When I arrived in January, I wrote my first blog in French. It may have been easier to write my farewells in my mother tongue but I’m happily taking the risk to use my English skills to reach most of you.
The more I’m growing up, the more I find time hard to capture. I still remember the first day I entered the office, my first impressions, my first time using Mandarin or the first noodles I tasted, but I would have never imagined that I will be sitting here, trying to do a recap of the past 6 months I lived.
6 months is a long time but still, it passed in a blink of an eye. I have seen a lot of people leave, and now my turn has come!
To cut a long story short, my experience can be split with the seasons: Winter and Summer.
Winter in Chengdu was cold, with only a few interns in the city: a small group with big hearts, we all quickly became friends, fighting the coldness of the streets by getting to know each other in the warm and smoky bars of Chengdu. When they left, winter left with them, and was replaced by a fiery Spring/Summer, along with more than 50 interns. Now we are fighting the heat and humidity, and because there are so many people, it’s harder to develop true bounds, even though their hearts are as big.
Spending 6 months working for InternChina was a professional experience far more than enriching: I’ve learned how to adapt to so many different situations that I feel I’m able to move mountains if I want to. We like to call our company a family, and it is! Even though I haven’t met most of my colleagues (spread in China or in Europe), we’re all connected and we can all count on each other.
I was lucky enough to have such an amazing team in Chengdu (Paul, Cassie, Lucy, Tamara, Henry, Joe, Miya and Rainie), a hard-working team always happy to go beyond what is expected of them. I have learned a lot from their undying energy.
InternChina offers to every participant an incredible social network, composed of very different individuals who would probably have never known each other, even if some are from the same countries. A great cultural melting-pot of open-minded people trying to learn as much as they can from Chinese culture.
I have struggled myself, I’m still struggling when I try to use the little mandarin I know, and most of the time my mind is blown away by the contrasts of this country. I love how China can be such a huge mess that works so well. I love how I got to know my Chinese friends and other foreign friends better and how I could learn from their perspective, their vision. I love how I improved myself by getting so much from other people, and give back as much as I could.
I needed to go to China by hook or by crook to see with my own eyes how this great country is moving forward, I’m happy to say that I found more than what I was looking for.
It is still hard to believe that my time here is over, but there is no place for sadness or sorrow, as I’m moving forward with great memories and a lot of stories to tell and to remember. InternChina gave me the push I needed to feel more confident with my own strength: ‘move forward’, ‘get out of your comfort zone’, ‘challenge yourself’!
I truly hope it would be the same for you.
Start your adventure, apply now!
My name is Ingo, I am a student from Germany majoring in Business Administration & Engineering. Since mid-February I have been working as an intern at a British company in Qingdao. The company provides solutions for environmental protection using their purge and pressurization units to prevent dust, corrosives and other non-hazardous gases from contaminating electrical equipment installed in enclosures close to process applications. My task is to elaborate new functions in the enterprise resource planning system, elaborate and installing a shop-floor information system and support the factory supervisor. I am well integrated in the team and I am glad to have the chance to do an internship in Qingdao and in this company.
For the duration of my stay in China I am living at a homestay family. It is a small Chinese family with a little child. The home of the family is in Shuan Shan area near a big mall and well connected to public transport. The latter is very important for me due to my daily commute to work. I get breakfast and dinner at the family. The breakfast is most of the time a Chinese kind of porridge, boiled eggs and fried bread. For dinner, I am mostly at the parents of my guest mother. There I get all varieties of Chinese food – her father is an excellent cook. Occasionally, my homestay family invites me to meet their friends or to go on a trip. Also, my guest family speaks very good English – to the detriment that my Chinese knowledge is still stagnating on a low level.
Qingdao is regarded as a holiday paradise. The city is located directly by the sea and has several beaches. Near the city, the Lao Shan Mountain is located, from which– depending on weather – a wide view over the whole region is possible.
I do not regret my decision to do an internship in China and I am looking forward to my four remaining months in Qingdao!
By Sven von Hollen (CDBS63 Marketing & IT Internship + Homestay)
Es ist schwer eine genaue Vorstellung von China zu haben, ohne vorher dort gewesen zu sein. Bei einer so vielfältigen Lebensweise ist es für mich selbst nach 6 Monaten in diesem Land noch schwer, passende Worte zu finden. Trotzdem werde ich mein Bestes geben, dir einen kleinen Einblick zu geben.
Ich kann meinen China-Aufenthalt nur als mein bisher größtes Abenteuer beschreiben, neben neuen Erinnerungen habe ich vor allem starke Veränderungen durchlebt, sowohl beruflich als auch persönlich. Natürlich bringt das Leben in einer 16 Millionen Einwohner Metropole auch seine negativen Seiten mit sich. Gerade im Winter kann der Smog erdrückend sein und auch die vielen Menschen und Autos sind für mich als Dorfkind stark gewöhnungsbedürftig gewesen. Mal abgesehen davon, dass ich kaum scharfes Essen ertrage, in einer Region, die für seine Chilis bekannt ist. Aber damit hören die negativen Punkte auch schon auf. Die Faszination China kann beginnen.
Sobald man die Großstadt verlassen hat, ist die Natur hier herrlich. Vor allem Richtung Tibet und der Provinz Yunnan gibt es eine Vielzahl an wundervollen Orten. Ich kann besonders Lugu See und Jiu Zhai Gou empfehlen. Nach der Anreise gibt es dort Ausblicke, die man nicht mehr vergessen möchte. Kleiner Tipp am Rande: Vermeidet die Urlaubszeiten in China, die Menge an Menschen zu den Stoßzeiten ist erdrückend und verdirbt einen Großteil der Tour.
Es ist jedoch nicht die Natur, die China für mich so einzigartig gemacht hat. Es sind die Menschen und die Geschichten, die hinter diesen stecken. Beginnend mit meiner ersten Entscheidung, eine Hostfamilie statt eines normalen Apartments zu wählen. Denn wer wirklich an dem Land interessiert ist, sollte sich mit lokalen Personen umgeben. Teil einer neuen Familie zu sein ist etwas ganz Besonderes. Man lernt traditionelle Hausmannskost kennen, nimmt am Leben der chinesische Familien teil, unternimmt spannende Ausflüge oder entspannt zusammen auf dem Sofa. Ich hatte das Glück das chinesische Neujahr mit meiner Hostfamilie zu verbringen. Chengdu zu verlassen und bei den Eltern in einer kleinen Stadt zu leben. Um ein besseres Bild zu vermitteln, stell dir vor, du feierst eine Woche lang Weihnachten und Neujahr zusammen, ein Fest der Freude und Familie. Neben viel Feuerwerk, KTV und Spaziergängen durch die Stadt ist es vor allem das Zusammenkommen der gesamten Familie, was das Fest so besonders macht. Man zollt den Vorfahren Respekt, geht zusammen in den Tempel, spielt Mahjong und genießt die zahlreichen Mahlzeiten.
Es ist aber nicht nur die Familie, mit der ich besondere Momente teilen durfte. Es gibt unzählige andere Erlebnisse mit neu gefundenen Freunden. Ob Stadttour, Sehenswürdigkeiten aufsuchen, lokale Geburtstage feiern, KTV, Events, Clubabende, ein gemütlicher Abend in einer der zahlreichen Bars oder sogar eine lokale Hochzeit, von traditionellen Einblicken bis hin zu langen Nächten wie man sie im Westen kennt, war alles dabei. Es gibt eigentlich immer etwas zu unternehmen wenn man Lust hat. Die häufigen internationalen Events waren für mich die wichtigsten Orte, um neue Freunde in allen möglichen Bereichen zu finden. Auf Kulturfestivals eher in entspannter Umgebung, auf dem Startup Weekend Chengdu bei perfekter Mischung aus Spaß und Produktivität im Businessbereich. Die neu gewonnenen Freunde haben mir einen sehr persönlichen Einblick in Ihre Kultur verschafft.
Und das ist auch der beste Tipp, den ich geben kann. Traue dich, neue Menschen kennenzulernen, ein einfaches „Ja“ zu aufkommenden Gelegenheiten (vor allem wenn man sich nicht sicher ist, ob es gut wird) hat mir meine besten Erlebnisse beschert. Dieses kleine Wort kann dir das Tor zu einer völlig neuen Welt eröffnen. Treff neue Leute, unternehme etwas mit ihnen, nutze jede Gelegenheit auf neue Erfahrungen und verstecke dich nicht immer zwischen anderen Ausländern.
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!
Let’s paint the picture. You arrived in China, it was all a bit overwhelming at first, but once you’d had chance to settle in, you had the time of your life! Two, three months on, it’s time to pack your bags and head back home, but you’re not ready, and you suddenly hit a low back in your home country.
Sometimes, heading back to your home country after several months overseas can be just as difficult, or possibly more difficult than initially moving away from home. After the initial excitement of seeing your friends and family, eating all your home comforts, and going in your favourite shops, it can wear off and you can find yourself pining after China, feeling quite lonely and bored and not feeling like you are ‘home’ as such. You may not expect to experience reverse culture shock, you might not have even heard of it, so when it hits it could be very unexpected. Like all things you will find a way through it, but it’s good to know what to expect and how possibly to deal with it.
“When In China…”
You will no doubt come back from China wanting to tell every man and their dog about your amazing experiences on the other side of the world; you will probably find yourself saying “In China, it’s like this” or “When I was in China…..…..happened”. People might listen to begin with, but you may never be able to fully get your point across, or even start to feel like no one wants to listen. I’ve always found it difficult to get across to friends and family what China really is like; that it’s not like how the media portrays it, and that it is one of the most beautiful and welcoming places I’ve been.
Record your memories: There will be people out there eager to hear about your adventures. Perhaps start up a blog, write articles about what you saw, ate, heard, did. Try make mini projects for yourself related to your trip. Choose your favourite pictures to put up in your room, put together a scrapbook of your trip try or just try jot down your memories in one way or another, rather than keeping them in your head to slowly fade away.
Keeping it local: Another possibility is to try find some Chinese friends back home; they’d love to hear about your time exploring their country. Go to your local Chinese restaurant, try find some of the new dishes you tried whilst you were away, practice your newly acquired Chinese with the staff; they will probably be super impressed! Keep in touch with your new-found friends on the other side of the world, and try keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the city, news wise or if there are any new developments.
Pass on your knowledge: Perhaps join a city-related forum so that you can give advice and help to other foreigners who might be heading to that part of the world. I always love sharing advice about places I’ve been with other people; giving them tips on places go, recommending restaurants that are a good hit, or even telling them about what are local hidden secrets that you probably wouldn’t know about if it wasn’t for word-of-mouth.
Just like culture shock; reverse culture shock also falls in a U-Shape. You start high at the excitement of returning home, hit a low when you experience the ‘home sickness’ of your past home, and then you push through to the other side and create many positives out of reverse culture shock. I’ve spent so much time in Asia in the past five or six years, Asia has definitely become my home from home – I experienced reverse culture shock hard for the first time this year, but by finding ways to treasure my memories and use my knowledge to help out others, the experience has moved from a ‘low point’ to very much a ‘high point’.
One of the biggest challenges you may face when travelling overseas aside from a language barrier is culture shock. It may be your first time out of Europe, first time away from American shores or first time encountering an oriental culture, and to begin with, being so far out of your comfort zone, it may come as a bit of a shock.
Growing up your parents may have always said “Don’t stare, it’s rude!”. In China, be prepared for people staring at you, pointing out the lǎowài (老外) and following this up with a two-minute conversation about you (yep they probably won’t hide the fact they are talking about you).
This could be the first time a lot of these people have seen a foreigner, and they will be intrigued as to why you’ve come half way across the world to China. Daily you will get told how tall you are (hào gāo 好高) or how pretty or handsome you are (hěn piàoliang 很漂亮 / hǎo shuài 好帅). Don’t be surprised if they pluck up the courage to ask for a picture with you either.
TIPS: try not to feel self-conscious by the staring; embrace it, remember that you are a foreigner in a country that was once quite closed off from the West. Soon the staring that initially seems quite odd will become a daily normality.
Chinese food in China is not 100% like your Chinese takeaway back home. Whilst you can get your sweet and sour pork and black pepper beef, these aren’t daily dishes here. Don’t be surprised to see every part of the animal on the table (including head and chicken feet). Chinese cuisine, from all different parts of the country, really is delicious, and I find, tastes a lot better than it looks. There is a reason why everyone comes to China and puts weight on!
TIPS: If you don’t like spicy food, have an allergy, or are a vegetarian, make this the first Chinese phrase you learn! Being a vegetarian or halal eater is quite easy if you know what to say (or have it written down). If you try something that you like, try get a name for it or a picture, then this can always be a ‘go to dish’. Finally try not be afraid to give everything a go, if there are a lot of Chinese punters at a restaurant, then you know it’ll be a good’un.
PERSONAL SPACE & QUEUEING:
Personal space is a lot smaller and somewhat inexistent in China. On the bus, people may barge past you without an “excuse me”, be packed in so tightly that you feel quite uncomfortable (there always seems to be space for an extra person!) or they may not move out of the way to let you on or off.
TIPS: Hold your own, be assertive and stand by the back door the bus (always more spacious!). Queueing has improved dramatically over the years and you will see locals standing up to those people trying to push in!
China isn’t the fastest country when it comes to internet speed. What’s more, a lot the websites that me and you are used to using on a daily basis (Facebook, Google, Instagram) are blocked by the Great Chinese Firewall so you need a VPN to access them. Sometimes the internet can be a bit hit and miss and it may take twice as a long as normal to download something.
TIPS: Download and install a reliable VPN BEFORE you arrive in China (once you’re in China, you’ll need a VPN to download a VPN!). Patience is a virtue when using the internet!
These are just a few pointers of what to expect in the initial days after landing in China for the first time; initially it can be a bit overwhelming and you can feel a bit like a cat in headlights. But within days you will have found your feet, met some fantastic people and started to make the most of the incredible country and culture that you’ve just landed in! Before long you will no doubt be saying you don’t want to go home!
Not many people from the West have heard of Qingdao, but to Chinese people and westerners living in China, Qingdao is one of the most sought after living destinations in the whole country. The mix of clean air, pristine beaches, a moderate climate, active expat community and its close proximity to Beijing and Shanghai make Qingdao a dream location for ‘foreigners’ living in China. Qingdao is a city with over eight million inhabitants, about 2.5 million of which live in the downtown area, and boasts the third busiest shipping port in Asia. To read more about Qingdao – click here
This month’s featured internship is with a Qingdao expat magazine company called REDSTAR. This magazine company is the number one seller in the City. They are cool, edgy and always the people to turn to to find out what is happening in Qingdao. The English magazine and WeChat account serve as Qingdao’s Official Guide. In addition, they also offer comprehensive contract publishing services (print and web), event services, translation and sourcing. Their office is open plan and they often have live bands playing in the evenings. It is the perfect place for creative people to thrive. This is a great platform for interns to publish and showcase their own writing skills and build up a strong portfolio of professional work. Find out more about REDSTAR from their website.
We have been talking to Sophie Comber about her experience of interning at REDSTAR.
IC team: What is your role at REDSTAR?
Sophie: My roles at the REDSTAR magazine’s open plan office have so far included journalist, social media operator, website operator, and English grammar and style editor.
IC team: What are your main tasks?
Sophie: I have used my journalistic skills for research, carrying out interviews, and writing engaging stories for an expat family audience on timely and relevant matters. My writing has so far taken the forms of feature stories, current world events, upcoming event promotions, restaurant reviews, music promotions, and film reviews.
When the magazine is a few days from completion, I read over its entire content to check the grammar and style. A few weeks ago, I also decided upon a system for how the magazine should refer to Chinese words in regards to pinyin, characters, and tones.
IC team: What have you learnt from your internship?
Sophie: As is usual for China, REDSTAR puts a great deal of emphasis on the Chinese social media app WeChat, which was not an app I had used much before. I have gained skills in the area of social media and online layouts, producing WeChat posts about a great number of topics. Previously, I had little experience in lifestyle writing, my experience mostly being in the area of hard news and current affairs, so I welcomed this widening of my skill set.
IC team: What do you like best about REDSTAR?
Sophie: REDSTAR has an informal, friendly atmosphere with cheerful co-workers. We are all always willing to be supportive and lend a hand to each other—one of my favourite rituals of the day is going out together to buy lunch from one of the many delicious local eateries!
On the eve of 31 October, many Western countries come alight with the glow of countless jack-o’-lanterns that signify the arrival of Halloween. In China, Halloween celebrations among the younger generation are gradually becoming more and more popular. Kids’ Halloween parties and pumpkin-carving is becoming a favourite with less conservative parents in big cities. Nonetheless, apart from a few expat-oriented bars and pubs, the practice of dressing-up is nowhere near as widespread as in the West.
There is, however, no shortage of traditional festivals dedicated to the dead in Chinese culture. In fact, the majority of festivals contain an element of sacrificing offerings in the form of money, food and wine to deceased ancestors. Qing Ming Festival, Ghost Festival and Spring Festival are among the better-known ones.
The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost festival, falls on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. It stems from Taoist and Buddhist belief that on this day the gate that separates the world of the dead from the world of the living opens, and ghosts are believed to visit the living in their homes. To appease the hungry ghosts, their living descendants prepare elaborate feasts and burn joss paper. In many ways, the Hungry Ghost festival is similar to Halloween in the West.
The Qing Ming Festival is celebrated 108 days after the winter solstice. During the Qing Ming Festival, unlike during the hungry Ghost festival, the living visit the dead at their graves and bring offerings in the form of food, wine and chopsticks. They sweep the graves and burn joss money and firecrackers.
The Spring Festival, the most well-known among all Chinese festivals, is celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar. Traditionally, the Spring festival was a time to honour deities as well as ancestors. During the Spring festival, the whole family gathers from different cities and provinces for a reunion. Offerings to ancestors play a big part in the proceedings. The lunar calendar is consulted about the specificities of which way to face when bowing and making offerings. Traditionally, dumplings (jiaozi) are offered to the ancestors to invite them to join in the festivities.
There is a distinctive difference between Chinese and Western cultures in the way they interact with ghosts. While in Western culture Halloween is the height of human-ghost interaction, in Chinese culture deceased ancestors play a much larger part throughout the year. The interaction between the dead and the living is not limited to a few select days in the year. People commonly burn joss paper and offer wine at street corners. Although strict guidelines that guide the process of interaction are put in place in the cities, people that live in the countryside have a much closer relationship with their dead ancestors. We only need to look at how graves form a natural part of the architectural landscape in the countryside to see that the divide between dead and living is nowhere near as defined as it is in the West. For the Chinese, it is not just during Halloween that the worlds of the living and the dead come together.