At the time of writing this blog, I have been in Chengdu for just five days. This is my third day as an intern in the InternChina office but I am already getting into the swing of life here. Having spent my year abroad as part of my degree studying at a university in Taiwan, I was eager to get a taste of living and working in mainland China. Chengdu appealed to me as it is a more manageable size and less international than the huge metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai, but still with lots to explore within the city and surrounding areas!
I chose to start my time in Chengdu staying in a homestay with a family and their seven-year-old son. While living in Taiwan and briefly travelling in China certainly broadened my understanding of certain aspects of Chinese culture and life, I had not developed an insight into Chinese family and home life. My family have been extremely hospitable and gone out of their way to help me get accustomed to life in Chengdu. Even in this short time, I have got an insight into their daily routine, met their family and colleagues, and tried a huge variety of delicious home-cooked meals. In Taiwan, I found that it was easy to learn what you liked on the menu and then stick with what you knew to avoid translating the menu every time. However staying with a family has led me to try new dishes, fruits and vegetables almost every meal, including foods that I would not usually have ordered myself, such as 美蛙鱼头火锅 (frog and fish head hotpot)!
Difference and Similarities to the UK
Whilst there are many similarities between family life in the UK and China, there are also some striking differences, most noticeably the pressure on young children to study. However, what particularly surprised me on my arrival, is that my family also have an 18-month-old son who is being raised by his grandparents almost 3000km away from Chengdu until he is old enough to attend kindergarten. While I had read about the phenomenon of parents living in urban areas sending their children back to their hometown to be raised by other family members, I had not grasped how common this was among Chinese families. Only seeing your parents once or twice during your first few years of life seems almost incomprehensible to me, and 3000km away from my hometown of London would mean crossing multiple countries ending up in Turkey, for example. However, the pressures of Chinese working life and the lack of affordable childcare options in urban areas, mean that this is a necessity for millions of Chinese parents who have to instead make do with video calling their child.
Communicating in Chengdu
Although I have been studying Mandarin for over four years, the language barrier with my family can still be a challenge. While I generally understand what is being said on a one-to-one basis, group conversations at mealtimes are definitely more difficult, especially with my host dad often switching into Sichuan dialect! However, I am definitely becoming more confident to say to the family when I don’t understand, and, with the help of Pleco (a Chinese dictionary app), I am learning lots of new words and phrases so, as is said in Chinese, 慢慢来 (it will come slowly)!
On May 8th 2018 more than 30 representatives from CPAZ, CTC & InternChina visited the Pingsha Experimental Primary School to distribute funds raised at the Come Together Charity Music Festival 2017 and provide care packs to a total of 50 disadvantaged students.
The bursary money totalled 82,500 RMB, meaning over 1500 RMB was raised for each child in need!
This is CPAZ’s 12th year in a row working with families to support the education of those in need in Pingsha, and the 5th year that the CTC – Come Together Charity Music Festival has raised money for CPAZ’s mission. The day started when representatives of CTC and CPAZ distributed a total of 82,500 RMB to 50 local children in need.
The bursary for each child was 1,500 RMB, along with a care package which including a backpack and school supplies. Afterwards, representatives split into groups to visit some of the families who receive the bursary.
Come Together Community
Come Together Community (CTC) is made up of a collection of like-minded fellows who care about the community, helping out, and making a difference. The founders of CTC have collectively lived in Zhuhai and China for over 40 years, and consider Zhuhai home.
InternChina is a proud sponsor of CTC, and also one of the official organisers of CTC’s annual charity music festival each year, Come Together. The aim of the NGO is to help people in Zhuhai by uniting the expat and local communities to fundraise for charitable causes and local philanthropies.
Come Together Music Festival
In November 2017, the 6th annual Come Together Charity Music Festival was held. It was an extremely successful event, with a total of 900+ people attending and raising a total of 255,000 RMB. The event has volunteers, bands and sponsor work alongside food and beverage vendors, the schools, the venue and more local groups to raise money for local children in need.
As CTC firmly believes transparency is of utmost importance, you can view all the income and expenses of the Come Together Music Festival 2017 here to see how they got the total amount of 255,000 RMB.
The Charity Promotion Association of Zhuhai (CPAZ) is a registered CSO (Civil Society Organisation) in China. They work to promote social activism and public welfare with the aim of providing compassionate assistance to vulnerable sectors of society. They operate a range of projects with the aim of helping financially destitute, disadvantaged people and particularly young students living as orphans or with single parents.
Want to experience charity events like these yourself? APPLY NOW!
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.
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!
Why China? That is probably the question I got asked most before coming out here to do a five months internship at a company that actually arranges internships (how awesome is this?!) My standard answer to that question used to be: “Well, the Chinese culture is just so different from anything I know or am used to. I would love to see this country for myself and experience firsthand what it is like to live there for a while.”
Part of the reason for coming to China was also the fact that I studied Chinese at university back home with the intention of going to China “some day” and putting my skills into practice. One morning I woke up and found that “some day” had suddenly come- I would go live in China for five months! After everything had been arranged, I started getting more and more excited to set out on this adventure.
Although I was incredibly excited to finally go, my feelings were still somewhat mixed about what I was getting myself into. One the one hand, I could not wait to get on the plane and arrive in Chengdu, on the other hand I was a bit nervous. Despite my impressive “I want to see for myself what China is like” speech, I was not entirely sure how well I would deal with the cultural differences or the culture shock. Little did I know then just how true this would turn out to be!
I have done a fair degree of travelling and lived in places like Scotland and New Zealand for more than a year. I am used to spending time away from home and adapting to a new environment. However, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience in China. For the first time in my life I felt really homesick and the first few weeks were quite tough in terms of getting used to this totally strange and somewhat alien culture. Just about everything was different from home: The food, the noise, the smells, the people, the way the city was designed, the traffic…
Getting used to everyday life in China has been a huge challenge but one I am more than happy to have tackled! Looking back on everything I have learned during my internship and my time here in China, I am really glad to have come. I have met so many interesting and lovely people from all over the world; made strong friendships both with locals and foreigners; seen some of the most famous cultural and historical sights in the world and experienced what it is like to live in a second tier city. I have been happy, sad, lonely, in best of company, frustrated, on cloud nine all at the same time. Though, more than anything I am proud of having put myself out there and tried to understand a country I knew so little about before. Even after having spent almost five months in Chengdu I would not claim to really know China or the Chinese (I think that as a foreigner you can live in China for decades and still discover new things every day). However, I think I am entitled to say now that I have a much better understanding of what is going on in this country on a day to day basis. On top of this I do not feel like a cheat anymore if I tell someone “I can speak Chinese” (which, come to think about it, is actually pretty badass). Language classes and speaking Mandarin on a daily basis have helped a lot to improve my language skills.
Living in China, I have come to look at what is underneath the surface of this noisy, busy culture. China can really drive you nuts sometimes, but at the same time, the people have an incredibly warm and welcoming nature that is unlike anywhere else in the world.
To all of you who are reading this right now and who are still not sure whether to come to China or not, I can only say: Do it! Test yourself. Your strength, your willpower and your endurance.
Embark on this once in a lifetime adventure and afterwards, be proud of what you have achieved. Yes, living China is challenging. No, it is not easy and I do not think it ever will be. When you give this country, its people and their culture a chance, you’ll be in for some of the best months of your life. You definitely won’t regret it!
There is a saying that once you come to Chengdu you won’t ever want to leave. After five months of living here I find this to be more than true and one thing I know for sure: I’ll be back!
For your chance to fall in love with China yourself, apply here!
I am from Germany and finished school last year. Now, I am between secondary school and looking forward to going to university next year. As part of my Gap Year I chose to go to Qingdao for five months to learn Mandarin.
I landed in Qingdao after 16 hours of flight and stopover. At ten in the morning I arrived in a freezing cold Qingdao. Having not slept the whole flight because I wanted to watch all the movies I was quite tired upon my arrival. But all my fatigue quickly fell away when I saw that my host family had sent their driver in a Jaguar to pick me up and excitement set in! An hour later we got to the house I was placed in, where I have my own room with a balcony. The house is in a beautiful neighbourhood and within a two-minute walk from the beach.
I met my DiDi (little brother) later that afternoon when he came back from school and the parents in the evening when they came back from work. The family made me feel most welcome and I managed to settle in quickly. Not knowing what to expect of the food in Qingdao I was relieved when the Ayi (housekeeper) – who helps me where she is able to – served some egg-fried rice alongside a good ol’ steak with some beans. The Ayi cooks heaps of food, does my laundry, cleans my room and tries to support me wherever possible, as does the rest of the family.
The food here is dangerously spicy for people who cannot eat spicy food and understandably consists of a lot of rice and dumplings but I personally like hot food and the Chinese cuisine so I was happy. However, my stomach was not and took a few days to get used to the food. The only thing I do not enjoy quite so much is the ZaoFan (breakfast). But this problem was resolved swiftly after I told the Ayi that I would be happy to eat toast. Now, the only remnant of Western cuisine in my diet is toast with Nutella in the morning along some scrambled eggs. At this point I got to warn any prospective interns that it is not easy to come by foreign groceries here. I have yet to find Nutella and for now I make do with some surrogate chocolate cream. Also all imported food is more expensive than it would be in the country of origin.
On Monday I had to drive to school for the first time which was a piece of cake given that the public transport is really efficient. But it can be very confusing because all maps are in HanZi and most people only speak Chinglish so I would advise you to get a good description of the buses you can take and at which stop you have to get out. Furthermore, Google Maps does not work in China unless you use a VPN, so getting around the city can be a challenge. Nonetheless, I arrived at school safe after an exciting bus ride – the traffic is wild and the bus drivers are mad. My school is great, I am a single student and my teacher is very able and we get along just fine. After school I usually go to lunch with my colleagues who are great fun which makes work so much more bearable. The work atmosphere is relaxed and my tasks do not bore me, so I am perfectly happy with my placement.
The weekends are really exciting, as we always have a group activity – last week for example we went hiking in the mountains and this weekend we will go paintballing – after which we go out in the city. Also on Thursdays all interns get together and have dinner at a different restaurant every week.
Having had little prior Mandarin skills I think I can say that even the mere two weeks I have been here so far have made a huge impact on my knowledge of HanYu, so I am looking forward to the next 16 weeks, during which I am hoping to travel around China with the other interns. For Chinese New Year we are probably travelling to NanJing, the ancient capital of China.
If you also want to experience the real China and live in a hostfamily during your internship, apply now!
Hollywood has been traditionally seen as one of the major American economic pillars and has been an important exporter of American culture and values throughout the decades. Nevertheless, there have been a lot of predictions that the emerging Chinese movie market sales could someday surpass those of the American box-office. These predictions showed their first glimpse of becoming a reality in February 2015 when China’s monthly box-office sales surpassed the American market for the first time. While the American market finished the month with 640 million dollars to boast, the Chinese market made an even more impressive 650 million dollars. Most concerning for Hollywood is the fact that these sales were largely achieved without the lure of American blockbusters, but instead relying on the appeal of domestically produced movies.
At present, there are only 37 foreign movies allowed to be shown at Chinese movie theaters every year. This number might be increasing due to the fact that Hollywood tries to seek partnerships and joint ventures with the Chinese film industry. But Hollywood is still far from getting a strong foothold in China.
The Chinese movie industry also keeps importing American movie stars like John Cusack or Keanu Reeves to produce movies that also meet the taste of a Western audience. Even the Chinese advertising market is importing American actors to show off their products to an immense number of Chinese consumers.
Statistically, Chinese people seem desperate for movie entertainment, resulting in about 13-15 new cinemas being build every single day. Currently, there are only 23,600 screens in China versus the 40,000 of the U.S., but those are 475% more screens than China had in 2008. Some analysts predict that the overall Chinese market will surpass North America in 2017.
No way, I’ve been in Qingdao for three months already… Time flies as we say. Three months completely disconnected from western countries, entirely immerged in the Chinese culture. Now after three months I will leave China with my head full of memories and amazing experiences!
Since the day I arrived, I was looking forward to go to Laoshan, the famous mountain near Qingdao. Sadly, in January, February and March, the weather was still too cold to consider climbing that mountain, and I was feeling desperate to never be able to climb that mountain. And finally, as the end of my stay drew closer and I resigned to not climbing it, I took part in a Laoshan trip organized by InternChina. After an early wake up at 5 am to get to the bus – Laoshan here we are! Even though the weather wasn’t that sunny, I think it was the perfect week end to go to Laoshan (and not because it was my last week end in Qingdao). The temperature was warm enough to take off our sweaters to climb the stairs!
We went through unofficial trails, in the wild part of the mountain. Thankfully we had a Chinese guide who seemed to know exactly where we were and where we went, he was amazing! And once he even took me by the hand and helped me to climb the stairs (not that I couldn’t have done it myself but it was far easier this way). Mid-April is cherry blossom time! A lot of flowers everywhere which gave me the feeling that spring was finally here. After a lot of stairs, I can say that I managed to reach the top of the mountain (or at least the top of the peak our guide led us to), and I am so glad that I was able to do it!
When I wrote my first blog, I still couldn’t believe I was in China, and now I can’t believe I am about to leave it. Three months, it’s short, but I used all the time I had to discover most of the places that have to be seen in Qingdao and to meet a lot of incredible people. I am so grateful towards all those people who made my stay in Qingdao unforgettable. Thank you especially to the InternChina team in Qingdao, for giving me this great opportunity. And of course, many thanks to my host family who has been so nice with me!
Read more blogs here!