I arrived in Guangzhou, China on Saturday 4th July, due to start work on Monday 6th. My internship is an 8 week placement as an International Coordinator in the Guangzhou Municipal Government International Relations Office with the Secretariat of Guangzhou Award for Urban Innovation. They operate from the 39th floor of the Pearl River International Building in the centre of Guangzhou.
I am staying in an apartment with a Chinese family I know through a friend at college. My homestay family have a really good level of English which is incredibly helpful because the language barrier is really difficult and quite overwhelming at first. If I had have needed to find and live in my own apartment, the team at the UoB Guangzhou Centre are incredibly helpful. They made me feel very comfortable on my first visit there and Vivian, the Director of Operations, said she would have helped me look and find somewhere safe.
I’ve travelled to a lot of places in Europe however this was my first time outside of the continent, never mind my first trip to China! Guangzhou is huge with so many high rise and tall apartment buildings! Although the city and suburbs have around 14 million people it hasn’t yet seemed overwhelming busy – the only times it becomes obvious is when you are packed so tight into the subway carriage that you can’t move your arms and have to elbow your way out when it’s your stop!
Guangzhou is also hot and humid and it’s so easy to get sweaty and flustered on the way to work. Everyone I’ve met has asked me what I think of the weather – it’s not only a British habit to complain about the weather all the time! So combined with rush hour on the subway it can leave you feeling a bit stressed.
Arriving on the Saturday night and starting work on Monday may not have been the smartest idea. I definitely hadn’t recovered from the jetlag and was tired for the rest of the week. This probably also had a lot to do with getting myself into a routine of waking up at 7:30am instead of lounging around all morning as I had been doing at the start of the summer break!
The first task on Monday morning was to get familiar with the office and their work. There are three separate but interlinked teams that work out of my office: The Guangzhou Award for Urban Innovation, the Multilateral Working Group and the Guangzhou Institute for Urban Innovation. After reading leaflets and looking through the websites I was given a work list and my project was briefly explained to me. It’s a publicity project aiming to raise Guangzhou’s visibility on the Metropolis website. They are also making use of my native English and asking me to proof read any English-text documents, which is a test of my grammar skills!
Office routines are much different in England than here. The office day technically starts at 8:30am then they work until 12pm, take a two hour lunch break and work 2pm until 5:30pm. In the two hours it’s more than common for office workers to take a nap from maybe 1 ‘til 2! They have fold out camp beds and pillows and take a nap to ‘increase afternoon productivity!’ The two hour lunch break totally threw me – having done some work experience at home and taking about 50 minutes for lunch, plus knowing lots of people that sometimes just eat at their desk, the extra time felt really strange.
This odd habit has already started to feel normal however and I’m sure in the next weeks I’ll be fully into the Chinese routine!