Hey everyone! It´s me again, Daniel. Just now I am at the end of my 5th week and I want to tell you what happened in the past five weeks in three (!) different cities with the InternChina team and the group of students from my university.
One year ago my university just started a partnership with InternChina. InternChina provides a special program called “Summer School“, including trips and activities in the two biggest Cities in China, Shanghai and Beijing. This is a perfect opportunity not only to learn something about a complete different culture but also to spend an interesting trip during my summer vacation with great people.
Shanghai, the first city we visited for one week, was a great start for a first experience with Chinese culture. I never travelled outside Europe, so I had no chance to get an impression of a big city with over 23 million inhabitants before. I always complain about Germany’s biggest city and capital, Berlin, and the terrible connection between some places. Although Shanghai is much bigger you can easily reach different places and be on time. Furthermore, Shanghai seems to me as a role model city for many other big cities in China. Impressive Skyscrapers, multicultural and modern and a city which never sleeps (You can do activities 24/7!). And you should not miss the unbelievable view from the Shanghai World Financial Center. It is the tallest building in China and the third tallest in the world!
We stayed in Beijing for the second week. It is just a bit smaller than Shanghai but not less impressive. As a very traditional and at the same time modern city there are many old buildings worth seeing from ancient dynasties I could never remind. My personal highlights in and around Beijing were the trip to the Great Wall (impressive!) and the Summer Palace close to the city centre. Nice residence for a lonely emperor!
After all of us adapted to Chinese food and kind of living in China, we finally arrived in Qingdao at the end of the second week. I am living with a very nice host family close to the centre of the city and I have enjoyed a great time so far. We then visited the language school for the next two weeks. Hence, we got used to more words than “Nihao“ and “Ganbei“. in the following, our programme was also very diverse as we did so many interesting activities like visiting a tea house (including live ceremony), enjoyed Kung Fu lessons, made a trip to the Tsingtao Beer Museum – including tasting 😉 – and lots of other stuff. So we never got bored!
Internship in Qingdao
As time is running, my four weeks internship at the InternChina office started this week. I am very excited and I’m looking forward to it. Luckily, I have great guys working in the office who help me whenever it’s necessary. We spend our time together after work and do activities like mountain climbing, rafting, playing soccer, paintball or just have dinner with all InternChina people.
All in all, I would recommend this experience to everyone. I am just four weeks here and already got a great impression of the Chinese culture, met so many people and friends and had a great time on weekends.
As one of InternChina team member I had lots of chances to meet with people, especially with our host family. In our Chinese host families, they are always patient with you even if you cannot understand a single word of Chinese. When you move in with a Chinese host family, you will find that the parents or grandparents will always insist that you eat more on the dinner time. They’ll always say “eat eat eat more”! Can’t understand the reasoning behind it? It’s based on Chinese traditional cultural and hospitality. They want to give their child (in this case, you, their host child) everything possible to make them feel more comfortable.
Living with a host family is so much more than just a place to live because the family legitimately tries to bring you into the family. Consistently some of the most rewarding aspects of living with a host family are the day to day affairs that on the surface appear insignificant. From eating to shopping to going out to sites, our host families genuinely try to include you. From teaching you how to make dumplings to bringing you along on family outings, you’re guaranteed to take something from the homestay experience.
I myself had a homestay experience when I decided to go to Thailand after my graduation. It was my first time abroad. Sooner than expected, I found myself with my host brother, Tom, in his village of Chinmai. Eight hours away from the city center, I was greeted by my host mom at the edge of the door. Big and well furnished, the home had a lived in feel that can’t be found anywhere else. At dinner time mum (I also called her mum) cooked us some Thai hotpot. It was very interesting helping her prepare the ingredients together as she taught me all the Thai equivalents to the vegetables and meats. After dinner they took me to the night market that was full of nice cheap goods (sometimes I really can’t control myself from buying something I don’t need!) While Tom went to work during the day and his sister went to school, the evenings were always special. All in all, I’m going to tell you guys who wants to go abroad and live abroad don’t be afraid to talk with locals even you can’t speak the local language, sometime it really doesn’t matter if you can speak their language or not, body language will be your dictionary!
Hello, this is Mosche. I am the new intern in the InternChina Chengdu office. I am 24 years old and I am studying Political Science in Hanover, Germany. Since I started taking Chinese classes at my university and I have always been interested in China (I watched too many Jackie Chan movies as a teenager!) , I thought it was a nice idea to get some real China experience, so I chose Chengdu because it’s not as Western as Beijing or Shanghai. I arrived on Saturday morning in this beautiful city of Western China. Well, what to start off with in China I personally couldn’t wait to see China’s greatest national treasure. It´s not the Great Wall or the Terracotta Army (though I guess those must be fantastic, too) It is the GIANT PANDA!!!
Luckily, yesterday, the InternChina Chengdu team plus a local host family visited the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding near to Chengdu, which is the biggest Panda research centre in China (and probably the world). Most of us saw these precious Chinese animals for the first time. I consider the panda to be a very cute animal; seeing the Giant Panda for the first time was a humbling experience.
Furthermore, we met the Red Panda (Shifu from Kung Fu Panda). Since they aren’t caged, we were literally able to have some body contact. Fortunately, it only tried to bite the Chinese visitor after me.
Last but not least, we finished the day with a local culinary speciality: Fish head Hotpot. There is a not so spicy and a spicy version (a non-spicy version was nought to be found!). Since I did a previous internship in Singapore I am used to hot food, I dared to take the spicy version of the hotpot and it was delicious. The restaurant also offered an all-you-can-drink bar for free, making the combination of a delicious local dish and free beer a nice cap to my first day in China.
To sum it up, thanks to the InternChina team in Chengdu, I had a great start in my new home for the next five months. I am looking forward to further great trips, challenges and chilly evenings in Chengdu and China.
In ancient China, people believed in a concept of universal movement: Tai ji, commonly associated with the significantly more popular expression of Yin and Yang. They saw our universe as being in constant motion, the ultimate motion producing Yang (positive part) and Yin (negative part), creating a balanced universe. Yang was associated with flowing movement, Yin with tranquility. Reconciling these two conflicting energies becomes the central principle of Tai Ji. The duality of Yin and Yang furthermore can be found in real world divisions, from sensations like hot and cold, light and dark, men and women, etc.
These philosophical principles are applied to the body in the martial art of tai ji quan (aka. Tai-chi). Its core tenants view the body as a balanced system; if our body is out of balance, its effects are seen through both physical and mental discomfort. Tai ji quan was thus practiced to rebalance the body, taking on the more combative name of shadow boxing. Now known for both its health and restorative benefits, tai ji quan is actively practiced by many around the world.
Here is our intern Ben he was learning Taiji with his host family
Some of you may know it (as I’m always repeating it since I’m back, cf.: my first blog), but 4 years ago I came the first time to Qingdao: thanks to Intern China. Now today I would like to take a step back and compare how the city changed, and how it’s different today.
But before a little bit of history. Back in 2009 I was student in a International Trade BTS degree. BTS is a typical French diploma that is quite short (only two years), but the 2 years are really enough, it is a post A-level degree.
To complete my first year, I had to do an eight weeks internship abroad, Yifan and Frank found me a placement and a Chinese host family here in Qingdao.
It was the first time that I went out of Europe, and I was pretty anxious, but when I arrived, the InternChina team did all the best to make me feel like I am at home, and I really enjoyed the experience.
You could see almost everywhere in the city that part of the Beijing’s Olympic games took place in Qingdao – On the busses or taxis with the motto “one world, one dream”or with the logo of the Olympic games.
The former olympic village was still being built to be replaced by the Mall Marina City that we know today and where Intern China Qingdao team often goes for lunch 🙂
Of course there are also more skyscrapers than before, and the best example is with the two pictures below :
As I said before, I lived in a host family. This experience was really nice, it’s a good way to get really immersed in the Chinese culture. The host mother cooked me really good dishes and my host sister always helped me when I was looking for something in the city.
Furthermore, I was living about 5 minutes walk from the commercial street Taidong Lu, with lots of shops and restaurants. I really liked the place because you could go shopping, drink a coffee, etc.
When I came back to France, I had the feeling that my stay in China was too short, with “only” two months here I had the impression that I didn’t see everything. For this reason I decided to come back for my Master’s internship, and I applied for another internship in China – this time in the Intern China office.
Although the city has changed in some kind of way, the daily life is still enjoyable and Qingdao is a wonderful place to live!
On Monday, Sunny, our Customer Relations Manager in Zhuhai, asked me if I would like to come with her and visit a new homestay family. My Chinese is still very basic and I was afraid that not being able to communicate with them would make things awkward, but of course I was excited to meet a family that could potentially become one of our interns’ host family!
After a few minutes of asking around to find the right building, we arrived at the apartment. They opened up and quickly welcomed us inside. First we met the host dad, host mum and their 11-year-old son. They were very nice and accommodating, even though I could understand very little of what they said.
Then they gave us a tour of the apartment. It was a very nice, clean and cozy home, with a few bedrooms and even a studio full of books! In the son’s bedroom we met the grandparents, who were also really friendly and sweet. We went back into the living room and there Sunny began talking to the mum and dad about Intern China and the students that come do internships and live in homestays. Meanwhile, I had a very pleasant chat with their son, who was very keen on practising his English and I was more than happy to help! As it turns out, he loves basketball and is an avid drummer.
Even though we were only planning a short visit, they invited us for dinner and the food smelled so yummy we couldn’t refuse. It was a very nice meal with lots of vegetables, rice and some lamb. I was reminded of my own childhood when the host mum gave her son a small plate with ketchup on it, so that he would eat all his food!
After dinner we went back to the living room for some tea, chatted for a few more minutes and then took our leave. With lots of smiles and “thank yous”, we said our goodbyes and left. It was a great experience for me, to be welcomed so warmly into someone’s home, by a family who is very excited about the prospect of providing a home away from home to one of our future interns.
Today, I want to tell you a little about how we get to know our host families.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked our Qingdao Customer Relations Manager Rita Jin, if she could take me with her when she goes to meet a new host family next time. She said yes, and I was quite excited to go a couple of days later.
After a 20minutes bus ride from the city centre, we arrived at the living compound and started searching for the apartment where we were to meet our new host family. The area was really nice and people were helpful. I have seen many living compounds in China already, but this one was bigger than the ones I normally visited. While searching for the right building we found a big frozen lake in the middle and thought that this place would be great in summer for our interns and a really nice place to live while being in Qingdao for an internship or language classes.
After we found the right building, we were warmly welcomed into the family’s home. They seemed to be really nice and had just moved in, so they were apologizing a hundred times about their ‘chaos’ (seriously, it was very clean and comfy and not chaotic or dirty at all). Rita talked to them for quite a while, and it was interesting to see how many questions have to be asked and how long it takes to make sure that the family really wants foreign students in their life. Rita was really great at her job in explaining everything that is important for the family to know about foreign students, what problems might occur, what is expected of the family etc. The host mum also had a lot of questions, especially about the general language level of our interns and if the bedroom they had to offer would be ok. I must say: The bedroom was really, really nice and I would immediately go and live with that family!
I am sure everybody who’s coming to China with InternChina and wants to live in a host family will have a really good time and many great experiences. You will be able to learn a lot about Chinese culture and traditions but at the same time also find out what modern Chinese life is like. Of course you have to restrain yourself a little with going out and partying while you live with a family, especially if they have a young son or daughter, but what you will get in return will definitely be worth it!
If you are still not convinced, watch some of our video references here.
Last week on Sunday 2nd December, InternChina’s Qingdao office organized lunch buffet in Qingdao’s famous Copthorne Hotel (国敦大酒店).
We invited all our host families to say thank you for so many years of co-operation: Putting up with different students from all over the world, treating them like family members and taking time to integrate them into their families is a lot to ask and we know that!
Staying in a host-family means a lot of effort for both sides: The student has to get used to a completely different way of life and has to integrate him- or herself into Chinese family life and the Chinese family has to learn about a new culture, too.
But staying in a Chinese family will mean a big boost for your Chinese knowledge. It’s one of the best ways to learn Mandarin Chinese, and there is no need to be afraid, all our host-families have a least one person who is able to speak English. Our host-families are also very caring. They provide breakfast and dinner for all our students and sometimes will also take you to enjoy family activities on the weekends, that’s why we thought a mixed lunch would be perfect for everyone. Combining Western and Chinese cuisine, making both sides more eager to know more about the other – you will not only learn about Chinese culture but also about your own. Being a part of a Chinese family will be a unique chance and we want to thank all our host-families to make this great experience possible!
Read more about staying in host-families here!
Homestay in Australia:
A couple of years ago, I was living with an Australian family, so I want to tell you something about Australian homestays first.
A homestay in Australia is either arranged through the university/college the student is attending or through a specialized ‘homestay service provider’. Students visiting Australia who are under 18 must have a guardian and can only stay in a host family that have had a background check (it is called a ‘working-with-children-check’, some providers make this type of background check mandatory for all families wishing to use their services).
Taking a shower and other funny things…
I still remember, it was my second week living with an Australian family, my host-mum Wendy was a really nice and easygoing woman. One night she came knocking at my door and asked: “Xavier! Do you want to take a shower together?” I was shocked because before I came to Australia I imagined western people to be open minded, but definitely not THAT open! Maybe Wendy read my mind( ’cause I was not the first Chinese child in her house), so she explained to me every single weekend, the whole family will have a bath together inside the spa pool. She invited me because I am part of this family now. She changed the way to tell me because she just wanted to scare me when asking the first time.
Having meals in Australia
Salad – which just is a lot of fresh raw vegetables with dressing – is the starter for every single Australian, next will be the meal, the Australians really like to cook bacon, adding some sauce, cheese etc. So maybe some Asian people will not really like this kind of food. In the evenings I always talked with my mum on the phone and told her how much I miss my Cantonese food!!! My homestay-family had their own green house in the garden, so every vegetable we ate had been grown by themselves. One day after I finished my salad Wendy told me: “Xavier, you know that those vegetables are organic, we used our feces to fertilize them.” I really got a shock again! But just after a few second she told me it was a joke too.
Why do a homestay in China:
Having a homestay which is organized by InternChina is an opportunity for interns and/or people who come here for language classes to learn a lot about the Chinese lifestyle as well as improve their language ability. China has more than 5000 years of history, it is one of the oldest countries in the world. 2000-2011, China became the second largest economy in the world. So that is the reason why there are so many western people who want to come to China, learn some Chinese and do an internship in China. Their first choice should be living with a host-family to have a traditional Chinese homestay and that’s why:
Staying with a Chinese family might be different than any other homestay you’ve already had. Chinese are very friendly and hospitable people. They will try to make your stay in their country as comfortable as possible, since they want you to take a good image of China back home. Having a Chinese family care for you might sometimes also seem a little exhausting. They might tell you to be back home latest at 10p.m., but that’s not because they don’t want you to have any fun, but because they are afraid something might happen to you in the night. Anyways, most of them will be willing to talk about a curfew – or actually won’t be having one – and since you do have to talk about such problems with your host-family you will already have learned a lot about Chinese culture. 😉
Then there is this one major point: Food! Your host family will cook for, and together with, you. There is no better way to learn about Chinese cuisine than staying with a Chinese-family. The three main criteria for good Chinese food are: colour, aroma and taste. If you do an internship in Zhuhai, you will get Cantonese cuisine which western people normally love, in Qingdao you get northern Chinese food which is just as good. Some Chinese love to add a lot of chili, so make sure your host-family knows if you don’t like to eat spicy food.
3. Chinese Holidays
Besides, living with a Chinese family you can pass every single traditional Chinese festival with them, such as Chinese New Year maybe. It will really make a huge difference celebrating this major holiday(s…it’s actually almost 2 weeks of continuous partying and throwing firecrackers) with a Chinese family ’cause you willlearn about all the traditions connected with these holidays. Normally, being a foreigner in China without a host-family, you just miss out on all this stuff.
4. Living Environment
Finally, the living environment is different as well. Most Chinese live in apartments which are organized in big living complexes, and the community in these buildings is normally really good. You know your landlord and your neighbours. Say ‘hello’ or ‘ni hao’ to everybody you meet and don’t be afraid if you see all the old people sitting together playing Majiang, Chinese chess or card games, smoking cigarettes and screaming a lot, they are not arguing but having fun! And if you ask nicely, they might even teach you how to play these games.
Xavier Song works at InternChinas Zhuhai Office and stayed in Australia for 6 years, spending 8months with a host-family. Thanks for this amazing blog Xavier!
Before accepting a homestay in China you may have some initial doubts about the prospect of living in unfamiliar surroundings.
What can I expect from living in a Chinese host family? What is typical for them on a daily basis? How will they treat me? Do I have to eat dogs or insects? And very importantly: Will I be able to adapt to their cultural habits or will I feel like a total stranger throughout my time in China? These may be some of the questions that come to mind regarding a homestay in China!
First of all I want to clear up something: Chinese people are not aliens, they are people like you and me, just with some different trades and habits. One different aspect is the food. So be prepared: it is possible that Chinese families will offer you strange things like grilled bees, crabs thousand year old eggs or really spicy food. My advice is to give them a try. You might be surprised that it is sometimes not as bad as you expected!! Nonetheless, I am certain that your Chinese family will make an effort to cook something which you can enjoy. They often have many different dishes in the middle of the table so take your chopsticks and try out the diverse meals of vegetables, fish, chicken, rice and dumplings!
The living conditions also differ from those in our Western cultures. Some of us were quite shocked because once we arrived; we stumble across an old kitchen, a 20 year old washing machine, an uncomfortable bed and a shower in the middle of the bathroom so you cannot avoid flooding the whole bathroom! Immediately we realized China is still a developing country which is the reason why some homestay families do not live in luxury like we do back home.
It is essential to share some activities with them because it is a useful way to get to know their culture. Chinese people like to go to restaurants, family parties and they are very pleased to welcome their foreign guests and to cheer at them with their local Tsingtao beer. But it is important to know that Chinese people avoid staying out late at night. In general family doors are closed around 9 pm, and as a result Chinese parents basically watch TV in the evening whereas their children often play computer games. You think that this is boring? Well, their aim is not to keep you “imprisoned” at their house. If you spend some time with them the rest of the day your host family will usually let you go out. The majority of students usually come home around 12 pm at the weekend or they even get a key to come home whenever they want. It can be seen as a signal of trust so be proud of it and do not try to exploit your host family!
If they accept you as a part of their family it is likely you will get a chance to join them for extraordinary activities like the international Qingdao beer festival, a typical Chinese wedding, big birthday parties and a lot more.
So what conclusion can be drawn from my own personal experience? I believe that family life in China can be described as a “give-and-take” relationship. If you are nice to them by trying to adapt to their habits, joining in with family activities and attempt to converse and learn their language, they will be more inclined to give you freedom. Additionally it is a great opportunity to get to know a culture which is totally different to our culture back home. So be open-minded, try to see further than the end of your nose and you will definitely enjoy your life in China.