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Reverse Culture Shock
Interns Perspective, Internship Experience, Internships Advice

Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse Culture Shock

As my first group of interns prepare to return back to the UK, one topic of conversation that has been heavily discussed is reverse culture shock.  As someone who has travelled a fair amount, I am well acquainted with this confusing feeling.  However, compared to regular culture shock, the reverse feeling felt upon return to one’s home is rarely discussed.  This blog will explain the sensation and hopefully give you some tips on how to prepare and combat reverse culture shock.

So, what is reverse culture shock?

Reverse culture shock is pretty much exactly what it states on the tin; it’s a feeling of shock, isolation, or unfamiliarity when you return home after living abroad for a considerable period of time.  It can even sometimes be worse than culture shock felt when first experiencing life in a new place, because you assume that since you are returning somewhere full of family and friends the change will be easier to deal with.  However, a lot of people often explain this transition to be more difficult as they are returning to the same place, but not returning as the same person.  No one at home completely understands the journey you have been on, and you miss the people you shared that journey with.  People at home will often be interested in hearing tales from your time abroad right after your return, but they might become disinterested after a few days or weeks, and this can lead to feelings of frustration and isolation as no one understands the life you lived abroad.

Accept your feelings

Although you may feel down or upset for a period of time after your return, the most important thing is to understand why you are feeling that way.  Hopefully this blog will help you to understand this feeling and be aware of reverse culture shock, so if you do experience it you at least know what is happening.  There’s always so much focus on preparing to travel somewhere, but hardly ever preparation for returning home.  It always feels rushed and last minute as you try and pack in as much fun as possible in the last few days in your temporary home.  So, it’s easy to forget to remind yourself that you may find moving home more difficult than moving away.  But accept whatever feelings come, and don’t feel bad about feeling bad!  It’s totally normal and little can be done to prevent missing your time abroad, because let’s be honest, living everyday as an adventure is of course going to be more fun that the daily life you’re used to back home.  But you will slowly adjust back to life at home, and everyday will get easier, just don’t be surprised if sometimes you feel sad or lonely for a day or two.

Stay calm

A major factor which plays into reverse culture shock is often the fact that relatives and friends may not be as interested in hearing about your time abroad as you had hoped.  After a few days, they may grow tired of hearing you talk about your time away but try not to be frustrated or offended.  Try your best to put yourself in their position.  While you have been away discovering new food and making new friends, most people at home have been living their same daily lives and may not want to hear how good a time you have had compared to them.  In addition, it’s important to remember that the world at home did not stand still when you were away.  People change, situations change, and the place you return to may not feel exactly as it did when you initially left.  Be patient, and things will begin to feel normal again.

Stay connected

Thankfully today it is possible to stay in touch with people you met on your travels through the magic of social media. Ease of communication is one pro of the ever-evolving social media used constantly in today’s world. If you ever feel down or alone, give your friends from your internship or your travels a message on Facebook (or WeChat!) and see if they’re feeling the same way. It’s important to recognise that these feelings are totally normal, and most people will be going through the same confusing emotions, so talk about them, or just have a catch up and see how everyone is adapting to life back at home!

Keep busy

Similar to regular culture shock, one of the best ways to overcome reverse culture shock is keeping busy. Don’t let yourself spend days on end sitting in your room reminiscing about your time abroad, this will probably only make adjusting to life back at home even harder. Make plans with friends, cook dinner for your family, go for a run, start to learn a new language, basically anything that keeps your mind occupied and helps you keep developing! When you were abroad, you probably did your best to use your time wisely and fit as many activities in as possible. Take this mentality back home and live each day to it’s fullest. Is there somewhere nearby your hometown where you’ve never explored? Is there a museum exhibit on display nearby? Is there a coffee shop with great cake that you’ve not eaten in a while? Even though it may not be as exciting as living abroad in a brand-new environment, you can still find hidden gems in your own back garden, so go out and explore!

Plan the future!

From my personal experience, the best way to combat reverse culture shock is to plan something exciting in the near future.  For me, this is usually a short trip away from home.  I’m lucky to live in Europe where travel prices are relatively low, especially in winter, so planning spontaneous trips doesn’t need to break the bank.  However, if travel prices are too high, plan a day trip instead!  Or a party, a picnic, a sports game, a bike ride…  anything that you can look forward to and focus energy on planning, so you can look forward to new adventures rather than becoming sad reminiscing over memories of the past.

Hopefully this blog has helped you to learn about the reality of reverse culture shock and will help you to prepare for your return back home.

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Internships Advice

InternVietnam On Place FAQ’s

Every year we host a large number of interns on our InternVietnam programme in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – all of whom are keen to find their way around as quickly as possible.

We have come up with a handy FAQ list to let you know what’s what and save you from the perils of a forgotten phone charger or lipstick, some advice on navigating public transport, and an inside scoop on where to get a cracking coffee fix!

If you have any to add to the list just let us know. Comment, Tweet us, chat to us on Facebook or yell at us in the street.

 

InternVietnam LogoBen Thanh Market, Saigon Kitsh, The House of Saigon etcTry to negotiate if you think you can and it depends on how much you think the product is worth, if it’s too pricey walk away. We always recommend starting at 50% of the original price.Depends on some places (like hotels) but we mainly use VND here. You shouldn’t really be paying in USD.Starts from 6pm till late.Vung Tau beach is 2 hours away by bus, Mui Ne beach is 5-6 hours by bus, Dalat is 8-9 hours bus. There are also lots of places you can reach by short domestic flights.Try Futa Bus Line or Ve Xe Re.Yes, it’s compulsory. You will need to have your passport to check in to your hotel even if you travel by bus and not by plane.It will take around 45 mins – 1 hour depending on the traffic. If it is rush hour on a weekday always give yourself extra time to book a Grab and get there.There are drivers working overnight. It can sometimes take a little longer to confirm yourself a booking, so allow yourself 5-10 minutes extra just in case.- Domestic flight: 2 hours
– International flight: 3 hoursThere are 4, Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar, Vietjet Air (cheapest), Bamboo Airway (new)- Vietnam Airlines: the most expensive one, normally on time and the best service

– Jetstar: budget airline, cheaper than Vietnam Airlines, sometimes delayed

– Vietjet: budget airline, frequent delays for flights, usually on time for international flights

– Bamboo Airways: newest and similar price to Vietjet. Sometimes there are delays an limited availability in cities in Vietnam and overseas.Nha Trang, Dalat, Danang etcVietnam RailwayAny convenience store: Family Mart, Circle K, 7 Eleven etc.Depending on your data package, about 100,000 VND should be enough.Central Post Office– Monday – Friday: 7:00 – 19:00
– Saturday – Sunday: 8:00 – 18:00Musulman Mosque, Al Rahim Mosque, Jamiul Islamiyah Mosque etcCoconut coffee at Cong Café (chains), egg coffee at Little Hanoi Egg Coffee, Highland Coffee (chains)Guardian which is a chain storeSupermarkets, Dien May Xanh (chain store), The Gioi Di Dong (chain store), MinisoBen Thanh Market, Vincom B Center etcAny supermarket (Big C, Coop Mart, Vinmart), Trung Nguyen Coffee etc

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Dialects in China
Internships Advice

Dialects around China

China is one of the biggest countries in the world, with the highest population in the world. For this reason, it is not surprising that many accents, dialects, and languages exist within this area of the world. When people think of China, they often relate it to Mandarin, the official language of the country. What many people do not realise is that China actually contains several hundred languages and dialects. This is a brief introduction to some of the dialects and languages you may hear around our internship locations!

 

Zhuhai:

Zhuhai

 

This small city is found in the very south of Guangdong province. Cantonese is widely spoken in this province, as well as in neighbouring Macau and Hong Kong. Almost everyone you meet in Zhuhai will be able to speak Mandarin, however, it’s not uncommon to hear local people converse in Cantonese (Guangdong hua, in Mandarin), especially if you venture out to more rural areas. Cantonese has nine tones, compared to Mandarin’s four, so it often sounds more fast flowing and expressive. Some useful phrases to note may be:

Hello: nei5 hou2
Good morning: zou2 san4
Sorry: deoi3 m4 zyu6
Thank you: m4 goi1
You’re welcome: m4 sai2 haak3 hei3

Tones in Mandarin

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Conservation in Chengdu
Internships Advice

Environmental Conservation in Chengdu

My previous blog outlined some of the environmental challenges that China faces, the aspects in which it is becoming more sustainable and what you can do during your internship to make a difference. In this blog, I am turning to the companies that InternChina work with and what they are doing to help the environment and community in and around Chengdu. I spoke to three companies that offer internships with InternChina in Chengdu: Chengdu Urban Rivers Association, Swild and Dragon Yunhe. They outlined their aims, how environmental protection has improved in China in recent years, challenges to their work and what the future holds for them.

Chengdu Urban Rivers Association (CURA) 成都城市河流研究会

CURA is an NGO focussed on river conservation and sustainable development, specifically tackling the problem of water pollution in and around Chengdu. Since their establishment in 2003, their main focus has been on long-term projects in two villages, Anlong Village in Pidu District and Lingshi Village in Tangyuan Town which are located near streams and rivers that are the main source of drinking water for Chengdu.

CURA aims to build safe areas near rivers to reduce water pollution and develop facilities to help villagers reduce pollution in their daily life, including building toilets and pipes which separate waste. They organise workshops and training for villagers about eco-agriculture and the harms of using pesticides and chemical fertilisers, as well as garbage classification and how to discard of toxic waste. They also hold activities in urban areas to highlight the problems of water pollution, the importance of eco-products and living in a sustainable way.

An education session hosted by CURA with the local community (credit: CURA)

Improvements

Both the villages that CURA work with have developed a better understanding of eco-agriculture and one villager who adopted eco-agricultural methods now has over 85 customers that he delivers to twice a week. Villagers have also started to organise activities to clean garbage from nearby rivers and streams. CURA’s work has had knock-on effects: people from Yongan Village have seen the work of the neighbouring Lingshi Village and have set up a team of 30 people to help clean their local stream. Furthermore, after learning from CURA about a government policy which exchanges the deposit of toxic waste for a small financial return, villagers have started to collect and separate toxic waste from other rubbish. This has benefitted local wildlife, soil quality and water sources, as well as resulting in a more beautiful natural environment due to the reduction of visible garbage.

Challenges

One of the main challenges for CURA is sourcing funding. As CURA is a NGO, it is unable to raise money itself and, therefore, has to rely on donations and partnerships with organisations. Foundations are the main source of funding for many NGOs but CURA has found that it is often difficult to align the goals of CURA with foundations’ own missions. While some foundations are keen to focus on cleaning urban rivers, there are fewer who are willing to concentrate on the sources of drinking water. Due to CURA’s nature as a small organisation, it lacks a strong mandate to force action on a wider scale and struggles to get its agenda adopted by larger organisations and the government.

A litter-picking activity with a school (credit: CURA)Future

CURA want to use the knowledge gained from their experience in Anlong and Lingshi villages to make proposals more quickly for other villages in the future. They aim to develop a model which can be extended throughout Sichuan and sell it to organisations to implement. The revenue will be used to fund further research and investment into the problem of water pollution and solutions, and improve their marketing strategy.

Mingming is hopeful about progress in terms of the environment in China as more NGOs and individuals are trying to push environmental laws and changes.

Swild (西南山地)

Swild uses photographs, videos, articles and documentaries as a means to educate about biodiversity within southwest China which they promote through their wide social media following on both Western and Chinese channels. Their aim is to show people the beauty of nature and by doing so encourage people to conserve and protect the environment. Their photography and documentaries show footage of a vast variety of animals, birds, plants and land types, as well as rare wild species and protected areas within Southwest China. They also cooperate with other conservation organisations within China to promote sustainability.

A leopard in the wild captured by a Swild photographer (credit: Swild)

Improvements

Since Swild registered as a company in 2015, they have noticed more and more people paying attention to environmental issues within China, including those with no previous interest in, or knowledge of, the environment attending their events. There have been more events held in Chengdu to raise awareness about environmental conservation and protection, such as a recent talk from primatologist Dr Jane Goodall and a ‘zero-waste’ event organised by Roots and Shoots which included a clothes swap, documentary screening and information about reducing individual’s ecological footprint.

Shuting and Yu Dengli think that the most effective recent change in China has been the introduction of recycling classifications which was piloted in Shanghai and has spread across China, including to Chengdu. They believe that the use of government sanctions can make environmental protection more effective; this is gradually being rolled out for those who don’t recycle or recycle incorrectly.

Challenges

Swild noted three main challenges to the environment that they experience while documenting wildlife: pollution, waste and a loss of natural habitats due to population and urban expansion. Shuting and Yu Dengli think that to make environmental conservation more effective in China, further education is needed in all sectors of society.

Future

Swild are continuing to expand their resources that document the natural environments and wildlife in southwest China, including into more remote areas. At the beginning of 2020, they are launching two new documentaries, Kula Riwo Life and The Secret World of Wanglang.

Some of the resources Swild produces

Dragon Yunhe 登龍雲和

Dragon Yunhe is a social enterprise that promotes community and environmental sustainability through a business model approach. It focuses on the environment in remote areas, especially in conservation areas where ecosystems are fragile.

Their initial project in 2015 was establishing the Yunhe Centre located in Ganze Tibetan Autonomous Region. Since then, Dragon Yunhe has adopted a multifaceted approach to building an eco-tourist model in the village which involves: developing local industry; community training about eco-agricultural skills and techniques, food safety and local crafts; and establishing education programs about local culture, traditions and nature. It also runs community projects and outdoor expeditions for domestic and international partners, especially schools and universities.

Improvements

The Yunhe Centre has provided a livelihood for many people who live nearby and has given the local community the resources to find a solution to the problems that rural areas face and to manage natural resources themselves. In addition, Dragon Yunhe has collaborated with specialists to develop cultural and environmental education programs which over 500 participants have taken part in.

Within China more generally, Xiaomei has seen improvements in the conservation of national parks as authorities are acknowledging and taking the responsibility to improve environmental protection within these areas.

Challenges

Xiaomei believes that the current understanding of eco-tourism within China is one of the biggest challenges to increasing the scale of eco-tourism nationally. In China, eco-tourism is often understood as under-developed areas which lack services and so Dragon Yunhe is promoted in China as an educational tourism or responsible tourism company. She believes that, for the eco-tourism industry to develop, people need to understand the core principles behind eco-tourism. The difficulty of gaining sufficient funds for rural communities also inhibits the development of this type of project on a wider scale.

Future

The Yunhe centre has been rented for 30 years with the hope that within this timeframe the centre will be 100% self-financed and self-run by local people. Many rural areas face, or will soon face, a situation where there is nobody to look after natural resources because of depopulation due to urban migration and overdevelopment. Dragon Yunhe believe that working with the local community to find a sustainable livelihood for them is the key to the protection of these rural environments.

Dragon Yunhe plan to develop a model for eco-tourism based on their experience at the Yunhe Centre. Their aim is to gather more resources so that they can link different stakeholders including the private sector and decision-makers and encourage this model to be implemented by investors and the government on a larger-scale. They also plan to continue to educate about the importance of responsible tourism.

An intern at the Yunhe Centre (credit: Dragon Yunhe)

CURA, Swild and Dragon Yunhe are three of the many organisations in Chengdu taking positive steps to tackle environmental problems and support local communities. For many environmental organisations, continuing and expanding their work in the future relies on the availability of funding which is restricted by China’s NGO laws.

A huge thank you to Mingming from CURA, Shuting and Yu Dengli from Swild and Xiaomei from Dragon Yunhe for taking the time to talk to me and sharing their experiences.

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China Climate Crisis
Comparisons, Cultural, Interns Perspective, Internships Advice

Addressing the climate crisis in China

The current lack of environmentally friendly practices is one of the aspects that I find most frustrating about living in China. A lot of Chinese life is about convenience from Alipay to takeaway but, unfortunately, this often comes at the cost of the environment. Living in China it is all too easy to abandon the more sustainable life habits that you are well versed to back at home because they are not the norm and often require more effort. Yet, one of the simplest ways to be environmentally friendly in China is to persevere and continue your habits from home. This blog outlines some of the challenges China still faces in regards to the environment, aspects in which it is improving and ways in which you can make a positive impact along with some useful vocabulary!

Shopping 购物

The demand for shopping is huge in China as is evident by the huge number of shopping streets and malls in China selling everything from discounted fakes to Louis Vuitton. China also has a massive online retail market of 855 million digital consumers with online sales expected to reach $1.5 trillion in value in 2019.[1]

You won’t last very long in China without hearing about Alibaba’s Taobao 淘宝, an online retail market selling pretty much everything you could imagine, similar to a combination of eBay and Amazon. On Taobao, an order of multiple items will normally come in individual deliveries because the products are sourced from different sellers across China, producing huge amounts of unnecessary packaging.

Shopping and discount festivals have also become more popular among retailers in recent years, such as Singles’ Day (November 11), a day of discounts launched by Alibaba in 2009 which regularly surpasses the sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined; Alibaba made 268.4 billion RMB (£29.4 billion) in 24 hours in 2019.[2]

Environmental organisations claim that China’s online retail industry used 9.4 million tonnes of packaging materials in 2018 with estimates that over 250,000 tonnes were produced from Singles’ Day sales alone.[3] As of 2017, Chinese people threw away around 26 million tons of clothing annually, with less than 1% of it being reused.[4] While some retailers are taking some small steps to encourage recycling or use more recyclable materials, it seems that more substantial changes will rely on environmental regulation of the industry.

What you can do?

Try to reduce your consumption, especially of products with extensive packaging, and recycle items wherever possible. When buying presents for your family and friends back home, consider what kind of souvenirs you are buying and opt for locally produced and more ethical options. For example, Blue Sheep in Chengdu is a social enterprise which sells locally made craft items and the profits are used to help economically disadvantaged people, particularly those affected by disease, disability or poverty.

Charity shops are non-existent in China and second-hand clothes shops are extremely rare due to a cultural stigma attached to second-hand items in China. However, expats are constantly moving in and out of all major Chinese cities and so expat groups on WeChat and Facebook are a good place to find and pass on used clothes, furniture, utensils and food. You can also talk with interns who are moving out before you or staying longer than you to see if you can transfer items between yourselves.

The WeChat account Fei Ma Yi 飞蚂蚁 (WeChat ID: feimayi90) also accepts all clothes, shoes and bags regardless of the condition they are in. You just need to enter your details, choose an approximate weight of items that you are donating and arrange a time for them to collect it from your apartment. They will sort the items and send the better quality ones to charity and the rest to be recycled.

Takeaway 外卖

Takeaway in China is very cheap and there is a vast range of options on websites such as Eleme 饿了么 and Meituan 美团外卖 . The Chinese takeaway market has expanded massively in recent years and a survey from the National Business Daily shows that 23% of respondents order takeaway daily.[5] However, the growth in takeout is amounting to huge environmental damage: it is estimated that China’s takeaway industry in 2017 produced 1.6 millions tons of packaging waste which included 1.2 million tons of plastic containers, 175,000 tons of disposable chopsticks, 164,000 tons of plastic bags and 44,000 tons of plastic spoons.[6] Delivery containers and utensils are generally not recycled because people don’t wash them out adequately and the materials used in them take over 30 years to disintegrate if they are discarded in landfill sites.

What you can do?

While everyone has those days where they return from work and don’t want to leave the house again, try and avoid getting regular takeaways. The reality in China is that you’re never more than two minutes walk from a restaurant, so why not just go out to eat and save the waste of containers, plastic bags and single-use chopsticks? If you do decide to order takeaway, you can choose the option not to receive disposable tableware (不要餐具 bù yào cān jù) or write it in special requests.

Recycling 回收

There are huge environmental problems resulting from the management of China’s plastic waste: it is often sent to poorly managed landfills or discarded in the open which can lead to it entering the sea. As a result, a quarter of all plastic waste that is discarded in the open is done in China, causing it be the home of the world’s first, third and fourth most polluted rivers.[7]

A new recycling system was launched in Shanghai in July 2019 which has now spread to major cities and is gradually being introduced throughout China. Bins in public areas have divisions between regular waste and recycling, with more categories for domestic waste. As recycling is fairly new, many locals are still unfamiliar with how to recycle but education campaigns have been launched and the government is introducing fines for individuals and businesses who don’t recycle.

Newly introduced recycling bins

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/277391/number-of-online-buyers-in-china/ (accessed 24/12/2019)

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/10/tech/singles-day-sales-alibaba/index.html (accessed 24/12/2019)

[3] https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3037168/waste-chinas-e-commerce-deliveries-could-quadruple-413-million 23/12 (accessed 23/12/2019)

[4] https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1000777/why-china-is-bursting-at-the-seams-with-discarded-clothes (accessed 30/12/2019)

[5] http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1165893.shtml (accessed 23/12/2019)

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/28/technology/china-food-delivery-trash.html (accessed 23/12/2019)

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/28/technology/china-food-delivery-trash.html (accessed 23/12/2019)What you can do?

Recycling systems vary throughout China so this advice is based on my experience of living in Chengdu. Bins for your apartment are normally located on the ground floor of your apartment block and are generally divided into regular waste, recyclable waste, food waste and hazardous waste. The best method is to create a system within your apartment for recycling so it is easier to take it down to the relevant bin. You should tie up bags of waste, especially food waste, so that if the rubbish does get mixed during collection, food will not contaminate the recycling and can be separated at a later stage. Try and also avoid using extensive single use plastic: where you can, avoid taking plastic bags and using single-use tableware; and invest in tote bags, tupperware, metal straws, metal chopsticks and reusable cups. You may experience confusion when you say that you don’t need a plastic bag/ straw etc or if you offer your own but be insistent and use the phrases below to help you.

Useful vocab

Recycle – Huíshōu 回收

Recyclable waste – Kě huí shōu wù 可回收物

Food waste – Cān chú lèsè 餐厨垃圾

Harmful waste – Yǒu hài lè sè 有害垃圾

Plastic – Sù liào塑料

I don’t want a plastic bag – Wǒ bùyào dàizi我不要袋子

I don’t want a straw – Wǒ bùyào xīguǎn 我不要吸管

I don’t want chopsticks – Wǒ bùyào kuàizi 我不要筷子

Pollution 污染

China is notorious for its pollution, such as photos of Beijing’s famous sites hardly visible through the smog. However, the Chinese government has taken moves to reduce pollution which are leading to results – particle pollution fell by an average of 30% in the 62 Chinese cities investigated by the World Health Organization between 2013 and 2016 with Beijing no longer being included in the world’s 200 most polluted cities.[1] The Chinese government has introduced ambitious targets to reduce pollution levels; reduced the use of steel and coal-fired electricity for production replacing them with cleaner alternatives; banned agricultural burning; and introduced regulation for higher quality diesel for vehicles. This action has largely been a result of public pressure and concern about the health effects of pollution, and has led to the government putting more of an emphasis on trying to balance its rapid economic development with environmental concerns.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/14/pollutionwatch-china-shows-how-political-will-can-take-on-air-pollution (accessed 26/12/2019)Xi’an on a polluted day

 

Many cities have also reduced the number of cars in the city centre by placing restrictions on which days cars can enter the city based on what number their number plates ends in; however wealthy families have combatted this by buying multiples cars with different number plates. China is also leading the way in electric transportation and Shenzhen introduced an all-electric public transport system in 2018 to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

That’s not to say that pollution is no longer a problem in China; it still reaches above World Health Organization recommended levels in many Chinese cities, especially during winter, and has also worsened in some rural areas and towns.

What you can do?

Pollution levels in Qingdao, Zhuhai and Chengdu generally remain below the Air Quality Indicator (AQI) level of 150, which is classified as unhealthy, but stay aware of pollution levels by using AQI tracking apps, such as Air Matters, or WeChat mini programs, such as 空气质量指数查询. If the AQI does reach an unhealthy level, listen to local advice and take particular caution if you have health problems, such as asthma. Face masks are also widely available at convenience shops and department stores throughout China.

Where you can, avoid getting a taxi or Didi as one person – you can ride share using the 拼车 function on the Didi app. Cycling is a great way to get around in Chinese cities because share bikes can be found everywhere and dropped off anywhere. Cycling is not only the best option for the environment but is also often quicker than taking a Didi due to traffic jams, especially at rush hour. Share bikes are also extremely cheap and Hellobikes can be used through an Alipay account for around 12 RMB (£1.30) for a month with unlimited use.

Taking trains is the most environmentally friendly way to travel in China and it is a great way to see parts of China you would not usually visit! You can choose high speed trains (高铁 gāotiě) or regular trains which are mainly sleeper trains and can often take 1-2 days. Due to the huge distances in China, taking a plane is often the most convenient way to travel if you have limited time but the lack of budget airlines means that internal flights can be expensive.

Food 食物

As income levels have increased in China so has consumption of meat and seafood. If Chinese consumers’ demand for meat grows as predicted, then China will produce an additional gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the current amount produced by the aviation industry globally.[1] China also has insufficient land for food production to keep up with the growing population and consumption and so fertilizer has been used to increase crop yields but this has caused extensive environmental damage, such as soil degradation, air pollution and water contamination.

Food waste is a serious issue in China, especially in restaurants, because in Chinese culture it is the norm to order excess food to show generosity and respect to your guests. Estimates suggest that 17-18 million tonnes of food were wasted in China in 2015, an amount which could feed 30 to 50 million people for a year.[2] However, less of the animal is wasted compared to Western countries as nearly all parts are eaten, from gizzards to brains to chicken feet.

What you can do?

The easiest way to combat the problem of food waste in China is simply to order less and bring a Tupperware with you to takeaway leftovers when you’re eating at a restaurant.

Vegetarianism has not become a mainstream diet as it has in the West and less than 2% of China’s population is vegetarian (predominantly Buddhists).[3] This means that vegetarianism and veganism are not always fully understood in China and you may sometimes find that a plate of vegetables comes with a meat garnish or that it is cooked using fish oil. However, most restaurants have vegetarian options and large Chinese cities have an increasing number of specialist vegetarian/ vegan restaurants as well as Western restaurants catering to differing dietary requirements. Buddhist temples often have a vegetarian restaurant or buffet attached. While being vegan is by no means impossible, it is slightly more tricky if you are wanting to take part in shared meals with Chinese friends or colleagues. The InternChina WeChat accounts list vegetarian restaurants in each of the cities we offer programmes.

Useful vocab

I am vegetarian Wǒ shì sùshí zhě – 我是素食者

I don’t eat any meat and fish – Wǒ bù chī suǒyǒu de ròu hé yú 我不吃所有的肉和鱼

I don’t eat any dairy products – Wǒ bù chī niúnǎi zhìpǐn我不吃牛奶制品

I want to takeaway leftovers – Wǒ yào dǎbāo 我要打包

Large amounts of food waste is common after Chinese celebratory meals

 

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/will-chinas-growing-appetite-for-meat-undermind-its-efforts-to-fight-climate-change-180969789/ (accessed 30/12/2019)

[2] https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201803/27/WS5ab9a0c4a3105cdcf65147d8.html (accessed 30/12/2019)

[3] https://www.economist.com/china/2019/10/17/the-planet-needs-china-to-curb-its-appetite-for-meat (accessed 30/12/2019)

While China certainly has not been struck by the Greta Thunberg and youth climate strike movement, and it doesn’t look to anytime soon, there are some gradual steps being taken to protect and conserve the environment. The rolling out of a recycling system last year was a massive step in the right direction but the impact will depend on how seriously it is implemented across China and on the accompanying education campaign. One of the main issues in China currently is a lack of education on how severe the global climate crisis is, rather than an unwillingness to conserve and recycle resources. So, during your stay in China, make sure you stay alert to how you can be environmentally friendly and talk to your colleagues/ friends/ homestay families about the environment and encourage them to change their habits!

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Introduction to China
All You Need to Know, Cultural, Eating Out in Chengdu, Eating out in Zhuhai, Events in Chengdu, Events in Qingdao, Events in Zhuhai, Food, Things To Do in Chengdu, Things To Do in Dalian, Things To Do in Qingdao, Things To Do in Zhuhai

An introduction to China: Which accounts to follow

An introduction to China

Keen to learn more about China before carrying out your internship? We have picked out some of the best social media accounts and websites for learning about China, its language, culture and travel destinations! We have also chosen a couple of city-specific accounts if you are struggling to choose which city to do an internship in or want to find out more about the destination you have picked.

Learning Chinese

Looking for fun and easy ways to learn Chinese – take a look at the accounts below!

han_characters

The Instagram account han_characters makes Chinese characters easier to remember by creating drawings of them. Each post shows a single character as a picture and explains the different words that that character features in with example sentences. Not only does this make learning Chinese easier, especially if you have a picture memory, it also helps you to understand the meaning of single characters which helps in learning multi-character words. Your time on social media can be made productive by learning Chinese just scrolling through Instagram!

Check out their Instagram here

Han Characters

The Chairman’s Bao

The Chairman’s Bao has abridged news articles in Chinese which you can filter according to HSK level. The website and app have a built-in dictionary and keywords and grammar points are listed at the end of every article. You can read sample articles for free, but to access all their language resources you have to pay a monthly subscription fee. However, the blog section is free and offers good tips and advice for learning Chinese, as well as articles about Chinese culture and news.

Check out the website here or download the app here

Chairmans Bao

Travel in China

Want some inspiration of where to travel to China? Follow these accounts to see some incredible photography of China’s gorgeous landscapes, historic sites and cityscapes.

loves_china

This account collates photos from around China and provides a description of the location, including an explanation about the place’s history and geography.

Check out their Instagram here

Loves China

nathan_ackley

Nathan Ackley is a photographer based in Shanghai and Taiwan and the majority of his photos document these two places. He captures the buzzing cosmopolitan life in Shanghai, as well as beautiful temples and traditional buildings.

Check out his Instagram here

nathan ackley

theotherchina

The account provides awe-inspiring photographs of life in rural China with short extracts explaining their background. It is summarised by their bio: “you know the city, now get to know the country – see how China’s other half lives”.

Check out their Instagram here

The Other China

News about China

Sixthtone

Sixthtone offers news and investigatory stories about China which you may not find in the mainstream news. The stories are split into five sections, based on the Chinese language’s five tones: rising tones, half tones, deep tones, broad tones and vivid tones. Each offers a different perspective on news and life in contemporary China. Sixthtone’s articles, photography and videos cover a wide scope of issues including social trends, economic development and life in rural areas. The weekly summary of China’s Week in Photos provides an insight into the hugely varied events and developments going on in China.

Check out their website here, Instagram here or Facebook here

Sixth Tone

 

China Daily

Follow China Daily if you want to keep up-to-date with national news and understand a Chinese perspective on international news stories.

Scan the QR code below to follow their WeChat account

China Daily QR Code

Cultural differences

Tinyeyescomics

This Instagram account uses pictures to convey the cultural differences between China and the West which are based on the illustrator’s experience of being a Chinese person living in the West. They may help prepare you for some of the cultural differences you will experience in China and resonate with you if you have spent time in China before!

Check out their Instagram here

Tiny Eyes Comics

Tiny Eyes Comics

Chengdu

Chengdu Expat

Chengdu Expat’s WeChat and Facebook account lists recent news and upcoming events in Chengdu. Look here for all the best business, cultural and nightlife events, as well as some discounts and deals. The Instagram account also features a variety of pictures showcasing life in Chengdu which will give you an idea of what you might see, do and eat while you’re here!

Check out their Instagram here, Facebook here or follow them on WeChat: Chengdu Expat.

Chendu expat

sheleads

sheleads is an international network for professional females in Chengdu and offers a mentorship programme and listing of events which focus on female empowerment and feature women. In 2019, they organised a Female Week and launched a podcast.

Follow them on Wechat: sheleads

She Leads

 

Zhuhai

discoverzhuhai

discoverzhuhai showcases the local sites of Zhuhai and the surrounding region.

Check out their Instagram here

Discover Zhuhai

zhuhaieater

This new account started by an InternChina intern shows the vast range of delicious food available in Zhuhai with their locations listed. With zhuhaieater’s help, you will never go hungry in Zhuhai again!

Check out their Instagram here

Zhuhai Eater

 

Qingdao

RedStar

This account targeted at expats lists upcoming events in Qingdao and information about the city.

Check out their Instagram here or follow them on WeChat: redstarqd

Red Star

 

Visit.qingdao

The official tourist account for Qingdao offers snapshots of its scenery throughout the seasons.

Check out their Instagram here

Visit Qingdao

Dalian

Unfortunately, Dalian is currently lacking any English language accounts but check out InternChina’s blog section about Dalian to learn more about previous interns’ experience here and maybe you will be inspired to start an account during your placement!

Dalian

 

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Chengdu
Chengdu Blogs, Discover Chinese culture, Food, Internship Experience

First impressions of family life in Chengdu

First Impressions

At the time of writing this blog, I have been in Chengdu for just five days. This is my third day as an intern in the InternChina office but I am already getting into the swing of life here. Having spent my year abroad as part of my degree studying at a university in Taiwan, I was eager to get a taste of living and working in mainland China. Chengdu appealed to me as it is a more manageable size and less international than the huge metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai, but still with lots to explore within the city and surrounding areas!

I chose to start my time in Chengdu staying in a homestay with a family and their seven-year-old son. While living in Taiwan and briefly travelling in China certainly broadened my understanding of certain aspects of Chinese culture and life, I had not developed an insight into Chinese family and home life. My family have been extremely hospitable and gone out of their way to help me get accustomed to life in Chengdu. Even in this short time, I have got an insight into their daily routine, met their family and colleagues, and tried a huge variety of delicious home-cooked meals. In Taiwan, I found that it was easy to learn what you liked on the menu and then stick with what you knew to avoid translating the menu every time. However staying with a family has led me to try new dishes, fruits and vegetables almost every meal, including foods that I would not usually have ordered myself, such as 美蛙鱼头火锅 (frog and fish head hotpot)!

 

Chengdu

 

Difference and Similarities to the UK

Whilst there are many similarities between family life in the UK and China, there are also some striking differences, most noticeably the pressure on young children to study. However, what particularly surprised me on my arrival, is that my family also have an 18-month-old son who is being raised by his grandparents almost 3000km away from Chengdu until he is old enough to attend kindergarten. While I had read about the phenomenon of parents living in urban areas sending their children back to their hometown to be raised by other family members, I had not grasped how common this was among Chinese families.  Only seeing your parents once or twice during your first few years of life seems almost incomprehensible to me, and 3000km away from my hometown of London would mean crossing multiple countries ending up in Turkey, for example. However, the pressures of Chinese working life and the lack of affordable childcare options in urban areas, mean that this is a necessity for millions of Chinese parents who have to instead make do with video calling their child.

 

 

Communicating in Chengdu

Although I have been studying Mandarin for over four years, the language barrier with my family can still be a challenge. While I generally understand what is being said on a one-to-one basis, group conversations at mealtimes are definitely more difficult, especially with my host dad often switching into Sichuan dialect! However, I am definitely becoming more confident to say to the family when I don’t understand, and, with the help of Pleco (a Chinese dictionary app), I am learning lots of new words and phrases so, as is said in Chinese, 慢慢来 (it will come slowly)!

 

Chengdu
Chengdu
Chengdu, Chengdu Blogs, Discover Chinese culture, Food, Internship Experience

First impressions of family life in Chengdu

First Impressions

At the time of writing this blog, I have been in Chengdu for just five days. This is my third day as an intern in the InternChina office but I am already getting into the swing of life here. Having spent my year abroad as part of my degree studying at a university in Taiwan, I was eager to get a taste of living and working in mainland China. Chengdu appealed to me as it is a more manageable size and less international than the huge metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai, but still with lots to explore within the city and surrounding areas!

I chose to start my time in Chengdu staying in a homestay with a family and their seven-year-old son. While living in Taiwan and briefly travelling in China certainly broadened my understanding of certain aspects of Chinese culture and life, I had not developed an insight into Chinese family and home life. My family have been extremely hospitable and gone out of their way to help me get accustomed to life in Chengdu. Even in this short time, I have got an insight into their daily routine, met their family and colleagues, and tried a huge variety of delicious home-cooked meals. In Taiwan, I found that it was easy to learn what you liked on the menu and then stick with what you knew to avoid translating the menu every time. However staying with a family has led me to try new dishes, fruits and vegetables almost every meal, including foods that I would not usually have ordered myself, such as 美蛙鱼头火锅 (frog and fish head hotpot)!

 

Chengdu

 

Difference and Similarities to the UK

Whilst there are many similarities between family life in the UK and China, there are also some striking differences, most noticeably the pressure on young children to study. However, what particularly surprised me on my arrival, is that my family also have an 18-month-old son who is being raised by his grandparents almost 3000km away from Chengdu until he is old enough to attend kindergarten. While I had read about the phenomenon of parents living in urban areas sending their children back to their hometown to be raised by other family members, I had not grasped how common this was among Chinese families. Only seeing your parents once or twice during your first few years of life seems almost incomprehensible to me, and 3000km away from my hometown of London would mean crossing multiple countries ending up in Turkey, for example. However, the pressures of Chinese working life and the lack of affordable childcare options in urban areas, mean that this is a necessity for millions of Chinese parents who have to instead make do with video calling their child.

 

 

Communicating in Chengdu

Although I have been studying Mandarin for over four years, the language barrier with my family can still be a challenge. While I generally understand what is being said on a one-to-one basis, group conversations at mealtimes are definitely more difficult, especially with my host dad often switching into Sichuan dialect! However, I am definitely becoming more confident to say to the family when I don’t understand, and, with the help of Pleco (a Chinese dictionary app), I am learning lots of new words and phrases so, as is said in Chinese, 慢慢来 (it will come slowly)!

 

Chengdu
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internchina - red bean mooncake with egg yolk
Chinese Traditions, Discover Chinese culture, Food

A Brief Introduction to Mooncakes

Last week, people all over China came together with their families to celebrate the annual Mid-Autumn festival.  This is a festival celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar year and is often associated with a type of pastry known as a “moon cake”.  Moon cakes, or 月饼, are extremely popular across China; they are given to relatives, friends, and colleagues during this festival and are seen as a luxurious gift.  However, if you are unfamiliar with Chinese culture and traditions, this may be the first time you have heard of the delicacy.  The cake is surrounded with deep history and folklore and is available with several different fillings cased in intricately designed pastry.  Here is an introduction to the roots and relation of the dessert to mid-autumn festival, the most popular types of mooncake, and the modern development of mooncakes around the world.

History of Mooncakes

Mooncakes are an extremely traditional delicacy that have existed throughout many Chinese dynasties.  One of the most commonly told stories about the history of mooncakes is the role they played in the Ming uprising against the Mongol rule during the Yuan dynasty.  Ming revolutionaries used the intricate design of these cakes to their advantage.  Cakes were decorated with a design which contained a secret message when pieced together indicating an uprising on the 15th day of the 8th month.  Once these instructions were understood the cake could be eaten to destroy any evidence of the plan.  Ever since this uprising, the mooncake has been heavily associated with the mid-autumn festival which occurs on the same day as this uprising.

 

Traditional fillings

Unlike soft, light sponge cakes often eaten as dessert in the West, these mooncakes are extremely dense and heavy.  For this reason, the circular cakes are sliced up and eaten in small pieces, often accompanied by Chinese tea.  The most traditional mooncakes are encased in a shiny, thick pastry (imagine chewy shortcrust pastry with a shiny finish), and the three most popular fillings are red bean, lotus seed paste, and mixed nuts.

Red bean paste and lotus seed paste are both very popular fillings of mooncakes.  Red bean is a common ingredient in many Asian desserts.  Be careful not to confuse this bean paste with chocolate; the similar colour of the two ingredients has been known to confuse tourists around China.  Lotus seed paste is thought to be one of the most luxurious fillings for mooncakes and is popular in southern China, especially in Cantonese regions.  Both pastes create a smooth, sweet, dense filling.  As well as plain red bean and lotus seed paste, some cakes also contain a salted egg yolk in the centre.  Cakes which contain egg yolk are thought to be the most lavish mooncakes around and are highly favoured in China.

Although this pastry is known as a “cake”, not all fillings are sweet.  Another popular filling is mixed nuts, which sometimes also contains roasted pork.  This type of filling is known as “5 kernel” mooncake because it contains a mix of five different nuts inside.  This filling differs to the smooth texture and sweet taste of the red bean and lotus seed pastes.

Modern Mooncakes

Although mooncakes have been eaten in China for centuries, new flavours are constantly being created around the world today.  From seafood to cream cheese, innovative new fillings are constantly being tested not just in China but in many other countries also.  Some new fillings which have caught on include ice cream, jellied fruit, and green tea.  A new pastry made from glutinous rice has also been used to make “snow skin” mooncakes which are sweet and chewy.  The development of new flavours is popular in foreign countries where the traditional fillings are not commonly eaten, so mooncakes can be adapted to better suit the preferred flavours of that country.

Now that you have a basic knowledge of the most traditional and popular mooncakes found in China, go out and try some for yourself to properly understand the flavour and texture of this rich and historical cake.

Chengdu Blogs

Internship in Chengdu and why you should definitely consider it!

When I first mentioned to my friends and family that I will go to China for my year abroad, their first reaction was: “China? Why China? What are you going to do there? Why not Australia or America like everyone else? Is China even safe?” I’m sure everyone in the same situation as me, went through the same experience. But the question is why is everyone’s reaction like this about China?

Shouldn’t it actually be the other way around? Considering how rapid Chinas economic growth is, it’s a land full of opportunities! After being here for five months I keep asking myself, “why don’t we have the things they have here in China? Life here is so convenient and a lot of big business ideas could be brought back to Germany.”Not to mention how attractive your CV will look with ‘Accomplished an Internship in China’ written on it. Behind these written words lays a wide range of professional skills achieved while working in China. Skills such as flexibility, strong mentality, adaptability, high stress tolerance etc. It’s definitely not easy coming to China to work – especially when you’re alone and coming from a Western country. This means that getting through the day can be difficult sometimes.However, this shows just how much self-improvement that I’ve gained since working in China, and I’ve kept a few things in mind when things haven’t worked out the way I want them to:

“Keep trying and don’t give up”

Even if things don’t work out the first time, you learn from what went wrong and you try again and succeed from the second, or even third time.

“Every day is a challenge that you will overcome and grow”

Especially when coming to China for the first time, as many things are different. However, slowly and surely you will figure out the system. Just simple things like learning how to use the metro/bus the taxi, or even ordering food for the first time. It seems hard at first but when you’ve done it, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and one day you may even be as good as the locals!

Coming to China is challenging but coming out of your comfort-zone really isn’t as hard as you think. You just need to take the first step, because after that there is only self-improvement and growth!

 

 

Besides all of this, I fell in love with Chengdu. It’s a really fun and exciting city to live in. With lovely food and endless options to spend your spare time, even after being here for five months I’m still not tired of seeing parts of the city where elements of traditional and modern China clash together.Even though Chengdu is one of the bigger cities, it doesn’t lack nature as the city tries to be a green city with numerous parks. Not to mention how affordable everything is – you could live like a King/Queen here and it’s still cheaper than in most western countries!