Ciao! My name is Ferdinando and I am one of the office interns here in Chengdu. I come from Torino, a lovely city just a short drive away from the Italian Alps. I have now been in Chengdu for almost a month, but it honestly feels like I have been here an entire lifetime! The atmosphere and energy of this laid-back metropolis have completely won me over, and I could definitely imagine myself living here one day.As the days have passed, I have found myself more and more at ease in this new environment. I’ve started asking myself a simple question: Why? Why is it so easy for me to dive into and settle in this very different and complex culture, while with so many others I have a more challenging time? After some pondering over many hot bowls of dandan noodles, I have realised that the reason for my rapid acclimatization was that Chinese culture is, in fact, not so distant from my own Italian culture after all.The obvious starting point of this comparison is food: both Italians and Chinese are passionate about their food and possess very complex and proud eating cultures. Due to its abundance of strong flavours and “exotic” ingredients (such as chicken feet and pig brains!), traditional Chinese cuisine can seem threatening to Western palates. However, after a few days of rumbling stomachs, foreigners will get to know and appreciate the incredible richness of this wonderful culinary tradition. I am a great fan of Chinese food myself, and I believe that, upon my departure, the thing I will miss the most of Chengdu will be its succulent chuanchuan houses and its authentic noodle corner-shops.Another main point of contact between our two cultures is the paramount importance we both give to family and tradition. While strolling by Chengdu’s People Park, it is possible to see old grandparents practising Taichi with their young nephews, just as my grandparents used to play football with a young me in Torino’s parks. In addition, in the numerous large family gatherings I have seen in Chengdu’s hotpot restaurants I see the reflection of my own “extended family” lunches, that could last anywhere between three to six hours. I am of the opinion that this strong sense of community and belonging, typical of both Italian and Chinese families, not only creates deeper family and friendship ties, but also enhances your sense of cultural awareness. Thus making it easier to “jump over” the cultural divide at hand.A third similarity I have observed between Italy and China, especially in regards to Chengdu, is their common relaxed, “dolce far niente” approach to life. I have surprisingly found that the concept of being on time is exceptionally similar both in Italy and China, so that my canonical five-minute lateness is not only accepted (unlike in England), but almost encouraged! Although Chengdu still is a bustling, work-oriented metropolis, somehow its citizens manage to maintain a hands-off approach to both their professional and personal lives. This makes this city the perfect spot to jumpstart an ambitious, yet stress-free career.
I believe many other cultural analogies can be found between Italy and China, but that is not the point of this post. The point is, in my opinion, more important to underline and point out the existence of such similarities – as comparison brings recognition, recognition brings acceptance, and acceptance brings friendship. In other words, the purpose of this post is to highlight that, no matter where you are from and where you go, as long as you seek similarities and avoid division, you will find it easier to “jump over” the cultural divide and feel at home anywhere around the world. Therefore, this is the main advice I can give to new interns coming to China: seek the familiar in the foreign and the foreign will look familiar.
How I ended up in the “City of Ice”
As a student of Business Management and Mandarin, I had to make a choice of city in China for my year abroad. The year abroad, in my case, consists of two components: one year study and a two month internship. I decided early that I wanted to study in one city and do an internship in a different city, for different experiences.
North vs South
Originally, I was very keen on studying in a city in the southern part of China, for many reasons that include: climate, food, proximity to the sea, and much more. As a Portuguese person, I searched for a similar place to go to (and to make the cultural shock a little less noticeable!), However, it went a little different than expected (in a good way!).
I applied and was accepted for a one-year Confucius institute full scholarship in Harbin! The coldest city in China! This peculiar city in northeast China fulfilled my main criteria which was: must have majority Mandarin speakers, who speak in a standard way. My other criteria: I will study in a city where English is remotely spoken, so that I can have the best learning experience. I stuck to these two important criteria and must say, had a great experience learning Mandarin in Harbin.
How I ended up in the “City of romance”
When it came to apply for my internship, Zhuhai was already on my mind. I wanted a place different from Harbin. I wanted to feel the warmth of the sun again, and so I did for two months in the lovely city of Zhuhai. As expected these two cities are extremes in so many categories, that some may ask “Why did you go to Zhuhai/Harbin?”.
Let’s talk about some of those differences:
For those who aren’t familiar with Harbin, it’s a city located in Heilongjiang Province right at the top right corner of China, bordering Russia’s Siberia. So, one can imagine just how cold it is. Harbin’s winter lasts about 6 months reaching minimum’s of – 40 º C. Harbin is, in fact “the City of Ice”, famous for it’s ice buildings and statues and icy festivals. Moreover, it’s important to point out, Russian entrepreneurs who wanted to recreate their motherland, built the Harbin of today. So its buildings are very Russian, in the way they look, but with Chinese banners. It’s this odd combination that makes it such a peculiar city, interesting on the foreign eye.
Zhuhai is the complete opposite. The buildings are tall, and mostly dark grey and white. While it sounds depressing, it goes well with the city’s landscape. Zhuhai is relaxing on the eye, because it is a mixture of human landscape and nature. Wherever you go you’re sure to see trees, bushes, anything that screams Nature.
Beifang’s food (North China) and Nanfang’s food (South China) is completely different. Not only that, but also it varies according to the region.
Harbin’s food is delicious, flavored and mostly fried. But I couldn’t understand why most food was fried. Until a teacher explained that due to the extreme cold weather in Harbin, there was a preference for oil-based food (it will heat your body and help fight coldness). Zhuhai’s food is light, flavored and with a lot more vegetable side dishes. Both are not too spicy, so both Harbin and Zhuhai’s food are very delicious.
That was, for me, the biggest difference between the two. While in Harbin, Chinese people tend to be more amazed whenever they see a foreigner for the first time. Nevertheless they are very welcoming and overall very curious about the countries we come from. They may even ask for a picture.
Zhuhai’s people may also be amazed, but are much more relaxed when meeting foreigners. Overall, I found that a large portion of people in Zhuhai can speak basic english while no one in Harbin could. I imagine the proximity to both Macau and Hong Kong, two ex-colonies and now special administrative regions (SAR) played an important role in this.
Harbin and Zhuhai are two very different cities in so much more aspects other than the one’s I have listed. That is the fun part and makes my first time in China so special. I highly recommend visiting both north and south china and deciding which one provides for the the most enjoyable experience.
It’s now time for me to leave the InternChina team after a 6 month internship in the Qingdao office. It seemed like thanking the team for the amazing time I had will be a nice topic for my “goodbye blog”. However I’ll try to show you that you should definitely consider doing your internship there as well!
First of all, are you passionate about China and want to learn more about how to do business there? Also, the internship of your dreams is one where you’ll have plenty of responsibilities and support? Finally, are you ready to learn more about yourself and your abilities? Well, if yes you should definitely keep reading! But first, enjoy a few pictures of the Qingdao team!
Business in China
When I first arrived in the InternChina team I was asked to choose what I wanted to focus on during my internship. As I wanted to learn more about business and marketing I became a Business Development and Marketing Intern. Indeed. as part of our job here we need to find new partner companies who are seeking foreign interns. First of all, you’ll need to learn and understand to concept of face and guanxi. Then you definitely will always address companies as you should in China. As a result I was even able to assist a meeting with a company all in Chinese and understand it! Thanks to my 8 years of Chinese studies I could understand the language and process of a meeting with a Chinese partner company. Also, it’s definitely a nice way to develop your own network and make connections for the future.
Funny thing about talking to companies here in China: you use WeChat! Emojis and video calls are both easy ways to communicate, and are the keys to a successful and professional relationship! Business in China is full of surprises! Regarding the marketing part of my internship our aim was to promote our services. For example I add to posts on social medias about our activities and internship offers. I even wrote an article about it, check it out! I discovered that Photoshop wasn’t that hard to use and that we could do amazing things with it!
Responsibilities and Support from the InternChina Team
Being a little too shy to use my Chinese and actually go meet companies, I reconsidered my position and wanted to look into another aspect of the company, the one that we call “booking”. It’s basically the process between InternChina and a student who wants to find an internship in China and uses our services to do it. As I am French, I was dealing with French students. They were all dreaming of coming to China and from step 1 to the final details, I helped more than 10 students in a few weeks. By talking to future interns and helping them find the suitable company and internship for them you really feel so useful and talented when you finally succeed! As part of the Qingdao office you’ll be rewarded with a delicious Tsingtao beer!
During the whole process I was never alone. One thing you should know about InternChina when you join the team, is that you’re joining a big family. We are all connected to each other via Skype even if we are all located in different countries. One of the most important part of our services is to offer support to our participants, well within InternChina you couldn’t find a more supportive team. Even if I was probably annoying at some point – by asking too much – I was always given an answer to my questions and never felt left alone. Let’s meet some of them now!
Learn about yourself
Keep in mind that doing an internship with InternChina is the opportunity of developing the skills you wish for. By that I mean that the diversity of tasks you’ll be given will depends on your own abilities and most of all interests! That’s also a way to push yourself into tasks you wouldn’t imagine to be able to do. I didn’t believe 6 months ago that I would be able to understand and take part in a Chinese meeting. Or to enjoy watching the statistics on our Facebook page and try to find ways improving them! I really enjoyed working in the office – and if you’re not an office person well be aware that you’ll have plenty of occasion to work outside the office as well.
You’ll work within an international team, and that’s one of the best way to learn about communication and culture. With the Chinese staff members I was able to learn more about Chinese culture and develop my interest of it. With my British colleagues I learned a lot of new expressions thanks to our weekly “Quiz” – have you ever heard of Hobnobs before? As between offices we are all using Skype to communicate I developed some communication skills that I didn’t know I had before. Moreover you will also learn how to be more organized and how to prioritize your work – that’s super helpful and not only for your time at InternChina! Let me introduce you to the team you’ll have the opportunity to work with:
Even if the fact to answer the question “what’s your internship like” by saying “my internship is basically to help people find internships” is awesome – doing it is even better! Interested of doing that awesome internship, or come to China with our programmes, apply now !
春节 （the Spring Festival）or the 农历新年 (the Lunar New Year) is fast approaching! The new year of the dog begins Friday the 16th of February, with the first new moon of the year. The holiday can fall between the 21st of January and the 20th of February. People start to celebrate the day before the New Year and continue until the 15th day – the Lantern Festival. This year the Lantern festival takes places on the 2nd of March, when people will release red Lanterns to symbolise letting go of the past and moving on into the new year!
Chinese New Year and the Chinese Zodiac
The Chinese zodiac is divided into 12 animals; similar to the 12 Western Zodiacs, however each Zodiac represents a year as opposed to a month. This passes in cycles with each year also being associated with an element. 2018 will be the year of the Earth dog, which is the 11th animal in the 12-year cycle.
Your Birth Year ‘本命年’:
The year you are born in decides your zodiac and you won’t be in your zodiac year again for another 12 years! Surprisingly, your zodiac years are the considered the unluckiest in your life and unfortunate events in this year could have lasting effects on you for the rest of your life! So, you are suggested to take extra care to avoid incurring bad luck. Many Chinese people will buy lucky items as talismans, such as red underwear with lucky characters stitched on.
There are also lucky numbers, cardinal directions and colours associated with your zodiac. 3, 4 and 9 are lucky for people born in the year of the dog, as are the colours green, red and purple.
The Origins of Chinese New Year
Every year around the new Lunar Year, a mythological beast called Nian was said to come and lay waste to towns and eat people, particularly children. Everyone would hide from the beast until he left. One year an old man appeared and refused to go into hiding, and decided he wanted to get revenge on the Nian. He put red papers up around the door of his house with lucky symbols and set off loud firecrackers. The day after, the villagers discovered that their town wasn’t destroyed. They believed that the old man was in fact a god that came to save them. The villagers then realised that the the colour red and loud noises deterred the beast. Next New Year the villagers hung up red lanterns, wore red clothes, and placed red character scrolls on windows and doors, and they set off firecrackers to frighten away the monster. Ever since, Nian never returned to scare the villagers!
Characters on the Door
You will see Chinese phrases on red scrolls around doorways, such as ‘出入平安’ , meaning peace wherever you go. The most common character is ‘福’ Fú which means fortune or luck. It is often placed in the centre of the door to ones home, and sometimes you will see that the character has been placed upside down. This is because by placing it upside down there is an added meaning to the character:
Homonyms are common in Chinese language. The Chinese expression ‘福倒了‘ and ’福到了‘ sound identical, so to have 福 upside down also means to have fortune arrive.
New Years Day Celebrations
On New Years day young family members are given red envelopes called hongbao (‘红包) filled with money, fireworks are set off, dumplings are devoured and relatives are put up with. It is a time when Chinese families reunite, with some people travelling vast distances to see their family. The Spring festival period is host to the largest migration of people on earth, with almost 3 billion journeys being made!
Here are some common greetings to say on the New year:
Taboos to avoid doing on the first day of the festival:
- Debt: You should not lend money on the day, and debts should be paid before New Year’s Eve.
- Washing hair: you’ll wash away your wealth for the year.
- Sharp objects: if you cut yourself it is extremely unlucky.
- Sweeping and cleaning: If you sweep up then your wealth will be swept away.
- Theft: If someone steals from you then your wealth for the year will be ‘stolen.’
- Killing anything: Similar to sharp objects, anything associated with blood is very bad luck.
- Taking Medicine: you’ll be ill all year.
- Monochrome clothing: White and black are the colours associated with sorrow in China.
- Giving specific types of gifts: scissors, clocks, or anything with the number 4 (it sounds like death 死) and shoes (they sound like evil!)
Have a happy New Year and remember, watch out for evil shoes!
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.
InternChina – More than just an internship!
But what does this really mean in Qingdao? It means weekly dinners, activities and 24/7 support!
I’ve been an office intern for about 3 months now, so I hope I can explain this for you!
During your programme, you’ll have the amazing opportunity to do an internship in China, but that’s not the only think you’ll experience during your time in Qingdao! The InternChina team will organise lots of dinners and activities for you. This is so we can get to know you better, make you feel comfortable in this new country, and give you a chance to meet amazing people! And if you love travelling, there are plenty of great destinations we can help you visit that aren’t too far from Qingdao!
As a Qingdao office intern, I have the opportunity to organise the dinners and trips for our participants. I’ll tell you more about it, so you’ll have an idea of the amazing things you may get the chance to do, and you can discover more about Qingdao.
If you have anything you want to do around Qingdao, just let a member of InternChina know and we can try our best to organise this for you!
Every week we organise one of our famous “Thursday Dinners.”
This is a social event, to share a group meal, discover new Asian cuisine and talk about our week! We understand that you are students, so don’t worry- we try to make these dinners affordable! Usually, we try to avoid expensive restaurants, but they are always tasty. We usually stick to a budget of 50RMB per person, and sometimes this is even less.
How do we organise these dinners? Usually we make a post on our official Qingdao InternChina WeChat account, or we post in our IC Qingdao group chat.
We’ll give you some more details about the restaurant, the cuisine, the food, the time and the location of the dinner. If you’re interested in coming along, then simply join the dinner group by scanning the QR code we’ll provide! This helps us know how many people want to come along, so we can book a table. During the summer, we can have more than 30 people for dinner!
But it’s our job to organise this- all you need to do is scan the QR code and join! How easy is that?
After a week of working hard during your internship, we’re sure you’ll look forward to exploring Qingdao at the weekend! There is so much to do and discover in Qingdao, and we understand that you want to get out there, so we organise lots of activities and trips for you!
We try to organise a new activity every weekend, and just like the dinners, we try to make sure these activities are all affordable so you can take part in as much as you can.
What can Qingdao offer you? There are lots of fun tourist activities,such as the Tsingtao Beer Museum, the TV Tower, the zoo, the aquarium, the Huadong Vineyard. However, we also want to make sure you see the natural beauty in Qingdao! Outdoor activities such as hiking Fushan or Laoshan with our guide Green Tea, bouldering, archery, go karting are always popular, especially during the summer.
We also want you to learn about the Chinese culture while you are here, so we organise cultural activities such as calligraphy classes, Chinese cooking lessons, tea ceremonies, or even Kung Fu lessons!
There are different things to do during different seasons, so you may also get to attend the German Christmas Market, or some opening ceremonies!
You will definitely never be bored, with plenty of activities available for you to explore the city, have fun, and network!
We also try to organise some weekend trips for you to discover other cities in China.
Recently, we organised a weekend trip to Beijing- after all, it would be a shame to come to China and not visit the Great Wall! In the past we have also organised trips to Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou and Qufu… the possibilities are endless!
For any weekend trips we organise, we will provide you with a detailed schedule so you can make the most of your time in each city! We will also let you know how much each trip will cost, and this will include your transport, accommodation and activities for the weekend. It will cost more than a regular Saturday Event, but it is definitely worth going and exploring more of China!
The InternChina team offer you 24/7 support while you are on place, and we are also here for you before and after your time in China!
When you arrive, we will pick you up from the airport and take you directly to your accommodation, whether is an apartment or a homestay. We’ll also give you an orientation to help you understand Chinese culture, and give you some advice about living in Qingdao.
You will receive a welcome pack, which includes a SIM card, travel card, map of the city, and address card and some InternChina goodies!
We are here for you whenever you need us!
Moreover, our team on place is also always here to support you! When you arrive we will give you an orientation, in order to make you understand Chinese culture, and give you lots of advice! If you feel sick, we will come with you to the hospital! If you have any other issues, we are here to help if we can!
InternChina’s Favourite Places
When you are new to Qingdao, and don’t know where to go or what to see, we’re here to tell you where to go! Below is a list of my favourite places- you can even impress your colleagues with your Qingdao knowledge and invite them along!
Magic Eggplant – or the best Chinese restaurant ever! 美达尔大尧三路店 – Dayao San Road
ChunChuan Iron Plate – best Korean restaurant! 青岛市崂山区苗岭路 瑞纳花园内 Miao Ling Road
Huadong Winery – a beautiful vineyard, where you can visit the museum,the caves and try some wine at the end! 南龙口崂山Nanlong Kou, Lao Shan
ZhongShan Park – an amazing park where you can easily walk around for hours! The zoo is right next to it if you want to see a panda! 市南区文登路28号 Wen Deng Road
I hope these details and pictures convinced you that InternChina has so much more than just an internship to offer you! You’ll never feel alone, and this experience will be unforgettable!
The easiest way to join us is to apply now!
Over the highway from the extravagant Huafa Mall and new town’s glass palaces lie the backstreets of old Beishan district, where wooden doors creak and electrical cables drape between buildings like bunting. Hipster noodle bars, cafes and even a tattoo shop seemingly add modern charm to the oldest district in central Zhuhai. Beishan Hall, a cultural institution, stands monumentally affront the labyrinth of streets. Its decaying grey walls mark the transition from new to old, from westernized to gentrified traditional.
The hall’s courtyard is framed with red lanterns and bonsai trees, while the rooms hold lavish costumes, books and art. Over summer especially, the institution boasts a program of shows, concerts and even a yearly Jazz festival launched in 2010. Consequently, Beishan Hall has become somewhat of a cultural center, with music institutes and art centers set up nearby.
On a regular weekend, however, the hall’s art cafe is available to escape both the weather and reality. Along with good quality fresh coffee you can flip through the thick, grainy pages of their exquisite book collection to a soundtrack of calming Chinese music. Adorning the shelves are translations of classics such as Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ or Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’, if your level of Chinese doesn’t quite stretch that far, however, beautiful art books – and a peculiarly high number of photographs of Bob Dylan – are also available. Beishan Hall is therefor a perfect way to spend a slow Sunday morning.
Picture yourself sitting in a restaurant and overhearing a conversation of two random people sitting next to you. You are bored and alone and so you can’t help but listen. They are right now talking about an underground club they were in yesterday until 3 o´clock in the morning. They are talking about the music they heard, the people they saw, and about the cool location.
You will ask yourself: “why does he mention that?” Two people having a conversation about a night out in an underground club. Nothing remarkable about this!
But as I am describing you this image, I just showed you a small part of it. Like a zoomed-in shot in a movie. Let’s zoom out a little, and suddenly we realise the two people speaking, are Chinese. You will once again say: “Ok, but still why is he telling us this?” There is nothing special about it. So we zoom out a little more and notice we are in a Chinese restaurant in a Chinese city, Qingdao. Suddenly you notice that it is kind of special in any imaginable way.
Music in China
Let us be gentle and say that the underground scene in China is kind of underdeveloped. At least in comparison to the underground subculture in Europe or USA. And regarding electronic music, you don’t usually find a location playing EDM in China. And I don’t mean the type of club where the “DJ” is just some random guy fading one song out and the other in, while hopping around as if he has hurt his foot. You know the kind of guy, wearing his headphone only over one ear, and one hand is constantly waving as if he wants to scare away an imaginary fly that only he can see.
We are talking right now about the real deal. I mean a location where the guy or girl behind the turntables is actually mixing music. A club where you just go to dance and have a good time, and not for showing around the nice outfit you bought yesterday. A club where you’ll find like-minded people all there for the same purpose, gaining mental energy by getting lost of the physical one. All of that, in Qingdao? Of course in Qingdao!
The location I am talking about is literally an underground club, called: “UNITT”. As far as you can already tell by my plaidoyer for EDM you may not be surprised that I am an electronic music enthusiast. If the location is underground I prefer it even more. I got to know about it and the location from a fellow student.
I went there with her on a Saturday night to check it out. The first encounter is always the most important one. In this case it was magical. You arrive at the given address and first you see… nothing! The club is located in the suburbs of Qingdao, so you will find yourself in front of some closed shops and an entrance to an underground car park near a stadium.
My fellow student was pointing at the entrance of the underground car park and told me to listen closely. I heard, very softly, the beat of a rhythm coming from beneath the surface. So, we went into the car park. The sound grew louder and suddenly we were standing in front of the characteristic UNITT sign, a stylized Chinese socket.
The sound and the beat was even louder, and I suddenly noticed I was craving the beat. We went through the door, made from a cargo container -door, and suddenly we were inside the music. On that night, I had several “first-times”. First time seeing Chinese people dancing in this particular way, first time seeing people being there only for fun and first time seeing a real DJ in China. The whole location with its painted black walls, the small room with the big DJ-desk and the small lights on the table.
All together with the compatible soundtrack, it was a wonderful experience. I was so happy with that whole night and once again with the decision to come to Qingdao. When I left the club, with all my clothes fully sweated and the beat still inside my body I knew I would return. Qingdao has always the ability to surprise you.