What do Chinese host families normally expect from their house guests? Should I bring a gift for my host family? Are there any cultural norms I need to be aware of? You probably have a million questions about your homestay. Fear not! It’s all part of the discovery process and the magic of living with a host family.
When confronted by a completely different culture, many things you never expected can take you by surprise. My first tip for you before you head to China is to find out all you can about the concept of face. This will be invaluable knowledge for getting by and developing relationships in China.
Secondly, here are some friendly tips about doing a homestay in China and observations to help you prepare for host family life!
Mountains of Food
One of the lovely things about the Chinese culture is their respect, love and attention that can be conveyed by a single meal. The polite thing to do to a guest in China is to pile their plate high with food from the centre of the table. Whether you ask for it, or not.
Homestays are an incredible way to taste a wide variety of local food. You might find your hosts constantly offer you fruit, snacks like sunflower seeds or even occasionally special treats like chocolate. This can be a bit overwhelming at times!
My personal guidelines for when to accept or decline food in your homestay:
- Be open minded to trying things – say yes as much as you can, widen your horizons, don’t chicken out! (Try a few chicken feet)
- Don’t be afraid to say no when it gets to be too much – know your own limits, don’t panic if people keep offering even after you’ve said no
- Take special treats in moderation – avoid losing face by scoffing down all the families most expensive treats (though they might keep offering)
- Beware of Baijiu Alcohol – celebrations and big family dinners can often get a bit wild when local shots are involved. Handle with care!
Chinese families tend to be very conscious of the amount of water used in the home. So, looong indulgent baths or lengthy daily showers might not go down too well. Your family might even be slightly surprised at how often you shower. Feel free to bring this up in conversation with them. The more you discuss differences in living habits, the easier it is to avoid misunderstandings.
In any case, water is the most valuable commodity in the world!
In China, chicken stew means the whole chicken; the head, the beak, the feet et al. Waste not want not!
This idea crops up again and again in food and in other areas of life too. With bath towels and other household items too. (Although perhaps not when it comes to plastic packaging). Be aware of this and try to observe how the family use things.
Discuss these observations with the family! You’re both there to discover these differences. It’s always interesting to find out which of your daily habits are due to the culture of your country, your family or just your personal preference. It’s a weird and wonderful world.
Modern day lifestyle in a Chinese city is busy busy busy. Kids are the absolute epicentre of the family. Everything revolves around their schedule. Dropping the kids of at school, picking the kids up and shuffling them off to badminton class, extra English lessons, lego club, chess or gymnastics championships and finally exam prep, plus more exam prep.
Adjusting your schedule to the family schedule can be a challenge sometimes. The more you communicate with the family about your timetable, your internship hours etc. the more enjoyable the experience will be. You’ll communicate with your host family through WeChat which even has a translate function if conversations get complex.
Top tips for living in harmony:
- Try to set up regular time to spend with the family in the evenings – especially if there are kids!
- Ask advice on the best places to shop, hike, climb or play football – the family with be eager to show of their city and can show you around
- Be patient and flexible -remember how much the family are adapting to make you part of their daily routines
Clubbing and your usual night-life madness might not be so compatible with your new family life here in China. Have a think about what you are committing to and decide what is most important to you. Host families can be extremely caring in China and they do tend to get anxious if their house guests stay out late at night.
Remember, it’s a short period of your life and you might only have this one opportunity to do something so unusual!
Gifts from your hometown go down a treat! Any local to your community at home. Chocolates, biscuits, stickers, tea towels, scarves, pictures etc. Just a little something to show your appreciation.
In China, people always give and receive gifts. It is also quite common for gifts to be put aside to opened later in private. So don’t be surprised if the gift disappears unopened.
Added tip – try to give your gift with both hands!
You have to discover these for yourself. That is part of the homestay journey! However, I would particularly recommend checking out Mamahuhu’s YouTube channel. They’ll give you a fun insight on which to reflect, then build your own perceptions.
Enjoy your homestay! It will be an experience like none other.
Happy 68th National Day!
The Chinese National Day on 1st October is seen as the anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. On this date in 1949, the Central People’s Government formed with the help of Mao Zedong, celebrated with a ceremony on the Tian’anmen Square (天安门广场). However, the exact founding date of the PRC was the 21st September 1949.
The National Day marks the first day of one of the two Chinese Golden Week holidays. The Golden Week (黄金周) gives Chinese people the chance to travel or visit their family because of the seven continuous days of holiday. Officially three days of paid holiday is provided, but these three days are extended by bridge holidays. Working on surrounding weekends compensate these bridge holidays. The intention of the government doing this re-arrangement is not only for the Chinese people. Primarily it should stimulate the Chinese tourism industry which is steadily growing.
Famous tourist attractions, popular travel destinations, airports, trains and hotels crowd with Chinese people. Everyone wants to use their limited free time for travelling and visiting the country in which they are living. So, for travel during the Golden Weeks, less popular destinations are recommended or be prepared for long waiting times for popular tourist areas.
Traditions and activities
There are several traditions and activities when celebrating the National Day. Throughout the whole country they are relatively similar, even in Hong Kong and Macau. There are many different shows like dance, song and light shows. There are flag raising ceremonies by uniformed troops like in Beijing on the Tian’anmen Square, military reviews and parades. In the evenings there are fireworks everywhere. Red lanterns, banner scrolls, Chinese flags and portraits of Mao Zedong, founding father of the PRC, decorate all public places ostentatiously.
To demonstrate the Chinese public worship of the founding father of the PRC the portrait of Mao Zedong at Tian’anmen Gate Tower in Beijing has changed every year since 1949.
The Chinese government sponsors all these activities, shows and decoration because they express the patriotic feelings of the Chinese people towards their fatherland.
During the Golden Week, government offices and factories often close for several days. However, shops, malls and sights are open. They profit the most from the Golden Weeks because people have time to spend their money.
So, enjoy the new impressions of another kind of busy China and don’t spend too much money! Have a nice free week!
My name is Zachary Black and I am from York in the North of England. Although I pride myself on being Yorkshire born and bred, I have been very fortunate to travel a lot. Having frequently visited South-East Asia as a child, it is safe to say that I have always had an affinity with this part of the world.
My passion for Asian culture led me to my study of Mandarin at Newcastle University along with Spanish, Catalan and Business. As part of my BA at Newcastle, our year abroad was spent at a partner university in China in order to improve our language skills. This proved to be a life-changing 12 months for myself and has in fact led me to being here at InternChina today. Living in Shanghai ignited my passion for the way of life in China and was the driving force behind me studying mandarin for a further year after completing my BA.
After returning home in the summer of 2017, I found myself itching to get back to the middle kingdom and was fortunate enough to secure this fantastic opportunity with InternChina which is only just beginning. Although Chengdu is completely different to Shanghai, there have been a few elements that have pleasantly surprised me – Not just the Pandas !. For example, there is an unparalleled emphasis on the slow-paced rhythm of life here with people just seemingly going with the flow and taking a more ‘laid-back’ approach to life. This is definitely a welcomed release from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, and even the UK sometimes.
My First Impressions
I have been overwhelmed by how friendly people have been here which has helped me settle in my short time here. One further aspect of life here so far which I am enjoying is the food, Chengdu has definitely justified being selected as a global gastronomic site by UNESCO. The juxtaposition of 火锅-‘hotpot’ and 串儿 – ‘anything possible on a stick’ is complimented wonderfully by an array of western restaurants for that occasional change of cusine .
My time in Chengdu has already pushed me out of my comfort zone, yet I am more than committed to welcoming the InternChina participants here to China. I feel lucky to be experiencing life in a fantastic part of the world whilst further improving my mandarin. I can’t wait to see what the next few months hold, so all that is left to say is “加油”－Let’s go !
Interested in Changing your life ? – Apply now !
My name is Erika and I come from a small country in Central America called Costa Rica. And I am about to tell you about my journey abroad. So some may have heard of my country, some may have not. But it is safe to say that it is an amazing country. I am basically a Latina with Chinese background, and being Chinese has its perks! So I grew up learning not only Spanish, but also Cantonese, since my father is from Zhongshan and my mother from Hong Kong. At 6 I started learning English.
Growing up learning with basically three languages and seeing the different ways I could express myself, made me realize that I wanted more. So I started learning German. This is how my journey abroad started.
After learning German, I wanted to start studying in Germany. But what could I study there? I wanted to learn more about my parent’s culture and at the same time, get to know my heritage better. So I started studying Asian Studies and Management China in the south of Germany.
Luckily this allowed me to learn an even more complicated language, Chinese. As part of my study program, I have to stay in China for a year to improve my Chinese and later on to do my internship. So I decided to come to Chengdu. I would be lying if I said that pandas didn’t have anything to do with my decision, but obviously Chengdu is more than just pandas!
So…do you know that feeling you get on your first day of school? When you are really excited, but at the same time really nervous? Energetic, but at the same time extremely tired? Well, that was me on my first day in China. Trying to avoid jetlag, I tried to get some sleep on the plane, but wasn’t successful, even after arriving.
So I went from Costa Rica to Germany and finally ended up in Chengdu. My new journey abroad just started.
Since I was enrolled for the Language Program at the University, I started improving my Chinese…or at least I tried to. Chinese can be a difficult language sometimes, but the less shy you are, the more you learn. 加油！
Remember when I said Chengdu is more than just pandas…well, it definitely is! The city is full of life! You definitely won’t get bored. The people here are so welcoming. Even though the Sichuan dialect is difficult to understand, they still try their best to make you feel welcome. We all know that Chinese culture is very diverse, but their food culture is even wider and broader. Food in Sichuan is known for it’s distinctive spicy/numbing flavor, going from dishes like hot pot and chuan chuan to pig’s brain (not that I have tried it).
After six months of improving my broken down Chinese, I am starting my internship at…guess where? InternChina of course! Hoping to meet new people and to learn new things I am starting this new adventure.
Being abroad pushed me to take more chances and helped me learn not only from my failures, but also from the people around me. All I can say is don’t be afraid to try new things and experience a little more in your life.
Join me in this journey and Apply Now!
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.
Want to experience a traditional Chinese New Year yourself? Apply Now!
Hi all, 大家好! My name is James and I’m currently interning in the Chengdu branch of InternChina. Having been on an internship through InternChina in Qingdao I knew I had to return to China. What better way than to work for the company that made my last experience here so enjoyable?
Having experienced the beaches, sunshine and delicious seafood on offer in Qingdao I fancied a different experience this time choosing to head to Chengdu.
Chengdu is one of the largest cities in China with a population of over 14 million. Whilst this may seem daunting, the friendly locals and laidback lifestyle quickly distract from the vastness of this huge metropolis. The city itself is located in the west of China, in Sichuan province, far away from the much-industrialised eastern coast. This allows you access to some fantastic scenery and countryside only a short trip outside of the city. Located near the Tibetan Plateau there is easy access to skiing in the winter and outdoor activities all year round.
The local food in Chengdu is internationally famed for its MaLa麻辣 (spicy and numbing) flavour with many dishes having this delicious spicy kick. The most famous dish being Hot Pot served in a large dish of bubbling spicy broth filled with your choice of vegetables and meats. This dish is to die for! The local delicacies don’t end there with a variety of different noodle dishes to please any palate. Including TianShuiMian 甜水面 (sweet water noodles) and DanDanMian 担担面 (peddler’s noodles) to name a few.
What to see in Chengdu?
With the city of Chengdu spreading far and wide there is so much to feast your eyes on. With towering mega structures like the West Pearl Tower 四川广播电视塔, at over 300m tall. Stunning architecture as seen at DongMen Bridge 东门桥, the postcard picture perfect iconic image of Chengdu. Chengdu is even home to the largest building in the world the New Century Global Centre. There is so much beauty in the structures around the city. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle there are also many parks dotted around including People’s park. Here you can join the locals and relax enjoying a cup of hot tea in one of the cities many teahouses.
Overall the city of Chengdu has an unbelievable amount to offer whether you’re coming for the food, the sights or to escape don’t hesitate.
What are you waiting for? Take a look at some of our opportunities 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.
It’s Sunday in Qingdao and the winter months are here, which means only one thing, coffee shops!
Take your book, your laptop, your friends with you and head to the old town where Huangxian Lu lies filled with many niche cafes, museums, crafts and micro breweries.
As an avid supporter (some may say dependent) of the caffeinated drink, I have made it my duty to try a new coffee shop every Sunday.
By Chinese standards this street is ‘hipster’, many young Chinese will dress up for the occasion and ultimately a photo shoot in the colourfully decorated street. Take some time to browse the little shops dotted in between the cafés which sell bits of art décor as well as (you guessed it) old vinyls!
Below are just a few cafes I have stumbled upon, but go and explore yourself and discover your own favourite spot!
The Cat Café.
Address: 48 Daxue Rd
Yes, there are cats! And lots of them too! The coffee and chocolate cake are not bad either. Very cosy set-up with many feline friends to cuddle up too. A great place to go if you’re missing your pet back at home!
The Giraffe Café.
Address: On the Corner of Huangxian Lu/Daxue Lu
The giraffe-patterned pole outside gives it it’s status and has been the subject of many Instagram Posts. Very sweet décor inside, clean and the coffee is good!
The Witch Café.
Next to the Giraffe coffee lies a café filled with lamps, European-style paintings and old-fashioned furniture. The 4 small rooms, 2 up, 2 down decorated with pumpkins and Halloween references, gives the café a charismatic vibe. With free wifi and friendly staff, it is a great place to sit down and work.
The Old Cinema Café.
Address: 14 Huangxian Lu
A little bit bigger than the other cafes which makes it great for social study groups. Otherwise, just take a coffee and enjoy watching the silent films.
There are more than coffee shops around!
The Residence of Lao She.
Address: 12 Huangxian Lu
Lao She, a famous author lived on this street where he wrote some of China’s most famous literature, such as Camel Xiangzi. His house has been opened as a quaint museum and I would recommend having a look (It’s free ;))! The residents of Qingdao are very proud!
YOWO – The Leather Shop.
Address: 35 Huangxian Lu
This is a very cute workshop, where you can learn how to work with leather and make homemade gifts for yourself or family. Really interesting experience especially if you are one for design and crafts.
Strong Ale Works – Brewery.
Address: 12 Daxue Lu
This micro brewery is friendly, cozy, has a lovely ambiance, and most of all, beers are, though not exactly cheap by Chinese standards, amazing! A beer-lover’s must-see!