Pagoda Projects Reading List
Love to read? Hoping to get that little bit of business motivation? Want to find out more about our destinations? Check out our list of some of our favourite incredible fiction and non-fiction books!
We hope our reading list will bring you some fantastic recommendations to get stuck into!
by Cal Newport (Goodreads)
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. In this book, it shares cultural criticism and actionable advice for anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.by Graham Allcott (Goodreads)
In the age of information overload, traditional time management techniques simply don’t cut it anymore when it comes to overflowing inboxes, ever-expanding to-do lists and endless, pointless meetings. Thankfully there is a better way, and this is a practical guide to staying calm and collected, getting more done, and learning to love your work again.by Yuval Noah Harari (Goodreads)
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us – homo sapiens. In his book, Dr Yuval Noah Harari covers the span of human history, drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology, and economics to explore how history has shaped human society.by Dale Carnegie (Goodreads)
Since its release in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold more than 15 million copies. It is a timeless bestseller with enduring principles that will help you achieve your greatest potential in our complex and competitive modern age. by Howard Schultz & Dori Jones Yang (Goodreads)
The success of Starbucks Coffee Company is one of the most amazing business stories in decades. What started as a single store on Seattle’s waterfront has grown into a company with over sixteen hundred stores worldwide. In this book, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shares the principles and wisdom he has gained from creating this enduring company.by Phil Knight (Goodreads)
This candid and riveting memoir from the founder and CEO of Nike explores the inside story of the company’s early days as a start-up, and its eventual evolution into one of the world’s most iconic shoe brands.by Verne Harnish (Goodreads)
The author shares practical tools and techniques for building a successful business, using approaches that have been honed from over three decades of advising tens of thousands of CEOs and executives. By helping front-line and executive employees navigate the increasing complexities that come with scaling up a venture, this book is written so everyone can align themselves to contribute to a successful business.by David Clark (Goodreads)
Similar to the Tao te Ching, David Clark has collected and interpreted the wonderful words of wisdom from Charlie Munger – Warren Buffet’s longtime business partner, and the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Charlie’s investment tips, business philosophy, and rules for living are unique, intelligent, and revolutionary.by Eric Ries (Goodreads)
A startup is defined as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. The Lean Startup approach provides tips to help companies leverage human creativity more effectively, become capital-efficient, shift directions with agility, and test their vision continuously.by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne (Goodreads)
This international bestseller challenges everything you thought you knew about strategic business success. The authors argue that cutthroat competition does not lead to lasting success, but rather, success comes from creating “blue oceans” of untapped market space ripe for growth. Such strategic “value innovation” moves often render rivals obsolete for more than a decade. This landmark work upends traditional thinking about strategy and charts a bold new path to winning the future.by Simon Sinek (Goodreads)
Why do you do what you do? Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? When leaders start with their WHY, they inspire those around them to achieve remarkable results. People who follow them don’t do so because they have to; they follow because they want to. This book is for anyone who wants to inspire others and find their WHY.by Rutger Bregman (Goodreads)
We can construct a society with visionary ideas that are implementable. The author explores how every major milestone of civilization was once considered a utopian fantasy. Now, new utopian ideas such as universal basic income and a fifteen-hour work week can become reality in our lifetime. This inspirational book explores solutions to how we can achieve these goals as a society.by Angela Duckworth (Goodreads)
Professor and psychologist Angela Duckworth believes the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent, but a focused persistence called grit. Identifying our passions and following through on our commitments is the key to success.
by Peter Hessler (Goodreads)
River Town is an unforgettable portrait of a city that, much like China itself, is seeking to understand both what it was and what it someday will be. Told through the eyes of Peter Hessler, a Peace Corps volunteer who moved to Fuling in 1996 as the first American resident in more than half a century, he offers vivid descriptions of the people he meets, giving voice to their views.by Evan Osnos (Goodreads)
As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic, and cultural upheaval. In Age of Ambition, he describes the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain control.by Kerry Brown (Goodreads)
This book is a must-read for the Western world to understand the hidden story of the rise of Xi Jinping – otherwise known as the “Chinese Godfather.”by Jung Chang (Goodreads)
This bestselling classic has sold more than 10 million copies around the world in 30 different languages. It is the story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of a memoir and the panoramic scope of eyewitness history.by Peter Hessler (Goodreads)
From the bestselling author of River Town comes this book on the human side of the economic revolution in China. In the summer of 2001, Hessler acquired a Chinese driver’s license and travelled the country by car for the next seven years, tracking how the automobile and improved roads were rapidly transforming China.by Peter Hessler (Goodreads)
The acclaimed author of River Town and Country Driving presents this rare portrait of twenty-first-century China as it opens its doors to the outside world. Hessler illuminates the past and places a human face on the history that he uncovers in a narrative that gracefully moves between the ancient past and the present day.by Leslie T. Chang (Goodreads)
At the time of writing, China had more than 114 million migrant workers – the driving force behind China’s growing economy. However, very little is known about their day-to-day lives or the sociological impact of their massive migration. Chang tells the real story through the eyes of two young women who she follows over the course of three years.by Pearl S. Buck (Goodreads)
This book tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. He nurtures the land and soil as it nurtures him and his family, whereas the nearby nobles consider themselves above the land and its workers.by Kazuo Ishiguro (Goodreads)
This masterful tale tells the story of an English boy born in early-twentieth-century Shanghai who suddenly becomes an orphan at age nine when his parents mysteriously disappear. He is then sent to live in England and becomes a renowned detective. More than twenty years later, he returns to Shanghai in an attempt to solve his greatest mystery.by Dai Sijie (Goodreads)
This enchanting tale about the magic of reading explores the story of two city boys who are exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. They discover a hidden stash of Western classic novels translated into Chinese and escape their grim reality through the realm of literature.by J.G. Ballard (Goodreads)
This classic, award-winning novel tells the story of a young boy’s struggle to survive in China during World War II. Separated from his parents, he endures imprisonment in a Japanese concentration camp, starvation, and death marches. This coming-of-age tale of survival highlights a world thrown out of balance.by Madeleine Thien (Goodreads)
Master storyteller Madeleine Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations—those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. At the centre of this epic story are two young women.
by Octavio Paz (Goodreads)
Long acknowledged as Mexico’s foremost writer and critic, Paz has written one of the most enduring and powerful works ever created on Mexico. It is a beautifully written and deeply-felt discourse on Mexico’s quest for identity.by Alfredo Corchado (Goodreads)
Award-winning journalist and immigration expert Alfredo Corchado highlights the sweeping story of the great Mexican migration. His book merges the political and the personal in telling the story through the eyes of four friends at a time when the Mexican population in the United States swelled from 700,000 people during the 1970s to more than 35 million people today. It is essential reading to understand the role of Mexicans in shaping America’s history. by Laura Esquivel (Goodreads)
This number one bestseller is a romantic, charming tale that takes place in turn-of-the-century Mexico. It shares the story of the all-female De La Garza family and a love triangle between sisters.by John Kenneth Turner (Goodreads)
From 1908-1911, author John Kenneth Turner posed as an American investor seeking to buy a tobacco plantation and was involved in the revolutionary movement in Mexico. His book exposes and criticizes the brutal labour system and corruption in Mexico at the time.
by Jeffrey M. Pilcher (Goodreads)
This book asks the question, “What is authentic Mexican food?” Many foods typically associated with Mexico such as burritos and taco shells were actually created in the United States. In fact, Mexican food was the product of globalization from the beginning due to the Spanish conquest. Ultimately, Planet Taco seeks to recover the history of people who have been ignored in the struggle to define authentic Mexican food.by Martha Menchaca (Goodreads)
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a majority of the Mexican immigrant population in the United States resided in Texas. As a result, this state became the focus of debates over whether to deny naturalization rights. This book provides an in-depth understanding of the realities and rhetoric that have led to present-day immigration controversies.by Mariano Azuela (Goodreads)
Widely regarded as the greatest novel about the Mexican Revolution, The Underdogs tells the story of a poor, illiterate Indian who must join the rebels to save his family. His courage and charisma lead to his generalship in Pancho Villa’s army before discouragement and disillusionment settle in.by Carlos Fuentes (Goodreads)
Described as the authors “most important novel in several decades”, The Years with Laura Diaz chronicles a migration from Veracruz to Mexico City during the Revolution. Told through the eyes of a woman who is also a political artist, wife, mother, and complicated heroine.by Juan Pablo Villalobos (Goodreads)
Tochtli is the child of a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and what he wants more than anything in the world is a new pet for his private zoo. A pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia, to be exact. This masterful and darkly comic novel has created quite a buzz in the Spanish-speaking world and beyond.by Joe Tuckman (Goodreads)
Jo Tuckman reports on the world of Mexico’s drug wars, government strategy, and the impact of U.S. policies. While Mexico faces complex challenges, Tuckman concludes that the vitality and imagination of many in Mexico inspire hope for a better future.
by Geoffrey C. Ward & Ken Burns (Goodreads)
Drawing on dozens of interviews in America and Vietnam, this book aims to highlight the perspectives of all those who were involved in the Vietnam War. From U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers and their families to high-level officials, antiwar protestors, POW’s, and many more. This book plunges the reader into the chaos and intensity of combat without taking sides, but rather seeking to understand why the war happened the way it did.by Graham Greene (Goodreads)
This novel takes place in Vietnam in 1955 during the French-Indochina War. The narrator, a cynical British journalist, is living an idyllic life with his Vietnamese mistress until he meets the naive, anti-communist, and quiet American Alden Pyle. The two become friends, however, a complicated love triangle soon forms between them and the mistress.by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai (Goodreads)
Originally written in Vietnamese by a famous poet, this novel is a sweeping multigenerational story of Tran Dieu Lan and her family from the 1920s to the present day. During the communist land reforms, Tran’s family was forced to migrate from the North to Hanoi. “Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.”by Andrew X. Pham (Goodreads)
Catfish and Mandala is the story of a young Vietnamese-American man who went on a solo bicycle journey in pursuit of greater understanding and connection to both his adopted homeland and his forsaken fatherland. A vibrant memoir that is an unforgettable tale of one man’s search for cultural identity and belonging.by Graham Holliday (Goodreads)
This offbeat travel memoir takes readers on a colourful and spicy gastronomic tour through Vietnam, with a foreword by Anthony Bourdain. Journalist and blogger Graham Holliday grew up in a small town in northern England and eventually moved to Vietnam after seeing a picture of Hanoi in his early twenties that sparked his curiosity. This memoir will inspire armchair travellers, those with curious palates, and anyone who is itching for a taste of adventure.by Duong Van Mai Elliott (Goodreads)
A Pulitzer Prize finalist, this novel illuminates recent Vietnamese history by weaving together the stories of the lives of four generations of the author’s family. Based on family papers, dozens of interviews, and a wealth of other research, this is not only a memorable family saga but a record of how the Vietnamese themselves have experienced their recent history.by Camilla Gibb (Goodreads)
The Beauty of Humanity Movement is a keenly observed and skillfully wrought novel about the reverberation of conflict through generations, the enduring legacy of art, and the redemption, and renewal, of long-lost love.
Pagoda Projects Watchlist
Are you getting everything ready for your Pagoda Projects programme and counting down the days until you jump on the plane? Are your friends and family asking you loads of questions about your upcoming experience and even you aren’t sure what to expect?
We hope that our watchlist will get you excited to explore the sights and sounds of what is going to be your new home for a months. Why not download a couple of our suggestions to pass the time on your flight out…
Netflix // IMDb
A 10-part documentary series chronicling the Vietnam war featuring the soldiers, protesters, politicians and families who lived it.Amazon Prime // IMDb
An in-depth documentary about on refugee family’s attempts to face its divided past and heal the motional wounds of the Vietnam War.IMDb
Separated at the end of the Vietnam war, an “Americanized” woman and her Vietnamese mother are reunited after 22 years.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Anthony returns to one of his favourite places on Earth, journeying to the centre of the country, near the coast and to a city he has never been to, Hue.Netflix // IMDb
Snail and broken rice are staples of Ho Chi Minh City’s Outdoorsy street food culture which has been shaped by both history and family memory.YouTube // IMDb
Luke Nguyen, acclaimed owner and chef of the Sydney restaurant ‘The Red Lantern’, returns to the country of his heritage to take a culinary journey through the northern regions of Vietnam.Amazon Prime // IMDb
An old British reporter vies with a young U.S. doctor for the affections of a beautiful Vietnamese woman.IMDb
Two plain clothed U.S. military policemen on duty in war-time Saigon investigating serial killings when their job becomes even harder.Amazon Prime // IMDb
In the mid 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson and his foreign-policy team debate the decision to withdraw from or escalate the war in Vietnam.BBC // IMDb
Sue Perkins embarks on a life-changing, 3,000-mile journey up the Mekong, South East Asia’s greatest river, exploring lives and landscapes on the point of dramatic change.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A vicarious thrill ride as Tony discovers Vietnam from the buzzing streets of Hanoi to the rural beauty of the Montagnards, and the mysterious Island of Mr. Sang. This episode shows exactly why Tony has been completely seduced by Vietnam and its people.
Amazon Prime // IMDb
An American finds refuge during the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanking in a church with a group of women. Posing as a priest, he attempts to lead the women to safety.Netflix // IMDb
A boy and his mother move to California for a new job. He struggles to fit in, as a group of karate students starts to bully him for dating a rich girl from their clique. It’s up to the Japanese landlord, Miyagi, to teach him karate.Netflix // IMDb
Renowned warrior Yu Shu-Lien comes out of retirement to keep the legendary Green Destiny sword away from villainous warlord Hades DaiAmazon Prime // IMDb
Anthony travels to Shanghai. Forget all the antiquated views your might hold about a communist-run, creativity-devoid bunch of state-controlled androids. The modern China is a vibrant, dynamic monument to capitalism. And nowhere is that more glaringly obvious than in Shanghai, a city housing 116,000 billionaires and multimillionaires who modestly call themselves the ‘bao fa hu’ or ‘explosive rich’.Netflix // IMDb
Tofu pudding. Fish head soup. Goat stew. The family-owned street stalls of Chiayi are bastions of Taiwan’s culinary traditions.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Pull up a stool and get your chopsticks ready – A Bite of China is the quintessential TV series on all things Chinese cuisine – from its rich history to the rarest dishes and wildest ingredients. Shot in more than 60 locations and featuring top chefs of the culinary world – it will surprise even the most jaded foodies around.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A couple embarks on a journey home for Chinese new year along with 130 million other migrant workers, to reunite with their children and struggle for a future. Their unseen story plays out as China soars towards being a world superpower.BBC // IMDb
Dan Snow, Anita Rani and Ade Adepitan go behind the scenes to reveal the hidden systems and armies of people running some of the greatest cities on earth.Channel 4
With unique access to the Forbidden City, this documentary reveals the spectacular history of the world’s largest palace, and the secrets of its astonishing design.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies.Amazon Prime // IMDb
The story of two men, who met as apprentices in the Peking Opera, and stayed friends for over 50 years.Amazon Prime // IMDb
This Oscar-winning biopic traces the life of Pu Yi, the last of the great emperors of China, from his ascent to the throne at the age of three, in 1908, to the time he was imprisoned in the Forbidden City, witnessing decased of cultural and political upheaval.Amazon Prime // IMDb
True story of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountain climber who became friends with the Dalai Lama at the time of China’s takeover of Tibet.YouTube
Reggie discovers contemporary China, diving deep into four megacities in search of the new generations transforming their future.BBC // IMDb
A cookery show focusing on Chinese food, with demonstrations of how to make various Chinese dishes.Channel 4 // IMDb
Guy martin’s love of industry and endeavour leads him to china, where he reveals the unseen side of its innovation, technological development and gigantic manufacturing.Netflix // IMDb
In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a factory in an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.
Netflix // IMDb
At the forefront of transforming Mexican cuisine, Enrique Olvera champions traditional ingredients under a haute perspective as he delves into the roots of Mexico to create award-winning dishes at his restaurant, Pujol.Netflix // IMDb
A look at the life of notorious drug kingpin, El Chapo, from his early days in the 1980s working for the Guadalajara Cartel, to his rise to power of during the ’90s and his ultimate downfall in 2016.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A horrific car accident connects three stories, each involving characters dealing with loss, regret, and life’s harsh realities, all in the name of love.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Bourdain travels to Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Cuernavaca to commune with local residents who express their passion through food, art, and the struggle for an improved quality of life. Bourdain talks with journalist Anabel Hernández on the impact of the area’s drug trade-related violence and how it affects local quality of life.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A documentary on some of contemporary Mexico’s most iconic artists and performers.IMDb
A documentary feature about the life of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Tomas is too much for his lone mother so she sends him to live with his older brother Federico, aka Sombra, in Mexico City.BBC // IMDb
Dan Snow, Anita Rani and Ade Adepitan go behind the scenes to reveal the hidden systems and armies of people running some of the greatest cities on earth.Netflix // IMDb
A journey through the colorful and varied world of Tacos.BBC // IMDb
In 1968 the young Rick travelled down the Pacific Coast Highway to the Mexican border and beyond. 50 years later he retraces his steps from San Francisco to Mexico enjoying unique dishes and meeting chefs. Amazon Prime // IMDb
Tony heads to Mexico with Carlos,who took over Tony’s old job.IMDb
Two young Mexican attorneys attempt to exonerate a wrongly convicted man by making a documentary. In the process, they expose the contradictions of a judicial system that presumes suspects guilty until proven innocent.
China and Italy : Two Sides of the Same Coin?
Ciao! My name is Ferdinando and I am one of the office interns here in Chengdu. I come from Torino, a lovely city just a short drive away from the Italian Alps. I have now been in Chengdu for almost a month, but it honestly feels like I have been here an entire lifetime! The atmosphere and energy of this laid-back metropolis have completely won me over, and I could definitely imagine myself living here one day.As the days have passed, I have found myself more and more at ease in this new environment. I’ve started asking myself a simple question: Why? Why is it so easy for me to dive into and settle in this very different and complex culture, while with so many others I have a more challenging time? After some pondering over many hot bowls of dandan noodles, I have realised that the reason for my rapid acclimatization was that Chinese culture is, in fact, not so distant from my own Italian culture after all.The obvious starting point of this comparison is food: both Italians and Chinese are passionate about their food and possess very complex and proud eating cultures. Due to its abundance of strong flavours and “exotic” ingredients (such as chicken feet and pig brains!), traditional Chinese cuisine can seem threatening to Western palates. However, after a few days of rumbling stomachs, foreigners will get to know and appreciate the incredible richness of this wonderful culinary tradition. I am a great fan of Chinese food myself, and I believe that, upon my departure, the thing I will miss the most of Chengdu will be its succulent chuanchuan houses and its authentic noodle corner-shops.Another main point of contact between our two cultures is the paramount importance we both give to family and tradition. While strolling by Chengdu’s People Park, it is possible to see old grandparents practising Taichi with their young nephews, just as my grandparents used to play football with a young me in Torino’s parks. In addition, in the numerous large family gatherings I have seen in Chengdu’s hotpot restaurants I see the reflection of my own “extended family” lunches, that could last anywhere between three to six hours. I am of the opinion that this strong sense of community and belonging, typical of both Italian and Chinese families, not only creates deeper family and friendship ties, but also enhances your sense of cultural awareness. Thus making it easier to “jump over” the cultural divide at hand.A third similarity I have observed between Italy and China, especially in regards to Chengdu, is their common relaxed, “dolce far niente” approach to life. I have surprisingly found that the concept of being on time is exceptionally similar both in Italy and China, so that my canonical five-minute lateness is not only accepted (unlike in England), but almost encouraged! Although Chengdu still is a bustling, work-oriented metropolis, somehow its citizens manage to maintain a hands-off approach to both their professional and personal lives. This makes this city the perfect spot to jumpstart an ambitious, yet stress-free career.
I believe many other cultural analogies can be found between Italy and China, but that is not the point of this post. The point is, in my opinion, more important to underline and point out the existence of such similarities – as comparison brings recognition, recognition brings acceptance, and acceptance brings friendship. In other words, the purpose of this post is to highlight that, no matter where you are from and where you go, as long as you seek similarities and avoid division, you will find it easier to “jump over” the cultural divide and feel at home anywhere around the world. Therefore, this is the main advice I can give to new interns coming to China: seek the familiar in the foreign and the foreign will look familiar.
Harbin vs Zhuhai
How I ended up in the “City of Ice”
As a student of Business Management and Mandarin, I had to make a choice of city in China for my year abroad. The year abroad, in my case, consists of two components: one year study and a two month internship. I decided early that I wanted to study in one city and do an internship in a different city, for different experiences.
North vs South
Originally, I was very keen on studying in a city in the southern part of China, for many reasons that include: climate, food, proximity to the sea, and much more. As a Portuguese person, I searched for a similar place to go to (and to make the cultural shock a little less noticeable!), However, it went a little different than expected (in a good way!).
I applied and was accepted for a one-year Confucius institute full scholarship in Harbin! The coldest city in China! This peculiar city in northeast China fulfilled my main criteria which was: must have majority Mandarin speakers, who speak in a standard way. My other criteria: I will study in a city where English is remotely spoken, so that I can have the best learning experience. I stuck to these two important criteria and must say, had a great experience learning Mandarin in Harbin.
How I ended up in the “City of romance”
When it came to apply for my internship, Zhuhai was already on my mind. I wanted a place different from Harbin. I wanted to feel the warmth of the sun again, and so I did for two months in the lovely city of Zhuhai. As expected these two cities are extremes in so many categories, that some may ask “Why did you go to Zhuhai/Harbin?”.
Let’s talk about some of those differences:
For those who aren’t familiar with Harbin, it’s a city located in Heilongjiang Province right at the top right corner of China, bordering Russia’s Siberia. So, one can imagine just how cold it is. Harbin’s winter lasts about 6 months reaching minimum’s of – 40 º C. Harbin is, in fact “the City of Ice”, famous for it’s ice buildings and statues and icy festivals. Moreover, it’s important to point out, Russian entrepreneurs who wanted to recreate their motherland, built the Harbin of today. So its buildings are very Russian, in the way they look, but with Chinese banners. It’s this odd combination that makes it such a peculiar city, interesting on the foreign eye.
Zhuhai is the complete opposite. The buildings are tall, and mostly dark grey and white. While it sounds depressing, it goes well with the city’s landscape. Zhuhai is relaxing on the eye, because it is a mixture of human landscape and nature. Wherever you go you’re sure to see trees, bushes, anything that screams Nature.
Beifang’s food (North China) and Nanfang’s food (South China) is completely different. Not only that, but also it varies according to the region.
Harbin’s food is delicious, flavored and mostly fried. But I couldn’t understand why most food was fried. Until a teacher explained that due to the extreme cold weather in Harbin, there was a preference for oil-based food (it will heat your body and help fight coldness). Zhuhai’s food is light, flavored and with a lot more vegetable side dishes. Both are not too spicy, so both Harbin and Zhuhai’s food are very delicious.
That was, for me, the biggest difference between the two. While in Harbin, Chinese people tend to be more amazed whenever they see a foreigner for the first time. Nevertheless they are very welcoming and overall very curious about the countries we come from. They may even ask for a picture.
Zhuhai’s people may also be amazed, but are much more relaxed when meeting foreigners. Overall, I found that a large portion of people in Zhuhai can speak basic english while no one in Harbin could. I imagine the proximity to both Macau and Hong Kong, two ex-colonies and now special administrative regions (SAR) played an important role in this.
Harbin and Zhuhai are two very different cities in so much more aspects other than the one’s I have listed. That is the fun part and makes my first time in China so special. I highly recommend visiting both north and south china and deciding which one provides for the the most enjoyable experience.
Homestay in China – Expectations and Preparations
What do Chinese host families normally expect from their house guests? Should I bring a gift for my host family? Are there any cultural norms I need to be aware of? You probably have a million questions about your homestay. Fear not! It’s all part of the discovery process and the magic of living with a host family.
When confronted by a completely different culture, many things you never expected can take you by surprise. My first tip for you before you head to China is to find out all you can about the concept of face. This will be invaluable knowledge for getting by and developing relationships in China.
Secondly, here are some friendly tips about doing a homestay in China and observations to help you prepare for host family life!
Mountains of Food
One of the lovely things about the Chinese culture is their respect, love and attention that can be conveyed by a single meal. The polite thing to do to a guest in China is to pile their plate high with food from the centre of the table. Whether you ask for it, or not.
Homestays are an incredible way to taste a wide variety of local food. You might find your hosts constantly offer you fruit, snacks like sunflower seeds or even occasionally special treats like chocolate. This can be a bit overwhelming at times!
My personal guidelines for when to accept or decline food in your homestay:
- Be open minded to trying things – say yes as much as you can, widen your horizons, don’t chicken out! (Try a few chicken feet)
- Don’t be afraid to say no when it gets to be too much – know your own limits, don’t panic if people keep offering even after you’ve said no
- Take special treats in moderation – avoid losing face by scoffing down all the families most expensive treats (though they might keep offering)
- Beware of Baijiu Alcohol – celebrations and big family dinners can often get a bit wild when local shots are involved. Handle with care!
Chinese families tend to be very conscious of the amount of water used in the home. So, looong indulgent baths or lengthy daily showers might not go down too well. Your family might even be slightly surprised at how often you shower. Feel free to bring this up in conversation with them. The more you discuss differences in living habits, the easier it is to avoid misunderstandings.
In any case, water is the most valuable commodity in the world!
In China, chicken stew means the whole chicken; the head, the beak, the feet et al. Waste not want not!
This idea crops up again and again in food and in other areas of life too. With bath towels and other household items too. (Although perhaps not when it comes to plastic packaging). Be aware of this and try to observe how the family use things.
Discuss these observations with the family! You’re both there to discover these differences. It’s always interesting to find out which of your daily habits are due to the culture of your country, your family or just your personal preference. It’s a weird and wonderful world.
Modern day lifestyle in a Chinese city is busy busy busy. Kids are the absolute epicentre of the family. Everything revolves around their schedule. Dropping the kids of at school, picking the kids up and shuffling them off to badminton class, extra English lessons, lego club, chess or gymnastics championships and finally exam prep, plus more exam prep.
Adjusting your schedule to the family schedule can be a challenge sometimes. The more you communicate with the family about your timetable, your internship hours etc. the more enjoyable the experience will be. You’ll communicate with your host family through WeChat which even has a translate function if conversations get complex.
Top tips for living in harmony:
- Try to set up regular time to spend with the family in the evenings – especially if there are kids!
- Ask advice on the best places to shop, hike, climb or play football – the family with be eager to show of their city and can show you around
- Be patient and flexible -remember how much the family are adapting to make you part of their daily routines
Clubbing and your usual night-life madness might not be so compatible with your new family life here in China. Have a think about what you are committing to and decide what is most important to you. Host families can be extremely caring in China and they do tend to get anxious if their house guests stay out late at night.
Remember, it’s a short period of your life and you might only have this one opportunity to do something so unusual!
Gifts from your hometown go down a treat! Any local to your community at home. Chocolates, biscuits, stickers, tea towels, scarves, pictures etc. Just a little something to show your appreciation.
In China, people always give and receive gifts. It is also quite common for gifts to be put aside to opened later in private. So don’t be surprised if the gift disappears unopened.
Added tip – try to give your gift with both hands!
You have to discover these for yourself. That is part of the homestay journey! However, I would particularly recommend checking out Mamahuhu’s YouTube channel. They’ll give you a fun insight on which to reflect, then build your own perceptions.
Enjoy your homestay! It will be an experience like none other.
How to Read a Chinese Menu
As you may know, in China food is one of the most important things! Indeed, sharing a meal is a social opportunity that is loved across China. However, reading a Chinese menu can seem intimidating.
At InternChina we love food too – check out this blog in order to know more about how we help you to explore Chinese cuisine. If you have never tried Chinese food before, don’t worry, you’ll definitely experience this soon enough!
And fear not, this article is here to hopefully help you understand a Chinese menu, so you can order yourself and impress your Chinese colleagues and friends!
The Chinese language may appear to be the most difficult language in the world at first, as we are not used to the Chinese characters. But don’t be intimidated! This ancient language is following a certain logic – as soon as you understand the logic, you’ll be able to read a Chinese menu without a doubt!
To avoid giving you a long history lesson, let’s just say that originally all Chinese characters were created using pictures, and were developed into the calligraphic style that we see today through several different steps.
History of Chinese Characters
Let me show you the evolution of the Chinese character for “horse” – if you don’t want to order this kind of dish, just look for it in a Chinese menu!
Now that you can understand how the Chinese characters work, just use your imagination and it will be way easier to read a menu! Let me show you some examples of the main ingredients you’ll find in a Chinese menu.
Meat on the Menu
These are basically the most common kinds of meat you’ll find on a menu in China. While horse meat isn’t that popular, in some places donkey meat is! Therefore, for donkey meat dishes you will have the character for horse, and one other symbol that looks similar to the tall ears of the donkey! So a donkey is a horse with tall ears, easy to remember- right? Can you find two more very similar characters? When you understand that the Chinese language is logic, it seems less and less hard, right?
After most of those characters in a Chinese menu you’ll see “肉-rou” that means “meat”.
Vegetables on the Menu
Obviously, the Chinese language can’t always be explained by pictures, but you can still see the logic behind the characters.
Let’s look at “potato” as an example. “Tu” means “earth“, and “dou” means “bean“. A potato is a bean that comes from the earth – easy!
Another interesting story can be found with “tomato.” Tomatoes weren’t originally found in China, they were imported. So in the Chinese name for tomato we have: “Xi” meaning “West“, “Hong” meaning “Red“, and “Shi” meaning “Persimmons“. Can you guess why? Because a tomato looks like a “red-persimmon imported from the West”! Clever, right?
“Bai” means “white” and “Cai” means vegetable, so the white vegetable is also know as the delicious Chinese cabbage! The easiest way to remember a Chinese character is to make a story from the shape of the character, or ask your Chinese friends to explain the character to you!
These are the main characters you’ll see in the dishes, so you’ll see if you are going to eat soup or some noodles.
Just one thing to remember about rice, restaurants commonly use “米饭” or just “饭” – character FAN– for rice. And a funny tip about “egg”- “dan” means egg, but in Chinese you’ll always call it a “Chicken egg”.
For the soup “tang” can you see the three dots on the left hand-side ? Looks like drops of water, right? Exactly! That’s the way of describing an object or dish with water inside, so now you all know that there is water in the soup now!
Our Favourite Dishes
Now that we’ve showed you the main characters you’ll see in a Chinese menu, let’s give you some more tips and the names of our favourite dishes!
These might take some more imagination to remember, as it won’t be as easy as the characters for various animals which were very close to the actual picture of the animal. However, these cards will be super useful while reading a Chinese menu. And, you can also show them in the restaurants if you can’t find them on the Chinese menu!
Don’t hesitate to choose those dishes if you see them on a Chinese menu, they’re delicious!
You can find the two first ones in every Halal restaurant, also known in Chinese as “Lanzhou Lamian, “and you can recognise these restaurants by the characters on the outside door: ‘兰州拉面‘. And the other dishes are found in any typical Chinese restaurant!
- XiHongshi Chao Jidan: Egg and tomato with rice.
- Jidan Chao Dao Xiao Mian: Fried egg, vegetables and cut noodles (this might be little spicy in some places!)
- Feng Wei Qie Zi : Fried aubergines.
- Tang Cu li Ji: Sweet and sour pork.
- Gan bian Da tou Cai : “Big head vegetable!” This will be some delicious Chinese cabbage and spicy sauce.
- Gong Bao Ji Ding : Chicken, peanuts and veggies, with a sweet and spicy sauce.
Please Don’t Forget!
Here some tips, that may save you one day – who knows!
- If a character has 月 on the left-hand side it is likely to be some sort of guts/intestines/belly/insides, i.e. run in the opposite direction!
- Are you a vegetarian or vegan? Then always avoid meals with this character “肉“, as this is “rou“, which means “meat.”
- Allergic to peanuts? This is the character you need to avoid : “花生“, pronounced “huasheng.”
- If you can’t eat spicy food, avoid this red one! “La” “辣” means spicy.
There is different kind of spicy food that our interns in Chengdu will be pleased to try! When you see those characters : 麻辣 be ready to experience some tingling and numbing sensation.
Don’t hesitate to ask our staff members on place to help you out with the pronunciation, or if you need any help ordering your food!
Did this help to convince you that living in China isn’t that difficult? Well then, you just need to apply now!
As you may know, in China you’ll need a VPN to use your favourite apps via Google. And most of the time the traditional Google Maps isn’t really accurate in China, so it’s better to be able to use Chinese map applications. No worries, when you arrive in China our team on place will give you an orientation and help you discover Baidu Maps. However this application is all in Chinese, so we thought this tutorial would be helpful in case you don’t remember all the information we give you on your first day in China!
Our team will help you download the app, and set up your account when you’ll arrive, so I won’t talk about those steps!
Don’t forget : when you want to use Baidu Maps, turn off you VPN – it will be faster!
Want to know how to save a location as a favourite in Baidu? Follow those steps:
- Type the location name or address. For example, the LPG Bar in Qingdao is “Laofeijiuba”
- Click on the location and it will appear on the map
- To save it for later, just press the star on the left bottom corner – you did it !
How to Find Your Favourite Places
- Click on your profile
- Click on the Star to access your favourites
- To rename it, long press on the location
- Then choose “重命名”
- Use a name that you’ll easily remember, like LPG
- Click on “确定” to save it! Easy right?
Bus and Subway Maps
Want to know the bus or metro route, and the timetable? You just need to use Baidu Maps!
- For subway line: enter the line number + “haoxian”
- For bus line: enter bus number + “lu”
- Choose the 1st choice, or one that looks correct
- Now you can see the entire route, and timetable in both directions
- Click here to find out where is the nearest bus station
- Click here to go there by foot without getting lost!
- 1st stop is indicated by the green pointer, and the last one by the red one.
Let’s say, today is Thursday, and you signed in to join us! Unfortunately you can’t use the location we gave you on our group chat. No worries, we will always give you the location, and the address so you can either follow the location, or search for it on Baidu yourself!
Let’s say tonight we are going to Magic Eggplant in Qingdao: 大尧三路26号 (Dayaosanlu 26hao)
- Copy the adress here
- To see the route, click on the blue button
- Taxi route will appear firstly, you can see how much it might cost you if you chose this option, here 10 RMB
- Click here to chose the public transportation way, and chose the first route for example ( to know more go the bonus pictures)
- How to go there? Follow the foot
- When is the bus coming? It’s one stop away on this case
- Ok we arrived at the bus stop, let’s go to the restaurant – follow the blue foot again!
For those who can’t read or speak Chinese, here is some more information on how to be a pro at Baidu Maps!
- Left part : How many stops in total / Right part : How long will the journey take
- Are you walking somewhere? First you can see how long it will take you, and how far the place is
- To pick the more suitable route, look at the duration, and kilometers to see what’s more convenient. Usually, 1st option is faster, but might have to walk more
I guess you’re now ready to come to China, so why not apply now!
PMSA New Zealand – Zhuhai Cultural Programme
by Nick Goldstein
Two Week PMSA Language and Culture Programme
I’m not a very good writer, but when asked to write a piece on my first two weeks in Zhuhai as part of the PMSA Programme I volunteered. Not only because I want to get better, but because coming here under InternChina’s culture and internship program taught me the value of doing things you are scared of. That’s why I ended up here writing about InternChina’s program, having already wasted the first 60 words.
The first two weeks were packed! My personal highlights were tea making, calligraphy and Tai Chi classes. Although lots of fun, I also learned a lot. Much like learning about the history of your country helps you understand it today, learning about the details of Chinese culture helped me understand the big picture (it’s a really big picture!)
During this time, we visited two companies operating in the free trade zone. In the same way as our cultural activities, learning about the companies taught me not only about the company itself, its processes and operations, but also the way western firms interact with Chinese. I saw two models, although on the surface very similar, in practice very different, and I felt the difference. If I were to set up an operation in China, I know what I would do differently.
Part of the program was two weeks of intensive language classes. 3 hours a day in a room with other kiwis trying to learn Chinese was invaluable, and although my Chinese is not comprehensive, it is enough to make a contribution to the language gap. In China, at least where I am, the effort is more appreciated than required.
The third part of the program was the homestay experience. Make no mistake this was an experience, living with my own family was difficult enough, someone else’s is downright terrifying. Despite this, however, the most valuable aspect of the course was the homestay. Visiting companies and learning about culture is useful, but you only learn so much by teaching. Living in a homestay opened me up to the culture, exposing me to the intricacies.
Examples of what I have learnt are 1. That, at least in my family, no matter how loud your child’s friend is screaming, you don’t tell them off and 2. People really don’t like it when you wear shoes in the house, like REALLY don’t like it!
What I’ve Learnt
Jokes aside, I learned about the details of the culture, and I have made friends that I will take back to New Zealand. Reflecting on the past fortnight I think the most valuable thing I have learnt are soft skills. Cultural appreciation, empathy, an understanding of the Chinese approach, and an ability to work in Chinese culture, as well as, I believe, an improved ability to work with any culture. I think the friends, contacts and memories I have made are all important. Overwhelmingly, however, participating in this program has been mostly beneficial to my appreciation of different cultures, expanding my mindset.
More Than Just an Internship – What We Do in Qingdao!
InternChina – More than just an internship!
But what does this really mean in Qingdao? It means weekly dinners, activities and 24/7 support!
I’ve been an office intern for about 3 months now, so I hope I can explain this for you!
During your programme, you’ll have the amazing opportunity to do an internship in China, but that’s not the only think you’ll experience during your time in Qingdao! The InternChina team will organise lots of dinners and activities for you. This is so we can get to know you better, make you feel comfortable in this new country, and give you a chance to meet amazing people! And if you love travelling, there are plenty of great destinations we can help you visit that aren’t too far from Qingdao!
As a Qingdao office intern, I have the opportunity to organise the dinners and trips for our participants. I’ll tell you more about it, so you’ll have an idea of the amazing things you may get the chance to do, and you can discover more about Qingdao.
If you have anything you want to do around Qingdao, just let a member of InternChina know and we can try our best to organise this for you!
Every week we organise one of our famous “Thursday Dinners.”
This is a social event, to share a group meal, discover new Asian cuisine and talk about our week! We understand that you are students, so don’t worry- we try to make these dinners affordable! Usually, we try to avoid expensive restaurants, but they are always tasty. We usually stick to a budget of 50RMB per person, and sometimes this is even less.
How do we organise these dinners? Usually we make a post on our official Qingdao InternChina WeChat account, or we post in our IC Qingdao group chat.
We’ll give you some more details about the restaurant, the cuisine, the food, the time and the location of the dinner. If you’re interested in coming along, then simply join the dinner group by scanning the QR code we’ll provide! This helps us know how many people want to come along, so we can book a table. During the summer, we can have more than 30 people for dinner!
But it’s our job to organise this- all you need to do is scan the QR code and join! How easy is that?
After a week of working hard during your internship, we’re sure you’ll look forward to exploring Qingdao at the weekend! There is so much to do and discover in Qingdao, and we understand that you want to get out there, so we organise lots of activities and trips for you!
We try to organise a new activity every weekend, and just like the dinners, we try to make sure these activities are all affordable so you can take part in as much as you can.
What can Qingdao offer you? There are lots of fun tourist activities,such as the Tsingtao Beer Museum, the TV Tower, the zoo, the aquarium, the Huadong Vineyard. However, we also want to make sure you see the natural beauty in Qingdao! Outdoor activities such as hiking Fushan or Laoshan with our guide Green Tea, bouldering, archery, go karting are always popular, especially during the summer.
We also want you to learn about the Chinese culture while you are here, so we organise cultural activities such as calligraphy classes, Chinese cooking lessons, tea ceremonies, or even Kung Fu lessons!
There are different things to do during different seasons, so you may also get to attend the German Christmas Market, or some opening ceremonies!
You will definitely never be bored, with plenty of activities available for you to explore the city, have fun, and network!
We also try to organise some weekend trips for you to discover other cities in China.
Recently, we organised a weekend trip to Beijing- after all, it would be a shame to come to China and not visit the Great Wall! In the past we have also organised trips to Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou and Qufu… the possibilities are endless!
For any weekend trips we organise, we will provide you with a detailed schedule so you can make the most of your time in each city! We will also let you know how much each trip will cost, and this will include your transport, accommodation and activities for the weekend. It will cost more than a regular Saturday Event, but it is definitely worth going and exploring more of China!
The InternChina team offer you 24/7 support while you are on place, and we are also here for you before and after your time in China!
When you arrive, we will pick you up from the airport and take you directly to your accommodation, whether is an apartment or a homestay. We’ll also give you an orientation to help you understand Chinese culture, and give you some advice about living in Qingdao.
You will receive a welcome pack, which includes a SIM card, travel card, map of the city, and address card and some InternChina goodies!
We are here for you whenever you need us!
Moreover, our team on place is also always here to support you! When you arrive we will give you an orientation, in order to make you understand Chinese culture, and give you lots of advice! If you feel sick, we will come with you to the hospital! If you have any other issues, we are here to help if we can!
InternChina’s Favourite Places
When you are new to Qingdao, and don’t know where to go or what to see, we’re here to tell you where to go! Below is a list of my favourite places- you can even impress your colleagues with your Qingdao knowledge and invite them along!
Magic Eggplant – or the best Chinese restaurant ever! 美达尔大尧三路店 – Dayao San Road
ChunChuan Iron Plate – best Korean restaurant! 青岛市崂山区苗岭路 瑞纳花园内 Miao Ling Road
Huadong Winery – a beautiful vineyard, where you can visit the museum,the caves and try some wine at the end! 南龙口崂山Nanlong Kou, Lao Shan
ZhongShan Park – an amazing park where you can easily walk around for hours! The zoo is right next to it if you want to see a panda! 市南区文登路28号 Wen Deng Road
I hope these details and pictures convinced you that InternChina has so much more than just an internship to offer you! You’ll never feel alone, and this experience will be unforgettable!
The easiest way to join us is to apply now!
A search for Innovation in Qingdao!
Hello! I’m Tamara 叶清影, the new business development intern in the Qingdao Office. I am very excited for this opportunity to experience innovation in Qingdao and to establish Guanxi.
Guanxi: the system of social networks and influential relationships which facilitate business and other dealings.
I am a Product Design graduate from Loughborough University who is fascinated by Chinese Culture and their ambition to grow and innovate. As the term ‘innovation’ was constantly drilled into me at university, it seemed logical to go to China, a country that has been in the spotlight in the global innovation system for many years.
Although I have been intrigued by China and its unique culture, the only knowledge I had was taken from a few history lessons and books. Therefore, I prepared myself with an open mind, low expectations and ni hao!
Without a doubt Qingdao is beautiful! There is so much to explore, the beaches, the mountains, the culture and food and beer! If you are a sport lover, then this is the place to be! The air quality here is much cleaner compared to the rest of China, which make it’s a great place to exercise. There are also many spectacle routes to run along the sea promenade, around the university tracks and up Fushan.
Qingdao has the most laid-back vibe; the Chinese seem quite content with life and are very welcoming to foreigners. On occasion, I have been invited to birthday celebrations where the whole family have taken turns to take pictures with me!
With regards to its innovation, Qingdao is still evolving. Although, the start-up culture isn’t as pronounced as in Zhuhai and Chengdu, there are huge developments occurring in Qingdao’s International Economic Cooperation Zone. Work has begun on a Sino-German Ecopark and a China-Britain Innovation Industry Park. The latter consequent of a collaboration between the city of Liverpool and Qingdao. Not only will this further strengthen Sino-UK relations but will open-up vast opportunities for British firms. When in Qingdao I would also recommend checking out the Creative100 park, the Robotic Centre and Graphene Innovation Centre.
The thing that struck me the most with China, considering its size, is its efficiency, especially with its transport. In just 15 years China had drawn up and built a high-speed railway network covering 14,000 miles. (Bear in mind it has taken 8 years for the UK Government just to agree on HS2). With respect to innovative technology, I believe that en masse, China is winning. For example, the app WeChat not only allows you to chat, but you can also transfer money, contact and follow people.
Working at InternChina, has both been busy and rewarding right from the start! There is never a dull moment in the office! From graphic design, to networking, to organising activities and trips for the interns.
Hopefully, during my time here, I will try to master the basics of Mandarin and build friendships in this wonderful, rapidly evolving, innovative country!
If you want to experience China and establish your Guanxi, then apply now!