While living in China you will unknowingly pick up some of their habits and customs. The first thing I want to mention is you should be aware of how you can count using your fingers. I think it’s very convenient to use the Chinese way of counting. For example when showing the number 6: It feels much easier to make a telephone shape with one’s hand, than to use both hands for just one number. Once, I wanted to buy two bottles of water and because I was used to counting ”western style”, I ended up with 8 bottles!
One other funny thing is that Chinese people like to hang their bed sheets outside in the sun, on a dirty handrail right above a busy road! At first I thought they were drying them out, but since then I’ve learned that they believe you can smell the sun on the bed sheets; that it smells fabulous even if its hung by a dirty street. And they’re right!
And don’t forget the Bus Station Running Race! When it’s time to get home after work I usually take the bus. But it’s not like you can relax on your way home. First you have to run after your bus because you don’t really know where it will stop. While you are running in one direction with your many rivals, other people will bump into you, only to find out your bust just stopped behind you. After a few chases I learned approximately where my bus is going to stop and I wait there patiently while Chinese people run back and forth.
And when you finally made it and the bus stops, that’s when the elbowing starts. Chinese people don’t usually stand in line, so you have to “fight” your way into the bus, not letting anyone rush before you. At the beginning I felt like I was being pushed left and right and I had to try and balance myself to get into the bus. But after a short while you will get used to it. The Chinese habit of ignoring strangers around you can be really convenient some times.
The strangest thing is, I really like that you can sleep everywhere you want! It might be on the train, bus, street, car, fence, anywhere is fine! Nobody cares and it’s quite normal to see. You’ll get used to it in no time and you’ll learn to doze off while standing inside the train or bus.
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All good things come to an end… goes a saying. When I arrived in China the first time in 2009, I was a student. I had booked an internship with InternChina in Qingdao for 5 months – not really sure what to expect! The internship description was relatively vague but sounded like a good challenge and I was supposed to live with a Chinese family. What would it be alike? I was confronted with a mix of feelings: curiosity, excitement and a bit of anxiety.
When I got out the airport in Beijing the first time, it was freezing cold. Middle of March the temperature usually still ranges around zero in North China. I got my warm coat out of the suitcase, did all the sightseeing, gained a lot of new friends and after five days I was ready to move on to Qingdao.
I went by fast train and it took me five hours. I will never forget how I arrived in Qingdao: a beautiful sunny but cold and windy day. My first day at the host-family was strange: because it was early afternoon only the grandma was at home, watching TV having her feet on the couch table and making jiaozi. She was laughing at me because I didn’t understand her Yintaihua on the first day! I kept sitting on the couch and offered my help, trying to follow the Chinese soap operas on TV – but useless – of course I was a guest, so no chance to help.
In the evening I got to know the rest of my family: my 12 year old brother and my host-parents. It was overwhelming, they were so nice and curious (but shy) to get to know me.
My first weekend in China was already filled with peculiarity: my host-brother convinced me to eat a table-tennis ball sized (!!!) fish eye and I was friendly offered a fork in the restaurant when I accidentally dropped an oily peanut with my slippery metal chopsticks.
My first internship day I will also never forget: I decided to walk along the beach for an hour to the office – it was a great choice: streets were not too cramped with cars, so the air was fresh and clean, the sun was shining and fresh breeze blew along the seaside.
Qingdao was showing itself from its best side! However, finding the office ended up in an odyssey and when I finally arrived at InternChina I was warmly welcomed by the whole team who was expecting me already. Not knowing that this is the same place where I would come back two years later!
Well, what shall I say… five months internship in Qingdao went by quickly. I used another two months to explore the rest of China and went to Xi’an, Chengdu, Guilin, Hongkong, Xiamen, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai – it was a breathtaking trip full of joyful moments. I left China with millions of beautiful memories, lots of new friends and the offer to come back any time.
I took this chance after my graduation and started working for InternChina in Qingdao as an office manager in 2011! Later, I moved to Chengdu to take on a new responsibility by setting up the third office for InternChina!
It always has been a rewarding time – my last three years with InternChina were filled with the most beautiful, the saddest and the most exciting moments in my life. I grew personally, professionally and surely emotionally. Three years China definitely left a mark on me forever, I will never forget how crazy, contradictious and beautiful this country and its people are!
To InternChina I am just grateful for giving me the chance to experience such a great opportunity of growth and success, for meeting so many awesome people and seeing so many exciting places.
Leaving China is at least as emotional as starting in China: I am ready for a new adventure in my life but I am leaving with a mix of feelings again: curiosity, excitement and full of gratitude!
Xiexie 谢谢, InternChina and Zai Jian 再见!
Qingdao has a history of more than 120 years, and the museum is as a great place to learn more about the history of the city. As last week’s InternChina event, we decided to visit Qingdao Municipal Museum.
The museum has exhibitions about several different aspects of Qingdao, and the themes of these exhibition includes Qingdao local history, ancient coins, ceramics in Ming and Qing dynasties and Qingdao local folk customs.
We started with the history of Qingdao exhibition. Although Qingdao city has only existed for about 120 years, there were some people who lived in this area around 6000 years ago. Unearthed vessels and tools were exhibited to display how ancient people lived their lives. There are some collections of models that shows the historical stories vividly, for example, the wars that occurred in Qingdao and the scenery in Qingdao hundreds of years ago.
Afterwards, we continued our visit with the coins and ceramics exhibitions. The oldest ‘coin’ on the exhibition looked like a knife with a hole at one end, people used the hole to collect and carry the coins on strings. Also, there were lots of ceramics there. They were made in different dynasties, and therefore styles and techniques used were totally different.
After that, we experienced a traditional folk custom called woodcut painting. This kind of painting is mainly made for Chinese New Year celebration. Traditionally, the paintings are about characters in Chinese myths. They are believed to be able to protect or attract fortunes for the family. To make this kind of painting, the wood should be cut into moulds according to the picture you want to paint. The mould is then coloured and used to print the picture onto paper. In the museum, they had some moulds already and we just did the painting part by ourselves. We followed the steps taught by the ‘teacher’ in the museum; eventually, we made our own pictures successfully.
We experienced lots of ancient Chinese stuff during this visit and it was a great opportunity to get ‘closer’ to Qingdao.
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Last Friday, for our weekly event, interns in Qingdao watched Peking Opera at the Qingdao Grand Theatre. Actually, for me, although a Chinese from Qingdao, it was my first time to watch live Peking Opera, and it was special.
Peking Opera, also known as Beijing Opera, is called 京剧(jing ju) in Chinese. It is a traditional Chinese theatre and has a history of more than 200 years. It is an art form that combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. The works of Peking Opera are mainly based on Chinese history and folklore.
The performance we watched that night was called ‘遇皇后打龙袍’, literally meaning meeting the queen and hitting the dragon robe. The story is from a Chinese classic literature. Bao Zheng is one of the most well-known ancient Chinese government offical in the history, and he met an old lady on his way back to Beijing. The old lady claimed herself as the mother of the emperor and had been set up by others. After verifying the old lady was the queen, Bao helped her to get back to Beijing and she blamed the emperor for all the misery she suffered. She ordered Bao to punish the emperor and Bao hit the dragon robe instead of hiting the emperor to save himself from being punished.
When the opera started, we were amazed by the unique sound made by the musical instruments, as they are quite different from what we heard from an orchestra. The songs have much more variations with stronger beats. They were in perfect cooperation with the singing of the players. Also the costumes the players wore were gorgeous as they have several colours and pattern on each one of them. The players also ‘told’ the story by their movement, for example, a walk around the stage would mean they took a long trip to somewhere. Even though it was kind of hard for us to get used to the music and to follow the story, we are glad that we decided to join the event!
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After one month enjoying the spicy Sichuanese food in Chengdu and having a great time with the Chengdu office team, I had to say goodbye to our lovely interns, whom I miss a lot. So last week I moved to Qingdao, China’s most liveable city, birthplace of the most famous Tsingdao-Beer. My arrival was pretty chaotic, including me breaking the key of our apartment, but our InternChina staff here is just as nice as ours in Chengdu and our Qingdao-master Leo helped me out together with my two roommates. Qingdao is a beautiful city, we can even see the sea from the window of our office. It is great to by the sea at night. Our InternChina team here is really awesome and helped me to overcome the loss of my Chengdu friends. Starting with the first Thursday dinner I had in Qingdao – Sichuanese Restaurant. With traditional spicy Sichuanese food like Mapo-Tofu they helped me to cure my homesickness from Chengdu. We have also lots of events going on in Qingdao.
On my first weekend here, we had a trip to Fushan Mt. on Saturday. Apparently Emeishan before was not enough, so the challenge continues. After almost an hour hiking through the forest around Fushan, we finally reached the wall we wanted to climb – and did! It was really exciting, but also very hard. Many of us who came back down from that steep wall claimed that we often considered giving up, but thanks to the cheering from our coach and other interns who waited down there, almost everyone who tried also succeeded. The view on top of it was totally worth it. On the next day we all had sore muscles, which lasted for the following couple days. But if we ever get a chance to do it again, we would!
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When you think about China a lot of different things will come to mind, but there are also some things you might never expect. Cultural differences are often bigger than expected, but we are here to give you a little bit of guidance so that you are not taken completely by suprise when you experience these situations.
The first strange thing I noticed in China was that people always share their weight in public, especially women! In China it’s normal for people to talk about their weight and ask someone about her or his weight. And of course they answer very proud and are not embarrassed or angry about the question. So, if you get asked about your weight in China, dont worry… share away!
The second funny thing I’ve observed in China is that you can tell someone that he or she is fat. Usually in Western countries no one dares to say that someone is fat. Maybe only your doctor has the right to say that you have too much weight on, but he would probably just use the term “overweight” and not “fat”. So what is the reason for people in China to tell someone that they’re fat? Mainly because if you are considered ‘fat’, then it is a sign of wealth, health and general happiness in your life. For men it is a sign of strength and if you are fat then you may be called strong!
So, again, if a Chinese person calls you fat then please don’t take offense – it’s a compliment!
Another strange thing in China is that anyone can ask anyone how much money he or she makes. When you go out with Chinese people for a coffee and talk about your job for example, the question might pop up: “how much money do you make?”. For Westerners this question is not normal, in our countries it is not usual to talk about salary and if you talk about it, usually amounts are not mentioned. But in China it is a normal question and they are always willing to answer! Another topic that is usually discussed is rent. For example, when someone has to pay more rent for their apartment, the typical conclusion will be “you are so rich.” In contrast, the average Western person will feel very uncomfortable talking about money.
A final strange thing that I’ve noticed during my stay in China is that most guys carry their girlfriend’s/wife’s handbag when out in public together. Chinese men never have a problem carrying handbags; they are really happy and proud of it! In general it is not common in Western countries for a guy to carry his girlfriend’s handbag, except maybe if it’s too big or heavy. Another peculiarity of Chinese couples: they like to wear the same clothes as their partner as a sign of affection…
Today, I want to tell you a little about how we get to know our host families.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked our Qingdao Customer Relations Manager Rita Jin, if she could take me with her when she goes to meet a new host family next time. She said yes, and I was quite excited to go a couple of days later.
After a 20minutes bus ride from the city centre, we arrived at the living compound and started searching for the apartment where we were to meet our new host family. The area was really nice and people were helpful. I have seen many living compounds in China already, but this one was bigger than the ones I normally visited. While searching for the right building we found a big frozen lake in the middle and thought that this place would be great in summer for our interns and a really nice place to live while being in Qingdao for an internship or language classes.
After we found the right building, we were warmly welcomed into the family’s home. They seemed to be really nice and had just moved in, so they were apologizing a hundred times about their ‘chaos’ (seriously, it was very clean and comfy and not chaotic or dirty at all). Rita talked to them for quite a while, and it was interesting to see how many questions have to be asked and how long it takes to make sure that the family really wants foreign students in their life. Rita was really great at her job in explaining everything that is important for the family to know about foreign students, what problems might occur, what is expected of the family etc. The host mum also had a lot of questions, especially about the general language level of our interns and if the bedroom they had to offer would be ok. I must say: The bedroom was really, really nice and I would immediately go and live with that family!
I am sure everybody who’s coming to China with InternChina and wants to live in a host family will have a really good time and many great experiences. You will be able to learn a lot about Chinese culture and traditions but at the same time also find out what modern Chinese life is like. Of course you have to restrain yourself a little with going out and partying while you live with a family, especially if they have a young son or daughter, but what you will get in return will definitely be worth it!
If you are still not convinced, watch some of our video references here.
Hola a todos! My name is Daniela (but you can call me Dani), and I’m the new Marketing and Sales intern for Intern China in Zhuhai. Some of you have met me already, but for those who haven’t, here’s a little bit about myself:
I am 28 years young and hail from Puebla, Mexico. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and a Masters in Marketing Communications. My favourite pastimes are reading geeky books, listening to music and watching American TV shows. I love animals and am particularly obsessed with pugs.
Aside from Mexico, I have lived in the United States, Germany and the UK; and now it’s the turn of China! I’ve never lived by the beach before so I’m very excited to have landed in sunny Zhuhai. Can’t wait to get my tan on! I have only been here a week but it feels like it’s been much longer, with all the things I’ve learned at work, great evenings with great people and great food, and a busy but awesome weekend in Guangzhou!
I look forward to the next six months, to exploring and enjoying this delightful city, to meeting and sharing great moments with all the interns, to soaking myself in Chinese culture and life, and of course, to working hard and doing the best job I can so that our interns have a fantastic Zhuhai experience and the InternChina staff will miss me terribly when I leave…