Written by Sylvia Liu
It’s been a bit over a month now since I first began my internship experience in Chengdu with InternChina, and I can easily say that this experience is definitely one that will be remembered!
Having travelled to many other Chinese cities before, Chengdu is a breath of fresh air; not literally however, but rather in the sense of its pace of life.
Chengdu meanders peacefully through each day; while other cities rush and are filled with spontaneity. That’s not to say Chengdu is less developed economically, quite the contrary! Just as its numerous shopping centres, nightlife and still expanding public transport systems like to prove.
Personally I have found the pace of life charming. I have enjoyed spending my Sundays temple-seeing, sipping tea at monasteries, and nibbling on sunflower seeds while listening to the indistinct chatter of Sichuanese.
Food has also held a prominent role in my time here! You will be hard pressed to find a restaurant who won’t serve at least a bowl of chilli with the famous Sichuan Peppercorns along with your meal.
The old streets of Chengdu, the majority located in the inner South West of the city, are a delight to walk through. There is plenty of opportunity to snack on the delicious street food, while being surrounded by traditional architecture permeating with historical significance.
I believe that there is knowledge that can only be learned from doing an internship in China. In particular cultural proficiency, which is always a handy skill to have even if one does not pursue a career in international business.
Some of the more interesting tasks I’ve done at the company have included researching the potential of incorporating blockchain technology with gaming, as well as game testing for current beta projects.
The employees at the company are all very inclusive, and it is interesting to gain insight into general Chinese organisational culture. The food options available at lunch are an additional highlight of the workday. The local 7-Eleven is frequented often for its lunchtime pick-and-mix boxes!
The people I have met in Chengdu have been the best part of my internship yet. Being able to meet people from all over the world through my internship in Chengdu is something I’m grateful for. I always look forward to spending time with the other interns or going to events organised by InternChina, such as Thursday Dinner, or even weekend activities outside the city.
I can say with no doubt that it is the people I have met here that make this trip the enjoyable experience it has been!
Interested in seeing everything that Sylvia has during her time in Chengdu? Then apply now!
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.
by Kim Whitwell
For the first weekend in December, 19 InternChina staff and interns travelled overland to the rural area of Kaiping, China to experience the rural offerings of historic diaolou country.
Setting off from Zhuhai, we all made our introductions and settled into getting to know each other. It was the first group trip the PMSA Kiwi students were involved in since landing a week earlier, so friendships were formed pretty early on.
Met by our tour guide Peter, and newly opened hostel owner Rocky in Tangkou, the group arrived just in time for a cooked lunch made with local produce from the area. Bellies full, and smiles on our faces for the blue skies and green scenery Kaiping was providing for us, we jumped on our bikes and followed Peter for the first of our diaolou tours.
Diaolous are fortified watchtowers built by the overseas Chinese in order to protect their rural home towns. To ensure their families were safe during mass emigration in the 20th century, overseas Chinese sent money back from afar to build them.
Displayed to the public, the presence of dialous are a marker of Chinese history and heritage. It reflects the rich culture and influences from both immigration (styles of décor in the diaolous show western influence) and emigration.
We wove in and out of rice fields all at the many different stages of cropping. Peter provided the knowledge and the various rural communities provided the photo opportunities. We all soaked in the authentic appearance and operations of the locals who went about their daily business with little more than a “ni hao!” in response to ours. We saw drying bok choy, rice husking, traditional instrument playing and oxen all within an hour.
On return to the hostel, we settled into the night on the roof top area watching the last of the sunlight fade. The hostel kitchen provided another extremely delicious meal, which some interns helped prepare. After, Peter captivated us with more of his extensive and passionate knowledge of diaolou country.
More chat, more beers and more laughter followed well into the night with a great time had by all . The immaculate hostel providing the most comfortable place to lay our heads for the night.
Day two arose with breakfast (a personal highlight) of both Chinese and Western cuisine (peanut butter on toast)! Then onto the bus we hopped to travel to some unique UNESCO sites in the local areas.
Bamboo forests and a local wedding greeted us at our first stop. Peter continued his extensive commentary on the history and significance of diaolous, mansions and operations in the local villages. Stop number two provided the Instagram opportunities! Lunch back at the hostel concluded our weekend in Kaiping. Bellies full once more, smiles a plenty and memories made, we filed back onto the bus and travelled a fairly sleepy and quiet journey home.
Kaiping is an authentic display of Chinese rural life that draws you into a time machine back 30 years. The attractions aren’t crowded or over commercialised so the experiences you have are very much genuine. Peter’s knowledge of the area and history behind it was captivating. He helped bring to life a part of the world not well known or considered in the tourism industry. Rocky has created an accommodation space that also feels genuine and homely. Utilising the infrastructure provided by history within the area the place is quirky and unique. If you are looking for a relaxing, yet interesting, time out from city life, this trip is for you.
Congratulations! You have acquired an internship in China! By now, you must have researched all about how to successfully communicate and work with your soon to be Chinese co-workers. Through the research you have gathered, you must have read about “face’’ and “guanxi’’ a lot. Well, here’s a bit more, with tips and advice from two of our partnered companies here in China!
What is Guanxi or Mianzi?
Here is a quick introduction for those that don’t know these two concepts. Guanxi, or “relationships,” is used to describe relationships in their many forms. These can be between friends, families, or businesses.
You can read more about the concept of guanxi from James here, but it is absolutely essential to conducting business and succeeding in China.
Mianzi or “face”, explained here, is so important in Chinese social, political, and business circles that it can literally make or break a deal! It can be translated as “honour”, “reputation” and “respect,” and the concepts are deeply rooted in the Chinese culture.
So how do you achieve Guanxi and Mianzi??
There are a few ways you can better your guanxi and gain some mianzi- read some comments from our partnered companies on how best to do it!
“Be open-minded, curious, and prepared!” – Marketing firm
The lifestyle and the business environment in China is different than it is in the West, so have an open mind for your new lifestyle here in China. You need to try being patient and understanding of your new cultural surroundings and work with potential language barriers.
Ask lots of questions while you are at your internship! Don’t worry about bothering your new co-workers, they want to help you, so ask away!
You should also engage in conversations while you are at social events, such as dinners, with your coworkers- this a great way of building your “guanxi!” However, you should remember to keep your questions reasonable and appropriate for the situation. You don’t want to ask any questions which might embarrass or cause your coworkers to lose face themselves.
Even though you might not know much about China in general, the city you are in, or the language, you can always do a bit of research to show you care enough to learn. This might mean doing some research before you visit, and continuing to ask questions and engage while you are there.
“Offer to buy dinner or go out to eat, and asking for help with and opinions on your work.” – Education company
But this doesn’t need to be anything fancy! Even something simple such as grabbing some nice dumplings or noodles at lunch can do the trick. Spending some quality time with your co-workers will be good for your guanxi and networking, and for your daily working life! If your coworkers ask you out for dinner after a long day of work, take the chance and enjoy a good meal and conversations- you will build your guanxi, mianzi and social circle!
Finally, ask for help when you need it. This is still an internship! You aren’t expected to know everything, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice when you don’t know something. Asking a colleague will show you are engaged and interested in the work, and they will appreciate sharing their knowledge of the task with you and gain face. It’s as great to earn as it is to give face!
Feeling ready for that internship now? Best of luck and enjoy your time in China!
Don’t have an internship yet? Check out 5 reasons why you should get one in China!
Hey travel addicts! Let me show you the Great wall as you would have never have imagined it!
You might think you know quite a lot about China, but this massive country has plenty of secrets. If you’ve already been, you’ve probably visited the Forbidden City in Beijing, and the Bund in Shanghai. I bet you’ve seen the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, the lovely pandas in Chengdu, and the “Avatar Mountains” in Zhangjiajie…
If you have managed to see all these things, it seems like you might be half Chinese now- congratulations! But what if I told you there is way more to China than these popular tourist spots? The Great Wall of China is probably one of the most famous tourist spots in the world, but I’m sure you’ve not seen all yet!
The Great Wall: Tourist Destination
If you’re in Beijing, well of course you should go to the Great Wall, otherwise you’ll never be a brave man – 不到长城非好汉, as the Chinese proverb said.
For a first experience in China, Badaling 八达岭 and Mutianyu 慕田峪 are nice spots of the Wall, and are very well renovated- this therefore means they are the most visited parts of the Great wall, so don’t expect to be the only tourist there!
But if like me you’re not really into tourist traps, and crowded places, let me show you another piece of the Great Wall called HuangHuacheng 黄花城. This is the only lakeside piece of the Great Wall, and some parts of it are not renovated, which means there is the perfect balance of tranquility and adventure- you definitely should try it!
If you feel ready for a hike, I have another piece of the Great Wall for you! Zhuangdaokou is one of the unrestored sections of the Great wall in Beijing, and you should definitely visit here if you feel like an adventure. Don’t be scared if you see some signs which won’t allow you to climb there, they are most likely like the “no smoking” signs all over China … not really significant.
Did you know that the Great Wall isn’t the same everywhere in China? For example, in Inner Mongolia the Great wall is totally different, and it’s of course way harder to imagine how they could defend their country with this kind of wall, made of soil and sand. In every hostel in Hohhot you can book a tour to see those amazing landscapes, and since Inner Mongolia isn’t that far from Beijing, you definitely should go and take a look there!
Do you feel like exploring the Great Wall of China? Then you should apply now!
While eating street food here, you might think that eating the street food in China is a bad idea and say, “Never will I eat that!” However, I can tell you that soon you’ll be saying “Daily!”
Spit it Out, This Isn’t Food!
At least that is what the small Western voice in your head is saying, annoying you while you are chewing on things that you never would have dreamed of eating before coming to China.
Sadly, you won’t see me eating a scorpion on a stick. If I dared to eat that, I would be grinning in the camera saying “yes, I am a badass!”
I also don’t want to tell you about what you should or shouldn’t try, but I will give advice to help prepare you for the wonders of Chinese street food- especially in Qingdao.
One of the best “pancakes” (jiānbǐng) in Qingdao in process
First Things First
If you want a nice tidy kitchen, then you better stay at home where you will not have to look at messy street food stalls- but you also will miss some of the best food out there. I had my first encounter with street food on the street right behind the University.
Variety of Food
The difference between Chinese and Western street food, that I have seen, is obviously the variety and amount of food offered.
On one stand you will find a type of pancake, “jiānbǐng” (煎饼), which can be filled with vegetables, crispy wonton or meat.
The always grinning guy from the other stand will give you some spicy chicken meat in a tasty sauce on potatoes, and with an even broader grin he will ask if you want an egg with it.
You will also find the so called Chinese hamburger, or “rou jia mo” (肉夹馍), so called because they both have meat and bread! You will find a guy using a scraper, normally used for plaster, to create flatbread. You will see another guy, with his mouth covered by a mask, mixing the cold ingredients you choose by yourself, such as peanuts, noodles, peppers, ginger, salad, tofu, seaweed and so on, in a bowl, and he will then give you your food directly in a plastic bag.
You will have the agile couple trying to break a record in preparing your meal as fast as possible. Him, hammering around like a lunatic on his iron hot plate, her, throwing the ingredients for fried noodles directly in front of his constantly moving spatula. You will find a competing couple selling chicken kebab with rice. Their arms and hands, heads, legs, knees and toes will be covered, to prevent them getting brown skin from the sun, while you will stand there, wearing a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, sweating.
But If you are hungry after a long day of travelling or sightseeing, no need to worry. Qingdao can help you out with BBQ on the streets, so search for what you want, sit down and wait for your meal to be prepared over charcoal fire.
Long story short, it is crazy the variety you have with street food, and you can go every day and eat something different. And the best thing is, as far as I got to know, it is the same everywhere! The people and ingredients may vary but the system is the same.
One of the best things to add, street food is there for you night and day!
What Street Food to Eat
So, what should you pay attention to?
First, you should apply one rule to all the food you eat, if you eat it and it tastes bad or unusual in a way, then follow your inner voice- spit it out! This may sound hard but believe me, if you don’t want to know what “la duzi” is, follow this advice! You wouldn’t eat bad food at home, so don’t do it in China.
Don’t hesitate to push your way to the front- “active-queuing” is a very popular sport in China! Be prepared to stand your ground and be firm, or you may lose your spot to an old lady who took advantage of the space you left.
When you find yourself standing in front of a vendor, you’ll be asked, “What? How much? Spicy?” You will have a hard time answering in English, but if you have an index-finger attached to your arm you will get what you want with pointing. Nodding and shaking your head is also optional!
Last but not least, for your own health follow some simple rules; go to the stalls that have people queuing up, and to those who are there every day. You can be sure their food is good!
Why does it have to be Basketball?
Did you ever want to do some extraordinary stuff that feels a little bit like being a celebrity without being one? Or to see and go through cool and wonderful situations? Then China is the place to be! Today I am going to speak about one of these activities. We got free tickets for a basketball match between two University Teams. Actually a friend got them, and not only two, he got a lot, so we went there with a bunch of fellow students. I was really happy on one side getting the opportunity to see my first basketball match but on the other hand I would have preferred watching a football match instead. But basketball is much more popular in China.
Why? If you ask a Chinese person this question they also don’t know. Football is also popular in China, and most people know at least one name of a German player, although they will use the Chinese name for him so you might not understand who it is they mean. For example you will have a Chinese guy smiling at you and say. “my favourite players are Kelinsiman or Shiweiyinshitaige!” Ok, so these examples are quite easy, but you will sometimes have a hard time I guarantee it.
Before the Match
But back to business! As a Student of Qingdao University, I was cheering for the Qingdao Team. I cheered so much that I even forgot the name of the other university, but is that information needed? I mean, who wants to know about the loser anyway?
Everything was new for me; first of all they were playing the national anthem before the game. Which is quite strange for a German to see, as we don’t play national anthems that often on sports events. Actually the only occasion on which we would play the German national anthem would be a match between national teams. Then they had two stadium speakers that were giving information about the teams and the game. The were announcing every single player by name.
After the introduction another, for me, strange thing happened. A group of cheerleaders came and performed on the field. Which was strange, because in Germany this is quite a seldom thing to happen too. Actually, I only know about cheerleaders from American movies.
For me the idea of cheerleading is, using diplomatic terms now, quite a strange one. Why would you need a bunch of girls performing expressive dancing, to cheer up a crowd that came to see their team competing against another one anyway? And why are there no male cheerleaders? Or are there some at women’s sport events? And if so, what kind of clothes do they wear? Hot pants, with muscle shirts? What would they swing around?
During the Game
Anyway after the performance and a long time of people running around without any system visible, on and by the sides of the field the actual game begun. We had the best seats directly on the line of the field. The anticipation was killing me already, when the game started.
And I saw from what I can tell about basketball (which is not too much, because I never saw the need to gather knowledge about this game anyway) it was a good game. The players were dedicated and they really played with tactics. During half time, two of my fellow students had to perform a streetball game against two Chinese guys. In the end the Qingdao Team won with smashing 52:38 Points.
After all I was really happy with the whole experience and can strongly recommend this to everyone that gets the opportunity- go and get a grasp of Chinese basketball, with everything belonging to it, including the loud drums Chinese people seem to carry around with them like the vuvuzelas brought to a football match!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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’.
One of the biggest challenges you may face when travelling overseas aside from a language barrier is culture shock. It may be your first time out of Europe, first time away from American shores or first time encountering an oriental culture, and to begin with, being so far out of your comfort zone, it may come as a bit of a shock.
Growing up your parents may have always said “Don’t stare, it’s rude!”. In China, be prepared for people staring at you, pointing out the lǎowài (老外) and following this up with a two-minute conversation about you (yep they probably won’t hide the fact they are talking about you).
This could be the first time a lot of these people have seen a foreigner, and they will be intrigued as to why you’ve come half way across the world to China. Daily you will get told how tall you are (hào gāo 好高) or how pretty or handsome you are (hěn piàoliang 很漂亮 / hǎo shuài 好帅). Don’t be surprised if they pluck up the courage to ask for a picture with you either.
TIPS: try not to feel self-conscious by the staring; embrace it, remember that you are a foreigner in a country that was once quite closed off from the West. Soon the staring that initially seems quite odd will become a daily normality.
Chinese food in China is not 100% like your Chinese takeaway back home. Whilst you can get your sweet and sour pork and black pepper beef, these aren’t daily dishes here. Don’t be surprised to see every part of the animal on the table (including head and chicken feet). Chinese cuisine, from all different parts of the country, really is delicious, and I find, tastes a lot better than it looks. There is a reason why everyone comes to China and puts weight on!
TIPS: If you don’t like spicy food, have an allergy, or are a vegetarian, make this the first Chinese phrase you learn! Being a vegetarian or halal eater is quite easy if you know what to say (or have it written down). If you try something that you like, try get a name for it or a picture, then this can always be a ‘go to dish’. Finally try not be afraid to give everything a go, if there are a lot of Chinese punters at a restaurant, then you know it’ll be a good’un.
PERSONAL SPACE & QUEUEING:
Personal space is a lot smaller and somewhat inexistent in China. On the bus, people may barge past you without an “excuse me”, be packed in so tightly that you feel quite uncomfortable (there always seems to be space for an extra person!) or they may not move out of the way to let you on or off.
TIPS: Hold your own, be assertive and stand by the back door the bus (always more spacious!). Queueing has improved dramatically over the years and you will see locals standing up to those people trying to push in!
China isn’t the fastest country when it comes to internet speed. What’s more, a lot the websites that me and you are used to using on a daily basis (Facebook, Google, Instagram) are blocked by the Great Chinese Firewall so you need a VPN to access them. Sometimes the internet can be a bit hit and miss and it may take twice as a long as normal to download something.
TIPS: Download and install a reliable VPN BEFORE you arrive in China (once you’re in China, you’ll need a VPN to download a VPN!). Patience is a virtue when using the internet!
These are just a few pointers of what to expect in the initial days after landing in China for the first time; initially it can be a bit overwhelming and you can feel a bit like a cat in headlights. But within days you will have found your feet, met some fantastic people and started to make the most of the incredible country and culture that you’ve just landed in! Before long you will no doubt be saying you don’t want to go home!
In 2009 I set foot in China for the first time. I was in Beijing for a semester at Peking University and my time there passed in a blur. I barely knew the language and it was my first time being abroad on my own. So now, seven years later and with more Mandarin under my belt than just xie xie (谢谢) and bu yao (不要), I am ready to take on my second Chinese adventure.
After being here for a few weeks now, I can definitely say that I am happy I chose Zhuhai to do my internship. While Zhuhai does have everything a big metropolis has to offer, it doesn’t feel overly crowded or hectic. There are parks and green spaces all over the city and life here is a little more laid back. That does not mean that being here isn’t a little overwhelming at times. It takes a while to get used to living in a different place and being in a different culture, and it isn’t always easy. Not being able to fully speak the language also makes every interaction a little more difficult, as each time it takes a little bit longer to get my point across, but that’s OK. I’m here to soak up as much as I can and with every day it gets easier and easier. I have a great support group here with InternChina and they have definitely made my first couple of weeks here a breeze.
My favorite thing about coming to China and living in Zhuhai is the food! I love that food is such a big part of the culture here and plays an important part in daily life. On every street you can find little shops selling all kinds of different stuff. I love trying new cuisines and dishes, and I haven’t had a bad meal yet!
I am really looking forward to my internship and to living in Zhuhai. I can’t wait to see what the next few months will bring!