The 8 Commandments of Being an Intern in China

The 8 Commandments of Being an Intern in China

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8 Commandments of Being an Intern in China


Unfortunately, this article won’t show you how to miraculously open the Yang Tze River (Although it would be very cool if it actually could). But let’s face it; what you really want is to go do your Internship in China and come home with memories of a very rewarding and enjoyable experience.  Since Chinese tradition holds the number 8 as a bringer of good fortune, we have chosen 8 tips or “commandments” that every new foreign intern in China should follow.


1st Commandment: Thou shalt giveth thy best during your internship

best internshipAlthough this seems obvious, foreign interns in China are sometimes unsure of what their employers' expectations are. This often happens because of foreigners' stereotypes of poor-quality Chinese products and/or services (which by the way, is not entirely true), because of different feedback cultures, and because of hearsay that the Chinese working culture is very different. However, people are relying on you, so make sure that you do your work as you would at any other company in your home-country: with effort, dedication and pride!


2nd Commandment: Respect and apply Chinese business etiquette

The Chinese have a very specific way of doing things. For example, when they receive a business card, they always study it carefully before putting it in their pocket. Rushing to stash it away would be considered an insult. Although your Chinese colleagues are aware that you're a foreigner and understand if you don't apply certain business customs, it is always better to take the extra effort to abide by their etiquette and this will be noted and appreciated by your colleagues. There are many sources of information for Chinese business behavior, so be sure to read them but most importantly, use them!


3rd Commandment: Build a strong support network

In the Chinese business world, networks are very important. It is a crucial part of Chinese business because having the right relationship or guanxi (关系; guānxì) in its right form can make the difference between success and failure. Create a good atmosphere with your colleagues through a courteous disposition and a good attitude.  Not only will this contribute to a more productive and harmonious Chinese working environment, but it will also help you develop a strong, professional network to support you in all your business endeavors, and will make your internship far more enjoyable. An internship in China is a unique opportunity to build your network internationally, so be sure to make the most of it and you will reap the rewards in future.


4th Commandment: Open thy mind to different opinions and embrace new challenges

best intern

During your internship in China, you will probably work with both Chinese and non-Chinese colleagues. Your non-Chinese colleagues will probably even be of a different nationality to you. In any case, bear in mind that diversity represents a benefit to innovation, and should be balanced with tolerance and respect. Find that balance and you will find success! An internship abroad is an exciting opportunity to discover as much as you can not only about the country you are working in but also about the cultures that your colleagues come from. Together you can share exciting new experiences and make unforgettable memories.


5th Commandment: Thou shalt not concentrate entirely on thy work at the company

Be sure to always finish your tasks on time and to the best of your ability. However, also take time to build a positive rapport with your colleagues, whether they are Chinese or non-Chinese. Spend your coffee breaks wisely, and make an effort to get to know your colleagues on a more personal level (a tip: make the coffee the last part of the coffee break’s agenda). Coffee breaks and lunches are also a great way to begin to understand what motivated your colleagues to work in that particular industry, the path they've taken, and gain a broader idea of the work your company does. In addition, they've probably Be sure to include non-work related topics to your small talk. Also try to go out to lunch with them as much as possible!


6th Commandment: Honor thy weekends with proper leisure and fun time

Even in a hard-working atmosphere, such as that of a typical Chinese office, keep in mind that not everything’s about work. Take advantage of your weekends and go out with your friends, or put some time aside to devote to your personal hobbies and interests.  You're in a brand new, exciting city, so take this opportunity to explore it and experience new things, such as eating late night barbeque in Shanghai or exploring night markets in South East Asia. Just make sure that you always keep a clear distinction between business and leisure


7th Commandment: Thou shalt learn the language

learn language

If you are in China, you will learn some Chinese. Although Chinese classes are the best option for learning the language, try to find other creative ways to incorporate Chinese into your day-to-day life. For example, try and talk to taxi drivers and ask your coworkers or friends to share with you what they've learned - pretty soon you’ll be “ni hao-ing” your way through the streets of China! Although many expats come to China's major cities and don't learn Chinese (apart from the survival phrases), they miss out on truly appreciating Chinese culture as a result. Learning Chinese will open up so many doors to you in China and back home that it's definitely worth the effort (and is quite fun to impress people with). So find a Chinese language school and get started!



8th Commandment: Thou shalt not avoid Chinese food, culture and customs

No one can (nor should) survive on McDonald’s and KFC alone, so why don’t you go ahead and try out some Chinese cuisine? Restaurants in China are much cheaper than restaurants abroad, with a filling meal at a local hole in the wall canteen easily under 20RMB. Moreover, you'll soon find that Chinese cuisine is diverse in its tastes and flavors, from the spices of Sichaun to the lightness of Hangzhou cuisine and the middle eastern flavors in Xinjiang cuisine. Furthermore, meals in China are social occasions where you gather round a table groaning with food and eat together. China is, above all, a place filled with a long history and an extensive culture that you can immerse yourself in. There are many festivals, traditions and festivities that you can be a part of. Take some time to see the sites and get to know China on a gastronomic and cultural level! Your colleagues will definitely be able to point you in the right direction for everything from street food stalls to the best times to go and visit the local sites.


More than Commandments...

You will learn a lot more throughout your internship in China. Most of this you'll pick up through trial and error, so there’s no need to rush. By following these guidelines, and taking in the lessons to be learned from your every experience in China, you will have a very fulfilling experience - not only for your career but also for your life!


José de la Luz Sáenz Garza
Marketing Assistant


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