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.
As you may know, in China food is one of the most important things! Indeed, sharing a meal is a social opportunity that is loved across China. However, reading a Chinese menu can seem intimidating.
At InternChina we love food too – check out this blog in order to know more about how we help you to explore Chinese cuisine. If you have never tried Chinese food before, don’t worry, you’ll definitely experience this soon enough!
And fear not, this article is here to hopefully help you understand a Chinese menu, so you can order yourself and impress your Chinese colleagues and friends!
The Chinese language may appear to be the most difficult language in the world at first, as we are not used to the Chinese characters. But don’t be intimidated! This ancient language is following a certain logic – as soon as you understand the logic, you’ll be able to read a Chinese menu without a doubt!
To avoid giving you a long history lesson, let’s just say that originally all Chinese characters were created using pictures, and were developed into the calligraphic style that we see today through several different steps.
History of Chinese Characters
Let me show you the evolution of the Chinese character for “horse” – if you don’t want to order this kind of dish, just look for it in a Chinese menu!
Now that you can understand how the Chinese characters work, just use your imagination and it will be way easier to read a menu! Let me show you some examples of the main ingredients you’ll find in a Chinese menu.
Meat on the Menu
These are basically the most common kinds of meat you’ll find on a menu in China. While horse meat isn’t that popular, in some places donkey meat is! Therefore, for donkey meat dishes you will have the character for horse, and one other symbol that looks similar to the tall ears of the donkey! So a donkey is a horse with tall ears, easy to remember- right? Can you find two more very similar characters? When you understand that the Chinese language is logic, it seems less and less hard, right?
After most of those characters in a Chinese menu you’ll see “肉-rou” that means “meat”.
Vegetables on the Menu
Obviously, the Chinese language can’t always be explained by pictures, but you can still see the logic behind the characters.
Let’s look at “potato” as an example. “Tu” means “earth“, and “dou” means “bean“. A potato is a bean that comes from the earth – easy!
Another interesting story can be found with “tomato.” Tomatoes weren’t originally found in China, they were imported. So in the Chinese name for tomato we have: “Xi” meaning “West“, “Hong” meaning “Red“, and “Shi” meaning “Persimmons“. Can you guess why? Because a tomato looks like a “red-persimmon imported from the West”! Clever, right?
“Bai” means “white” and “Cai” means vegetable, so the white vegetable is also know as the delicious Chinese cabbage! The easiest way to remember a Chinese character is to make a story from the shape of the character, or ask your Chinese friends to explain the character to you!
These are the main characters you’ll see in the dishes, so you’ll see if you are going to eat soup or some noodles.
Just one thing to remember about rice, restaurants commonly use “米饭” or just “饭” – character FAN– for rice. And a funny tip about “egg”- “dan” means egg, but in Chinese you’ll always call it a “Chicken egg”.
For the soup “tang” can you see the three dots on the left hand-side ? Looks like drops of water, right? Exactly! That’s the way of describing an object or dish with water inside, so now you all know that there is water in the soup now!
Our Favourite Dishes
Now that we’ve showed you the main characters you’ll see in a Chinese menu, let’s give you some more tips and the names of our favourite dishes!
These might take some more imagination to remember, as it won’t be as easy as the characters for various animals which were very close to the actual picture of the animal. However, these cards will be super useful while reading a Chinese menu. And, you can also show them in the restaurants if you can’t find them on the Chinese menu!
Don’t hesitate to choose those dishes if you see them on a Chinese menu, they’re delicious!
You can find the two first ones in every Halal restaurant, also known in Chinese as “Lanzhou Lamian, “and you can recognise these restaurants by the characters on the outside door: ‘兰州拉面‘. And the other dishes are found in any typical Chinese restaurant!
- XiHongshi Chao Jidan: Egg and tomato with rice.
- Jidan Chao Dao Xiao Mian: Fried egg, vegetables and cut noodles (this might be little spicy in some places!)
- Feng Wei Qie Zi : Fried aubergines.
- Tang Cu li Ji: Sweet and sour pork.
- Gan bian Da tou Cai : “Big head vegetable!” This will be some delicious Chinese cabbage and spicy sauce.
- Gong Bao Ji Ding : Chicken, peanuts and veggies, with a sweet and spicy sauce.
Please Don’t Forget!
Here some tips, that may save you one day – who knows!
- If a character has 月 on the left-hand side it is likely to be some sort of guts/intestines/belly/insides, i.e. run in the opposite direction!
- Are you a vegetarian or vegan? Then always avoid meals with this character “肉“, as this is “rou“, which means “meat.”
- Allergic to peanuts? This is the character you need to avoid : “花生“, pronounced “huasheng.”
- If you can’t eat spicy food, avoid this red one! “La” “辣” means spicy.
There is different kind of spicy food that our interns in Chengdu will be pleased to try! When you see those characters : 麻辣 be ready to experience some tingling and numbing sensation.
Don’t hesitate to ask our staff members on place to help you out with the pronunciation, or if you need any help ordering your food!
Did this help to convince you that living in China isn’t that difficult? Well then, you just need to apply now!
One of the most notable differences between Chinese and Western cuisine is breakfast. When most westerners think of breakfast, images of toast, cereal, pastries, eggs, bacon, orange juice and coffee come to mind. In China, breakfast is a whole different ball game. A major difference in Chinese cuisine is the lack of dairy. Milk, cheese, butter and yogurt are not staples in Chinese cuisine and often aren’t readily available in smaller markets and grocery stores. So many Western breakfast staples aren’t eaten often here. Chinese breakfast is usually savory and people don’t shy away from stronger flavors such as preserved eggs, pickles, and spicy oil to eat first thing in the morning. Many people go out for breakfast and grab a quick bite to eat on the way to work or school. Street vendors will open up early to sell their goods to passing commuters – always at a very cheap price!
Below I’ve listed some of the most common breakfast foods in our cities. This, however, is only a sampling of what options are out there – especially for the more adventurous eaters. So get your taste buds ready, and before you know it you will be a Chinese breakfast convert!
粥 Zhōu (Congee)
Zhōu (congee) is a popular breakfast dish, which can be eaten all over China, but especially in southern China. Usually made of rice, although there are variations made with cornmeal, millet, sorghum, etc., zhōu is similar to oatmeal or porridge. Zhōu, however, is not sweetened and instead of adding sugar or fruit as a topping, popular toppings include zhàcài (pickled vegetables), salted eggs, soy sauce, and bamboo shoots to name a few. Yóutiáo, (long, deep fried dough) is often served as an accompaniment to zhōu.
馒头 Mántou (Steamed Buns)
Another very popular breakfast food in China is mántou. The classic mántou is white and made from wheat flour, though they come in various shapes and forms. Fresh from the steamer, mántou are soft and pillowy, and make for a great breakfast or midday snack. In northern China, often times mántou will be served with a meal instead of rice, and grilled mántou are one of my favorite street barbecue items.
包子、饺子 Bāozi, Jiǎozi (Steamed Bao, Dumplings)
Dumplings are also a classic Chinese breakfast. Bāozi are large steamed dumplings you can eat straight out of your hand. They are usually filled with minced meat or vegetables, though some have sausage, egg and other goodies inside. Jiǎozi are smaller steamed or boiled dumplings you eat with chopsticks and dip into a vinegar and soy sauce mixture – and of course as much spice as you want.
煎饼 Jiānbǐng (Fried Pancake Wrap)
Jiān bǐng is a common breakfast food that is popular all over China. Similar to a French crepe, jiān bǐng are always made to order, and usually filled with egg, hoisin sauce, chili paste, scallions and báocuì (fried, crispy cracker).
肠粉 Chángfěn (Rice Noodle Roll)
Chángfěn is found in southern China – more specifically in the Guangdong province, and is definitely a staff favorite here in InternChina. For those lucky enough to be in Zhuhai, every morning you will walk past huge trays of steaming metal contraptions, with cooks churning out chángfěn faster than you can blink. Chángfěn is made from rice milk that is mixed with minced pork and egg, then steamed on large metal sheets. The resulting steamed rice noodle is then scraped onto a plate and covered in sweet soy sauce. Chángfěn may not sound appealing, and it definitely doesn’t win a beauty award, but is by far one of the best breakfast foods to be found in China! So if you’re coming to Zhuhai, make sure to give it a try.
And of course, no breakfast is complete without a cup of dòujiāng (豆浆), fresh warm soy milk, to go along with it!
An estimated 33% of the world’s population (give or take) use chopsticks on a daily basis. For the hungry first time user, guzzling down your meal with two small wooden sticks can be a real challenge. Chopsticks might seem tricky to master and somewhat unnecessary for those of us that grew up with a plastic knife and fork in hand, so why have they come to dominate the culinary habits of much of Asia?
Chopsticks are over 5000 years old, long sticks of bamboo were first used to retrieve morsels of food from cooking pots on the fire. Later on, evidence of chopsticks used as table utensils emerged as far back as 500-400 AD. It’s said the spread of popular chopstick use across China was down to population boom and fuel shortages; food was chopped into smaller pieces in an attempt to make the meagre rations go further (thus eliminating the need for knives at the table). Whatever the reason, people in Japan and Korea soon followed the trend not far behind!
The ultimate legend of Chinese culture Confucius (or debatably perhaps his disciple Mengzi) added his own two cents on the matter too, which always helps. Apparently a firm believer that “the honourable and upright man keeps well away from both slaughterhouse and kitchen, and allows no knives on his table.” 有名望的和正直的人要远离屠场和厨房。
FUN FACT: Did you know that Confucius was a vegetarian?
I’m not ashamed to admit that after 3 years in China, I am a total convert. Using chopsticks makes me appreciate my food more. Whatsmore, the sociable side to Chinese dinning, sharing and array of mouth-watering dishes, picking out tasty tit-bits from any dish at will, never gets old.
So here goes, top facts you should know about different types of chopsticks:
THE CHINESE CHOPSTICK
Typically unfinished wood, slightly rectangular top with a cylindrical blunt end. Doesn’t roll off the table so easily and more surface area means you’ve got a higher chance or transferring those tasty morsels all the way from the middle of the table right to your bowl!
FUN FACT: It’s a faux-pas to tap your chopsticks on the edge of your bowl, as this is what beggars do to attract attention.
THE JAPANESE CHOPSTICK
Traditionally lacquered wood or bamboo, with a rounded top and a pointy end that’s perfect for de-boning fish. They’re a little bit smaller than the Chinese equivalent and you often find red pairs for the ladies and black ones for the gents.
FUN FACT: Never stick your chopsticks vertically into your rice bowl, it’s reminiscent of incense sticks at a funeral.
THE KOREAN CHOPSTICK
The shortest model of the three, Korean chopsticks are usually stainless steel and flat or rectangular shaped. Potentially more hygienic but it definitely makes it harder to get a grip on your food!
FUN FACT: The king used pure silver chopsticks which would change colour if they came in contact with certain poisons. The people started using metal chopsticks to emulate him.
Anyway, hope this can inspire you to pick up a pair of chopsticks and come to China yourself. Even if you struggle to start with new chopstick inventions are coming up every day, so keep your eyes peeled for the latest ‘Chork’ on the market!
Blog written by Leo Wang
In most of China’s cities you can pay the bills by using credit or debit cards and also the internet banking has been developed for many years. Since smart phones were invented 8 years ago, mobile phone banking is another convenient way of paying. But that’s not all: the Wechat wallet and Alipay now became a very important part of young Chinese people’s life.
According to the news, Denmark will become the first country to stop using cash and Wechat declared the 8th of August as the “non-cash day”
Personally, I am a big fan of using the Wechat wallet, Alipay, MI wallet and other internet banking possibilities to save the time of searching for money in your bag or wallet and getting change, to avoid receiving fake notes, taking too much cash at once (not safe), taking too little cash (not enough for expenses) as well as finding ATMs and waiting in the line to withdraw cash. And Last but not least to avoid getting in touch with germs from bank notes.
This is why I decided trying to live a day without cash and here is my report of the day:
Bus: bus card
Taxi: Di Di Da Che, Uber and Shenzhou
Food and drinks
A lot of restaurants, Cafe, Fruits shop and bakery have signs at their doors that they welcome using Alipay or Wechat Wallet
Shopping online or in shops, super markets
Credit cards, Alipay or Wechat Wallet
Charging phone credit:
Just one thing failed – and it was breakfast.
In the morning I always go to small breakfast restaurants. They are so delicious! Each breakfast meal costs about 5 RMB. But here comes to tricky part: the small restaurants don’t accept the Wechat or Alipay option to pay the bills. So I had to use cash.
However, there is a solution for not using cash yourself to pay the bills in a restaurant which doesn’t accept Aplipay, Wechat pay or credit card. Just transfer money to your friend or colleague via Alipay or Wechat wallet and voilá, they pay in cash for you 😀
If you also want to experience a cash-free day with Leo in China – apply now!
Hard plastic chairs which were made to urge the customers to eat fast,a simple setting that might attract only kids and bored teens. These are the characteristics of most McDonald branches in the West, but in China the McDonald’s experience is taking a big turn. Unlike the west, where McDonald’s is regarded as a cheap meal, in China, as there are much cheaper dining options, McDonald’s has attracted mostly middle-class customers. Moreover, as a symbol of American culture, in food, design and dining style, many Chinese enjoy sensing this western-American-‘modern’ ambiance and choose a McDonalds’ meal. This could be said about other fast-food chains as well, for example Pizza Hut.
Like KFC, the spine of its menu is built from the classics. Cheeseburgers, Fries. McNuggets. But come 5PM, when the special dinner options kick in, something happens. Let me introduce you to the “Beef Rice Bowl”.
McDonald’s launched rice dishes last summer as part of their China push, which has seen those open hundreds of restaurants in the country in the past three years. That the amount of these dishes available has dwindled in the short time since seems to indicate that maybe Chinese people aren’t looking for Chinese-style meals when they come to American-style food venues.
A unique feature of Chinese McDonald’s locations is the “McExpress” walk-up window, which sells a small range of drinks and ice cream desserts. Most McExpress windows are attached to restaurants, but in some cases, they can be physically independent, typically in locations such as shopping malls, department stores and subway stations. Most major urban locations offer delivery for an extra fee. Deliveries are usually made by electrically powered scooters, although in several cities where motorcycle bans are in place, a conventional courier bicycle is used. The food is normally carried in a large insulated backpack.
Some things you need to know about 麦当劳:
In China, Chicken McNuggets can come with the barbecue, sweet and sour, honey and hot mustard, or chili garlic sauce. Chinese menus also include crispy Buffalo chicken wings, called McWings. All chicken burgers offered in Chinese McDonald’s use thigh fillet (e.g., Premium Grilled Thigh Fillet Burger, Hot and Spicy Grilled Thigh Fillet Burger), rather than breast meat. The Big ‘n’ Tasty is sold as the Big ‘n’ Beefy in the Chinese market, and is topped with cheese, cucumber, and mildly spicy Thousand Island dressing. Pies come in two standard flavors: pineapple or taro, although special flavors including chocolate and banana have also been offered on a limited basis. There is also a seasonal “Chinese meals” available, including the Grilled Chicken Burger and curly fries, with a horoscope of the twelve zodiac animals of Chinese astrology and traditional red envelope.
Want to enjoy the tasty treats McDonald’s offers or prefer the Chinese local food – Apply here for a great internship and culinary adventure.
My colleague Gianna and our Chinese intern Anna organized a trip to Guangzhou last weekend. As we are pretty close to some nice and different cities here in Zhuhai, most of our interns were happy to join our trip. Finally a huge number (all in all 27 people) confirmed to join us for mysterious Mr. X. I started a bit earlier on Saturday to Guangzhou and took the first train at 07:00 a.m.! Driving with the train rather than taking the bus is more convenient to be honest. Even if the price is compared to taking the bus for students much higher it’s still a good deal.
Anna booked us in a nice Hotel in Yuexiu district that was close to some nice sightseeing spots. The interns visited the ChenJia Ci old temple and went for a good shopping experience to the Tianhe area, whereas I have already explored our hotel-area in the morning and found a huge jewellery-market. I spent almost the whole morning to shop some for some cloth in this area. I’m more interested in the typical small Chinese clothes shops in little streets in between the living compounds or at least close to such complexes. If you buy a one-day pass for the metro (the metro system is not bad in the third largest Chinese city), it is really convenient and fun just drive to random places and find out what will appear at daylight. So I did and I got off at cultural park and walked along the river side, drunk a coconut and enjoyed the hot but nice weather.
In the evening I met the other guys at the Teppanyaki restaurant and felt immediately again under friends and in my usual social environment, even if we had a bunch of new arrivals the last couple of days and most of them I have not met before.
It was a nice relaxing evening with interesting chats and a good atmosphere.
The highlight everyone was looking forward to was Mr. X (escape room) on our schedule for Sunday morning. As we were such a big group we booked 3 rooms. The guys who were already experienced, as they have done it in Shanghai (read more here) went for Level 4 out of 5. I joined the Level one group and luckily we made it and we could escape, even if we got some more time than the 60 minutes. This is a good experience and a nice way to build teams and enjoy a good excited time. The Level 4 group could also escape and both of our teams could made it on the “wall of fame”. Just the Level 2 group could not made it in in time, but all of us had fun and enjoyed a good morning there.
Afterwards I went together with Anna to the biggest and famous university in Guangdong province: Sun Yat-Sen University. They have a green and big campus there and we had a good morning there. We ate in the dining hall for lunch, which Anna reminded on her time in college.
As I wanted to see the Art Gallery we drove from the university direct to Yuangcun and then a couple of stations from there with the bus to this alternative place with art, nice little souvenir shops and a creative audience. We both had a nice and relaxed afternoon there. I even kissed another statue man 🙂
I then went to the water front village area, a bit far from down town. I suddenly felt like in another city. Moreover I felt like in a green area far from such a big Chinese town.
I have once again acquired valuable insights in Chinese cities and saw new beautiful places.
I am happy to share my experience and my travel routes with all of you guys and hope you also take this awesome chance to explore Chinese cities. Apply now!
In China, it is usual to see some folk artists producing sugar paintings with liquid sugar along the streets, in the parks, and touristic areas.
The artist sits before a wooden stand where there is a polished slab of marble in the middle. On the side of the stand is a bamboo arrow and a wooden plate painted with various patterns in a circle such as a 龙 (Chinese dragon), bird, dog, or a flower basket.
Children especially usually select a figure by spinning the arrow on a wheel which will randomly land on such popular figures as a dragon, fish, monkey, dog, bird, or flower basket.
Sugar painting is very different from normal painting and was originated from the Ming Dynasty when sugar animals and figures were made in molds as part of a sacrifice in religious rituals. In the Qing Dynasty, sugar painting gained more popularity. At that time, many people made a living by sugar painting, shouldering a carrying pole and setting up stalls in crowded streets, in front of theatres and busy public places.
There are two main categories: plane painting and solid painting. For the plane painting (which is the easier one), the painter uses the brown sugar or white sugar as the raw material, the bronze spoon and a shovel as the tool, and the slab of marble as the “paper”. To acquire liquid sugar, the artist has to cook the solid sugar in a pot before painting. Since the hot liquid sugar could freeze solid if it cools, the artist has to produce his work very quickly.
Using a small spoon to scoop the syrup which looks like silk and thread, the handi-craftsman concentrates his strength on the wrist and takes the spoon as a brush pen, rising and pausing strokes, up and down, left and right. Soon a sugar painting of an animal, flower or a bike is finished, and the painter separates the painting from the marble with a shovel, puts a bamboo slice on the painting or wraps it with a transparent plastic bag.
If you have a sweet tooth or an eye for art – apply now to enjoy the Chinese culture and everything it has to offer.