Understanding Chinese culture

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Internships Advice, Learn about China, Mexico, Understanding Chinese culture, Vietnamese Culture

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!

BUSINESS

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.

CHINA

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.

MEXICO

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.

VIETNAM

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.

Charity, Cultural, Understanding Chinese culture, Zhuhai Blogs

CPAZ – Charity Promotion Association of Zhuhai

Charity Promotion Association of Zhuhai

We are delighted to be partnered with an organisation that is passionate about what they do. The Charity Promotion Association of Zhuhai, also known as CPAZ,  work with vulnerable sectors of the community by promoting social activism and public welfare. This is seen across many different projects they operate, including the annual Come Together fundraiser.

InternChina visits CPaz

CPAZ is an official civil society organisation, and they are currently working on providing sponsorship for students in the local area. This sponsorship helps to provide students who have lost their parents and are struggling to stay in education, with tuition fees, books, and uniforms- all the necessary equipment required for basic education.

CPaz logo

The organisation was established in 2005 and legalised as a registered charity in 2010. The charity has both a local and global vision for the future, and now has over 2000 registered volunteers, 250 members, and over 20 member units. With each project, they envision better development of public and social welfare throughout China, which includes assisting the establishment of social equality in Zhuhai.

What InternChina Do

Every year, InternChina help raise money for CPAZ by hosting a bar at the annual Come Together festival. We are partners in the CTC community, and the ultimate goal is to bring people together from all cultures and walks of life to celebrate music! We raise money for great charities with 100% transparency, and we are very proud to be involved with such a brilliant cause!

 

InternChina at CTC

 

Internship Experience, Learn about China, Qingdao Blogs, Understanding Business in China, Understanding Chinese culture

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.

Guanxithe 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!

Innovation

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.

Sino-UK Innovation Talks
Sino-UK Innovation Talks

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.

The Internship

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!

Chinese Traditions, Cultural, Discover Chinese culture, Food, Learn about China, Qingdao Blogs, Understanding Chinese culture

HAISHEN – A PORTRAIT OF QINGDAO’S MOST TREASURED SEA CREATURE

Hello hello!
So one thing that has caught my attention in the two weeks I have been living in the beautiful city of Qingdao are the large numbers of shops selling 海参 haishen – or sea cucumbers. Their English name is somewhat misleading, since sea cucumbers are certainly not cucumbers, let alone plants! In fact, they are animals that live in the Deep Seas and spend most of their day making their way slowly across the sea floor. So why are they so sought after here, and why would anyone pay up to 400RMB (around 60 Euros) for one single haishen?

Filled with curiosity, I recently ventured into one of the many shops specialised in selling haishen and was fortunate enough to meet Ms Qin, a sea cucumber expert who works at a store called “Di Yi Ming” (帝一铭). She was so kind as to enlighten me on several fascinating facts regarding haishen and also gave me the permission to take photos of the store and its products.

“Di Yi Ming” – which cleverly sounds like the expression for “number one” in Chinese, but is written with different characters – is located on Ningxia Lu in the southern part of Qingdao. Beautifully furnished with carved wooden shelves and a large Chinese style tea table in the middle of the room, it altogether feels more like a jewellery boutique than a shop selling sea cucumbers. But that is because here in Qingdao, sea cucumbers are regarded as treasures, with prices starting from 1800RMB (around 250 Euros) per jin (1 Chinese jin equals 500g) for the least expensive, and up to 11’800RMB (around 1600 Euros) for 1 jin of the most costly haishen.

Put differently, for the crème-de-la-crème, the price for one single haishen can go up to 400RMB (around 60 Euros). However, it is possible to get ones starting from a mere 10RMB per haishen. The price depends on which type of species the haishen in question is, and whether it was caught in the ocean or came from a farm.

The high wooden shelves are all filled with large glass jars – which in turn are all filled to the brim with dried haishen, waiting to be sold. Their appearance is somewhat underwhelming, at first sight it may be rather hard to understand why these small, dry, dark little knobbly sausages are in such high demand around here. However, after learning about the wide range of benefits that eating haishen can bring, I realized that they are not to be scoffed at. In fact, the medical benefits of haishen are mentioned in the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China (中华人民共和国药典), an official compendium of drugs that covers Traditional Chinese and western medicines, as well as in the Chinese Journal of Marine Drugs (中国海洋药物).

 

Here is just a small selection of the health benefits that eating haishen can provide:

  1. Enhances immunity, prevent colds, helps staying in good shape and not become tired easily
  2. Helps heal wounds quickly
  3. Helps with all kinds of stomach problems
  4. Helps lower high blood pressure
  5. Is good for the skin, as it helps keep it smooth and prevents wrinkles
  6. Enables better sleep
  7. Relieves back problems
  8. Keeps brain cells active and enhances faculty of memory

 

Ms Qin told me that she recommends her customers to eat one haishen per day and that on average, customers buy 1-2 jin (500g-1kg) of haishen per purchase. I asked her whether the store sells live sea cucumbers, but she told me that all haishen sold here are dried, because this way, their nutrition value is fully preserved, and they can be kept for a much longer time than if they were not dried. In fact, according to Ms Qin, in this dried state, the haishen can be kept for 3-5 years! A dry sea cucumber is approximately the size of your thumb, but before it is caught, it is actually rather large, about the size of your hand. When buying dried sea cucumbers, one needs to first let them soak in water for about 3-5 days before preparing them for eating.

 

Finally, I asked Ms Qin for her favourite haishen-recipes.

  • Sea cucumber porridge (海参粥)
    Sea cucumber porridge is a very nutritious breakfast. First, boil the rice until it is cooked, then add chopped sea cucumber into the porridge. According to your personal taste add a small amount of salt and sugar, also add a little ginger, then boil for 5 minutes. This way, the nutrition of the sea cucumber is retained, and the porridge is easy to digest.
  • Honey sea cucumber (蜂蜜海参)
    Sea cucumber dipped in honey is a very popular recipe because it is very easy, and best of all, the sea cucumbers nutritional value is very well preserved. Simply steam the sea cucumber and dip it into honey.

 

So, in case you want to experience the taste and health benefits of haishen for yourself, you now know how!

 

PS. Check out “Di Yi Ming” online: www.chinadiyiming.com (totally worth it!)

 

Cultural, Discover Chinese culture, Learn about China, Understanding Chinese culture

MY TOP 10 ALL-TIME FAVOURITE CHINESE CHARACTERS!

Hi everyone,

I’m Madelaine and I just started my internship in Business Development and Marketing at the InternChina Office in Qingdao! I did my Bachelors and my Masters in Chinese Studies because… China is just my favourite place on earth!

One reason I love it here so much (but there are thousands of other reasons, but I don’t want to write a novel!) is the INCREDIBLE LANGUAGE that is spoken by the people here. What is commonly known as “Chinese” outside of China, usually refers to Mandarin Chinese. “Chinese” is a bit misleading because it gives the impression that it is one sole language, but really there are many ‘Chineses’.

Ok ok, but I am getting carried away, aren’t I! I’m here to talk about my all-time favourite characters, so here we go!

chuan character Chuan Skewers

Number 1: 串 chuàn

How cool is this one!!?! This is a character that you can see all over the place, denotes something really yummy and…. is possible to understand even if you’ve not learned any Chinese at all! Can you guess? A hint:

The pronunciation is chuàn but people usually call them chuàrrrr with that nice Beijing rrroll 🙂

Number 2: 竄 cuàn

This character is really cute. It is kind of two-in-one, since it is made up of two separate characters. The one on top is this one: 穴 (xué) and means hole. The second character underneath it means mouse (鼠, shǔ). So, if the mouse is disappearing into the hole at top speed, what is the mouse doing? Well, it is fleeing, isn’t it! And that’s just what 竄 means!

Cuan character Cat waiting at the mousehole

If I were a mouse I would flee too!

Number 3: 森林 sēnlín

Hehe, this one is awesome too. 木 (pronounced mù) means tree. So if there are many many many mus, what do you get? A forest of course! 🙂

Number 4: 家 jiā

Jia character House

This character means family or home and is pronounced jiā. It is made up of the radical for roof (宀, pronounced mián) and豕 (shǐ), which means pig. Hmm, a pig under a roof, how does that constitute family/home?! Ah, for that we must dig a bit in history! Traditionally in China, families would keep their domesticated animals in their home, so having a pig under the roof indicated that this was a place where people also lived, hence the meaning home/family.


Number 5: 嬲 niǎo

男(nán) means guy and 女 (nǚ) means girl. Now, imagine two 男男in a club or a bar, and in their midst a pretty girl. What are they doing? Flirting, I suppose! And exactly that is the meaning of嬲 (pronounced niǎo).

Number 6: 焚  fén

If you have already learned some Chinese, maybe you will know that林 (lín) means forest and 火 (huǒ) means fire. So, if we put the two together, where will that get us? Well, surely somewhere that’s on fiiiiiire! Ruuun!

Zhong character Crowd

Number 7: 众 zhòng

人 is a character you’ve probably seen before, am I right? This character is pronounced rén and means person. Now, what do you get if there are many réns人人人all milling around together? A crowd, I dare say! And exactly that is the meaning of众 zhòng!

Number 8: 口 kǒu

This seemingly simple character is trickier than meets the eye! It has many meanings, but most commonly it is used to describe a mouth or an opening of some kind. Maybe you have seen this sign before?

Kou character exit

出口 is read chūkǒu and means exit. The kǒu looks like a little door, doesn’t it? Another fun character made up of three mouths 口+口+口= 品, pronounced pǐn. It means to savour something. Makes sense, right? 🙂

Number 9: biáng

biáng character

Just look at this one!!! Biangbiang noodles are a famous dish from Shaanxi province and are known as one of the “Ten Strange Wonders of Shaanxi” (陕西十大怪 Shǎnxī shí dà guài). This AMAZING character is made up of no less than 58 strokes and is therefore the most complex Chinese character that exists. However, I have heard rumours that this character was invented by a clever restaurant owner who wanted to attract customers, so he simply dreamed up this crazy character. A friend of mine once compared it to naming a dish LKSIGNSIRKGSNGSLO (just random letters that don’t mean anything at all) (only it doesn’t look half as cool as in English). Well, anyways the trick seems to have worked its magic, because today, Biangbiang noodles are known and loved all over China!

Biangbiang noodles

I will never forget the first time I ordered Biangbiang noodles. A huge bowl was placed down in front of me, filled to the brim with thick noodles covered in a spicy red sauce. When I lifted up one of the noodles with my chopsticks, I realized that in fact, there was just ONE noodle in that bowl! But it was so long and thick that it filled the whole thing! My Mum was very surprised to hear that I had had ONE noodle for dinner and felt really full after it!

Number 10: 傘 sǎn

This adorable character is pronounced sǎn. As you can see, there are four people squeezed together under a cover…. What might this be? A tip: Usually this character can be found after the character for rain (雨, yǔ), forming the word 雨傘 yǔsǎn. I will leave it to your imagination what it might mean!

Totoro San character

Well folks, now you know all about my top 10 all-time favourite Chinese characters! Hope you enjoyed reading about them! Some of you may notice that some of these ten characters I just talked about are traditional ones (used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao), while some of them are simplified characters (used in the PRC (People’s Republic of China), Singapore and Malaysia). I will write a blog soon on the differences between simplified and traditional characters, be sure to check it out!

Bye for now!

China Business Blogs, Cultural, Internship Experience, Learn about China, Qingdao Blogs, Travel, Understanding Chinese culture

Das erste Mal China: Erste Eindrücke

Hi!
Mein Name ist Büsra, 22, Studentin und gebürtige Augsburgerin.

Vor paar Monaten habe ich die Entscheidung getroffen mich raus aus meiner Komfortzone und direkt ins Abenteuer zu stürzen. Und welches Land wäre da interessanter als China? Das Land über das mehr Gerüchte kursieren als Fakten.

Trotz zahlreicher Zweifel von Familienmitgliedern, Verwandten und Freunden („China? Wieso China?“, „Du sprichst doch gar kein Chinesisch?“, „Was willst du da essen?!“, „Sind Chinesen nicht rassistisch/ islamfeindlich/ türkenfeindlich/ kommunistisch…?“ etc.), bin ich vor drei Tagen aufgebrochen, um mein Praktikum in InternChina in Qingdao zu starten. Mein Praktikum wird sechs Monate dauern und ist der letzte Schritt um mein Bachelorstudium in International Business abzuschließen.

Mein Flug dauerte mehr als 14 Stunden und ging über München (MUC), Frankfurt (FRA) bis (endlich!) Qingdao (TAO).

InternChina – Destination: Qingdao

Meinen ersten Oh-oh-Moment hatte ich, als der nette Immigrationspolizist am Flughafen mir auf Chinesisch eine Frage stellte. Als Antwort guckte ich nur leicht benebelt und flüsterte entschuldigend auf Englisch, dass ich kein Chinesisch spreche. Gott sei Dank lachte der Polizist nur und winkte mich durch. Der zweite Oh-oh-Moment ließ nur paar Minuten auf sich warten, als ich am Gepäckband stand, mich umsah und mir dämmerte, dass ich nichts, WIRKLICH NICHTS, hier lesen kann. Natürlich war mir klar, dass in China Schriftzeichen verwendet werden, aber es dann tatsächlich am eigenen Leib zu spüren… Dass man etwas, was man seit dem man das erste Mal Lesen lernte als selbstverständlich annahm, von Schildern bis zu Menüs, nicht mehr kann, war doch etwas schockierend. (Später habe ich erfahren, dass in den meisten Restaurants die Menüs bebildert sind. Also kein Grund zur Panik. Ich muss nicht verhungern. :‘) )

InternChina – Lanzhou Lamian Menu

Clare, die InternChina Branchmanagerin in Qingdao, holte mich vom Flughafen ab, brachte mich in meine WG und begleitete mich anschließend ins Simkartengeschäft, um mich mit einer funktionierenden Handyverbindung und Internet (HALLELUJAH!!) zu versorgen.

Die Menschen in Qingdao sind sehr freundlich und hilfsbereit und sie starren dich an und zwar nicht besonders unauffällig. Aber wenn ich bedenke, dass ich in den letzten drei Tagen, abgesehen von meiner Mitbewohnerin und meinen Kollegen nur drei andere „Ausländer“ gesehen habe, ist das verständlich. Auch ist ihr Blick nicht feindselig, sondern meist nur interessiert. Gleich an meinem zweiten Tag hier, rannte ein etwa zehnjähriger chinesischer Junge uns nach, holte auf, stellte sich vor uns hin und fragte „Where are you from?“. Nach meiner leicht verwirrten Antwort „eeeeh… Germany.“, überlegte er kurz sagte „XieXie!“ (=Danke) und rannte wieder davon. Ich vermute, dass ich hier öfter als Englischübungspartner verwendet werde. 😉

Die Stadt ist überhaupt nicht überbevölkert, was ich als leichte Klaustrophobin befürchtet hatte. Allerdings habe ich auch gehört, dass Qingdao im Sommer viel voller ist und es ist momentan Januar. Es fahren jedoch sehr viele Autos auf der Straße und sie fahren etwas wilder, als aus Deutschland gewohnt. Müsste ich die Fahrweise in zwei Wörtern beschreiben, wäre es „no chill“. Dabei dachte ich, ich hätte schon alles an verrückten Fahrstilen in Istanbul gesehen. Außerdem kann man sich den Parkstil in China wie ein Tetrisspiel vorstellen. Man quetscht sich an jede mögliche freie Stelle und berücksichtigt dabei nicht, ob man eventuell jemandem vom wieder herausfahren abhält.

Die Luftqualität und das Wetter waren, wider meine Erwartungen und zu meinem Glück in den letzten Tagen ganz gut. Wir nutzten das gute Wetter aus um entlang des Meers zu spazieren und paar Fotos zu schießen. Das Meer in Qingdao ist einfach wunderschön. Es ist schon länger mein Traum gewesen in einer Stadt am Meer zu wohnen und endlich ist es soweit.

InternChina – Yellow Sea
InternChina – Qingdao Seaside
InternChina – Cakes and Happiness

And last but not least: Das Essen. Traumhaft. Jeder der etwas länger Zeit mit mir verbracht hat, weiß wie wichtig mir gutes Essen ist und hier gibt es mehr als genug davon! Vergisst die Nudelbox mit oder ohne Hühnerfleisch und die Frühlingsrollen! Chinesisches Essen ist so viel mehr! Vor allem ist es so günstig. Eine mehr als sättigende Portion kostet um die 14 RMB (=1,91€) und das sind weniger als zwei Euro. Adieu, Diätpläne… Ich habe vor wirklich jede Chance zu nutzen, alle (nicht allzu verrückten) Arten von chinesischen Gerichten zu probieren.

Generell sollte man so wenig Erwartungen an China haben, wie nur möglich und eigentlich alles, was man je über das Land gehört hat nicht so ernst nehmen. Jeder macht unterschiedliche Erfahrungen, aber ich denke es ist es auf jeden Fall wert das Land mal selber zu sehen und eigene Eindrücke zu sammeln.

Falls du auch Lust hast mal aus deiner Komfortzone rauszukommen und in ein Abenteuer zu stürzen, informiere dich hier!

 

Cultural, Internship Experience, Travel, Understanding Chinese culture

Returning Home: Culture Shock Again?

Let’s paint the picture. You arrived in China, it was all a bit overwhelming at first, but once you’d had chance to settle in, you had the time of your life! Two, three months on, it’s time to pack your bags and head back home, but you’re not ready, and you suddenly hit a low back in your home country.
InternChina - Reverse culture shock

Sometimes, heading back to your home country after several months overseas can be just as difficult, or possibly more difficult than initially moving away from home.  After the initial excitement of seeing your friends and family, eating all your home comforts, and going in your favourite shops, it can wear off and you can find yourself pining after China, feeling quite lonely and bored and not feeling like you are ‘home’ as such. You may not expect to experience reverse culture shock, you might not have even heard of it, so when it hits it could be very unexpected. Like all things you will find a way through it, but it’s good to know what to expect and how possibly to deal with it.

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InternChina – Returning Home

“When In China…”

You will no doubt come back from China wanting to tell every man and their dog about your amazing experiences on the other side of the world; you will probably find yourself saying “In China, it’s like this” or “When I was in China…..…..happened”. People might listen to begin with, but you may never be able to fully get your point across, or even start to feel like no one wants to listen. I’ve always found it difficult to get across to friends and family what China really is like; that it’s not like how the media portrays it, and that it is one of the most beautiful and welcoming places I’ve been.

Record your memories: There will be people out there eager to hear about your adventures. Perhaps start up a blog, write articles about what you saw, ate, heard, did. Try make mini projects for yourself related to your trip. Choose your favourite pictures to put up in your room, put together a scrapbook of your trip try or just try jot down your memories in one way or another, rather than keeping them in your head to slowly fade away.

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InternChina – Travel Blog

Keeping it local: Another possibility is to try find some Chinese friends back home; they’d love to hear about your time exploring their country. Go to your local Chinese restaurant, try find some of the new dishes you tried whilst you were away, practice your newly acquired Chinese with the staff; they will probably be super impressed! Keep in touch with your new-found friends on the other side of the world, and try keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the city, news wise or if there are any new developments.

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InternChina – Chinese Takeaway

Pass on your knowledge: Perhaps join a city-related forum so that you can give advice and help to other foreigners who might be heading to that part of the world. I always love sharing advice about places I’ve been with other people; giving them tips on places go, recommending restaurants that are a good hit, or even telling them about what are local hidden secrets that you probably wouldn’t know about if it wasn’t for word-of-mouth.

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InternChina – Advice Forums

Just like culture shock; reverse culture shock also falls in a U-Shape. You start high at the excitement of returning home, hit a low when you experience the ‘home sickness’ of your past home, and then you push through to the other side and create many positives out of reverse culture shock. I’ve spent so much time in Asia in the past five or six years, Asia has definitely become my home from home – I experienced reverse culture shock hard for the first time this year, but by finding ways to treasure my memories and use my knowledge to help out others, the experience has moved from a ‘low point’ to very much a ‘high point’.

 

Chinese Festivals, Cultural, Understanding Chinese culture

Halloween in China

On the eve of 31 October, many Western countries come alight with the glow of countless jack-o’-lanterns that signify the arrival of Halloween.  In China, Halloween celebrations among the younger generation are gradually becoming more and more popular. Kids’ Halloween parties and pumpkin-carving is becoming a favourite with less conservative parents in big cities. Nonetheless, apart from a few expat-oriented bars and pubs, the practice of dressing-up is nowhere near as widespread as in the West.

InternChina - Halloween
InternChina – Halloween

There is, however, no shortage of traditional festivals dedicated to the dead in Chinese culture. In fact, the majority of festivals contain an element of sacrificing offerings in the form of money, food and wine to deceased ancestors. Qing Ming Festival, Ghost Festival and Spring Festival are among the better-known ones.

The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost festival, falls on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. It stems from Taoist and Buddhist belief that on this day the gate that separates the world of the dead from the world of the living opens, and ghosts are believed to visit the living in their homes. To appease the hungry ghosts, their living descendants prepare elaborate feasts and burn joss paper. In many ways, the Hungry Ghost festival is similar to Halloween in the West.

The Qing Ming Festival is celebrated 108 days after the winter solstice. During the Qing Ming Festival, unlike during the hungry Ghost festival, the living visit the dead at their graves and bring offerings in the form of food, wine and chopsticks. They sweep the graves and burn joss money and firecrackers.

The Spring Festival, the most well-known among all Chinese festivals, is celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar. Traditionally, the Spring festival was a time to honour deities as well as ancestors. During the Spring festival, the whole family gathers from different cities and provinces for a reunion. Offerings to ancestors play a big part in the proceedings. The lunar calendar is consulted about the specificities of which way to face when bowing and making offerings. Traditionally, dumplings (jiaozi) are offered to the ancestors to invite them to join in the festivities.

InternChina - Ancestor worship

InternChina - Qing Ming Festival

There is a distinctive difference between Chinese and Western cultures in the way they interact with ghosts. While in Western culture Halloween is the height of human-ghost interaction, in Chinese culture deceased ancestors play a much larger part throughout the year. The interaction between the dead and the living is not limited to a few select days in the year. People commonly burn joss paper and offer wine at street corners. Although strict guidelines that guide the process of interaction are put in place in the cities, people that live in the countryside have a much closer relationship with their dead ancestors. We only need to look at how graves form a natural part of the architectural landscape in the countryside to see that the divide between dead and living is nowhere near as defined as it is in the West. For the Chinese, it is not just during Halloween that the worlds of the living and the dead come together.

 

 

Cultural, Qingdao Blogs, Understanding Chinese culture

First time in Qingdao as a Muslim

Written by Tanvir Ahmed
My first couple of weeks…they’ve been somewhere between an adventure and a culture shock. Not so much because I’m unaware of the differences between the eastern and western culture (my roots are in Pakistan and things there are similar) but more due to me overestimating how developed China would be. I must give credit to InternChina however, as they made adapting to this beautiful country, an easy process and believe me I’m not an easy person to please :). They provided a Chinese sim card (other carriers WILL NOT work), a POI map, pots, pans, utensils, taxi ride from the airport, guidance and a whole load of help plus anything else I could think of.

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This map gave me more information than a tour guide…maybe because I don’t speak Chinese 😛

Eating

As a Muslim, I had to find halal places to eat and I must say food here is amazing! Something in particular is Lanzhou Lamian. A style of cooking that originated from a mainly Muslim region of China. I’m yet to find an area where there is not one of these. Being a ‘food-aholic’ I have tried many of the dishes in these little gems and for the majority of them, I get confused as to which I’d prefer today. The best thing is that the food places all have pictures of their dishes, so like me, you can just point at whichever rumbles your tumble.picture2

Ever tried a waffle in a cone? Available in an area called Taidong.

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I was keen to show off my chopstick skills on snapchat 😀

Communicating

The language is not a problem in a city like Shanghai, but for me in Qingdao it means I have to remain optimistic and be creative in getting my message across. I have some knowledge of Mandarin, but it can still be a task to just ask for directions or in ordering a dish. I would certainly recommend learning at least the basics sentences in Mandarin because hardly anyone speaks English. For those more complex scenarios (in my case, how to say I only eat halal), having the InternChina on hand is like is like the ace up the sleeve. Always available (within reason) and respond straight away with whatever you need to know.

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This little book works a charm for me. It has pretty much everything you’ll need and it costs about a £1 on Amazon…No brainer!

Praying

I took a trip to the mosque last Friday for an important prayer. Something which really took me by surprise was a young man who realised I needed to get to the mosque and as he was going there, he happily offered me a ride. Anywhere else I would have probably turned around and walked but one thing you will realise in China is the concept of giving and losing face is more important than anything. The Chinese make a huge effort in showing the utmost respect to others. Being a foreigner here is like being a celebrity; you’ll have random people literally asking to take a selfie with you and when you ask them for help they will literally go out of their way to do what they can. On the flip side, some people just don’t have a clue what you are asking but they’ll still try their best to help you…Not sure how that’s meant to work.

The pictures do no justice to the beautiful location where the mosque is situated. I’m going back just to explore the mountain area next time.

Cultural, Discover Chinese culture, How-to Guides, Understanding Chinese culture

How to Verhandeln in China

Gibst du auch immer zu viel Geld für Souvenirs, Schmuck und Kleidung auf chinesischen Märkten aus?
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Du bist frustriert und weißt einfach nicht mehr weiter? Dann bist du hier genau richtig! In der heutigen Ausgabe von Surviving Tipps von Bea Grylls erfährst du, wie auch DU in nur 4 einfachen Schritten zum Verhandlungsprofi wirst!

Schritt 1: Chinesisch lernen

Aus eigener Erfahrung kann ich sagen, dass es hilfreich ist, in China einige Sätze chinesisch zu sprechen. Die wichtigsten Phrasen und Sätze, die ihr zum verhandeln benötigt, sind folgende:

  1. Nǐhǎo (你好)!
    Hallo! (Wir wollen ja nicht unhöflich sein)
  1. (Zhè gè) duōshao qián? (这个多少钱?)
    Wie viel kostet (das da)? (Profi-Tipp: hierbei ist es hilfreich, auf das Objekt eurer Begierde zu zeigen)
  2. Tài guì le! (太贵了)
    Vieeel zu teuer! (Wenn ihr das sagt, solltet ihr ungefähr so schauen, als hätte der Verkäufer gerade eure Mutter beleidigt)

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  1. Piányi diǎn? (便宜 点)
    Geht es auch etwas günstiger?
  2. die Zahlen von 1-1000
    (siehe Google)
  3. Zàijiàn! (再见!)
    Tschüss!

 

Schritt 2: Vorausschauende Planung

Überlegt euch, welchen Preis ihr maximal zahlen wollt. Nennt nicht zuerst euren Maximalpreis -fangt klein an und steigert euch dann langsam. Habt ihr euch dann schließlich mit den Verkäufern auf einen Preis geeinigt, solltet ihr nicht versuchen, den Preis noch weiter zu senken!

Schritt 3: Drama, baby!

Wenn die chinesischen Verkäufer eins können, dann Schauspielern. 350 RMB sind euch zu teuer für ein traumhaftes Teeset aus „echtem“ Porzellan? Bitte was?! Aber keine Sorge: es ist nur Show. In China ist es nicht unüblich, zu verhandeln. Daher lautet die Devise: Drama! 350 RMB? FRECHHEIT! Ich zahle maximal 30! Wie bitte? 300 RMB?! Ich glaub mein Schwein pfeift!

Schritt 4: DRAMA!!

Der Verkäufer ist stur und lässt sich nicht auf euren Preis ein? Verlasst den Laden, im besten Fall mit einem dramatischen Abgang. In 99% der Fälle ist der Verkäufer dann bereit, auf euren Preis einzugehen. Für das ultimative Schnäppchen verlasst den Laden einfach 2 mal. Erfolgschance (fast) garantiert!

Wenn ihr alle Schritte befolgt, kann gar nicht mehr so viel schiefgehen. Viel Spaß beim Verhandeln und Zàijiàn!