China Internship Program
Welcome to Beijing, the capital of the people’s republic of China. Beijing, the second largest city in China, translates directly as ‘North Capital’, though it has not always been referred to as Beijing having formally been called ‘Peking’ and has subsequently been named ‘Ji’, ‘Zhongdu’, and ‘Dadu’ in the past. It was in 1949, however that the city finally returned to being called Beijing and has remained so since!
Over the years Beijing has grown enormously as an international city, now having become increasingly cosmopolitan and a popular destination for tourists, expats, foreign students and in recent year's foreign teachers.
Beijing boasts the nation's largest political, economic, cultural, educational, trade and communication centre and with a massive population of over 17 million people in its area of jurisdiction, Beijing is large enough to be treated as a province in its own right. There are 16 urban and suburban districts in Beijing and two rural counties, populated with over 13 million residents just in its urban area.
The four seasons in Beijing are distinct throughout the year and each holds beautiful features that make it difficult to choose a favorite.
The autumn and spring seasons are short and seem to pass by quickly making room for Beijing's long and hot summers. At the other end of the scale the chilly Beijing winters seem to last forever, but the picturesque sites of the city covered in snow are enough to make even the coldest months worth it! Chinese people often say that spring in Beijing is so short, once winter is over its time to start preparing for the summer and the same for autumn leading into winter!
Living in Beijing you can expect to experience the sandstorms that sweep through the city in the spring, turning the sky an intriguing orange colour. Fascinating as this is and worthy of a great photograph, I recommend being prepared with sunglasses!
One of the most popular transport hubs in northern China, Beijing has an extremely well developed transport system, making the city an easy and convenient place to get around. Like any capital city, rush hour in Beijing can be manic but there are so many methods of transport, getting around are accessible even at the busiest of times (8:00 and 18:00). Safety in Beijing
Like any country you may travel to, you must ensure you have your wits about you and Beijing is no exception. Wherever you travel to it is easy to be skeptical of a new place and assume everybody that looks at you is about to scam you but this is not always the case! Just ensure you use your common sense and you can't go much wrong!
As mentioned previously, Beijing transport is crowded and busy, so ensure that you keep your belongings safe. Pick pocketing does occur occasionally so keep your bag on the front of you and your money; mobile phones where you can see them.
Being a capital city, tourists flock to Beijing in masses, so evidentially some locals have created scams to pry on unsuspecting foreigners with RMB burning a hole in their pockets. Two of the most popular scams aimed at Westerners are 'the art gallery scam' and 'the tea ceremony scam'. The first consisting of an 'art student' approaching you and offering to take you to an art gallery, where they will try to talk you into buying an overpriced 'original' painting to help pay for their tuition fees. Perhaps in some cases this is true, but normally when you get the painting home it is bad quality or a photocopy. The second, 'the grand tea scam', which will normally consist of a very friendly person offering to take you to a tea shop and sample some of China's most famous teas for free! They will talk you into it and, hey it's free so why not? Don't bother, they will sit and drink tea with you and then bring you the bill which could be 800RMB and then make you pay or they will call the police, putting you in a rather sticky situation. If you find yourself in either of these situations-don't panic just walk away! Scams like these are easily avoidable if you are aware of them. If you are approached it's easy to just politely say no and they won't bother you again!
For those of you fortunate enough to travel around China you will observe Chinese food is very diverse through the provinces. In Beijing, northern cuisine consists more of wheat products such as noodles, flat breads, dumplings and steamed buns all of which are popular, though rice remains the staple for most locals.
For most people, a stint in Beijing would not be complete without trying the infamous 'Peking roast duck'. This mouth watering specialty is popular amongst tourists and locals alike and is readily available in dozens of restaurants throughout the city. Look out for the famous 'Quanjude' (全聚德) duck restaurants in Beijing, for an unforgettable dining experience! A favorite dish, popular in Beijing's colder months is 'Hot Pot', a type of stew consisting of thin slices of meat which can be cooked by yourself at the table. Adding vegetables and spices to the water it makes the perfect meal on a cold day and getting stuck into the cooking provides an entertaining experience!
Beijing is also admired for its bustling snack streets, so if it is cheap street food you want to try; it is readily available in many places throughout the city. Look out for 'Chuan,' barbequed meat skewers for around 2RMB! For the more adventurous of people, snack streets are the places to visit if you want to try scorpion, snake or beetles, which are all delicacies in Beijing.
In recent years a recognizable mix between the east and west has become noticeable in Beijing cuisine and although traditional dishes will always remain extremely popular, experiments with fusion style cooking can be seen on some restaurants menus.
Catering also for the influx of international appetites, western restaurants are constantly springing up throughout the city, making some of that home style cooking we miss available. Be aware though, if you want to eat western food, you will pay the price!
When dining most large restaurants will have English translations on their menus but if you visit small local places, be prepared that the menu may be in Chinese characters. My advice is to take along your Mandarin phrasebook and have some fun seeing what they have and ordering a range of dishes!
The cost of living in Beijing is not as expensive as some might imagine for that of a capital city. Like visiting any new place the amount of money that you spend is reliant on how you spend it and really is dependent on the lifestyle you choose to lead. If you plan to live on a tight budget-don't worry this is possible in Beijing. If you are prepared to take the subway or the bus and eat at local Chinese restaurants you will find yourself spending a lot less.
Great advice is to 'live like a local'! Try to avoid the temptation of the western supermarkets and burger joints or save them for a special occasion, as an average western meal could cost you 45 RMB, which when compared to an average Chinese dish (12-18RMB) it can soon add up. Also if here for a long period of time, you can spread out sightseeing, although visiting places is relatively inexpensive, spreading visits out over time won't break the bank too much! Also aim to live by a budget, work out a feasible amount on a weekly or monthly basis and stick to this amount, roughly 2,000 RMB (without accommodation) is achievable working on the assumption you live sensibly!