The region consists of four prefecture-level cities, with two of those prefecture-level cities having county-level cities under their jurisdiction.
- 1 Chaozhou — the main cultural centre of the region
- 2 Jieyang
- 4 Shantou — the largest city in the region and its main port
- 5 Shanwei — at the edge of the Pearl River Delta to the west, with beautiful beaches especially around the Zhelang Peninsula
This region has its own language, called Teochew or Chiuchow. Teochew is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin or Cantonese, but is partially mutually intelligible with Minnan, spoken across the border in South Fujian. The accent and pronunciation varies slightly between the three main Teochew-speaking cities of Chaozhou, Shantou and Jieyang, but if you are fluent in Teochew, this should not pose too much of a challenge. The prestige dialect of Teochew is the dialect spoken in Chaozhou, though the Shantou dialect has the most speakers.
The dialect spoken in Shanwei is called the Haifeng dialect which, while closely related to Teochew, is distinct from it, and often described as an intermediate between Minnan and Teochew. There is also a Hakka-speaking minority.
The region is part of Guangdong province and many people speak Cantonese, albeit as a second or third language rather than natively. As with anywhere else in China, standard Mandarin has been the language of education, government and most media for decades, so nearly all educated people are fluent in Mandarin, though often with a thick accent. The most characteristic mispronunciations of Mandarin among native Teochew speakers are the merging of the initial "f" sound into "h", and of the final "n" sound into "ng".
English is not widely spoken, though staff at the higher end hotels will be able to speak English.
The region is known for its unique architectural style, which can be distinguished from that of the rest of China by its "curly grass roofs" (卷草脊). Traditional Chaoshan architecture is also known for its intricate wood carvings, and for the use of porcelain shards to make colourful, intricate mosaics.
Teochew cuisine is distinct from the Cantonese cuisine that is prevalent in much of the rest of Guangdong, and is more similar to South Fujian cuisine than to Cantonese cuisine. It is known in particular for its seafood and vegetarian dishes. Braised meats are commonly eaten in Teochew cuisines; a feature which it shares with South Fujian cuisine, but stands in contrast with the popularity of roasted meats in Cantonese cuisine. Other signature Teochew dishes include cold crab (冻蟹), pork jelly (猪脚冻) and fish balls (鱼丸).