Tom James has landed, and he finds China “really exciting.”
“I think I have settled in well so far. I also feel very surprised at how different Chinese culture is to western culture. But that is a good thing!” says Tom, adding that Gi2C has been “very welcoming” so far.
“Also, I feel a little nervous for two reasons. One, for crossing the roads without getting run over! And two, because I want to impress my company.”
Tom will do his China internship program at Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) in Beijing the nation’s capital. As Tom mentions in a previous post, he’ll live with a Chinese family, an excellent way to soak in the local culture.
“My family is super friendly,” says Tom. He’s staying with a mother, father and their 11-year-old daughter. “The cousin has been translating so far, but the mum and daughter do speak a little English. They are really friendly and helpful!”
The biggest cultural difference Tom noticed immediately between China and his native England is “communication.”
“Some Chinese are very friendly and happy to help, others don't want to at all. And it is surprising how direct some people talk to you. They don't have as much respect for privacy as back in England, it seems, and some ask questions that I sometimes don't feel like I want to share the answers with them.”
Like any expat, local, or anyone doing an internship in Beijing knows, pollution is a regular topic of discussion.
“It is okay where I am living but further towards the centre, the air is very polluted.”
While the pollution was no surprise, other facets of the city were.
“It is much cleaner that I expected (I was expecting garbage on the pavements) and very well looked after. And also the temperature - it is ridiculously warm here!”
Beijing is also one of the world’s largest cities. It’s also home to one of the world’s largest populations for a city at over 20 million people. Some say the precise population is unknown because of the high volume of migrant workers that file into the city daily. With China’s urbanization plans in full swing, Beijing’s bulging population shows no signs of abating any time soon.
The New York Times has an excellent multi-media series on China’s plans to move 250 million rural dwellers into the cities. You can check it out here.
“Very big,” says Tom when asked about his initial impressions of Beijing. “I could fit all the people from my hometown into my apartment building!”
And what would an experience in China be without digging into the local cuisine? Fortunately for Tom, living with a host family ensures he’ll have his share of Chinese fare.
“Rice, rice and more rice!” says Tom, “with different dishes in the middle of the table to share with the family,” when asked about his food experiences so far. “I also had noodles for lunch today. It is incredibly hard to eat them with chopsticks!”
You’ll get the hang of it soon, Tom, we’re sure! Sounds like you’re having an incredible experience. We’ll check in for another update.