Well it’s finally over, my internship is complete. It’s hard to think that I was there for an entire month, it seemed to have flown by so quickly. From waking up in the morning, going straight to work, finishing, meeting up with the rest of my CRCC colleagues for dinner and the occasional drink, everyday seemed like one new exciting experience after the next. By the end of the month, it seemed autonomous, that within that short period of time I had already sunk so deep into the work and culture that it was second nature. I mean, I already had developed local eating spots, eating so regularly, that though they didn’t speak English they knew my order and was already in the wok cooking by the time I had sat down.
I won’t forget my time in Shanghai too quickly that’s for sure. Everyday had new and exciting opportunities whether it be trying to decipher a menu, a new project at work, or simply just making from location to the next. There wasn’t a day that went by that not a single memorable thing had occurred.
Don’t get me wrong though, there was a definite “culture shock” as they say. It took a bit getting used to going from a city of 200,000 to a city of millions. It seemed like the area was even smaller. But as you see from the size of the buildings, it’s not hard to tell how they fit so many people into one city. It was just the simple things that I found that were hardest to get used to. In particular being able to drink clean water from the tap. I’ve never bought so many bottles of water before in my life, I was going through 5-8 bottles a day. And another was the traffic. Not only people driving on the opposite side of the road, but on the sidewalks also. I queried how there wasn’t as many car crashes as I thought there would be, but as I was explained “it’s quite hard to crash when you’re only going 30 kilometres an hour”, which now makes a lot of sense. For those who stereotypically think Asians are bad at driving, I would now have to argue quite wholeheartedly, considering the conditions they drive unremarkably well.
But it’s been sensational diving in head first into the culture that Shanghai had to offer. As I’ve mentioned before, the food and the nightlife are something that just has to be taken with an opened mind to gain the full experience. Another major aspect that seemed to quite enjoy was the shopping. For one who has fully embraced the online shopping world and can’t quite remember the last time I set foot into a shopping centre, it was quite exhilarating. And of course I am talking about the markets, and bargaining. The only part of the Chinese language I managed to successfully learn, and with that the game was on. Whether it worked or not, or whether it was going to last, it didn’t matter, with an arsenal of tactics I always felt like I came out on top. It was fun comparing to see what each of us interns would be able to get the price down too, and I even managed to surprise some of the locals.
But the most valuable would definitely have to be working and gaining some firsthand experience, not only in a design type marketing environment but in an international one also. I remember my first day as vividly as my last. Without even sitting down or a full introduction to my other colleagues I was whisked away to my first meeting with one of their major clients, a fashion company currently in the process of expanding into a showroom. I remember sitting their doe eyed as I sat in a meeting completely spoken in Chinese. I thought then that I really should have done some more preparation, however I did feel a little better as my boss didn’t know a word either and had a translator (another intern at the organization) with us. A couple hours later we had come for what we needed, which ended up being my first project.
From then on out it was like clockwork. Each day working on a project, and then when one finished, it was on to the next one. It was exciting to see the different types of projects that the company was responsible for. Not only were they a marketing company but they did interior, landscape, product and company image/logo design. A few of my colleagues were designing the interiors of schools and libraries whilst others were designing watches and toys.
My work colleagues were great to work with, and it was important building that guanxi and network of work friends. We would help each other in completing the task and ensuring that we met the required deadlines, go to our local eateries and have fun experiencing the unusual culture of Shanghai. Half of the work place was of some form of Asian heritage whilst there was also people from Russia, France, Italy and more. I was the only Australian, which it was fun explaining what Australia day was all about, something I was quite happy to celebrate whilst over there.
With such a diverse workplace it made working there go really quickly, it was fun hearing how different cultures viewed different things and so forth. And while it was funny hearing the broken English I’ve come to realise that was probably my biggest downfall. Being the only non-bilingual person in the workplace made some simple tasks harder. It did not help that there was 5 different languages being spoken out of 8 workers. If and when I move back for work, I will definitely make sure that I am a little more fluent and I have continued to learn mandarin as I feel it would be a great tool to have regardless. My main goal for this however would be being able to read and write also. Not only with Mandarin but If I was to travel to other countries, I think I would put a little more effort into learning the language.
Besides the distinct language barrier, there was not many issues that I had with the work they provided. I was happy and I hope they were too, with my current level of knowledge and was able to successfully complete each task. Like most things there is always different ways of tackling the same task and I was able to learn a few new skills and in return was able to show them a few too. In one instance when having to design a site map and graphical diagrams for one of the mobile applications I was unfamiliar with the software that they were using. Instead I used one that I was taught in my courses and for that project they continued to use it. I was quite happy to be able to contribute in this way, for a company to take on a method in this way is quite remarkable.
Working overseas has provided me with the most invaluable experience to my career. It has definitely given me the edge when competing with others in the workforce. Personally I feel comfortable in being able to work and settle quite quickly into any work environment or significantly better then prior to my internship. I will have to give my resume a serious look over when I get back into Newcastle.
One thing I am definitely going to miss is my guanxi, my work family. Both from the company I worked with and the internship group. Firstly my colleagues in the workforce was one of the most diverse group I have ever had the privilege to work with. I have never been so confused in my life, but we all had the same presence of mind, to make good design and to get the work done. They say people live to work and others work to live, and this workplace had both. I don’t really know which one I side with but there is a definite difference within different cultures.
Finally the family that I grew up with from the internship. We would have gone through all of it. Both the good and bad, and every day with them was a new learning day like nothing else. It was like learning in the streets, and not like Sesame Street where you learnt a new number and there was a letter of the day. You had to learn more than a word, a couple of sentences or two just to get from one place to another. But it was a battle that we all shared together, whether it be from the myriad of scams we were forewarned about, to figuring out what we were eating was what was written in the menu.
It was not all bad however. If you were open minded and willing to uncover the hidden secrets that Shanghai had to offer then you could be provided the world. If you could understand that was what you were being given. My attitude to continue trying new things was what I believe lead me to getting the most out of my trip. I would always say “I didn’t come here to eat something I can get at home” or “try something that I could do at home. ” I truly became addicted to the eye-opening experiences that I encountered each day and by the end of it, nothing could surprise me. Definitely surpass my intrigue and broaden my idea of the possible but never fully surprise me.
It will be these quick learning sessions that will stand out the most in my mind and what I feel I will take out of this experience the most. An extraordinary culture, unparalleled experiences, and a second family to go exploring with.
Its time to write about the nightlife in Shanghai. Boy, did it not disappoint. As I was only there for only a month, I tried to make the most of it and as a result I spent every night out, except for two in which I ended up being sick.
But let’s start with bars. With a range of bars catering to all different types of nationalities and tastes the bars in Shanghai were something not to be missed. As I arrived on my first day, forgetting I just spent 14 hours on a plane, it was time to go out. With the older interns showing the way, they took us to spot which soon too became our regular. With endless choices of drinks and even shisha on the desert menu, each bar brought their own style.
Next it was time to step it up with the nightclubs. With table service as the main focus, it was clear to show who had the money to spend on a night out. With some special help from some new friends navigating each nightclub was one drunken memory after another. Not as much dancing happened from my part unfortunately as the floors were packed.
It wasn’t just one night club at a time though. It seemed we would always end up club hopping around the city as there was always a party on at each place. Finally ending up at what I believe Newcastle should introduce, after parties. A nightclub that won’t start getting busy until about three or four in the morning. With a few underground raves to add to the mix, these nights were not for the faint hearted.
Moving onto the music, I’ve never heard so much Katy Perry before in a night out. But each bar had their own mix and each nightclub had their own DJ. Being able to see a few major performances, front row I might add, by DJ Snake and Taboo was also on the highlight reel. I did not hear much to or at all any Chinese music whilst out though.
If you weren’t dancing and lucky to have a table you were playing what seemed to be more popular dice games. The locals can’t get enough of it and I managed to learn a few games also. It was really a strange experience going into a nightclub where the majority of people are sitting down and playing with dice, especially considering the amount of money each table would have to pay.
All in all the nightlife in Shanghai is non-stop. With a few million people in the city, no matter what night of the week it is, something is happening somewhere. You just got to dig a little to find the true gems of the city.
Three weeks complete. The idea of daily posts has just gone out the window. It feels like this week has just gone way too quickly. Its event worst to think that I only have one week left here in Shanghai. However I can’t believe I have been here for so long and have yet to talk about the food. So here it is, a Shanghai food appreciation post.
Well it has failed to disappoint. The food over here is completely insane and is one of mt favourite aspects of Shanghai.
Firstly the price of it. I have been over here eating three proper meals a day and on average spending roughly 100 kuai on food and that’s living quite lavishly. In reality it is only 20 dollars Australian which I wouldn’t be able to get dinner for that price. With places over here selling dumplings and rolls for 2-3 kuai, it is really not that hard to break the bank while over here.
My favourite and possibly the more interesting are the side stalls or street food that have swamped Shanghai. My favourite, a little setup called Babi Mantous, with the iconic Jackie Chan as the face of it, serving my a wide range of dumplings and my favourite zhurou dabao (large pork steamed buns). Being such a regular here is helping as my Chinese is shocking, the guy has even managed to learn a little English.
Other street food on my list as I walk down include egg wraps, shish kebabs, octopus kebabs, and a whole assortment of food that I can neither say nor explain. As long as there is a good line up for the food, you know you are in the right place.
Talking of dumplings however, I was able to visit was is considered to be the most famous dumplings in the… world I believe. Once I saw the queue for it, I could see why. People were lining up for over 2 hours for these bad boys, and some even already had food in their hands. I waited, only for half an hour, and I could taste why.
Next on the list are some of the more authentic Chinese restaurants, though you can’t get more authentic then side food. From Lanzhou noodles (hand-made pasta) to Hai Di Lao Hot Pot, one of the biggest restaurants I’ve seen. Just as interesting the food, how it’s cooked is just as fun to watch.
And finally if you are missing a bit of home or would like to try another culture, Shanghai has you covered. A regular for me is a Korean bbq, but I was quite happy to find an Australian bar on Australia Day so I could get a Chicken Snitty. I haven’t eaten a great deal of western food however. I have only eaten McDonalds twice as a good old 4 am feed only because they a McSpicy, which needs to land in Newcastle, and that they deliver to the hotel.
As I’ve said I didn’t come to Shanghai to eat food that I can eat at home. Once again, I have probably only scratched the surface as to what Shanghai can offer. I’ll dig a little deeper in the next couple of days.
Second day of the second week done and time is just flying by. It’s scaring me that in 24 hours I will have hit the halfway point of my internship and my time here in Shanghai. I have tried everything I could and I still barely feel like I’ve scratched the surface. Mainly highs and an a couple unfortunate lows, but as we say it is all part of the experience.
I attended my first Mandarin class today and truthfully I feel like I’ve learnt more on the street. It was good though as I now know how to bargain a little better, which will definitely come in handy when I hit the markets again.
But work has been great experience. After writing my first assignment, it was amazing to actually try and get this experience into words. I hope that I can continue on track with it and help further pursue my career. I am already one project down and now being able to further that into another was quite exciting. There has been some major loss of sleep but it is worth it.
On the lighter side of things, the absolute culture of this place is on par with none. There really is an old and a new Shanghai. Being able to visit a Buddhist temple during the day and then sit back and relax on the rooftop fifty plus stories high, highest at 93 so far, is incredible. The nightlife also, words can’t describe. Shanghai knows how to take care of people.
So here’s to my thirteenth day here and I can only bet the next will be just as action packed. I have enjoyed meeting and getting to know the people I have been working with and building my Guanxi. Oh and as I have realised that I am supposed to be keeping a diary, I shall be posting more, hopefully, each day.
So it’s my third day at work, currently sitting in the office with an actual coffee, a meal that I don’t quite know what’s in it, whilst I continue to slowly prod along with the work that was given to me. All in all I feel like I’m starting to settle in.
I was lucky enough to get a workplace that is only a 10, 20 if I stop off for some Babi Mantous, minute walk away from my hotel. Which is not bad, considering some of the interns have to travel up to an hour to get to work. However, walking distance means a pain in the arse when it starts raining.
The city itself is something else. The amount of people infinitely increases the chances of something interesting to happen. For those who say Asians are bad drivers have no idea. I was sceptical at first but considering what they have to put up with, it’s amazing that I haven’t seen a car crash. I thought New York was bad.
But nothing beats going for a stroll and soaking in the culture. The food here is too good not to try. I am surprised I haven’t gotten food poisoning especially seeing that some of my meals have included an Octopus Kebab and Chicken Paws. I fairly sure it was supposed to say feet.
However I shall get back to work and continue working on my designs.
So I have, or I think have finished packing for my trip in two days and I have to tell you, it still hasn’t sunk in. In about 36 hours I am about to embark on my first solo international trip and I still don’t know whether I feel excited or worried.
Over the last few months it has been hard work preparing for this trip. Getting passport and visa ready, enrolling and prior studies, packing and vaccinations. There always seemed to be something more to do, and I still feel like I have forgotten something. I would like to thank CRCC Asia and similarly The University of Newcastle for this opportunity and their support during this process. Additionally Newcastle Travel for again getting me great flights.
The only thing left is to get on the plane and start this 5 week journey.
I have been offered the opportunity to work with a Branding and Design company called Octopus Innovation. I honestly can’t wait to start, working in the marketing and advertisement sector which is something that I hope to further develop my career around.
Cheers to meeting new people, having to repeat myself (then use google translator), trying anything to eat against the advice of my mother and to seize every opportunity. If you would like to follow use #TerribleTourist