If you are going to Vietnam and have no knowledge of the language, you ask yourself: How easy is it to get by with just English? I will talk about English in Vietnam and how difficult it is for a foreigner to get by without any Vietnamese in this blog.
In the past, Chinese and Russian were largely taught in most of schools and were considered as second language. In recent years, as Vietnam’s contacts with Western nations have increased, English has become more popular as a second language and taught in a larger scale, eventually replacing Chinese and Russian.
English in School
Nowadays, English is mandatory in most schools in Vietnam, sometimes alongside French. English proficiency is now seen as a vital requirement for employment. According to an educational reform, all students will have a minimum level of English by 2020. English in schools is limited in reading and writing skills, but not much speaking & listening skills. As part of the strategy, officials have adopted the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) to measure language competency. Students are expected to reach the level B1 by the time they graduate.
EF English Proficiency Index
The EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) attempts to rank countries by the average level of English language skills amongst those adults who took their exam. Vietnam is in place 34 of 80 countries worldwide and 7 of 20 in Asia with a score of 53.43, which is considerate a moderate proficiency. While the Southeast and the Red River Delta, Ho Chi Minh City’s and Hanoi’s regions respectively, are regions with the highest English proficiency within Vietnam; the North Central Coast, on the other hand, has the lowest proficiency. According to EF EPI, women have a higher English proficiency than men, but the difference is not big.
So…is it easy to get by with just English? Long story short, the answer is yes, BUT depends on where you go. Residents in all the tourist areas are able to communicate in English. In more remote areas, English speakers can be very rare. Some older Vietnamese people will speak more French than English, especially in the former South Vietnam. The importance of promoting English in Vietnam is growing due to its importance in the business world.
If you want to know about Vietnam, don’t hesitate and live this adventure with us! Apply now!
Arriving in a totally different country can be confusing more many people, both culturally and professionally. Some difficulties will be there, but after 3 months in China I can say that the first 2 weeks were the richest weeks of discovery and experience!
The difficulties encountered during this period not only allow us to develop our problem-solving skills but also make the experience even more exciting!
Before You Arrive
Of course, to avoid some problems on your arrival, it’s sensible to take some steps before your departure:
- Check the dates of your visa to buy your plane tickets. You must always return to your country at least 2 days before the end of the visa.
- Tell your bank about your departure dates and your destination so that your card does not get blocked once in China, which could be very inconvenient! In addition, do not forget to consult your bank regarding withdrawal limits and payment fees. In China you do not pay with your credit card everywhere, you often have to withdraw. Note: with a Visa card, you can’t withdraw from all bank ATMs China.
- Purchase a VPN. Without this, many Western sites will no longer be accessible and it is difficult to download a VPN in China (without access to Google & Google play!)
- Download Baidu, Baidu Maps and Baidu Translate.
- Check the weather in your chosen city to know what to pack, to avoid suffering from cold/ heat and having to buy clothes once you arrive!
- Tip! If you want to control your expenses, do not hesitate to download a currency converter on your phone.
Your First Two Weeks in China
Remember that any problems or difficulties you encounter in China will always have a solution!
I will now quote some of the “classic” difficulties that you will encounter during your first 2 weeks in China, and explain how to overcome these in a simple way!
Lost on the way to your internship?
- On your first trip to work with one of the InternChina members, take pictures of the bus stop / buildings as a landmark.
- Plan the trip on BaiduMaps. You can find a quick tutorial here!
- Contact InternChina if you are really lost or unsure about your orientation. We are here to help you!
Not sure what to do in the office? Very busy colleagues?
- Do some research on the market, the competition and make a list of the new vocabulary you encounter.
- You can then impress your colleagues and managers with your knowledge and show that you are thirsty to learn and be involved!
- Ask what is expected of you and the tasks you will need perform – the Chinese appreciate and encourage proactivity among their employees
Having problems with the language barrier?
- Explain that you are a little “rusty” in the morning (no coffee yet!).
- Ask them to clearly write their request so that you do not forget.
Do not worry, over time you will learn to understand the different accents of your colleagues!
If English isn’t your first language, are you shy because you are not confident?
- Don’t underestimate your English skills and don’t be discouraged. Your English will gradually improve over time and you will become confident very quickly!
- Remember, youu will not be the only non native-English speaker on the spot!
- Feel free to express your lack of confidence if you want to be reassured.
- Nobody will judge you, on the contrary! People are aware that it is not easy for you to start and that you need time to adapt.
Do you have trouble making yourself understood by taxi drivers?
- Take BaiduMaps (tutorial!) and ask your colleagues a few well-known places in the city.
- Add these places to your BaiduMaps favorites and learn to pronounce them in Chinese!
Believe me, this is a good workout! After 2 or 3 tries, the driver will understand you and you will be on your way to independence!
You do not know where to exchange your foreign currency for RMB?
- Simplest option: do this directly upon your arrival in China (at the airport or port). Currency exchange counters will be present.
- If not, ask one of the members of InternChina, they will know how to answer you for sure.
Some counters offer cheap exchange rates, it is sometimes better to compare before making a choice. For advice, contact our team!
Want to meet new people?
- Whether you live in an apartment or a homestay, don’t hesitate to join our dinners on Thursday evening and our activities or trips on weekends. Find out more about our services in Zhuhai here and Qingdao here.
- The other interns also want to make new friends, so don’t be shy! Add the other IC members on WeChat (Wechat tutorial) and get to know them!
- The outings between trainees are numerous, you’ll have many opportunities!
What to eat at the restaurant?
Going to a restaurant can be intimidating when the local language is unknown to us and we can not read or speak it! Fortunately, there are some useful tips:
- If the menu is written exclusively in Chinese and you can not read it, refer to the images to choose your dish.
- If you want to know what you are eating and are ready to learn some basics, here is a very useful blog on how to read a Chinese menu!
I hope these few tips will help you get a glimpse of what awaits you in China and have reassured you about your potential! With some effort, it’s quite possible to overcome any difficulties you may encounter during your first 2 weeks in China. You will come out of this experience bigger and more independent than ever! And don’t forget, our team is available 24 hours a day to answer any problem!
Ready to embark on the InternChina adventure? Click here!
Hello everyone ! My name’s Audrey and I come from Strasbourg, France, and I just graduated with a Bachelor degree in Trade in the European Environment. As part of my studies I already had the opportunity to do an internship in Shanghai in 2015, and this was by far my most memorable and rewarding experience! The idea of going back again to China has been haunting me since, s0 now I’ll be interning in the Zhuhai office for 6 months!
I always had an interest in Asia, I could not explain it, it is just a part of me! My trips to Shanghai made me fall in love even harder. Before I arrived in Zhuhai, I wasn’t stressed at all- I waited for so long after being offered the role that it felt much more like a release to finally arrive! My adrenaline level was at its height when I jumped in the plane and made my way to Zhuhai via Hong Kong and Seoul. At the airport, my roommate and fellow office intern picked me up and brought me home!
Zhuhai so Far
It has been 1 week so far and Zhuhai is better than expected. The people are nice and welcoming, the food is delicious, the views are stunning and the relaxing vibe is amazing! The IC office staff are always keen to help and explain anything I need to know. Although I got overwhelmed in the beginning of my stay, the more time passes by, the more this experience seems like to be the opportunity I needed to move on and find my path. I kind of struggled with English at the start of my stay, but time will help and now I feel more at ease with people. Especially as I can enjoy the nightlife here with people from all over the world!
I hope to :
- Develop my “Guanxi”.
- Acquire new professional competencies through my work within an international team.
- Gain more self-confidence.
- Re-discover and deepen my knowledge of China and its business environment.
- Enjoy the city and its possibilities as well as the local culture.
Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, is one of the oldest cities in China. With more than 3100 years of history, Xi’an was the imperial capital to 13 dynastic periods, and is best known today for the Terracotta Warriors.
When one thinks of China, a couple of things come to mind: The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace, The Terracotta Warriors… One cannot come all the way to China and not see these wondrous places. Thus, Tess (an Australian friend who lives in Zhuhai), Brigitta (one of the Zhuhai interns) and I have set out to see all of these places before we leave China. First on our list was Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Warriors.
When planning trips throughout China, a lot of planning is required, being students and wanting to get the best possible travel deals, we compared the prices of flying out of Zhuhai and Guangzhou. It is really easy to get to either of these airports, as there are Zhuhai-airport shuttle busses that leave from downtown, so there is no worry of how to get to the airport. Ctrips is a great website to use when flying around China – the deals are great and they offer an array of departure times.
Having chosen a flight from Guangzhou after work, we only arrived in Xi’an at about 2am. We had chosen a hostel inside the wall, which was recommended to us by Tess’ parents – Xiangzimen Youth Hostel – and it was a mere 60 RMB (7.60€) per person, per night, for a 3-bedroom room. We were expecting the standard hostel, but what we arrived to was nothing short of a hotel! Hidden away on a little street, we arrived at these old-style Chinese double doors, only to enter into a luxurious and truly unique space. There were Chinese trinkets everywhere; bamboo door hangings, terracotta warrior statues, beautiful vases, exotic plants – the works. Everyone spoke English, which is a plus when you arrive at 2 am, exhausted. They also have a variety of arranged trips for their guests.
On our first morning, Tess’ dad surprised us with booking a private tour of the Terracotta Warriors for us. We were to be picked up at the hotel in a large van, just for the three of us, and we were feeling very exclusive. First, we were taken to the factory where they create the real Terracotta warriors statues and souvenirs, as they use the clay that was used to make the real Terracotta warriors that is only found on that one mountain. It was special going there because we were introduced to how the warriors were made, and the fact that we were able to buy real terracotta souvenirs.
From there we were taken to see the real Terracotta Warriors. We all read about them and learn about them at school, but one cannot fathom actually seeing them in real life – the burial pit is massive, and row upon row are warriors; 8,000 of them made, each one different from the next.
Built in 210 BC (at 2200 years old) the statues were found smashed up from having had the roof cave in on them. All the statues now that are standing have been put back together. Upon finding them, all of the warriors were completely painted in bright colors, however almost immediately after being dug up from the earth, the paint flaked off.
We also got to meet the farmer that found the warriors. He spends his days signing books (and gets really angry if you try to take a photo of him).
The mountain in which the emperor is buried contains an abundance of jade and gold, and in this region the special black jade can be found. The girls each bought a beautiful black jade bangle that turns dark green in the sunlight.
When we got back to the hostel in the evening, we passed by a board which was advertising a trip to the Music and Dance Opera, a show of the Tang Dynasty music and dances. It is said that the Tang Dynasty (from 618-907) was one of the most glorious and prosperous periods. We quickly decided to join, and again were put in a private bus and taken to the Opera. What we saw was a combination of beautiful musical acts and many beautiful traditional dances.
To add to the many great things that we had discovered about our hostel, turns out it was right on the bar street as well! After the show we decided to take a walk down the lively bar street, picked a bar that looked chill and sat down to people-watch.
We had heard that a great thing to do in Xi’an is to take a bike ride on top of the city wall. Built during the Tang Dynasty, the wall encircles 13,7 km around the city center, and at 700 years old, it is the oldest and best-preserved wall in China. So, although it was 32 degrees and the sun was blazing, we decided we could not miss out on this activity. Apparently, you can only hire the bikes for 100 minutes, so you have to make it around the 13,7 km wall before then. This quickly became the highlight of our trip – we were able to get a top-view of the city around us, as well as to experience biking on China’s most preserved ancient wall. That was a really special experience.
For the remainder of our day, exhausted after the intense bike ride, we walked along the Muslim Quarters of the city. Here, there are many markets that sell interesting trinkets, from wooden masks to silks to delicious sweets. It seemed that there was food at every turn, and so we had to give in and taste some. Unlike the food in Zhuhai, which tends to be spicy, the food in Xi’an was sweet and bursting with interesting flavors. We sat down for the traditional Liang Pi Cold Noodles, Buckwheat Cold Noodles, Stewed Pork Burgers and tofu.
Before having gone to Xi’an, we were told that other than the Terracotta warriors, there was not much to see in Xi’an. Instead, we arrived and found a beautiful and ancient city, packed with exciting people and special foods.
So you are thinking of doing an internship abroad.
Perhaps you’ve already made up your mind that you want to come to China. You have just discovered our website through one of our partner universities or on the web, have browsed around for a bit and found the most important pages: Internships, Studying Chinese, Accommodation, References and now this great, juicy-looking page: the Intern China Blog. So much interesting information, and so varied (don’t forget to check out our most recent posts on all the different topics!). But still you might think:
“I have questions… and it’s China – far away, different language, different customs – I’m not sure who I could talk to about this or if anyone can really help me…”
If this is the case, here’s what you can do:
2. Write to our enquiries email, which will automatically forward your email to the Manager of the city you are interested in. If you are still unsure about the city, then don’t worry: any of my colleagues and I, can help. So email me!
3. Browse through our site or FAQ list. Here are few questions that come up quite often (I will try to answer each one as best I can):
a. Will there be other foreigners in Zhuhai/Qingdao/Chengdu?
YES. InternChina is a growing company so there are interns all year round in our cities. They are doing internships, language classes or just enjoying the cultural exchange experience of living with a Chinese family. Some have finished their internships and decided to stay on longer as they’ve had such a good time. We even have a few who have been given full-time jobs at the end of their internship!
InternChina organises meals, events, trips and other activities which enable you to meet lots of new people and create strong friendships. Additionally, we are located in three economic hubs in China, so there are also many western companies whose employees live here full-time. This means that during your internship you might work with some foreigners or even meet a few when you go out for a meal or to the bar streets.
b. Will I be able to discover the culture and people whilst having a busy internship schedule?
YES. Zhuhai, Qingdao and Chengdu are three very different cities yet very similar in the sense that they are big enough to attract foreign companies and heavy government investment, but also small enough that you will need to learn the culture and some language to move around. It’s very different from Beijing or Shanghai – where foreigners tend to group together, speak English and in general only go to places targeted at expats.
Remember you are coming to China to discover the culture, the people, the places, the business world, the food, the crazy firework parties…. and this can only be done by being in China and living the Chinese way of life. The locals won’t invite you out, to dinners or special events if they do not get to know you! So get out there, take a foreign friend with you as support and go practice the language and communicate! This is the best way to improve your Chinese and Guanxi.
c. Will InternChina be available to help me out when I am actually in China?
On your arrival in China you will come to our office where we will give you an introduction to your city using the awesome Welcome Package and answer any questions you might have. The main reason for this is so that you get to know us, where our office is located and how to get to there. So, if there is an issue and you need our assistance with anything, you’ll know exactly where you can find us, and we can also come find you quickly. Fortunately we are all very experienced and issues get solved simply and efficiently by our foreign and Chinese staff, so most visits usually tend to be of a tea-and-cake nature.
Remember, InternChina does not only provide you with an internship and accommodation, but also with:
– Social support
– Regular dinners, events and trips
– Cultural discovery
– Advice, assistance and help regarding all facets of your life in China
Excited about the prospect of working and living in China? Apply now for an internship!
欢迎光临青岛 – Welcome to Qingdao!
When I told my friends and family in Germany about going to China, their reactions were pretty much all the same: “OMG, why do you want to go there?”. Just a few were actually interested in why I was coming and what I expect from the trip to China. I really want to experience as much as possible to show my friends that it is a great and very diverse country!
My interest for China started at University. At Uni, it is necessary to receive some credits that do not have anything to do with your basic studies, to give you an opportunity to improve your skills in other fields. In my first semester I started taking Chinese out of curiosity and the fact that it gives twice as many points as all the other languages. It was just fun going every week, learning some words which sounded completely new to everything you’ve heard before. I mean have you ever heard someone speaking Chinese? It’s just crazy to listen to!
I finished University in April 2013, majoring in English, French and Economics. Luckily my Masters does not start until October, therefore I had the chance to fill that time with whatever I wanted. I love traveling and getting to know new cultures. In 2006, I spent my first year abroad as a High School student in the United States. This experience opened up the world to me. I met people from all over the globe which gave me an inside view to how diverse and especially how interesting other cultures can be. Once gone abroad you will never settle again. I pretty much counted the days until my next journey. After my school graduation I spent two months in a French host family as an Au-Pair. Sadly in two months you do not really have the possibility to experience a country as much as I thought. During my studies I had the chance to go back to France, so I spent another two semesters abroad.
So there I was in December, pretty much done with my studies and with the urge to go traveling again. I wanted to see something completely different! Something I haven’t experienced before… I thought “hey, you took some Chinese already, you should go to China”. No sooner said than done. I found advertisements for Intern China online and applied for an internship. Luckily they accepted me and now I’m here. Small town girl in an eight-million-inhabitant city! I’ve been here for five days and I’m loving it. Of course I still don’t understand a lot, but the food is awesome, the people are very nice (of any nationality) and my welcome was just so friendly that I’m sure I’m going to have a great time in Qingdao!
Since 2012, Intern China’s Zhuhai Office started to organize regular activities with host families and interns, so that children can practice English in an interesting and fun environment, and start to understand different foreign cultures while playing games.
I also want to say: Thank You! – to all participating host families in our homestay program for supporting us.
In March, we always have such a beautiful spring in Zhuhai. It is a good time for outdoor activities, take the children to breathe the air of nature! Enjoy the sunshine, and of course, play some outdoor games! We had our first family day last Saturday. About 100 families came and everyone had a great time. (I was very tired after participating in every single game that day and slept for 15hours!;))
We started to prepare at lunch time, hung up our Intern China flag, because this was the sign where people could find us – Haibin park in Zhuhai is huge.
Before 2p.m., only some families arrived, we started to play some small games with the kids, so they wouldn’t get bored. About 2:10p.m., more and more families came and we started our first game ‘Duck Duck Goose’, then ‘Sharks and Minnows’, ‘Red light/ Green light’, water balloons, ‘Ping-pong’, ‘Tug-of-war’….
It really is spring in Zhuhai, flowers everywhere, but the most popular flowers are Kapok, Bougainvillea Spectabilis Wild and Bauhinia Flower. You can see them on every corner in Zhuhai.
Here is a street next to my home, all Kapok blossom now! Kapok is the city flower of Guangzhou. We also called it ‘cotton flower’ or ‘hero flower’! 🙂
The next one is Bougainvillea Spectabilis Wild, it is the city flower of Zhuhai.
On Monday, Sunny, our Customer Relations Manager in Zhuhai, asked me if I would like to come with her and visit a new homestay family. My Chinese is still very basic and I was afraid that not being able to communicate with them would make things awkward, but of course I was excited to meet a family that could potentially become one of our interns’ host family!
After a few minutes of asking around to find the right building, we arrived at the apartment. They opened up and quickly welcomed us inside. First we met the host dad, host mum and their 11-year-old son. They were very nice and accommodating, even though I could understand very little of what they said.
Then they gave us a tour of the apartment. It was a very nice, clean and cozy home, with a few bedrooms and even a studio full of books! In the son’s bedroom we met the grandparents, who were also really friendly and sweet. We went back into the living room and there Sunny began talking to the mum and dad about Intern China and the students that come do internships and live in homestays. Meanwhile, I had a very pleasant chat with their son, who was very keen on practising his English and I was more than happy to help! As it turns out, he loves basketball and is an avid drummer.
Even though we were only planning a short visit, they invited us for dinner and the food smelled so yummy we couldn’t refuse. It was a very nice meal with lots of vegetables, rice and some lamb. I was reminded of my own childhood when the host mum gave her son a small plate with ketchup on it, so that he would eat all his food!
After dinner we went back to the living room for some tea, chatted for a few more minutes and then took our leave. With lots of smiles and “thank yous”, we said our goodbyes and left. It was a great experience for me, to be welcomed so warmly into someone’s home, by a family who is very excited about the prospect of providing a home away from home to one of our future interns.