Yeah! Schon nach nur einer Woche nach meiner Ankunft stand eines der größten Feste vor der Tür:
Das Mid-Autumn Festival auch bekannt als Moon Festival! Ganz Zhuhai war vollgepflastert mit Mooncake Werbeplakaten und eines der Hot Topics war “Was machst du am Moon Cake Day?”.
Das Mid-Autumn Festival ist eine Art Erntedankfest, welches auf frühere Beobachtungen zurückgeht, dass die Veränderungen des Mondes sich auf die Ernte auswirken. Daher feierte man im Herbst die Ernte und dankte dem Mond. Heutzutage ist es üblich seine Familie zu besuchen, zusammen Moon Cake zu essen und den Vollmond zu betrachten.
Da ich in einer Hostfamilie lebe, war es klar für mich, dass ich den Moon Cake Day mit meiner Family verbringen würde. Geplant wurde ein Fishing- und Dinner-Trip zu einer der nahgelegenden Inseln in Zhuhai. Nachmittags wurden also ich und meine zwei Co-Interns Kevin und Ivan in das Auto gepackt. Der erste Stop war einer der größten “Wetmarkets” bzw. “Fishmarkets” in Zhuhai. 1 Kilo Muscheln und 1 Kilo Meatballs, Fishballs und Fishtofu später waren wir schließlich auf unserem Weg zu der besagten Insel und zu unserem Familiendinner. Unsere Angelkünste konnten wir dann auf einer Art Fischfarm mit Restaurant ausprobieren. Während die Großeltern fleißig 2-3 Kilo Fische aus dem Teich zogen, übernahmen wir eher die Clownrollen:
Intern # 1: Fisch beißt an, Intern hat keinen Plan was zu tun ist, Fisch reißt sich + Haken los.
Intern # 2: Fisch beißt an und verschwindet mitsamt der fishing line.
Intern # 3: Riesiger Fisch beißt an, Intern entschließt sich ihn schnell hochzuziehen, Bäng! Angel bricht.
Nach circa 15 Minuten lachen und entschuldigen wurden wir in einen separaten Raum geführt und dann begann das Festmahl.
Angefangen mit Muscheln in Ingwersoße und Bittergurke, über Hühnchen im Hotpot bis hin zu Shrimps und Fisch war alles vorhanden was das Herz begehrt. Am Ende gab es dann noch für jeden ein Ministück Moon Cake. Meiner Meinung nach ziemlich delicious, für viele Chinesen aber eine Graus, da Moon Cakes ziemlich süß sind.
Am Ende des Tages saßen wir alle super ausgestopft und happy im Auto und betrachteten den Mond auf unserer Heimfahrt.
Interessiert daran Chinas Kultur und Sprache durch einen Homestay kennenzulernen? Mehr Informationen findet ihr unter: http://internchina.com/programmes/homestays/
By Madeleine Baensch, Zhuhai Office
It is becoming more and more popular for foreigners to stay at a Chinese host family while being overseas for studies or work.
Visiting a Chinese family invariably provides a deeper insight into Chinese culture and local life, but in order to get the most out of it, there are some do’s and don’ts related to culture and traditions you should bear in mind.
When entering the house…
Offer your gifts. They will probably be placed on the table or taken away unopened (as it is the Chinese custom). Fruit is a very popular gift, though confectionery or souvenir products from your own country would also be welcomed.
Greet all members of the household (most senior first), or as many as you can see from the door. A simple “ni hao”, or “hello” if you would rather stick to English, would be fine.
Take your shoes off and change them for a pair of slippers waiting for you by the door or offered to you by the host. If you have an umbrella, hand it to your host to store.
Once inside you will usually be asked to sit down. If you have bags or a coat you want to take off they will be given a seat too. Putting bags on the floor is a no-no (the floor is considered unclean, though it may seem fine from a Western perspective) and coat racks are uncommon in China. Sit where you are instructed to sit. Certain seating arrangements are followed by Chinese as a matter of tradition.
You will then be offered something to drink and eat (whether you want it or not).
Plain hot water is very popular. The alternative is usually Chinese tea. It is impolite to request a drink or an alternate beverage. The first food offered will probably be fruit, with peanuts and candy if it’s a festive time of the year. Accept these and drink/eat, or put them down on a table in front of you if you don’t want to have them immediately.
During the meal, try to follow the lead of your host. If your hosts slurp, feel free to slurp a little to create a harmonious atmosphere.
(Your hosts will probably continuously urge you to eat more, and only be satisfied that you’re full on the third refusal)
Then the conversation begins…
Your host will try to keep you entertained and ask you a few questions first.
Expect to be asked about your family, work, and income (which you can politely decline to answer even if the host tells you theirs). You are also bound to be asked where you come from.
The Chinese love to talk about the prices of things: the prices of property and land, rent, cars, commodities like rice and fuel, meat, fruit, and vegetables.
Enter into this conversation and you’ll have your host’s interest.
Questions for Various Hosts
If they have children ask about their education. If you have children too it can be very interesting to compare school in China to school life in your country.
If you visit older people you may want to ask how China has changed. Keep in mind that many still hold Chairman Mao in high esteem, despite his failings, so avoid getting into criticism, or negative questioning.
Questions to Avoid
In China it is considered best to avoid politics and one’s views about the government.
Questions on statistics like local population, distances, areas, etc. may be better directed to a guide, as locals may waffle on or give vague or best-guess answers, rather than say directly that they don’t know.
Avoid questions that will cause your host to lose face. In China it is customary to avoid embarrassment at all costs, and maintain dignity. Chinese are generally not as open as Westerners. If it seems that your host is having difficulty with a particular question, move on to something else, rather than pressing the issue…
Interested in doing a homestay in a Chinese family? Apply here!
If you are interested in China, your friends may have asked you all kinds of strange questions but without fail the conversation always turns to “Do they eat dogs and cats?”.
The answer is: Eating dogs and cats is becoming unpopular.
Having the second largest economy and some of the most developed cities; in China people are starting to prefer to keep cats and dogs as pets. There may be some restaurants selling dog meat, but if you ask local Chinese people where to get dog meat, they may be surprised or offended.
The Chinese government and also several animal rights activists as well as animal rescue teams are trying to ban the dog meat festival held in China.
I’ve often heard about foreigners who were, so to say, pressured by their Chinese host family, coworkers or friends to eat a lot and to try lots of different dishes.
BUT what you need to know about Chinese culture is…
No matter how much they may be eager to accept food, drink or gifts, proper Chinese etiquette prevents them from doing anything that makes them appear greedy or overly eager to receive them, so if you should politely refuse a couple of times before taking it. The same goes for compliments.
The next step is to never drink alcohol without offering a toast! This not only shows your gratitude toward the host and your regard for the other guests, but it also prevents you from drinking too much too quickly. If someone toasts you with a Ganbei be sure to watch out, Chinese know how to put a foreigner under the table in no time.
Also don’t worry about accessing your favourite websites here in China, as you can always rely on a VPN to surf the net.
When you arrive at the airport in China, don’t be surprised because you won’t necessarily be the tallest person in the room. Chinese people are getting quite tall these days, due to diet and advances in nutrition.
And last but not least: Do you REALLY think every Chinese person do these sorts of Kung Fu moves?
Trust me, this kind of thing does not happen (often).
But I’m sure you will enjoy your stay in China as much as I am!!!
Apply now for an internship!
It was one of my last weekends here in China and my host-family planned to go to Emei Shan – Unesco world heritage since 1996 – to show me the beautiful view on top of the mountain.The journey began on Saturday morning at 6 o´clock. We took the bus to get to the city right next to the mountain. Quite early but mei you shijian (no time) because we only had one day to climb up.
Three hours later we arrived at our hotel room which I shared with my Chinese family. Kind of an adventure I thought, but fun nevertheless…
While having a walk we got to a beautiful forest area with hidden temples. One of them – quite interesting and something have never seen before – was run only by female Buddhists.
It took me a while to adjust to the walking speed of my family because my host-mum loved taking photos – of everything and everybody all the time!
So at the end of the day we were exhausted, but still had enough time and energy for delicious Chinese BBQ. It only cost us 16 RMB for about 30 various sticks. One of the things which makes me love China. Well fed and satisfied we fell asleep early as we had to get up again at 6 am the next morning to conquer Emei Mountain.
Because my family isn´t that sporty we decided to take the comfy way: Bus and cable car up to the top! It took us 3 hours anyway…
But even during those few steps we had to take, we saw some cheeky monkeys taking food from tourists, beautiful valleys and a lot of other Chinese people who all tried to catch a photo with me… No worries, I got used to that!
Finally we arrived at the golden summit and got to see the bluest sky – including a sea of clouds – you can only imagine, leaving the Chinese pollution and fog right behind us!
It was so cold that we only could take pictures with gloves on to catch every moment of that perfect scenery. For example, the golden Buddha surrounded by dozen of monks praying for healthiness, money and a long life.
We walked around and took pictures as not to forget a single corner of that beautiful area. And of course we had around 20 kg of snacks, soups, noodles and sweets to kill for lunch – which we enjoyed under the sun we hadn’t seen back in Chengdu for the last few days.
But unfortunately we only had two hours up on the mountain before taking the same way back home!
The next time I definitely would conquer that mountain by climbing…
Bye Bye Emei!
Feeling up to the challenge? Come join us for an internship in Chengdu and Apply Now!
Everything is arranged: You know which company you will do your internship with, you might have booked your flights already but not sure yet where to live?
Today, I would like to give you some advice on your choice of accommodation when you stay in China. From my experience dealing with hundreds of students and interns every year and living in different cities in China, I am in a good position to give you a hand when it comes down to making a decision on your accommodation in China.
First of all, I would like to recommend you to put financial questions aside when it comes to your choice and really listen to your heart and find out what you want to get out of your stay in China. If you are interested in getting to know the Chinese Culture, picking up on or improving your Chinese, trying authentic Chinese food and getting in touch with locals, a homestay with a Chinese family should be the first option for you. As Chinese people are very family- and relationship oriented, they will not only accept you as a guest in their house but actually integrate you in their daily family–life which is great because it will help you settling down quickly. I personally can recommend you to stay with a Chinese family from my own experience that I had when I came to China the first time. On the other hand, if your focus in China is more in doing an internship and doing a lot of networking in the evenings, an apartment seems to be the better option as it allows you more independence and privacy.
Secondly, aside from your expectations about what you want to get out of your stay in China, you are still a student and you want to get the best value for money from our programme. A homestay will help you pick up some Chinese if it is your first contact with Chinese language or it will help you to apply and enhance your Chinese skills that you have learned before. Either way, it will always look good if you had contact with locals in a non-business-context during your stay in China. A homestay in China will be first and foremost a unique and once-in-a -lifetime-experience. You can even add it to your CV to emphasize your ability to adapt quickly to a new environment, independency, intercultural and communication skills. So, when it comes down to your financial situation and you cannot afford taking language classes but want to improve on your Chinese, it is always the best solution to choose homestay as an option of accommodation.
Thirdly, I hear a lot of people who want to arrange their own accommodation because they are here on a budget as they are still students. I can understand that arranging an apartment yourself sounds tempting if you speak fluent Chinese. However, you are also missing out on a lot of great experiences if you stay in your own place, where you might end up really far from your host-company or paying a lot more money than through our programme because you will get charged an agents-fee, pay utility bills and internet extra and have trouble negotiating with the landlord when something is broken in the apartment. But wasn’t your initial plan to come to China to achieve something and to meet great people? Well, then don’t waste your time with arranging your own accommodation! InternChina is providing this allround-service to you through our friendly, local, English speaking Chinese staff. We are experienced to help you with whatever you need to make your stay in China pleasant and a great experience. We will be there when you lost your key for the apartment or the toilet is broken, we provide bedsheets and cooking utensils for you.
So, you can focus on the things that really matter when you are in China from your first day after your arrival: your internship and your guanxi!
Growing older happens not only too fast, but it can also be pretty exhausting especially if you are abroad for your birthday.
My birthday celebrations started on Friday when I partied with some of my InternChina friends. We went to a huge club area in Chengdu where we enjoyed some free drinks with many Chinese people. Club-hopping was amazing but we were out till about 4am. So I was able to catch some sleep until noon the next day.
I was a bit surprised that my host-family did not wish me “Happy Birthday”. Later though it turned out that it was only a cultural misunderstanding. In China birthdays are usually not given special importance until your 60th birthday. Bearing this in mind, I was happy they ignored it since my 60s are still some years ahead of me. Although they did not congratulate me, they invited my friends to come over to our flat for a party. During the day my host-sister Sophie was preparing hand-made cupcakes, milk tea and biscuits as well as rearranging the furniture to make sure all my 20 international guests would fit.
It was not only a birthday party but also an International Food Feast. Every intern as well as every Chinese guest brought one home-made dish and we shared all the international food: Bangers and Mash, Chicken Wings, Spaghetti Carbonara, American Pizza, Schnitzel, Bratkartoffeln, more mashed potatoes, Chinese vegetables, fried Jiaozi and dessert. I totally enjoyed having all this delicious food at the same time.
After dinner someone started blowing up balloons. It was lovely and colourful to begin with and distributing them all over the room reminded me of childhood birthday parties. Somehow the balloons found their way all around our living room landing on people and food. Soon the peaceful party took a different turn when people started throwing balloons at each other. Thankfully no one was seriously injured during the balloon fight =).
After the party I skyped with my family in Germany and went to bed already excited for Sunday, when we had decided to see the Giant Buddha of Leshan.
It was a terribly busy but amazing weekend. Since I am leaving tomorrow I wanted to say goodbye and thank all my new friends here in China. Hope to see you soon!
This time when I came to China I had to think about some presents for my host family. I knew that colour, the way of presenting, and the gift itself can have a special meaning so I was very afraid to choose the wrong one. So here I have some ideas and advice for you.
Red, pink and yellow mean happiness in Chinese. You should use colorful wrapping paper and avoid the black and white ones because white, for example, means death. Chinese people love kitsch so try to make it as outstanding as possible for a good friendship.
Different present, different meaning
Try to find something local from your hometown, Chinese people love western stuff, like alcohol, candy or give-away goods. Pens and gift-sets (like salt and pepper) are very welcomed too. Interestingly, you should never give your host family a clock as this is associated with death. A cup is also a bad omen – its pronunciation in Chinese closely resembles the pronunciation for the word ‘tragedy’.
Also take care with the number of presents you give. Avoid giving four presents in total, as four is an unlucky number in Chinese. Words which included the syllable sì (four) are associated with death or misfortune. Eight, on the other hand, is a talisman and is, for example, highly desired in a mobile number, as you would always have fortune and luck on the go.
Don´t feel uncomfortable or misunderstand the situation when your family won´t unpack your gift after you hand it over, it’s Chinese manners. And if you have chosen the right gift they will love it J
In the end, remember that your host family knows that you are a foreigner, and maybe not as accustomed to Chinese traditions, and they will not blame you for giving them the wrong present.
So, don’t be shy, they will like you either way.
Having lived in an American host family some years ago, I decided to settle down in a Chinese host family for my two month internship in Chengdu. What I expected was a large family in a tiny apartment – what I got was totally different.
I am now living with my 28 year old host-sister Sophie and her mother in a luxurious five room apartment in the south of Chengdu. The flat is part of a huge fenced-in complex. Once you enter it, a green garden, friendly staff and some melodious Chinese music welcome you home. Since my right finger print helps me into the apartment, there is no need for a key and also none to lose or forget =). Every time I open the door to the apartment a recorded voice greets me friendly “你好”!
My room has a western en-suite bathroom and direct access to the conservatory. I can also use a separate room to study. So far I have not used it very often =). A few minutes by foot from my apartment away are shopping malls, an international supermarket with 70 cash desks and the subway. And there is even an IKEA around the corner.
As amazing as the apartment I’m living in is, as warm and friendly is my host-family. Since my luggage was lost the first two days after my arrival, they helped me out with everything. For my upcoming birthday they already started to plan a party. My host-sister Sophie likes to talk with me about handsome boys, delicious food and Chinese culture. Last weekend she took me out to meet her classmates. We had some really spicy hot-pot food and ended up singing together “I’m a Big, Big Girl“ at the KTV next door.
Since, frankly speaking, I would not consider my Chinese the very best, it is funny how we communicate at home. With my host-mother I can only “speak” Chinese as she does not know any English. But we always find a way to get our meaning across. Body language can help a lot and there are a number of useful apps to get around with my still-needs-some-improvement knowledge of Chinese. So far though, I can say that living with a Chinese family helps me pick up the language quicker.
Homestay in China is definitely an adventure! There will always be some adaptions you have to make and every hostfamily might have their own peculiarities. But: it is such a great chance to get an unveiled insight into the way of life in China, improve your language and build up friendships with Chinese people.
你们好！Nimen Hao and hi! This is Janina from Cologne, most of you may know this wonderful city in Germany. I am 23 years old, study business administration and nearly finished my bachelor degree. I arrived in Chengdu two days ago, after a short stay in Beijing, to work with InternChina for about two months.
But actually it´s not my first time in China. I did my semester abroad in Beijing last year. And to be honest, the first days in that new culture were extremely hard. So why did I come back? One definite reason is the great food and the snacks which you can get everywhere on the street. You can´t image how good it is until you try your first bite. As you may know, China is one of the fastest growing countries in the world, so it´s not possible to take everything in in one go. Doing an internship and living in a host family like I do at the moment should be the best choice for a little more insight. I had chosen to live in a host family because I really want to improve my Chinese and to get to know the Eastern way of life. So far I don’t regret it.
Jenny (office manager of InternChina, Chengdu) and my colleagues have received me very friendly and gave me a warm welcome, so there was no reason to be nervous.
It´s too early to compare Beijing and Chengdu right now (I will definitely write more about it at a later time 😉 ), but I really feel like home right now and I think this will be a great adventure! 再见Zàijiàn!
你好! hello, or Servus as we say in Bavaria! My name is Petra. I am 22 years old and excited to support the InternChina team in Chengdu for two months. I am studying International Culture and Business Studies in Passau, which is a very tiny but lovely town in the southeast of Germany.
Two years ago I knew very little about China. Only that it is very far away, has a famous great wall and a huge population! I gained a better knowledge of China when I began to take Chinese classes and this is why I’m sitting in the InternChina office right now in Chengdu.
Learning Chinese made me curious to come to China. I talked to Jenny, (the office manager in Chengdu) about doing an internship here. Everything was set up so quickly and professionally. Only one month after my Skype interview I was standing at Chengdu airport waiting for my luggage to arrive. Unfortunately it did not. Luckily my homestay family helped me out with everything! Of course this was also a good occasion (and a perfect excuse) to visit some of the incredibly giant shopping centers here to buy new things!
Back in Germany I live in a tiny village with only 18 inhabitants, whereas Chengdu is home to almost 14 million people! So it’s no wonder that I’ve already been lost twice here. But there were always friendly Chinese people who were able to help me out and point me in the right direction. So no need to worry if, like me, you are not used to big cities like Chengdu!
Thanks to my awesome homestay family and the InternChina family, I am starting to feel home after only two days. I am excited to meet all the other Chengdu interns for our Thursday Dinner at the Global Center. It is the world’s biggest building by square meters. Hopefully I will not get lost there again =).