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Three things to know about Beijing before you arrive

Beijing is a vast cosmopolitan city constantly reinventing itself. For the short-term traveler or the long-term resident, the city is one that never grows tired. If you plan on doing an internship in Beijing, China’s capital, below are three things you should know before you arrive.  GET in2 China CCTV

Hutongs. Located in the center of the city, or what is widely considered old Beijing, are charming lanes and alleyways known as hutongs. There used to be more than present, but the vast majority were wiped away in the name of development. But don’t fret. More than enough remain for you to explore as an intern in China.

After having visited Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the city’s major temples, the hutongs remain. Because they cover a vast area of Beijing, you’ll likely only scratch the surface during your time in China. You’ll never grow bored exploring them, no matter how long you stay.

There are generally two types of hutongs: residential and commercial. Many Chinese and expats live in hutongs. Some of the older hutongs that haven’t been renovated are void of plumbing; residents have to settle for public toilets and showers nearby. Plenty of hutongs – especially the ones where expats reside – have indoor plumbing and are as comfortable as a modern home or apartment.

Commercial hutongs are just that, for business. A couple of the more popular commercial hutongs are Nanluoguxiang and Wudaoying, but there are plenty of others. Restaurants, cafes, bars, clothing boutiques, art galleries, bakeries, salons and other types of businesses can be found along both.

Generally, hutongs are both commercial and residential, with businesses and living spaces intertwined. Some are shabby and rundown. Others are cleaner and better maintained. A lot are undergoing renovations as property owners turn their residences into businesses.

Ring Roads. Look at a map of Beijing and you’ll quickly notice several rings formed around the city, expanding in size as you move away from the center. These are Beijing’s ring roads (Beijing is not the only city in China to have them).

The smallest is the second ring road, which encircles the old city where the hutongs are located. The largest is the seventh ring road running on the far outreaches of the city and near Hebei Province, which surrounds the city (Beijing is autonomous and does not belong to any province. Think Washington D.C.). The seventh ring is still under construction and should be completed in 2015.

The purpose of these ring roads, according to the government, is to ease traffic into the city center and to better facilitate the flow of vehicles. There is no first ring road, although some say the first ring runs around Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, both of which are smack dead in the city’s center.

The ring roads have become a part of common parlance in Beijing. You’ll often hear, “I live just outside the fourth ring road north” or “The Canadian Embassy is in between the east second and third ring roads.”

Migrants. Beijing’s has tons of migrant workers. In fact, most of the Chinese you’ll meet in the city likely won’t be local. Instead, they hail from other provinces and regions in China. Beijing is one of a few cities in China that attracts migrants due to better pay, better schools and better living conditions. Keep in mind that when you network during your China internship program, you’ll connect with people from across this vast land – and that’s an obvious advantage.

You have your migrants who have left their homes in rural areas to take up blue collar work in the city. There are also professional migrants with high ambitions and hopes of making it in Beijing.

The capital is also home to the country’s best universities, attracting students from every corner of the Middle Kingdom. After completing their degree(s), plenty of these students refuse to return to their hometowns and hope to find a job and build a career in Beijing.

China is currently undergoing a massive population shift. By 2020, hundreds of millions of migrants from the countryside are expected to file into cities (including cities that have yet to be built). That means no end in sight to migrants heading to the city in the near future.
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