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.
What is KTV?
KTV/卡拉OK (KalaOK) is a staple of Chinese nightlife. Your Chinese friends and work colleagues may invite you out to what is basically a nightclub to Karaoke. You’ll pay for a room usually for at least a few hours and then you get to sing, drink and dance the night away!
My first KTV
I first went to KTV almost 4 years ago. I had just arrived in Nanjing and was still getting used to the culture shock of living in China, when before I knew what was happening a bunch of us were heading out to a KTV. The experience was intense, it started off with our two Chinese friends each singing a Chinese pop ballad extremely well, which would make most people feel nervous.
Luckily for me this was also my first time trying 白酒 (baijiu) – Chinese rice wine, which took the edge off! Soon we were all mumbling along to the pop songs we knew most of the words to and by the end we were singing full belt to Queen. We left at 5 am, after close to 6 hours of singing. It was one of my fondest memories of my first time in China and since then has become one of my favourite pastimes.
Some people’s Marmite
Love it or hate it KTV, can certainly make or break friendships. Often the first-time can be nerve-racking, and whether you need some liquid courage or just the support of friends, it’s important that everyone feels relaxed and not judged, as at the end of the day 90% of people don’t have golden pipes! You’ll probably discover who is accepting of other people’s music taste and who presses the skip button when they don’t like something. Most importantly you’re not auditioning for The Voice, so the emphasis is on fun!
What to expect
There is a plethora of choice when it comes to KTV. Sometimes it will be a palatial structure full of mirrors and disco lights, or sometimes it is just a simple affair with a cosier feel. Based on how much you are willing to pay you can book a small room or a huge auditorium with a balcony. You pay for the room, so the more of you there are, the cheaper it will be!
They may provide you with drinks and even food for free. There may be instruments such as tambourines and maracas in the room and even a bar and toilet. KTVs will have Western songs, however the choice may vary from just famous pop songs all the way through to a vast collection of classics!
KTVs in Zhuhai
Usually it is helpful to get a Chinese friend to help you book a KTV in advance, so that you don’t get there and find it is fully booked!
Below is a list of some of the best KTVs to visit in Zhuhai:
- GTWO 量贩KTV
- 音乐匣子（Yinyuexiazi）- Music Box
Whether you give a heart rending rendition of your favourite ballad or scream into a microphone as you attempt to make up for your lack of pitch, either way it’s going to be a laugh!
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.
Jazz. Its past its prime, right? While the mainstream may view jazz as old fashioned and dreary, it ‘s actually constantly evolving. No longer just a feature of dusty records tucked away in dimly lit bars. Both on and off the stage it is increasing in popularity, with R&B favorites like Kendrik Lamar heavily collaborating with the genre and jazz festivals being a common feature of summer in many cities.
A far cry from Kenny G and elevator music, live Jazz now represents a chance to witness something unique. The artists build beats between themselves and vibe off each other to make spontaneous music that excites the audience. In the age of over synthesized vocals and manufactured beats of EDM that build but never drop – no matter how long you bob your head up and down waiting in anticipation – live Jazz is a refreshingly unpredictable alternative.
Zhuhai’s Jazz Bar and Festival
With this in mind, the bustling popularity of Zhuhai’s Jazz bar is understandable. Linked with the contemporary music institute, it boasts extremely talented musicians at the forefront of China’s Jazz music scene. Every Friday and Saturday the house band starts at 9pm and by 10 the crowd spills out of the door onto the street, beers in hand. The band consistently deliver an entertaining show, with guest performers and jamming sessions to keep each night diverse. With an audience of loyal regulars, its a great way to integrate with the community and even meet the band.
In alliance with the institute, Beishan Hall offers an annual international music festival with a line-up of musicians travelling from all corners of the globe.
This year boasted an intercontinental line up with an eclectic mix of sub genres gracing the stage. Serbian band Eyot known for their breakdown of Balkan beats, gospel inspired Cannobal from Australia, Canadian Academy Award winners Born to be Blue Quartet to name a few. Film, theater and dance also contributed to the stellar program. With the sky and stars as a backdrop, it promises to be a spectacle of talent and soul every year.
Zhuhai offers an opportunity to witness how the genre has developed in the east. Amidst the heavy boom of Chinese DJ’s in nightclubs – which are nonetheless an experience not to be missed – the Jazz scene of Zhuhai offers a somewhat smoother alternative for locals and ex-pats alike.
Festival tickets start from CYN180
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.
Hi, my name is Steeve and I am currently undertaking a one month internship in Zhuhai organised for me by InternChina.
Within my first day of arriving in Zhuhai I was approached with the offer to join the other interns on an InternChina organised trip to Xiamen, naturally I was slightly sceptical due to the long 10 hour bus journey. However, I reluctantly joined knowing that this may be my only chance to experience the cultural history of China. Once the journey to Xiamen began, I am very pleased to say that I was completely wrong to second-guess the trip. Although the journey was long it was barely arduous. Driving through beautiful scenery and breathtaking mountainous backdrops really made the long journey a lot easier.
Before arriving at Xiamen the bus stopped for a toilet break, during this 15 minute break I was pleasantly surprised at the warmth and welcome from the locals. They sat us down and served us traditional Chinese tea. Although my understanding of Mandarin is not the best the language of welcome is universal and this village optimised it.
During our time in Xiamen we were fortunate to experience the variety of different environments the city has to offer, ranging from religious temples, to island tours. On the second day of the trip, we went to an area just outside of Xiamen which consisted of seven villages dating as old as 700 years; Yunshuiyao, Tianloukeng Tulou Cluster, Taxia Village, Huaiyuanlou, Hekeng Tulou Cluster, Yuchanglou, Heguilou and last but not least Yunshuiyao. With beautiful scenery rich in culture and breathtaking streams and water features. We got to see traditional tea making as well as traditional rice wine making. We even got the chance to meet some of the villagers, the pride they showed in their culture was awe-inspiring.
While in Xiamen we also had the opportunity to visit a famous island just off the coast of the city, the main attraction of the island is the sunlight rock. Do not let the name fool you as it was more than just a rock we saw!!
We were also fortunate enough to visit the Piano Museum where we got to see some of the greatest collections of classical pianos played by composers such as Igor Fyodorovich Starvinsky.
The nightlife in Xiamen was quite vibrant and cosmopolitan with friendly people; those who could speak English would always say hello to you and make conversation which helped us feel so welcome.
I’d like to be 1st to thank all the staff at intern China for arranging such a wonderful trip. It felt less like being taken around by talk guides and more like a road trip with close family and friends. And I would like to encourage any in turn to grab the opportunity with both hands.
If you would like the opportunity to explore China, all while doing an internship apply now
6 months ago I went on a mission to explore a culture that had only recently been on my radar. I was always fascinated with the Middle Kingdom but I honestly would never have seen myself living and working in China for half a year. With no idea of what to expect, or how comfortable I’d feel and how I’d cope with a working environment I’d heard to be entirely different to what I was familiar with, I accepted the challenge in July 2015.
As on every journey, you have your highs and you have your lows. However, as I look back, my time went by in the blink of an eye and it’s truly been a blast. I fell in love with this country and this will be the first of many more experiences in indescribable China.
Moreover, I cannot put into words, how grateful I am to InternChina for taking me on and giving me the opportunity to be part of the family. I’m not going to lie, especially in the busy summer it is a 24/7 position, but the work experience I gained – in the marketing, design and the business development sector – is something I absolutely would not have wanted to miss. Getting out of your comfort zone and acquiring new skills, while focusing on your own strengths and weaknesses is something not every employer can offer!
Now, I’m going to take you with me on my InternChina adventure.
I’m still convinced the first month didn’t have 4 weeks… it went by so quickly. The weather was hot and humid at that time but that didn’t stop us from hiking to a waterfall, visiting Shenzhen, a weekend trip on Wailing Ding Dao and going to Foshan -> This was the first trip I organised together with my PTA (Personal Travel Adviser) Janice, which ended up in a bubble war between us (20 international students) and 3000 Chinese Citizens armed with water guns.
Month two was also not lacking in events. I had the honour of giving a hand to Zhuhai Office Manager Paul Bailey, AKA Bruce, in the organisation of the 4th annual ‘Come Together Charity Music Festival’ held at the Beishan Theatre in Zhuhai. I was also directly involved on the big day itself and it was a great success – the total money raised in 2015: RMB 300,002.98 (USD 47,170 | GBP 31,000). That wasn’t it for this month: it was my birthday (thanks for the Hellokitty birthday cheese cake Leo!), we explored Guangzhou, hiked up to the Fishergirl’s husband in Zhuhai, went wild water-rafting and tested our taekwondo skills.
October also proved be a very busy month and I honestly have no idea how all of this fit into a single month, but I worked it out eventually: Zhangjiajie, Calligraphy & Tea Ceremony day, Halloween in Foshan, Hiking to Jintai Temple and relaxing in Zhuhai’s Hot Springs, Macau and Shanghai. Not to forget about my first Haircut and KTV experience in China.
And there it already was: halftime… Most of the people who had arrived in Zhuhai around the same time as me had finished their 2-3 month internships and the atmosphere in Zhuhai was now different, but a just as fun time had started. It was at this point that Zhuhai started feeling like home and the initial excitement eased into a more settled and cultural-focused phase. The activity list was still just as big though: a DIY Beijing Opera masks event, Yangshuo, the CPAZ Charity day, and a wonderful weekend with Janice and her family (thank you for being such a good friend and partner in crime).
Here, I also have to mention that the new IC intern and roomie Nadia arrived. I couldn’t have asked for better company and now that we even have the same laugh, it’s time for me to leave #yaaaaas.
In December I had the chance to visit the InternChina Qingdao office and directly work with the on-site team there for about 2 weeks. It was great getting to know everyone in person and thanks to the cold weather it actually felt like Christmas was approaching. Furthermore, Joe and his little elf Jack outdid themselves with the Christmas turkey! It was a dream!
This was followed by a weekend trip to Beijing, Archery, a night in Hong Kong and a cozy Christmas feast at FBB in Zhuhai.
Today on my last day, after sitting for 6 months on my orange chair by the window with the greatest view over Zhuhai, I can’t believe that it’s time to leave and to say good bye to an amazing team… 2016 is off to a great start already. I have learnt how to make dumplings so I can continue my addiction after I return from China, we travelled to Danxia mountain in Shaoguan and it was simply a great time hanging out with all the people I know so well here..
Before I get too sentimental, this is the end. The end of a successful mission! Thanks to everyone who crossed my path and has made it an unforgettable experience!
If you are also looking for a unique internship opportunity, apply now!
Saturday 5th December was meant to be a big day. My first organised trip taking the InternChina interns out to do some fierce Dragon boat racing on Doumen lake. I had it all planned down to a tee.Meet at 11.30am at the bus stop; 12.30pm arrive at Doumen Lake; allocate exactly one hour for lunch; then get on the lake and play some team games.
There were whisperings of potential rain over the weekend but I ignored them. Being from England, it rains ALL THE TIME and a little bit of rain never hurt anybody. However it did have the potential to cancel our Dragon Boat Racing plans…
Half way through the journey, we received a call from the company saying that Dragon Boat Racing had been cancelled because there was torrential rain and it was too dangerous to go out on the lake. This was so unfair. In an effort to make the best of a soggy situation and still have our day out, we made a detour to the Jintai Buddhist Temple which was close by.
Located at the highest peak of Huangyang Mountain in Zhuhai, over looking Yamen seaport, this was everything you imagined a Buddhist temple to be. Surrounded by tranquil waters and picturesque scenery, all that missing was a Chinese Erhu playing in the background to our exploration.
Under reconstruction after being destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, Jintai Temple was slowly being restored to it’s former glory. Brightly coloured with intricately painted designs and spiritual figures, it was growing into a memorable piece of work.
For me, however, Jintai’s highlight was it’s unassuming restaurant located near the entrance. We wondered in, damp and hungry to be greeted by an old man with a beaming smile.
We asked him if there was a menu, he said “No”.
We asked him how much the food was he said “Any price that you want to pay”.
To say that we were confused, was an understatement. After 5 minutes of translation between us we realised that this was exactly how this restaurant operated.
There was no menu, only a vegetarian buffet available and we did only need to pay what we thought the meal was worth.
The food was homely and comforting and the staff were so friendly and helpful, despite our cluelessness. When it came to paying the bill, not being told how much to pay definitely made me more generous than I would be otherwise. This is a very good business idea.
While my initial plans for Dragon Boat Racing may have been swept away to sea, our trip to Jintai Temple was certainly a successful alternative.
Until next time for another InternChina Zhuhai adventure….. apply here to join us!