At age seventeen, I was awarded a one-year scholarship to study in Tianjin, a two-tier city around 100km from Beijing. Five years later and here I am, my fourth time in China, and interning in a brand new city, Qingdao.
Tianjin was an amazing place to live and is where my true appreciation and understanding of Chinese culture developed. After my Tianjin experience, how could I turn down another opportunity to live in another fast-developing tier two city? Even though they are more than 500 km apart, I have already noticed some similarities between the two cities.
Tianjin and Qingdao, throughout history and up until now, are very important treaty ports. This meant that in the past they were very desirable to foreign powers. The cities are unique as there still remain numerous European-style buildings, such as churches and villas, which stand as legacies from the time of foreign concessions during the Qing dynasty. A direct contrast to the new modern buildings found in every Chinese city, they are an absolute must see when visiting either city!
In true Chinese style, food culture is huge in Qingdao and Tianjin. Due to proximity to the sea, the seafood in both cities is particularly fresh and delicious. A must try Qingdao dish is spicy clams (蛤蜊), which are pronounced as géli in standard Putonghua but in local Qingdao Hua are pronounced gála. Although Tianjin is known for its seafood, Goubuli Baozi (狗不理包子) and “Cat can’t smell” dumplings (猫不闻饺子) are also some well-known delicious dishes.
Before I arrived in Qingdao, I was under the impression that Qingdao locals would have a southern accent. I realised very quickly that this was not the case as the accent is just as northern sounding as it is in Tianjin, with plenty of er’s(儿)! Tianjin was the perfect environment to not only learn Pǔtōnghuà, but also the local dialect (天津话). The locals were always enthusiastic and patient with me as I bumbled my way through sentences in my early days of learning Chinese. The locals also became especially excited whenever I tried out some Tianjin Hua. For example, instead of saying hen(很 )for very, locals will say bèr(倍儿). Qingdao also has its own dialect (青岛话). For instance. here they pronounce hē（喝）, meaning to drink, as hā. So, it’s dōuhāshui!
As much as Tianjin will always be my home in China, Qingdao is rapidly becoming my Chinese home away from home! I can’t wait to see what else Qingdao has to offer!
Tempted by the two-tier city life? Join us! We have branches in four fantastic tier two cities!
Let’s face it, there are plenty of blogs out there about what it’s like to be an expat, a foreigner, a waiguoren, in China. Even Chinese people are so familiar with the stereotypes now, that it sometimes feels like they seem to know your entire life story before you even utter your name or your country. When I walk in however, it always throws them. Since my Chinese side seems to have largely overwritten the German genes from my father’s side, at first glance I look mostly Chinese.
Recently we had a blog written by my friend Helen about her experiences, as her ethnicity is also Chinese. This time I’ll talk a bit about my own experiences as a ‘Chinese Foreigner in China’.
So, as I mentioned, apart from being half Chinese, I am also German, and have lived in Canada, Hong Kong, Germany and Spain, followed by the UK and China. So when people ask me where I’m from, even I am not really sure what to say. In recent years I’ve learned to use whichever country comes in handy at the time… so sometimes I’m Chinese, sometimes German and sometimes just ‘mixed’… When I tell a Chinese person that I’m German though, they usually don’t believe me.
At times having an oriental face can be quite helpful, as I can blend in with the crowd and so mostly avoid people staring at me or wanting to take pictures with me. It also helps a lot when shopping at places where prices are not set. And my bargaining skills are not too bad either!
It’s when I have to speak Chinese, that things get tricky. I have studied Chinese for four years but it’s still far from fluent. When a Chinese person speaks to me (usually in the local dialect), they expect me to understand everything they say, at whatever speed they are talking. If I say I don’t understand, I am usually met with a very blank look followed by a frown. Sometimes my comment is even entirely ignored and they just repeat exactly what they just said. In those cases where I do get some time to explain why my Chinese isn’t perfect, it still takes a while before it has sunk in. And as I said, they don’t always believe me..
Taxi drivers are another challenge, especially since they often like to chat in Sichuanhua (the local Sichuan dialect) over here. By the time I’ve finished explaining my background to them, or have asked them to speak slower or repeat what they said several times, I’ve already arrived at my destination…
When I first came to China, the hardest part for me was to adapt to the fact that everyone expected me to speak Chinese, and I actually felt a little pressured by it. Often people thought I was either a translator or a tour guide, if I was travelling with my friends. Over time, however, I grew so used to people talking at me at super-speeds, that it has actually improved my Chinese listening skills! Who would’ve thought! And it’s always amusing to see the very surprised faces, when one of my waiguo (foreign) friends speaks up in Chinese. Chinese people, I’ve noticed, are always very happy and welcoming to those who attempt to talk with them in Chinese, even if it’s just simple phrases, so never be shy to try!
Now I’ve been in China for almost a year and a half in total, and I’ve learned to adapt to the Chinese way of life and way of thinking. This doesn’t mean that life isn’t interesting anymore though, as everyday China finds a way to surprise you. It has been a steep learning curve but a very rewarding journey up until now, and I’m excited to see what paths lie ahead!
Join me on my China adventure and apply now for an internship in Qingdao, Zhuhai or Chengdu!
Hi, this is Stephan again from Qingdao. It has been a wonderful first week with InternChina in my new city. China is crazy, but in a positive way. Everything is different from Europe. The people, the food, the traffic. I love the beach and the wonderful sea here in Qingdao.
I got to meet a lot of interesting individuals this week and there are just a lot of impressions I have to process right now. What is also very interesting for me as a German guy, is that there is a long German history in Qingdao. Surprisingly, before me some Germans have already been here and they had quite some influence on the region around Qingdao.
In 1898, Germany forced China into giving them 553 square kilometers of land in Northeast China for 99 years. It happened after the killing of two German missionaries, this gave the military a reason to launch an offense in northeastern China. The most important city in this region was the city of Qingdao. This era lasted until 1914 when Japan was able to force the Germans out of China.
Today you can still see some influences of that past time. A lot of houses still resemble German architecture and there are a few churches that look exactly like a church back in good old Germany… Impressive!
You also can not forget the world famous Tsingtao Beer. The Tsingtao Brewery was founded back in 1903 and since then its beer has made its way all around the world. There is no better way to enjoy the Qingdao beach in the evening and drink a cold Tsingtao beer. Ganbei!
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Today I would like to give you a little insight about the German History of Qingdao. The reason, why I wrote this blog is, because a lot of people always ask me about the city´s exciting history, therefore I started a research for our Internchina interns and I would like to show you my results!
In 1914 the First World War broke out!
The Japanese wanted to continue to hold Qingdao for the remainder of the German lease and Chinese government then yielded to Japanese pressure. In 1938 Japan re-occupied with its plans of territorial expansion onto China´s coast, which lasted to 1945. Since the inauguration of China´s open-door policy to foreign trade and investment, western Qingdao developed quickly as a port city. Now it is the headquarters of the Chinese navy´s northern fleet.
The German occupation influenced Qingdao a lot, which used to be a small fishing village. Upon gaining control of the area the Germans equipped the poor place with wide streets, solid housing areas, government buildings and a rarity in large parts of Asia as that time and later. The area had the highest school density and the highest per capita student enrollment in all of China.
Commercial interest established the Germania Brewery in 1903, which later became the world-famous Qingdao Brewery. Also the Germans left a distinct mark on Qingdao´s architecture inevitably during the colonial period that can still be seen in its historic center and train station. Qingdao´s Old Town located in the German concession area is rich in European buildings. The mixture of historical sites and attractions in the old Qingdao city indicates the city´s diverse international cultures.
Hey everyone, yesterday some of us became Chinese stars! (or not…), a Chinese production agency asked us to play westerners in a historical movie showing Qingdao in the past. So InternChina’s intern went there and acted a whole day long.
They told us to be there at.. 6h30 am so we had to get up about 5 o’clock on a sunday morning! After arriving there, we received uniforms, but also funny beards and moustaches. (see the pictures)
Jack, Jan H, Lukas and Alex received directly military uniforms of Generals (the tall guys lol). Jan and Rinat became soldiers (sailors better said) and Kevin, Christian and I became officers. Not Military officer as I thought at the beginning but civilian officers (it’s the reason why we are wearing this old fashioned suits with top hat).
The film was shot in the old town of Qingdao and we were representing the German period of the city.
What was also very funny, is that lots of Chinese people were looking at the shoot and taking photos of us.
We received then our instructions, only walking no text, and we acted the same scene twice, once in winter and then in summer.
We had then to wait until our last scene (more than 2 hours) as we were still wearing the costumes, we spent this time in making some funny pictures of us.
Finally after lunch we had to act for our last scene, which was the most funny one. We had to look disappointed because Japan had lost the war, and you can easily imagine that it was the hardest thing to do, and especially for me it was so difficult not to laugh. But we finally managed it and our work was done.
We decided then to relax and have a beer in a café in Qingdao, remembering all the funny moment of the day, this experience was really nice and the agency told us that they will shoot many movies in the future, so they will need more westerners to act for them! 🙂
Ob es einem gefällt oder nicht, fast jeder von uns hat Vorurteile über andere Völker. Als Person, die häufig und gerne nach China reist, werde ich in Deutschland und Österreich natürlich häufig mit (Fragen über) Vorurteile konfrontiert.
Um es euch ein wenig zu erleichtern nach China zu kommen und vor allem um euch ein wenig die Angst vor einem Praktikum in einer chinesischen Firma nehmen zu können, werde ich hier nach und nach ein paar der bekanntesten und häufigsten Vorurteile kommentieren. Los geht’s…
In China essen sie Hunde
Das Vorurteil, welches mir bisher am häufigsten begegnet ist, und was anscheinend für viele Leute einer DER Gründe ist nicht nach China zu fahren: Chinesen essen Hunde.
Widerlegen kann ich das nicht. Chinesen essen Hunde, allerdings ist das ziemlich selten und meistens nur in Spezialitäten Restaurants möglich. Du wirst also nicht Gefahr laufen einfach aus Versehen in ein Restaurant zu gehen und Hund zu bestellen, nur weil du vielleicht die entsprechenden Schriftzeichen nicht kennst, keine Angst!
Übrigens, viele Chinesen haben selber einen Hund als Haustier, besonders hier in Qingdao und viele würden nie auf die Idee kommen einen Hund zu essen.
China ist das Land des Lächelns
Dieses Stereotyp stimmt leider nicht. Ich persönlich finde Chinesen zwar schon recht freundlich, aber es ist trotzdem nicht so, dass Chinesen immer und permanent gut gelaunt wären, letztendlich sind sie genauso Menschen wie wir Europäer, die manchmal gut gelaunt und freundlich und manchmal schlecht gelaunt und unfreundlich sind.
Es kann dir vielleicht passieren, dass du von Chinesen komisch angesehen wirst. Anfangs mag einem das ziemlich unhöflich erscheinen, aber es ist nur ein Zeichen von Interesse an dir, weil du als Ausländer doch manchmal ein wenig aus der Menge herausstichst.
Chinesen können nur Chinesisch sprechen
Das stimmt definitiv nicht! Gerade die jüngeren Chinesen lernen alle Englisch in der Schule und können so gut wie immer ein paar Worte sprechen, aber auch bei Älteren ist man oft überrascht wie einfach die Kommunikation auch ohne oder nur mit geringen Chinesischkenntnissen gelingt. Außerdem gehört ein bisschen Abenteuer auch zu China dazu und man ist manchmal überrascht, wie gut man sich mit der weltweit verbreiteten Hand-und-Fuß-Sprache verständigen kann.
Chinesen können kein ‘R’ sprechen
Brauchen sie auch nicht, zumindest nicht in China. 😉 Das deutsche ‘R’ ist einer dieser Buchstaben, die wahnsinnig viele ‘anderssprachige’ Menschen nur schwer lernen können, und genauso sollte man auch immer dran denken, dass wir auch nicht unbedingt diejenigen sind, die andere Sprachen mit Einfachheit perfekt sprechen lernen. Wenn man also einem Chinesen ‘unser R’ beibringen will, sollte man ein paar kreative Ideen und Geduld mitbringen und man wird überrascht sein, wie gut ‘l’ und ‘r’ aufeinmal zu unterscheiden sind.
Hello everybody! 大家好!
I’m Hanna, 26 years old, from Germany, just arrived in Qingdao last friday and since I’m gonna stay here for six months, I’m gonna try to introduce myself.
So as I said, I’m from Germany, Hamburg, which is pretty far up north, so I actually pretend to be Scandinavian and not German, but since I have been living in Austria for the last 6 years, everybody thinks I’m from southern Germany/Austria, like my new boss Jenny did before she saw my passport. 😉
In Vienna I’m doing my Masters degree in East Asian Economy and Society (gonna start learning Japanese next year, yeeha!!!) and Sinology. I have already spent one year in China studying only Chinese language, but since am getting older every day, I tend to forget a lot of stuff so hopefully living in Qingdao for half a year will help me to improve my chinese language skills again.
Today’s the first day in the office, so everythings pretty new around here. It took me all morning to set up the Email program, add a new skype account, trying to log into facebook and then getting the account locked ’cause InternChina has too many friends… Lesson I learned: Never try to log into facebook with another country’s Vpn, it’s gonna be a lot of trouble.
Luckily I already met most of the team on friday and saturday, so I wasn’t too nervous to go to work this morning. From my desk I can see the ocean, which makes me – as a fake-Scandinavian – quite happy. 🙂
So, since you’re all probably gonna hear more from me in the next months (next blog entry might be Hanna complaining about chinese winter and not-very-well-isolated-buildings and what to do against that) this is goodbye for now! 🙂
My name is Tanja, I am from Germany, and I will spend the next six months in Qingdao. I other words, I will probably see a few of you at the beach, where we organize beach volleyball or little trips across the bay to silver or Golden Beach during summer.
What do I like the most about the city? Its Germanness! And I do not just refer to the Tsingtao beer here, which goes back to a German recipe from when Qingdao was a German colony. It might help that I haven’t lived in Germany for a year and a half now (I have travelled South-East Asia and then lived in Sydney/Australia for a year) and therefore are more likely to notice things. But Qingdao is just too cute! I love the tiny little alleys of old town with houses just like old German ones, the apartment blocks with their red roofs, and of course the old train station and the church right next to it. This city of over 8 million people feels like a German small town, and I mean this in every good way.
Pictures will definitely follow, I was just way too busy as there are like a zillion things to do: Dinner with the other interns became a real institution, there was the monthly student’s round table for all interns, their host families and friends (great opportunity to get to know everyone!), our colleague Leo’s house warming party, jogging by the seaside, and then there were two more after work events I will write more about soon. Anyway, this is where I have had my dinner yesterday:
Real German food and beer at the pre-opening dinner of the Paulaner restaurant in the new Kempinski Hotel. It was too foggy to enjoy the view of famous Silver Beach, but that will only serve as an excuse to come back.