Over the Chinese New Year period, our interns enjoyed an authentic homestay experience. Calum and Alejandra both left the city to experience a traditional Chinese New Year with their respective homestay families.
Calum’s Homestay CNY Experience in Dali
First off, I must thank my host-family for bringing me along with them for their New Year’s trip to Dali, their generosity regularly astounds me! I struggle to imagine ways they could give me a better experience here in China. Dali sits on the banks of the Erhai Lake, surrounded by mountains. Just a short flight of a little over an hour brought us out of Chengdu, and under the blue skies and sun of Yunnan Province.
Our hotel had a very homely feel, with relatively bare corridors leading to beautifully furnished rooms. The owners were an amiable family of husband, wife, and daughter. Much of the furnishing had been done by the husband, himself a keen carpenter. Each piece of the garden and the house had its own individuality. While there was no clear theme to any of it, somehow, they all came together perfectly to make us feel at home. Meals were all homemade, and I must be honest, I think Yunnan edges out Sichuan for cuisine…
The relatively small size of the business meant that often the hotel owners could accompany us on outings, guiding us through the local countryside. Experiencing Dali’s Old Town was something special. Buildings were an eclectic mix of efficient concrete structure designed to keep cool in the summer. Beautiful traditional Chinese architecture, all gilded with generous amounts of neon. This gave it an almost Vegas-like feel at times, while just two dozen metres back from the main road sat simple farming buildings. Industrious locals all trying to find something unique with which to set themselves apart and earn their living was a pleasure to see. There are some absolute gems hidden away in those streets for those willing to seek them out!
The whole trip was just the right length to shake up my Chengdu routine. Every day discovering a little more of the fountain of different cultures that is China. Perhaps in the future, I will be able to bring my family to see the area and meet the hotel family. Although I could go on for hours about how excellently they treat all their guests, I can tell without a doubt that the pleasure is all theirs!
Alejandra’s Countryside Homestay Experience
Chinese New Year with my host family was quite an experience. It started with a visit to Leshan, my host mum’s hometown. I visited a cousin whom I had met previously and who is kind of a genius with Chinese medicine (yes, I have had quite a few sessions of hot cupping and acupuncture). I went orange picking in Leshan and had an amazing lunch after. Everything is so fresh in the countryside! After lunch, I learnt how to fly cards. First time lucky I managed to fly a card just right and slice through an Aloe Vera plant. The cousin was denting tea cans with every card he flew- I need a lot more practice!
After Leshan, we head off to Guang’an, about 4 hours away from Chengdu, where my host family’s father is from. As a foreigner, you become the town’s talk in a very good way. People want to come say hi and meet you. I spent my evening playing cards, running around racing with the children and playing badminton. Once you are that far away from the city air is so fresh you’re going to want to be out walking all the time.
However, the next day the Winter Olympics were on and we were all a little tired so we decided to spend the day just chilling, except the host grand parents- they never never stop! They are farmers and their cooking is incredible, with everything they cooked grown and picked from their garden. They are so strong, healthy and always very hospitable and smiley. I offered to help but they said guests were not allowed to help. I managed to quickly pick up the plates once or twice after dinner when they weren’t looking (I call that an achievement!)
New Year’s Eve was also spent at home. I thought we’d go out to town and look at lanterns and fireworks but in the countryside, the New Year’s Eve is spent at home with all the family gathered. No disappointment there at all. We had a great time at dinner then… Fireworks concert just before midnight until 6 am. Everyone in the neighbourhood takes turns and fires amazing rounds of fireworks.
After and during the fireworks, we all went upstairs and watched the New Year’s gala on the TV. I understood half of the comedy sketches, but it was good fun watching everyone laugh. There also some dancing, singing and acrobatic performances that were all YUP! ASIAN LEVEL! INSANELY PRECISE. We then called it a night for an early wake-up call.
Chinese New Year!
I had no idea what it would be like but the amount of people that Guang’an had made it look more like a big city than a town. Turns out it is good luck to spend the entire New Year’s day outside your home. I spent the whole day with my host father playing cards and just having a good laugh and banter with his old school friends. I became one of the lads for the day. The town looked like a mix between a children’s fair and a tea house full of Mahjong and card adult players. Then towards night time it was Baijiu and dinner time. Let’s just say I had a really good night’s sleep after such a long day.
Finally, the trip to the countryside made me realise how different traditions are but also how immensely hospitable Chinese people are. The family welcomed me with open arms and were always asking twice if I was okay. Even when you insist you are alright, they always want to make sure you are more than alright and this just shows how giving and kind their character is.
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My name is Ingo, I am a student from Germany majoring in Business Administration & Engineering. Since mid-February I have been working as an intern at a British company in Qingdao. The company provides solutions for environmental protection using their purge and pressurization units to prevent dust, corrosives and other non-hazardous gases from contaminating electrical equipment installed in enclosures close to process applications. My task is to elaborate new functions in the enterprise resource planning system, elaborate and installing a shop-floor information system and support the factory supervisor. I am well integrated in the team and I am glad to have the chance to do an internship in Qingdao and in this company.
For the duration of my stay in China I am living at a homestay family. It is a small Chinese family with a little child. The home of the family is in Shuan Shan area near a big mall and well connected to public transport. The latter is very important for me due to my daily commute to work. I get breakfast and dinner at the family. The breakfast is most of the time a Chinese kind of porridge, boiled eggs and fried bread. For dinner, I am mostly at the parents of my guest mother. There I get all varieties of Chinese food – her father is an excellent cook. Occasionally, my homestay family invites me to meet their friends or to go on a trip. Also, my guest family speaks very good English – to the detriment that my Chinese knowledge is still stagnating on a low level.
Qingdao is regarded as a holiday paradise. The city is located directly by the sea and has several beaches. Near the city, the Lao Shan Mountain is located, from which– depending on weather – a wide view over the whole region is possible.
I do not regret my decision to do an internship in China and I am looking forward to my four remaining months in Qingdao!
By Sven von Hollen (CDBS63 Marketing & IT Internship + Homestay)
Es ist schwer eine genaue Vorstellung von China zu haben, ohne vorher dort gewesen zu sein. Bei einer so vielfältigen Lebensweise ist es für mich selbst nach 6 Monaten in diesem Land noch schwer, passende Worte zu finden. Trotzdem werde ich mein Bestes geben, dir einen kleinen Einblick zu geben.
Ich kann meinen China-Aufenthalt nur als mein bisher größtes Abenteuer beschreiben, neben neuen Erinnerungen habe ich vor allem starke Veränderungen durchlebt, sowohl beruflich als auch persönlich. Natürlich bringt das Leben in einer 16 Millionen Einwohner Metropole auch seine negativen Seiten mit sich. Gerade im Winter kann der Smog erdrückend sein und auch die vielen Menschen und Autos sind für mich als Dorfkind stark gewöhnungsbedürftig gewesen. Mal abgesehen davon, dass ich kaum scharfes Essen ertrage, in einer Region, die für seine Chilis bekannt ist. Aber damit hören die negativen Punkte auch schon auf. Die Faszination China kann beginnen.
Sobald man die Großstadt verlassen hat, ist die Natur hier herrlich. Vor allem Richtung Tibet und der Provinz Yunnan gibt es eine Vielzahl an wundervollen Orten. Ich kann besonders Lugu See und Jiu Zhai Gou empfehlen. Nach der Anreise gibt es dort Ausblicke, die man nicht mehr vergessen möchte. Kleiner Tipp am Rande: Vermeidet die Urlaubszeiten in China, die Menge an Menschen zu den Stoßzeiten ist erdrückend und verdirbt einen Großteil der Tour.
Es ist jedoch nicht die Natur, die China für mich so einzigartig gemacht hat. Es sind die Menschen und die Geschichten, die hinter diesen stecken. Beginnend mit meiner ersten Entscheidung, eine Hostfamilie statt eines normalen Apartments zu wählen. Denn wer wirklich an dem Land interessiert ist, sollte sich mit lokalen Personen umgeben. Teil einer neuen Familie zu sein ist etwas ganz Besonderes. Man lernt traditionelle Hausmannskost kennen, nimmt am Leben der chinesische Familien teil, unternimmt spannende Ausflüge oder entspannt zusammen auf dem Sofa. Ich hatte das Glück das chinesische Neujahr mit meiner Hostfamilie zu verbringen. Chengdu zu verlassen und bei den Eltern in einer kleinen Stadt zu leben. Um ein besseres Bild zu vermitteln, stell dir vor, du feierst eine Woche lang Weihnachten und Neujahr zusammen, ein Fest der Freude und Familie. Neben viel Feuerwerk, KTV und Spaziergängen durch die Stadt ist es vor allem das Zusammenkommen der gesamten Familie, was das Fest so besonders macht. Man zollt den Vorfahren Respekt, geht zusammen in den Tempel, spielt Mahjong und genießt die zahlreichen Mahlzeiten.
Es ist aber nicht nur die Familie, mit der ich besondere Momente teilen durfte. Es gibt unzählige andere Erlebnisse mit neu gefundenen Freunden. Ob Stadttour, Sehenswürdigkeiten aufsuchen, lokale Geburtstage feiern, KTV, Events, Clubabende, ein gemütlicher Abend in einer der zahlreichen Bars oder sogar eine lokale Hochzeit, von traditionellen Einblicken bis hin zu langen Nächten wie man sie im Westen kennt, war alles dabei. Es gibt eigentlich immer etwas zu unternehmen wenn man Lust hat. Die häufigen internationalen Events waren für mich die wichtigsten Orte, um neue Freunde in allen möglichen Bereichen zu finden. Auf Kulturfestivals eher in entspannter Umgebung, auf dem Startup Weekend Chengdu bei perfekter Mischung aus Spaß und Produktivität im Businessbereich. Die neu gewonnenen Freunde haben mir einen sehr persönlichen Einblick in Ihre Kultur verschafft.
Und das ist auch der beste Tipp, den ich geben kann. Traue dich, neue Menschen kennenzulernen, ein einfaches „Ja“ zu aufkommenden Gelegenheiten (vor allem wenn man sich nicht sicher ist, ob es gut wird) hat mir meine besten Erlebnisse beschert. Dieses kleine Wort kann dir das Tor zu einer völlig neuen Welt eröffnen. Treff neue Leute, unternehme etwas mit ihnen, nutze jede Gelegenheit auf neue Erfahrungen und verstecke dich nicht immer zwischen anderen Ausländern.
My September homestay family lives in an apartment complex in northern Shinan District. They are kind, hospitable and very friendly, a couple and their ten-year-old son—I am really enjoying my time with them. Living in the building is like living in a beehive—so many apartments—fittingly; the ten-year-old is a fan of honey. We eat breakfasts and most dinners together, which I really like, as they are lovely people, and I also hope my Chinese will get better as a result.
Our towering building is built against the base of a mountain, part of Fu Shan Forest Park. In the midst of the complex, there is a garden with a shivering river, pink lotuses floating on its surface. At nightfall, many adults and children come out to the garden. They laugh, chat, play, dance, run around and listen to music, and with handheld coloured lights, they trail luminous patterns and characters on the dark. The windows of buildings glow like jewels, and the moon hangs low, as large as painted in ancient Chinese artworks; full, round, golden, celestial.
There are many reasons why I decided to come to China for three months shortly after graduating university, reasons both professional and language-related. But perhaps none of those reasons would exist, and perhaps nor would my Chinese language skills, if not for stories I loved at a much younger age. So, for my first entry, I will begin with these stories.
When I was a child, one of my favourite books was named Dragonkeeper, which told of a slave girl who lived in ancient China’s Han Dynasty. Complaining all the while, she selflessly rescued an old green dragon from captivity and death in the mountains. Beset by dangers, she and the dragon travelled together on a long, difficult quest. Their twin journeys: his to find the ocean, a safe place for his child to hatch; and hers to find her own name and her own identity.
Every morning from my bedroom window in Qingdao, I look outside and see the craggy peaks rising high above, revealing twisting trails which seem to appear and vanish, intricately carved sculptures of fish and lions, jagged rocks, birds that wheel and hover, and trees that whisper and sway.
When I look upon the light and dark greens and blues and browns of these high peaks, all blending together like the hues of a half-remembered dream, I think of Dragonkeeper—the mountain range before me just as I always imagined in the story. I wonder if the girl and her dragon friend may have made their way, clambering and climbing, tired and footsore, among these mountains. If they came to Qingdao, perhaps they soon found the sea. (But first, I’m sure they took the time for a rest stop at Gaoshan, “High Mountain”— for what a perfect place for a dragon, after having curled up and rested, to take flight!)
On the mountain hike I took with my host family in Fu Shan Forest Park, I could just as easily imagine Sun Wukong, the mischievous Monkey King of the Chinese classic Journey to the West, leaping from peak to peak, treetop to treetop, soaring atop his cloud, spinning his gleaming magic staff, his grinning face coloured brown and gold.
When I was five years old, I read with relish a set of Stories of the Monkey King, coincidentally; the same tales most Chinese people come into contact with at a similar age. They told of the noble Buddhist monk Xuanzang who goes in search of sacred Buddhist sutras, and of his disciples; the food-loving pig-man Zhu Bajie, the stoic soldier Sha Wujing, and the Taoist trickster god, the Monkey King.
The Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin, and the Jade Emperor, sentence the Monkey King to act as bodyguard for the three other travellers, as penance for his past crime in Heaven—he had ruined the heavenly garden of the Peaches of Immortality belonging to the Queen Mother of the West. He is sworn to protect and defend the other travellers against a host of malevolent supernatural beings led by the White Bone Demon, who are determined to kill and eat the holy monk, and destroy the sacred scrolls. The stories were exciting, hair-raising, dramatic, emotional and funny—perfect for children. Tales of bravery, tragedy, redemption, which were all about fighting battles against hordes of demons using magic, weapons, wits and Buddha-esque compassion—what could be better?
Dragonkeeper and Stories of the Monkey King were my first experience with Chinese culture—I adored these stories, and I never forgot them.
Without them, I might not be here today.
It makes me very happy to have come to Qingdao, where I can imagine the stories taking place.
My name is Alizée and I am currently doing an internship in Zhuhai through InternChina. At the end of my Bachelor’s degree, my need to explore new horizons automatically brought me to China. It was the most logical choice, being the farthest country and, by all standards, the most different. But after only a week, I already felt right at home. Here are a few of the first things I discovered about Zhuhai.
InternChina – View from BanZhangShan Mountain
1. Guangdong is the land of the Cantonese
Zhuhai situated in Guangdong, and being so close to Hong Kong and Macau, has quite the Cantonese influence. Along with the language (both Mandarin and Cantonese), comes delicious Cantonese food! It is the most populated province in China, Guangdong’s capital is Guangzhou. It’s hard for me to believe, coming from France where we are 66 million people in total, but Guangzhou hosts over 50 million habitants, in one city only. In comparison, 10 million people live in Paris. These proportions are hard to grasp.
2. Beware of the Karaoke!
Here, it’s called KTV (short for Karaoke TV, as you might have guessed). Basically, you gather all your friends into a private room and sing loudly together. In China, KTV is a cultural institution, suitable for all generations and social backgrounds. The name for us westerners can be quite off putting. Since it is not being broadcasted, why is it called TV ? It originated when new piracy laws from the GATT’s Uruguay round shut down it’s predecessor in 1988, MTV (MovieTV, Netflix’s ancestor). The company, not put off in the least, then simply switched it’s market to a less regulated sector; the music industry, and changed the first M to a K, with little regards for it’s meaning.
My first experience with this strange practice was during my company’s party, reuniting over 30 people from different branches, in a large pandemonium of beer and music. It was quite fascinating to watch my colleagues, usually so assiduous and solemn, turn into such party animals. The classic studious and hardworking stigma that is usually observed, was largely proven wrong during those few hours of letting loose. Unfortunately, knowing no Chinese music, I relied on a good ol’ Beatles song, and got away with it. My second experience was in the home of my host family daughter’s friend. In a smaller setting, it was indeed quite a different mood, and I got to pay greater attention to the meaning of the songs. In order to be prepared, I could advise everyone to learn one famous Chinese song; it’ll make them laugh, and make you practice your pronunciation!
3. Menu Tasting & Furniture Shopping
My company is on the verge of opening its new vegetarian restaurant. So for lunch, Juan (another Indonesian intern) and I taste tested the new menu. My personal favourite is the tangyuan, which is the Chinese version of the Japanese mochi, a glutinous rice cake filled with various pastes or nuts. Part of the Japanese Washoku, listed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, it’s Chinese equivalent is just as delicious.
The following day, we went to buy furniture for the new restaurant. On the outskirts of the city lays a vast warehouse-like furniture store, specialized in traditional goods, which is actually composed of multiple little shops. From old locks, to carved doors, to tea tables and stone water fountains, it was quite a delight to the eye.
4. A Peak at the Local Life
For anyone wishing to truly experience the local life, I can’t insist enough on how great a homestay can be. I was extremely fortunate to intrude into the life of the Kong family. They have welcomed me into their daily routine and have been continuously generous and attentive. They have already promised to come visit me in my hometown, and I really hope they do! Having come to China to experience being a fish out of water, I quickly realized that all human beings are the same, no matter how far apart they seem to be. Sure, the food is different (it’s delicious!) and the language’s structure is arduous to grasp, but in the end, it’s a small world, after all.
5. Oh, one more thing:
Most public place doors here aren’t outward opening as they are in the west. So don’t look foolish (like I did for a week): open doors as you would in your house, inward.
If you looking to immerse yourself in Chinese culture whilst getting yourself valuable internship experience, apply here now!
I am from Germany and finished school last year. Now, I am between secondary school and looking forward to going to university next year. As part of my Gap Year I chose to go to Qingdao for five months to learn Mandarin.
I landed in Qingdao after 16 hours of flight and stopover. At ten in the morning I arrived in a freezing cold Qingdao. Having not slept the whole flight because I wanted to watch all the movies I was quite tired upon my arrival. But all my fatigue quickly fell away when I saw that my host family had sent their driver in a Jaguar to pick me up and excitement set in! An hour later we got to the house I was placed in, where I have my own room with a balcony. The house is in a beautiful neighbourhood and within a two-minute walk from the beach.
I met my DiDi (little brother) later that afternoon when he came back from school and the parents in the evening when they came back from work. The family made me feel most welcome and I managed to settle in quickly. Not knowing what to expect of the food in Qingdao I was relieved when the Ayi (housekeeper) – who helps me where she is able to – served some egg-fried rice alongside a good ol’ steak with some beans. The Ayi cooks heaps of food, does my laundry, cleans my room and tries to support me wherever possible, as does the rest of the family.
The food here is dangerously spicy for people who cannot eat spicy food and understandably consists of a lot of rice and dumplings but I personally like hot food and the Chinese cuisine so I was happy. However, my stomach was not and took a few days to get used to the food. The only thing I do not enjoy quite so much is the ZaoFan (breakfast). But this problem was resolved swiftly after I told the Ayi that I would be happy to eat toast. Now, the only remnant of Western cuisine in my diet is toast with Nutella in the morning along some scrambled eggs. At this point I got to warn any prospective interns that it is not easy to come by foreign groceries here. I have yet to find Nutella and for now I make do with some surrogate chocolate cream. Also all imported food is more expensive than it would be in the country of origin.
On Monday I had to drive to school for the first time which was a piece of cake given that the public transport is really efficient. But it can be very confusing because all maps are in HanZi and most people only speak Chinglish so I would advise you to get a good description of the buses you can take and at which stop you have to get out. Furthermore, Google Maps does not work in China unless you use a VPN, so getting around the city can be a challenge. Nonetheless, I arrived at school safe after an exciting bus ride – the traffic is wild and the bus drivers are mad. My school is great, I am a single student and my teacher is very able and we get along just fine. After school I usually go to lunch with my colleagues who are great fun which makes work so much more bearable. The work atmosphere is relaxed and my tasks do not bore me, so I am perfectly happy with my placement.
The weekends are really exciting, as we always have a group activity – last week for example we went hiking in the mountains and this weekend we will go paintballing – after which we go out in the city. Also on Thursdays all interns get together and have dinner at a different restaurant every week.
Having had little prior Mandarin skills I think I can say that even the mere two weeks I have been here so far have made a huge impact on my knowledge of HanYu, so I am looking forward to the next 16 weeks, during which I am hoping to travel around China with the other interns. For Chinese New Year we are probably travelling to NanJing, the ancient capital of China.
If you also want to experience the real China and live in a hostfamily during your internship, apply now!
No way, I’ve been in Qingdao for three months already… Time flies as we say. Three months completely disconnected from western countries, entirely immerged in the Chinese culture. Now after three months I will leave China with my head full of memories and amazing experiences!
Since the day I arrived, I was looking forward to go to Laoshan, the famous mountain near Qingdao. Sadly, in January, February and March, the weather was still too cold to consider climbing that mountain, and I was feeling desperate to never be able to climb that mountain. And finally, as the end of my stay drew closer and I resigned to not climbing it, I took part in a Laoshan trip organized by InternChina. After an early wake up at 5 am to get to the bus – Laoshan here we are! Even though the weather wasn’t that sunny, I think it was the perfect week end to go to Laoshan (and not because it was my last week end in Qingdao). The temperature was warm enough to take off our sweaters to climb the stairs!
We went through unofficial trails, in the wild part of the mountain. Thankfully we had a Chinese guide who seemed to know exactly where we were and where we went, he was amazing! And once he even took me by the hand and helped me to climb the stairs (not that I couldn’t have done it myself but it was far easier this way). Mid-April is cherry blossom time! A lot of flowers everywhere which gave me the feeling that spring was finally here. After a lot of stairs, I can say that I managed to reach the top of the mountain (or at least the top of the peak our guide led us to), and I am so glad that I was able to do it!
When I wrote my first blog, I still couldn’t believe I was in China, and now I can’t believe I am about to leave it. Three months, it’s short, but I used all the time I had to discover most of the places that have to be seen in Qingdao and to meet a lot of incredible people. I am so grateful towards all those people who made my stay in Qingdao unforgettable. Thank you especially to the InternChina team in Qingdao, for giving me this great opportunity. And of course, many thanks to my host family who has been so nice with me!
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How is it to live with a family who is Chinese and actually not your family? I tell you, it’s great! Here is my experience:
My Chinese family consisted of my hostma and her husband, their 5 year old daughter and the mother of the hostdad. They were really welcoming from the start and even if I can’t speak a lot of Chinese we always understood each other.
As my host family was quite young they were great fun. We went out for midnight snacks with my other colleagues, they even came to the opening of a club one time, invited me to go to KTV with their friends and so on.
I also got introduced to the whole family, the parents of my hostma and celebrated the moon cake festival with them. They also chose a Chinese name for me, giving me their last name. Really sweet!
And the FOOD! I had so much good food during my homestay and got fed so well that I am still surprised that I didn’t end up 20 kilos heavier.
I still miss to come home after work and smell the food and hear the granny telling me “CHI FAN!” (engl.: eat!).
Besides the cultural experience, it’s great to feel so welcoming and it’s an easy way to learn Mandarin just by teaching each other.
Also want to get that experience? Apply now!