Wednesday, 30 March 2016

What's the food really like?

If you have ever been to China, you'll have experienced many strange Chinese dishes. If you haven't been to China, then you are probably lucky!

OK, I'm kidding, it's not that bad. 

It takes a long time getting used to though: there is bones in almost every meat dish, rice and noodles are the most common foods, and Western food is quite hard to come by. When I say 'Western' food, I mean Western food that my family would commonly eat as part of our meals at home; so, boneless chicken breast and good quality beef and mince fresh from the butchers. However, most Chinese stores sell some Western snacks, such as Pringles, Snickers bars and Ferrero Rocher.
Over here, it is easy to get meat at a market, but I still haven't been brave enough to try it out yet. The potatoes at the market are good quality though, so I buy them quite often (Can you tell I'm Irish)?

Breakfast time is generally some eggs or a packet of Belvita breakfast biscuits, depending on how much time I have in the morning. If I am up early (which I never am), then sometimes I would have time for some porridge, having brought 20 packs of Quaker Oats over with me in my suitcase.

Lunch time can be a little more complicated. In my first week here, I tried to be experimental with the Chinese dishes, and I tried chopped chicken and rice, beef sirloin and rice, and fried rice (see the common theme here)? 

However, the chopped chicken was literal chicken chopped up from head to toe with plenty of bones, the beef sirloin was not the same beef sirloin that Anne McMahon would whip up as a Saturday night special, and the fried rice had tiny pieces of processed ham mixed in with it. In saying that though, the fried rice is probably the best dish I've had so far in my time here, so it has become a firm lunch favourite.

Dinner time is generally my favourite part of the day, because after a long day of work I get home and make myself some mashed potatoes with a dab of butter and a sprinkling of salt - the dream dish when you are living in China!

Thursday nights are also Intern China dinner nights and some of the interns will meet up and try a different restaurant every week to sample a different taste of Chinese cuisine. I've been out for dinner twice with the rest of the interns; the first night we tried dumplings, which were very tasty, and the second night we had a range of spicy food at a Hunan restaurant. I'm really not a lover of spice, so the spicy potatoes didn't even tickle my fancy!

The food is most definitely not for me, but I'm trying my best to embrace the culture as much as possible, making sure I use chopsticks for every single meal. It gets much easier over time, and using a fork and knife seems totally unnecessary when you get used to using chopsticks.

I now have less than 5 weeks left in China, which seems crazy considering I've only just arrived a few weeks ago. However, in the four short weeks that I've been here so far, I feel like I've packed a lot in, and each day is another great opportunity to learn something new. I'm embracing every second, both the good and the bad moments. I'm excited about the rest of my time here, and I'm looking forward to sharing more updates as the weeks go on. 

Once again, thank you for taking the time to read this blog entry, and I hope I have given you a little bit of an insight in to life in China.

P.s. Mum, if you read this, can you make me mashed potatoes, chicken breast (boneless) and mushy peas for when I arrive home? You're the best, thanks! X

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Second Week - Settling In

I'm now in to my third week of being in China; which does feel quite strange, because I go home again in about 6 weeks. Time is flying!

My second week has been more of a 'settling-in' period; in terms of getting around, speaking a little more of the language and getting to work. 

My first week was pretty difficult adapting to such a change in culture and language, but the more time I spend here, the more I get used to it. 

I am still finding the language the most difficult aspect; although I've been trying my best to using a Chinese dictionary application when going to the local store, or when ordering lunch. The people here are so intrigued by foreigners, and many of them try to speak English to make us feel more welcome, which is a really lovely thing to do. 

Walking to and from work is like a breath of fresh air when you see the locals up bright and early setting up their stalls for the day. Many families have a garage-like store which they operate their daily business from, then they lock up the shutters and go upstairs to their home at the end of the working day. 

The markets are also fantastic - with many different stalls that have everything you need without having to visit a supermarket. Meat, potatoes, vegetables, potatoes, fish, potatoes. You get my drift?

My job is also great so far; I am a 'Digital Marketing Specialist' for a Chinese media company, so I am responsible for a lot of the social media activity on behalf of the business. I knew all that Facebook experience in the last few years would come in handy at some point - ha-ha! 

I have a lot of responsibility, which is really important because it can be easy to be in a job in which you just try and get by day to day. In my role, I am constantly checking results and performance, and the positive results keep me motivated and encourage me to try and do even better. The people I work with are also great - they have been very welcoming and have a habit of giving out free food. Not that I'm complaining!

On the more social side of things, I have met a great bunch of interns so far. We go out on Thursday nights for dinner, and this week we had a special celebration on Thursday, as it was St. Patrick's Day! We went to a traditional Chinese restaurant that served the best dumplings, and Coral and I ended up heading to an Irish bar. Despite her insistence that we wouldn't be there past twelve, we stumbled out at 5am - in true Irish fashion!

Friday was a bit of a struggle, but all part of the fun! The big party was on Saturday though, and all of the interns met up at the Irish bar along with the boys from football - and we had a crazy party. Green beer, green, white and orange coloured shots and great music made the night one of the most enjoyable Paddy's Day celebrations I've had. 

The next few weeks have a lot of exciting activities in store, including a trip to Macau and a visit to the New Yuanming Palace. 

I'm looking forward to what the next few weeks have in store, and sooner than I know it, it will be time to come home again. But for the time being I'm embracing everything that comes my way because I'll only get this opportunity once. 

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to read this week’s blog entry - I'm looking forward to sharing another update with you all next week. 


Monday, 14 March 2016

First Week in China - First Impressions

Moving to another country is always going to be different. I suppose that’s exactly what we all sign up for when we decide to pack our bags and relocate. Moving to another country that doesn't recognize English as a first language however, can be more difficult of a transition than it may seem.

I've been in China for over a week now; and it is poles apart from what I initially imagined it would be. Moving to America previously was a lot more simplistic in many ways; the natives spoke the same language as me, the food was relatively similar and the integration in to society was a lot smoother.

China is a different kettle of fish completely. When I arrived in to Hong Kong airport after a lengthy journey that began in Belfast, I was pleased to see all of the signs in the airport were in both Chinese and English. However, when arriving by ferry in to Zhuhai, the dynamics changed completely, and finding any form of communication in English was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Luckily, I had Janice, a member of the Intern China team with me to help me get to the apartment. When I arrived at the apartment though, I just passed out after a pretty long journey. The view from our balcony is awesome too; and at night you can see Macau in the distance. 

Next day was orientation day; so I met the rest of the Intern China team, was introduced to the company I would be working for, and had my first taste of real Chinese food with chopsticks! 

The next few days was more of a settling in process before I started work the following Monday, so I spent my time very wisely doing something I do best; sleeping! 

The company I am working for is Recycling Times Media in Zhuhai, a print consumables company that operates in a very diverse and niche industry. My role is in the brand marketing team, focusing mostly on social media editing and engagement. It's a pretty cool role with a lot of responsibility, and it's right up my street. 

Outside of work, there are many aspects of life in China that are different from the Western world. A few examples;

Everyone stares

Whether it's the 2 year-old child looking at you for the full 20 minutes you are on the bus, or the shopkeeper in the corner shop who glares at you when you're trying, and failing, to read the Chinese writing on a carton of milk, you can't help but feel like a bit of an outsider. Earlier this week, a Chinese man legit crashed his bike in to a wall because he turned his head to stare at me. Now he has a broken bicycle, and who knows, possibly a broken neck after rotating it 180 to see why there was a white chick in his neighbourhood. 

Squat toilets exist

They are on the ground, and it's basically a hole in the floor. You have to squat if you want to use the toilet. I'm not really sure whether to hold the walls or the floor to keep balanced; but once I find a good strategy, I'll let you know! P.s, friendly tip - try to avoid when you've had a few too many Tsingtao's!

The food is different

Noodles and rice everywhere. Literally, everywhere. There are nice markets close-by though where you can buy potatoes and veg. I tend to buy quite a lot of potatoes, funny enough :)

Social media is blocked

You're probably wondering how I'm using social media if it is blocked in China, right? Well, there are apps and programs called VPNs. They are networks that you can download to be able to access banned sites. They come in really handy, but can be a little temperamental at times.

Traffic is INSANE

Cyclists, everywhere. Buses, everywhere. Cars almost knocking over cyclists and pedestrians and cutting out in front of other cars with so little concern. Zhuhai is a very busy city, and getting to work in the morning can take quite a while!

The first week of my time in China has been very eye-opening, and adjusting to life in a non-English speaking country has been one of the more difficult aspects. However, the important reason for being here is to learn about a new culture and embrace everything, because we live in a world with so many unique individuals and diverse cultures. 

Being in China also gives you the opportunity to do things you wouldn't otherwise get the chance to do, like using chopsticks, and learning (or in my case, trying yet failing miserably) to learn a new language. All of the cultural differences are staggering, but it is such a worthwhile experience, and going solo is one of the best ways to discover, because you are forced to do everything yourself. 

One of the main benefits of being here is the support network that I have available to me. Intern China have been fantastic throughout the whole process of applying for the program, travelling to Zhuhai, and integrating me in to the new role and environment.

The Intern China team also arrange weekly activities, such as football games on a Tuesday night, Chinese language classes on a Wednesday, Thursday night dinners and larger weekend activities. Last week I met the rest of the interns in Zhuhai, and was able to go to the ATP Challenger Tour Final at the Hengqin International Tennis Centre at the weekend, which is a fantastic venue. There is also a great network of people over here, and it makes life in China a little bit easier.  

I'm excited about the rest of my time here in Zhuhai, and I'm looking forward to sharing more blog posts online about expat life in China. I'm also very excited about spending St. Patrick's day here - so I'll have to show the locals how it is done! Xiéxié nín de yuedu (Thanks for reading)!