First Few Days – 2nd Dec 2014
I knew previously that China has a shady record in regards to hygiene and health standards but it was often re-enforced by friends and family: “don’t drink the tap water”, “make sure to wash your vegetables thoroughly (fear of pesticides and chemicals)”, “beware of mystery meat and fake alcohol” etc. A lot of these ‘urban myths’ turned out to be accurate but it’s also important to have a positive attitude and take the bad with the good (loving the food). I think the main things I did in preparation for the trip were to unlock my phone and purchase a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which allows you to get around the barriers surrounding Facebook, Google, YouTube etc. which is censored in China.
When we were crossing the border from Hong Kong to China, we had a laser (looks like a speed camera gun) pointed at our foreheads to check our temperatures – apparently in fear of SARS. I was also told by other local passengers that Chinese women are checked when travelling from China to Hong Kong to see if they are pregnant as there is a lot of dispute about women from China trying to have their children born in Hong Kong so they can get citizenship.
Ended up staying the night in Louhu – the hotel had curtains so I tried to pull them back to look out of the window for a view; all that I saw was a concrete wall in my face! The next morning I visited Louhu Markets and had a great time bargaining with shopkeepers – ended up buying a bluetooth speaker set for around AUD$10.00 and a tailor made suit and shirt for 780 RMB.
When I arrived at the apartment complex I was shocked – fantastic rooms that I wasn’t expecting at all – everything you can think of is catered for and clean and neat within the complex. The wallmart and shopping centre is just down the road (maybe 5 minutes walk) and there are numerous great little eateries around. The great thing about the program is that the existing interns here are very helpful and pass on their knowledge gained over their time to the next batch of interns – at the moment I am finding them an endless resource of information which is fantastic! The first night we had a great bonding session over dinner then beers on the roof of the apartment complex – overlooking the light-up skyline of Shenzhen at night: beautiful!
The induction day was great: answered a lot of questions and gave us important information about Shenzhen and international business here. After the delicious Szechuan-style banquet dinner a couple of us interns (both past and new) headed out to Coco Park and tried out the nightlife there – I have to say it was amazing! Definitely a hundred times better than what you experience in Sydney! Being Caucasian, people love to be seen with you, take photos with you and even occasionally buy you drinks on the house! Again, the past interns were a great resource and the night was a nice way bond with all the other interns.
Overall, the first few days have been fantastic and I am keen to start work on Monday!
Week 1 and 2 – 15th Dec 2014
Company has just moved into new offices – which are fantastic and beautiful, in the centre of Shenzhen (Nanshan Technology Park) which is located next to the new Tencent (creators of wechat and QQ) headquarters! My main assignment for the internship is to compile an IVD market analysis of Australia: healthcare system, prominent diseases/diagnostic tests, competitors, distributors, exhibitions etc. This is really interesting and makes me feel like I am contributing something worthwhile to the company as they require detailed information to expand into the Australian market of diagnostic sales.
I have also been tasked to study various diagnostic tests that are used currently (ELISA, Radioimmunoassays etc) and compare them with our companies automated chemiluminescent immunoassay system – allowing me to gain an essential understanding of background in in-vitro testing. I have also been taught how to calibrate and setup equipment and have researched and suggested possible exhibitions for 2015 marketing team to attend. Basically I am assisting the marketing team; also intend to help with customer relations later on as well. The company is exactly what I was looking for and the work has been really meaningful. The people in the company speak fantastic English (300 employees in marketing centre and all chinese) they are really friendly and young (average age 23). Played basketball and went swimming with a couple of workmates in the past 2 weeks – which was really fun!
Food has been amazing – every meal here has been delicious and eating out every time is a MUST! The cheap 10-15RMB meals in small street restaurants are the way to go: love me them bowls of noodles! Today we had some awesome chinese meat dumpling sandwiches (pork belly in a mantou) and noodles in Coco park – 8RMB per sandwich and 13RMB for noodles: delicious!
Clubbing has been a prominent activity for us here! Everyone loves you in the clubs if you are a white Caucasian, people will ask for pictures with you and your weChat contact list will exponentially grow! ‘Face’ in Louhu and ‘Joker’ in Coco Park have been the best nights out so far.
KTV is fantastic over here – KTV night was crazy with group performances happening all the time! Been already 3 times it is that good – once with CRCC, once with workfriends and once with some chinese girls! No need to be a good singer – if you put the effort in everyone will enjoy it regardless. Definitely a MUST when you go to China.
Yesterday the apartment complex had a Christmas celebration/party and CRCC was invited to sing – I sang 2 solo songs and was asked for an encore performance which was great! Had quite a few girls coming up to me afterwards for photos and weChat adds!
Overall it’s been a great 2 weeks and I expect it to get even better!
Week 3 and 4 – 29th Dec 2014
Work has been great as always – as a part of the overseas marketing team, in the past 2 weeks I helped review and revise the 2015 English catalogue for our CLIA diagnostic equipment. Also I have been able to sit in on meetings with powerful distributors from India and have been able to grab a small insight from them as to the needs and wants of the Indian IVD market. Training with engineering staff as to the available tests our CLIA equipment can perform has also been interesting – learnt so far about both cardiac markers and TORCH (Toxoplasmosis, Rubella, Cytomegalovirus, HSV, HIV and other newborn infections) screening tests used by pathology labs globally. Designing advertisements and invitations to existing and new customers has also been some of my odd-jobs in the department. I have even been tasked with helping design the company’s new video advertisement for one of our chemiluminescent CLIA machines. Every day is interesting and full-on and I feel like I am learning more and more about the industry.
I am part of the overseas department (~40 people: technical engineers, sales and product specialists) and everyone can speak English perfectly. However, the main issue that sometimes I face at work is that everyone (being all Chinese employees) have discussions and casual conversations in Chinese so you constantly miss out on daily conversations a lot due to it being everyone’s native language. I suppose that you could feel alienated by this but to be honest it IS their native language and it’s not like they do it intentionally so that I can’t hear what they are discussing. But yes – sometimes it can be frustrating not knowing what everyone is saying in a meeting and only getting a slight part of it translated once in a while. I do try and make an effort each day to learn some Chinese off them over lunch but you are kidding yourself though if you think you can pick it up fast if you’re not a background speaker: it’s crazy hard.
Went to Guangzhou for 3 days on the 19th Dec with a couple of friends (Blake, another intern, plus some guys from Hong Kong University). Was fantastic: had some great food, did some market shopping and had a great time in some of the biggest clubs in Southern China! I am now a big fan of ‘True Colour’ haha – you have to experience it for yourself to find out how amazing it is! Also saw some weird stuff like a dog dressed up like a little girl in the middle of the mall: standing on its hind legs and walking with the owner!
The other Shenzhen interns and myself decided to throw a Christmas feast in our apartment complex: I ordered a 4kg honey-baked ham from an Australian butcher in SeaWorld recommended by the Hannah and the Shenzhen CRCC staff. Also cooked some Singapore Chilli Crab and Thai Green Curry. The feast was fantastic – with 19 of my now lifelong friends, I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas!
Monthly Staff Party
On Saturday we had our monthly staff social for the Overseas marketing and engineering departments. We went to a local chinese restaurant had 4 tables and had crazy amounts of delicious food! Remember there being rabbit, frog, octopus, intestines and any other meat you can imagine – all tasted great! Didn’t have much of the frog though – think the thought of it got to me haha.
To wash it down we had some ‘chinese wine’ as interpreted by my colleagues – more like chinese vodka to be honest. Had a few drinks with my supervisor (who can drink anyone under the table – apparently they are made of stronger stuff from the north) and we were soon all off to KTV! A lot of fun and had a great time singing chinese songs even though I had no idea what they were about. Note to self: must learn ‘Xiao Pingguo’ (little apple), it seems to be a party pleaser!
Week 5 and 6 – 12th Jan 2015
For New Years, we got a holiday break of 3-days: Thurs 1st Jan, Fri 2nd Jan, Sat 3rd Jan. However, some of us (myself included) had to go in to work on Sun 4th Jan to make up for days off.
We spent new years in Seaworld for the countdown – was okay but the light and watershow countdown really couldn’t compare to anything that we have back home in Sydney with those world-famous fireworks! Had some fun with the other interns regardless and had a fantastic night out!
For the break we spent our time walking up Wutong Mountain which was fun – great view and some fun slopes when you go off track – almost vertical slope climbing which provided a great cardio workout! We also did the usual KTV and clubbing in Coco Park. One of my colleagues from work, Eric, also brought us out for Hot Pot at a famous restaurant in Futian – was fantastic and great service!
Work has been calming down recently and there hasn’t been a lot of tasks for me to do. Instead, I started user training on the CLIA machines; learnt how to setup and run the diagnostic tests. This week we are also shooting the video advertisement for one of the CLIA machines: MAGLUMI 800. I am acting as the test operator in the video advert. Helped input ideas and recommendations for the video and have been helping to edit a lot of English promotional material.
On the weekend (10-11th Jan) a group of us went to Hong Kong after showing the new interns around Coco Park on Friday. The food in Hong Kong was fantastic and the shopping is great – however, it’s so much more expensive than the mainland – can burn a hole in your wallet very fast if you’re not careful. We stayed in Tsim Sha Tsui and did a couple of sightseeing things like the Broadway of Stars, the ‘Peak’ view (which is beaut and worth it) and of course: clubbing in LKF (Lan Kwai Fong). Clubbing in Hong Kong is very busy – not much room to move in the club and they have exorbitant fees for entry after 12midnight (500 HKD for male entry). Make sure you get in before 12 for free-entry. The people in the clubs are a mix of foreigners and Chinese which is different to the Chinese majority in Shenzhen. I think I prefer the scene in Shenzhen and Guangzhou where there is actually room to move in the club and you don’t have to pay so much just to get in.
Week 7 and 8 – 26th Jan 2015
SNIBE Annual Meeting
On Friday last week my company (SNIBE) held its annual meeting. It seemed to be the time where everyone let loose and had a great time. All company employees were present (maybe around 700 people or more). Sang a solo song and ended up winning 3rd place and 600RMB (out of 20 acts) so that was a bonus! When I got up on stage the whole of the overseas department cheered my chinese name: 国强. Was really appreciative and had a great time as such! Really enjoyed the night as a whole – definitely one of the highlights of the trip!
As I hit the 2-month mark on my time in Shenzhen I found that the current work I was doing in product marketing at SNIBE was not very relevant to my future career aspiration to work in accounting and finance management. Also, the main research task I was assigned on the Australian IVD market had been completed so there was very little work for me to do going into the spring festival holiday (chinese new year).
As such, I talked to my supervisor about my concerns and he tried to discuss with the finance department of SNIBE to have me moved. This however wasn’t possible as the department all spoke solely chinese and thus it would be too difficult. I then contacted the Shenzhen team at CRCC and told them of my issue and they were able to transfer me this week to Joseph Investment Co. Ltd..
The team at SNIBE were very supportive about the transfer and it was very hard to say goodbye to such friendly and welcoming colleagues and friends. I moved company purely due to personal career path choices not due to any fault of SNIBE. My supervisor and the vice president were very generous in offering to write a reference for me as well.
Joseph Investment Co.Ltd. – First Day
Was introduced to my new host company today: Joseph Investment Co. Ltd.. They provide services in investment, investment banking and fund management. The company office is located in the KK100 building which is currently the tallest building in Shenzhen.
The office is fantastic and the people are very welcoming and easy to bond with. The directors cannot speak English but through making an effort to try and speak limited chinese to them, they respond well and are more welcoming towards you. The main work I will be doing is finance research on listed companies and passing such reports onto my supervisor. The work seems much more relevant and applicable for future career opportunities in the finance/accounting industry.
Week 9 and 10 – 9th Feb 2015
Work has been keeping me busy. I feel like I am learning a lot from the research I undertake about different industries, relevant companies and the stock exchange markets they operate in. The office atmosphere is much more relaxed than what it was at my previous company and there is flexibility – as long as the work gets done on time! My colleagues are very friendly and easy to bond with; however since I cannot speak/understand much Chinese, sometimes I feel a little alienated when everyone is having office/lunch conversation and I can’t understand what is going on or how to respond. This is expected though if you are interning at a Chinese firm; it’s their first language and if you do not speak Chinese then it IS limiting.
Our boss: Chen Shuqing, has been very generous in that he has employed a private chef to cook for us (lunch and dinner) every day in his apartment above KKmall. These meals are some of the best I’ve ever had in China and when we eat together it is very informal around a round table; it feels like a traditional Chinese family meal. Clients and friends are also brought along daily to join us and everyone loves it! I think it’s a great way to bond – which is very important in Chinese business: they will only deal with people they trust and who they have a personal connection with. Speaking of personal background and connection; I have been able to bond with my bosses in that my Grandfather (Ah Gong) and Grandmother (Ah Ma) are from the same hometown region/area in China as my bosses: Chaozhou. Also, they love my Chinese name: 国强 given to me by my grandfather, literal meaning: ‘Strong Country’ or ‘Make China Strong’; a very nationalistic name. Every time I am introduced, the fact that I am half-Chinese stuns others as I look very Caucasian.
Last week I was lucky enough to be sent by myself to a technology seminar held in Nanshan that was held for foreign universities (such as Princeton, University of Edinburg and Politecnico Di Milano) and entrepreneurs to pitch their new technology and research to Chinese investors and market. Mainly what they were looking for was venture capital, assistance in penetrating the Chinese market and manufacturing needs. I represented my firm in networking with these individuals and was lucky enough to be introduced and meet one of the most prominent names in Chinese finance and investment: Mr. Dominik Yin. The afternoon was a great experience and gave me so much exposure! Some of the innovations were extremely interesting and ranged from wireless communication via light (Li-Fi: replacing traditional Wi-Fi) to plasma used to obliterate tumour cells in cancer.
Australia Day was celebrated by all interns at Apartment One. We bought some meat (lack-thereof in China) from an Australian butcher in Seaworld and cooked up it on the closest thing we had to a Barbie (kitchen pan), had a few beers and sang Australian songs (Tie-Me-Kangaroo-Down-Sport, Waltzing Matilda, Land-Down-Under etc.) into the wee hours of the night. Then we decided to migrate to KTV and sing our hearts out in style with all the other new interns in the new accommodation at Maple Leaf Apartments. Needless to say it was a great night!
Week 11 and Coming Home – 23rd Feb 2015
Chinese New Year Firm Dinner
My firm celebrated Chinese New Year with a gathering of all employees for dinner made by the private Chef employed by our boss. Fantastic and delicious food as always, accompanied with countless glasses of red wine – Ganbe! (Cheers in Chinese). This was followed by hours of KTV in Louhu with more superfluous amounts of alcohol! Luckily some of us knew Hotel California by the Eagles and a beautiful rendition was made! Somehow I met up with the other interns afterwards in FACE club in Louhu (best club in Shenzhen) and had a great time dancing!
Hayden’s 21st Birthday
We celebrated Hayden’s (another intern from Perth) 21st birthday in China: teppanyaki and a very unique ‘boob’ cake. As the birthday boy, he was forced to motor boat the cake and a food fight ensued as a result. Have had some great memories with him; he’s a great friend for life!
Leaving China and Final Thoughts
The past 3-months have been the best time in my life. Personally, I think I gained a lot of self-confidence from living alone and socializing every day with fellow interns and Chinese colleagues. I am now able to better express myself and opinions which is extremely important.
On a personal level, it was very hard to part with all the close friends in China that I made (interns, colleagues and my girlfriend whom I met in early December). I have already however organised to see numerous friends made on this trip throughout the year.
I think the highlights of the internship program for me were that you could live and work in China and experience the culture and lifestyle here from more of a residential view rather than as a tourist. Also, the connections made whilst working in China and the friendships with other interns whom are also highly focused and talented are something that I value highly and will keep for the future!
I’m extremely sad that I have now left China and definitely see myself returning for work and business opportunities in the future – it holds a fast paced environment and lifestyle that is both highly enjoyable and stimulating. Also the focus on networking and connections (both for work and personal) really appealed to me. I’m already planning to revisit China again at the end of this year to catch-up with workmates and to travel and see a bit more of the country.
Xing Nian Kuai Le!