice dinner every so often with good friends and good food is also very enjoyable. It really depends on how the work day and work week has been for which activity I like to do when I want to relax.




Where do you and your friends usually hangout?


The usual hotspot for me and my buds is a local bar called Truman's. The atmosphere is always lively whether we are playing darts, poker, singing karaoke, competing in trivia or just enjoying a nice cold beer with good friends and the amazing staff that work there. I have met a lot of expats at this establishment and have made many good memories already!




What do you miss most about home?

My family and friends! I think it is funny how you don't realize the little things you take for granted until you do not have them! Visiting my family via a quick car ride, getting some of my mom's home cooking, or going to one of our favourite restaurants and enjoying a nice meal and catching up with friends.




What is your favourite aspect of living in Tianjin/China?

I would have to say how nice the people are in Tianjin. They are always so helpful whenever I am lost or trying to find a new restaurant or local tourist place to visit. They always help without asking for anything in return. For how large the population is here you would never think or guess that you would meet such caring people.




What advice would you give to newcomers to Tianjin?


Come here with an open mind! You will enjoy your time if you are friendly and willing to embrace the Chinese cultural experience. A simple smile will go a long way to a stranger! Always trying something once will create some good memories for you to look back on. Get outside of your comfort zone!




How long did it take for you to settle into life in Tianjin?


It took about 2-3 months to find some local spots, learn how to travel around with ease, and to find a new group of expats that I enjoy spending my time with- learning about other peoples’ cultures and experiences.




Describe Tianjin in 3 words...


Fun, city, people




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