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)!
By now, you’ve almost certainly heard that InternChina have started offering yearlong internship placements in Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei. You might have even started the application process already! In either case, before you set off on your adventure to this East Asian hub of culture, business and trade, it’s vital to get the answers to a few important questions: is Taipei expensive? What are my average living costs? Will I be able to afford a penthouse in Taipei 101? (Spoiler – probably not!)
The good news for you is, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you budget for living in Taipei, along with some need-to-know money saving tips.
It’s important to bear in mind that Taiwan’s currency is not the same as in Mainland China, and that prices aren’t the same either. Interns can expect to eat out at an inexpensive restaurant in Taipei for around 100-120 NTD per meal, and around 200-350 NTD when they really want to splurge! Like in many capital cities, going out for drinks at a bar can be quite expensive, with a bottle of imported beer or glass of wine costing around 150-200 NTD, and cocktails generally starting at 250 NTD.
Getting confused by all these numbers? The current exchange rates for the NTD (National Taiwan Dollar) are as follows:
£1 GBP = 40 NTD
€1 EURO = 35 NTD
$ 1 CAD = 23 NTD
*Exchange rates as of 01/09/2018. To follow any changes, click here.
How much can I expect to spend per week/month?
Not everyone will have the same budget or spending habits. Some of you may be living on a shoestring, others more willing to spend money on home comforts, while some of you may simply find that once you land in Taipei, you just cannot resist going on weekly trips to Beitou Hot Springs or a cup of bubble tea every morning. Read on to see which budget is right for you!
Low Budget for those looking to save money while still having fun and trying new things:
Middle Budget for those who treat themselves to weekly nights out, often come on trips and perhaps buy more western foods:
High Budget for those who aren’t afraid to spend more on cocktail bars, frequent taxis and other luxury items:
Bear in mind that the figures above are all estimates, and the amount each intern spends will vary depending on their personal requirements. It might be reassuring to know, however, that medical care in Taiwan is incredibly cheap – with an ARC (Alien Resident Card), you can see a doctor or dentist for just 150 NTD!
Money Saving Tips !
Maybe you’re saving up for that trip to Taroko National Park, making sure you can afford the flight home, or maybe you just need to cut back after one too many trips to the spa. Whatever the case, it can be useful to know where you can draw in the expenditures and save a few extra pennies:
1. Buy a bicycle! For interns living and working in a city as flat and compact as Taipei, the value of having a bike cannot be overstated enough. When you could spend upwards of 1400 NTD per month on metro and bus rides, buying a bicycle early on (used ones can be bought for just 1000 NTD) is a solid investment that will save you loads in the long run.
2. Alternatively, if you don’t want to commit to buying your own bike, or simply don’t have the space to store it, Taipei’s YouBike rental bicycles cost just 10 NTD for every 30 minutes. With a sprawling network of bicycle parking stations spread across the city and close to all the major tourist sites and metro stops, YouBikes are a great, low-cost way to get around.
3. Become acquainted with the 便當 biàndāng (literally ‘lunchbox’)! Don’t let its simplicity fool you, this meal of rice, four vegetables and one portion of meat or fish of your choice is served up canteen-style and is great for filling up at a reasonable price! Classic vegetable options include fried aubergine (茄子 qiézi), dried tofu (豆乾 dòugān) and egg-fried tomato (番茄炒蛋 fānqié chǎodàn), and you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of 60 to 80 NTD. For an extra discount, bring your own reusable lunchbox and the cooks typically give you another portion for free (Plus, you can earn some environmental points at the same time)!
Well, we hope this guide has proved useful! Taipei is a fast-paced, dynamic and multicultural city that rewards those who choose to settle down longer than the average traveller. A new culinary delight can be discovered daily on Taipei’s street corners and there are enough creative, trendy boutiques to satisfy any seasoned shopper, but with any luck, using the guidelines we’ve laid out here, you won’t go breaking the bank just yet.
To discover more about InternChina’s exciting new programme in Taipei, click here.
For more information about life in Taiwan’s bustling capital city, click here.
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!
My name is Zachary Black and I am from York in the North of England. Although I pride myself on being Yorkshire born and bred, I have been very fortunate to travel a lot. Having frequently visited South-East Asia as a child, it is safe to say that I have always had an affinity with this part of the world.
My passion for Asian culture led me to my study of Mandarin at Newcastle University along with Spanish, Catalan and Business. As part of my BA at Newcastle, our year abroad was spent at a partner university in China in order to improve our language skills. This proved to be a life-changing 12 months for myself and has in fact led me to being here at InternChina today. Living in Shanghai ignited my passion for the way of life in China and was the driving force behind me studying mandarin for a further year after completing my BA.
After returning home in the summer of 2017, I found myself itching to get back to the middle kingdom and was fortunate enough to secure this fantastic opportunity with InternChina which is only just beginning. Although Chengdu is completely different to Shanghai, there have been a few elements that have pleasantly surprised me – Not just the Pandas !. For example, there is an unparalleled emphasis on the slow-paced rhythm of life here with people just seemingly going with the flow and taking a more ‘laid-back’ approach to life. This is definitely a welcomed release from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, and even the UK sometimes.
My First Impressions
I have been overwhelmed by how friendly people have been here which has helped me settle in my short time here. One further aspect of life here so far which I am enjoying is the food, Chengdu has definitely justified being selected as a global gastronomic site by UNESCO. The juxtaposition of 火锅-‘hotpot’ and 串儿 – ‘anything possible on a stick’ is complimented wonderfully by an array of western restaurants for that occasional change of cusine .
My time in Chengdu has already pushed me out of my comfort zone, yet I am more than committed to welcoming the InternChina participants here to China. I feel lucky to be experiencing life in a fantastic part of the world whilst further improving my mandarin. I can’t wait to see what the next few months hold, so all that is left to say is “加油”－Let’s go !
Interested in Changing your life ? – Apply now !
Although Christmas in Qingdao is great fun with its Christmas Markets and bright festive lights, one can not help but think of those warm sunny days when the Qingdao Wind wasn’t quite so nail-biting cold! Therefore, if you have a couple of days to take off from your internship, then I would recommend heading down to the Yunnan Province to feel the warmth of the sun again!
After spending a fantastic 5 day Christmas vacation in Kunming and Lijiang. I have put together an action-packed 5-7-day itinerary plan to maximise your holiday:
Day 1: Travelling to Kunming
There are cheap flights from Qingdao to Kunming which can take up to 3-5 hours . Depending on the time you arrive, you can grab a taxi or the airport shuttle bus (25 RMB) to the city centre. Kunming is full of delicious restaurants, and while you are there I would recommend trying these local dishes:
Day 2: The Stone Forest
Some say that heading to Kunming without seeing the Stone Forest is a waste of a trip! The stone forest is a spectacular set of limestone pillars which look like petrified trees! They are part of the world heritage site and is representative of south China’s Karst landscape.
According to legend, the forest is the birthplace of Ashima (阿诗玛), a beautiful girl of the Yi people. After falling in love she was forbidden to marry her chosen suitor, and instead turned into a stone in the forest that still bears her name.
There are tour buses which run frequently daily to the Stone Forest, it takes about 2 hours and costs around 25RMB each way.
Day 3: Yunnan Nationalities Kunming, Guandu Ancient Town and Overnight Train
The Yunnan Nationalities Kunming is a must see! With a student card it costs around 90 RMB, and you can learn about the different cultures and 55 nationalities. You also have a chance to ride an elephant, watch performers and dress up in traditional costumes.
If you have time in the afternoon, visit the Guandu Ancient Town. It only takes about an hour to look around, but it is great fun to watch the locals sing and dance. There are lots of souvenirs, interesting buys, good food and snacks in a nice old architectural environment!
At around 9.30pm, take the overnight train to Lijiang. It is great fun especially if you are in a group together! I would recommend getting the soft sleeper bunk beds which costs around 260RMB, although it’s little bit more that other bunks, you are guaranteed a much better sleep! (Saying that, let’s hope you don’t have a baby with a fever in your carriage apartment like we did!)
Day 4: Lijiang Old Town
When you arrive in Lijiang the next day, although there are many fantastic hostels in the Old Town, I cannot recommend the October Inn enough! This hostel is just for international students,the manager Tommy speaks very good English, and I would recommend eating a home-cooked meal with the other guests around the cosy fireplace.
Make sure to go explore the Old Town and the Green lake (Tommy will give recommendations and tips on how to avoid paying tourist fares!) For the evening activities, there are some great bars in the area to go and visit!
Day 5: Tiger Leaping Gorge
Get up early the next day! We enjoyed Tommy’s amazing scrambled eggs with yak butter before boarding the bus for Tiger Leaping Gorge. For more information about this amazing 2-day hike, check out this blog.
As the route is popular, you will begin the walk with a bunch of people of all different ages and backgrounds. The start of the walk flies by as you hear stories of their own experiences and adventures in China. By the time you arrive at the Half-Way hostel, after 6 hours of climbing, battling the 28 turns, and crossing waterfalls, there is a high chance you will have bonded with your fellow hikers!
The Half-Way hostel not only has great food but spectacular views from the hostel dorms. This is where we spent Christmas Eve!
Day 6: The Descent
The next day, you will begin a 2-hour descent down the mountain to Tina’s hostel where your luggage has been kept. If you have time, I would recommend going down the to see the Gorge, before the bus departs back to Lijiang at 15:30. This walk takes approximately 2 hours, it is very beautiful and a cool opportunity to hear the extraordinary loud roar of the river and to climb up steep ladders!
Option: If you have an extra day or so, I would suggest boarding the bus from Tina’s to the Shangri-La area. From there one can either return to Lijiang or travel a little further north and catch a flight back from Dujing Airport. This region reflects the scenery without incurring the cost of entering Tibet!
Once back in Lijiang, take the overnight train back to Kunming. If you are pushed for time, you can take a flight from Lijiang to Qingdao, however, these flights are expensive and aren’t direct.
I can not recommend this trip enough! Even for a short time, it was great to travel to a different Chinese province to experience a different climate, culture and food. If my pictures don’t convince you, then have a look at the warm average temperature for December and January!
Do you feel inspired to travel from Qingdao to Yunnan? Apply now!
This weekend in Chengdu our interns took a visit to the famous Wenshu Monastery. Upon arrival, the beauty of the buildings stunned us. From the towering peace pagoda to the stunning halls, the architecture amazed us all.
Upon entering the monastery, you notice its layout in the traditional Chinese style. Wenshu is made of 5 south facing halls in a row leading up to the stunning main hall at the far end from the entrance. In classic Chinese style there was maintenance underway including this man precariously perched atop scaffolding on wheels using a jet wash to clean the beams.
Having toured the grounds of the monastery we headed outside to an antiques market. Here we found old communist memorabilia, including the famous little red book, and Mao-ist propaganda amongst other treasures. One vendor was sat outside his shop playing his guitar as his dog kept an eye on the passers by.
After looking around the monastery and the antiques market we headed back towards the temple grounds in search of some food.
The surrounding area to the monastery is home to some of the most famous food in Sichuan. Not ones to miss the opportunity to eat, we jumped in the line of a famous restaurant. The restaurant was packed full with no space to sit. Upon ordering our TianShuiMian (this restaurants famous dish) we managed to find a spot to sit and dug into to this amazing delicacy. Our interns loved the sweet and spicy contrast to these amazing hand made noodles!
After sampling this delight we wanted more and headed to another famous spot near the metro station. As is the case with all well-known eateries in China, this place also had a queue out the front. This time we were queuing for Guo Kui. The menu offered Beef, Pork, Pig’s Snout, Pigs Ear, Noodles and other delights to fill this delightful pastry pocket. I personally chose the pig’s snout, which didn’t disappoint.
Having filled our stomachs with great food and our eyes with fantastic scenery we all headed off. On the way back we stopped by Tianfu Square, right in the middle of the city to snap some pictures and take in our surroundings. All in all a great day out!
Interested in visiting Wenshu Monastery and trying some Sichuan cuisine? 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.
InternChina – More than just an internship!
But what does this really mean in Qingdao? It means weekly dinners, activities and 24/7 support!
I’ve been an office intern for about 3 months now, so I hope I can explain this for you!
During your programme, you’ll have the amazing opportunity to do an internship in China, but that’s not the only think you’ll experience during your time in Qingdao! The InternChina team will organise lots of dinners and activities for you. This is so we can get to know you better, make you feel comfortable in this new country, and give you a chance to meet amazing people! And if you love travelling, there are plenty of great destinations we can help you visit that aren’t too far from Qingdao!
As a Qingdao office intern, I have the opportunity to organise the dinners and trips for our participants. I’ll tell you more about it, so you’ll have an idea of the amazing things you may get the chance to do, and you can discover more about Qingdao.
If you have anything you want to do around Qingdao, just let a member of InternChina know and we can try our best to organise this for you!
Every week we organise one of our famous “Thursday Dinners.”
This is a social event, to share a group meal, discover new Asian cuisine and talk about our week! We understand that you are students, so don’t worry- we try to make these dinners affordable! Usually, we try to avoid expensive restaurants, but they are always tasty. We usually stick to a budget of 50RMB per person, and sometimes this is even less.
How do we organise these dinners? Usually we make a post on our official Qingdao InternChina WeChat account, or we post in our IC Qingdao group chat.
We’ll give you some more details about the restaurant, the cuisine, the food, the time and the location of the dinner. If you’re interested in coming along, then simply join the dinner group by scanning the QR code we’ll provide! This helps us know how many people want to come along, so we can book a table. During the summer, we can have more than 30 people for dinner!
But it’s our job to organise this- all you need to do is scan the QR code and join! How easy is that?
After a week of working hard during your internship, we’re sure you’ll look forward to exploring Qingdao at the weekend! There is so much to do and discover in Qingdao, and we understand that you want to get out there, so we organise lots of activities and trips for you!
We try to organise a new activity every weekend, and just like the dinners, we try to make sure these activities are all affordable so you can take part in as much as you can.
What can Qingdao offer you? There are lots of fun tourist activities,such as the Tsingtao Beer Museum, the TV Tower, the zoo, the aquarium, the Huadong Vineyard. However, we also want to make sure you see the natural beauty in Qingdao! Outdoor activities such as hiking Fushan or Laoshan with our guide Green Tea, bouldering, archery, go karting are always popular, especially during the summer.
We also want you to learn about the Chinese culture while you are here, so we organise cultural activities such as calligraphy classes, Chinese cooking lessons, tea ceremonies, or even Kung Fu lessons!
There are different things to do during different seasons, so you may also get to attend the German Christmas Market, or some opening ceremonies!
You will definitely never be bored, with plenty of activities available for you to explore the city, have fun, and network!
We also try to organise some weekend trips for you to discover other cities in China.
Recently, we organised a weekend trip to Beijing- after all, it would be a shame to come to China and not visit the Great Wall! In the past we have also organised trips to Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou and Qufu… the possibilities are endless!
For any weekend trips we organise, we will provide you with a detailed schedule so you can make the most of your time in each city! We will also let you know how much each trip will cost, and this will include your transport, accommodation and activities for the weekend. It will cost more than a regular Saturday Event, but it is definitely worth going and exploring more of China!
The InternChina team offer you 24/7 support while you are on place, and we are also here for you before and after your time in China!
When you arrive, we will pick you up from the airport and take you directly to your accommodation, whether is an apartment or a homestay. We’ll also give you an orientation to help you understand Chinese culture, and give you some advice about living in Qingdao.
You will receive a welcome pack, which includes a SIM card, travel card, map of the city, and address card and some InternChina goodies!
We are here for you whenever you need us!
Moreover, our team on place is also always here to support you! When you arrive we will give you an orientation, in order to make you understand Chinese culture, and give you lots of advice! If you feel sick, we will come with you to the hospital! If you have any other issues, we are here to help if we can!
InternChina’s Favourite Places
When you are new to Qingdao, and don’t know where to go or what to see, we’re here to tell you where to go! Below is a list of my favourite places- you can even impress your colleagues with your Qingdao knowledge and invite them along!
Magic Eggplant – or the best Chinese restaurant ever! 美达尔大尧三路店 – Dayao San Road
ChunChuan Iron Plate – best Korean restaurant! 青岛市崂山区苗岭路 瑞纳花园内 Miao Ling Road
Huadong Winery – a beautiful vineyard, where you can visit the museum,the caves and try some wine at the end! 南龙口崂山Nanlong Kou, Lao Shan
ZhongShan Park – an amazing park where you can easily walk around for hours! The zoo is right next to it if you want to see a panda! 市南区文登路28号 Wen Deng Road
I hope these details and pictures convinced you that InternChina has so much more than just an internship to offer you! You’ll never feel alone, and this experience will be unforgettable!
The easiest way to join us is to apply now!