re: Essential Apps for Living in Shanghai, China

Whether it’s temporary or permanent, moving abroad to China can be an overwhelming wave encompassing culture, food and language. To prepare yourself beforehand, download this starter pack of essential apps to start your acclimation to the Chinese lifestyle.

Foundations:

Lay the groundwork by downloading WeChat and a good VPN to both your phone and laptop. For staying updated with current events, accessing social media, a reliable VPN is needed – I used Express VPN and didn’t have any major issues. Inevitably, with a VPN you’ll find the internet connection frustratingly slow at times (although forces a great detox from social media; the circle buffer of death appears so often you just give up), which is probably an issue with VPN providers alike. With increasing government crackdown on VPNs, it’s best not to rely on the free one you found in the app store, but purchase one instead.

Meanwhile, WeChat is how you’ll keep in touch with anyone in China. From group chats with friends, work assignments and transactions, WeChat is the Swiss army knife of the app world. In fact, the prevalent use of WeChat in business environments is one of the downsides to working in China. Blurring the line between work and personal time, it can become pretty impossible to escape the office. Interestingly, read receipts aren’t a service WeChat provides, citing the importance of user privacy (really.) for the absence of such a feature.

Lujiazui

Budding Linguists:

You’ve downloaded the basics, let’s move on to specifics. A favourite amongst Chinese language learners, Pleco is a great dictionary app that works offline for situations where only one word is needed – points at phone: ‘salt?’ (salt is a mysteriously rare condiment, even in fast food chains). For trickier times, Baidu Translate (AppleAndroid) remains superior than its Google (AppleAndroid) counterpart and is also usable without a VPN – see my next post for why this is important! While no translation app is yet perfect, I found that Baidu churns out somewhat less mangled translations.

Urban Explorers:

For navigation, I found Apple maps a great way to navigate around the city, with input options in either English and Chinese. For those without an iPhone, Baidu Maps is an alternative navigation option, but unfortunately does not have an English interface. Maps.me (Apple, Android) offers downloadable city maps for offline use, but from past experience have found it useless for public transport information.

Another way to navigate around the city is via bike-sharing apps. Mobike and Ofo are the two major players in this arena and at time of writing, is basically free to use. You’ll need a bank account to put down the 250 RMB deposit, or alternatively find a willing friend to hijack their account.

Food Lovers:

For monolingual foodies, Bon App is a great way to navigate your surroundings by landmark restaurants. With English reviews, menus, price-points and Wi-Fi passwords, deciding where to eat becomes simultaneously easier and harder. While I found a lot of great restaurants and cafes using the app, it is slightly skewed to western tastes and cuisine. If your Mandarin is good enough, Dianping is popularly used by locals and presents a much more reliable indicator of a good eatery, not to mention you’ll find cheaper restaurants here too!

Keeping with food, there will most definitely come a time of pure hunger and laziness, wherein the only option is to order in. China excels in this arena, but for those with sub-par Mandarin skills, navigation of Chinese apps may prove a difficult challenge. Luckily, Sherpa’s is one especially for expats, with an English interface and the option to pay in cash. Food options are not as extensive when compared to ordering from Chinese apps, although will provide a good variety of Western cuisine. Due to this, ordering in will be slightly more expensive than eating out and a delivery cost of around 15rmb is added on top.

By no means a comprehensive list of apps you’ll find useful in China, these make up the fundamental building blocks. Let me know in the comments what apps you use!

 

re: CRCC Asia Internship, Shanghai

Shanghai City Scape Night

This summer I was lucky enough to be working abroad in Shanghai via an internship programme funded by the British Council’s Generation UK. The internship itself, as well as many other aspects concerning visa, accommodation and business/cultural events, were organised by CRCC Asia, a company providing international internships to those looking to broaden their professional experience.

I spent an incredible two months in Shanghai, which gave me the opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture concerning business, meet and network with similarly driven individuals and of course, to explore a city famous for its dynamism and energy.

Application:

Application to gain funding from the British Council opens around October time and closes early December, if I’m remembering correctly! However, if you’re planning on going the self-funded route, applying 6 weeks in advance is advised.

The application was pretty straightforward with two-focused questions (answers 250-word max) asking about your motivations for participating and your views on the UK-China relationship. For these I would really try to personalise both answers, relating them back to you, your experiences and goals. Showcasing an enthusiasm to learn, openness to experiencing different cultures and strong drive for personal/professional development is what I think helped myself and others I met stand out from other applicants.

Once the deadline closes, telephone interviews were conducted mid-January. This is around 15-20 minutes long, depending on how much you talk! To be honest, interviewing is not my strongest suit and is something I’m still working on, but preparing some answers and points you want to talk about beforehand, even writing out key points on a post-it and referring to them helped for me!

I received the outcome of my application in March, where unfortunately I learned I was unsuccessful. Later, (through some stroke of luck!) was told a place was available if I was still able to take the opportunity! Fast forward through purchasing flight tickets, sorting out my visa and I’m on my way to Shanghai!

Shanghai Tower

Internship Placement:

Despite applying for a marketing placement, my pre-departure information sheet was overwhelmingly (in fact, frighteningly) financial. Raising my concerns with CRCC, I was assured my placement would be a marketing role – it is possible to change companies once there if you do find it unsuitable to yourself and your career interests.

While work at Wicrecend leaned more towards consultancy and market-research, after weighing the positives (location, corporate business experience, networking opportunities) and negatives (alternative industry to career goals, type of work) I decided to stay and instead address the issues of my placement. Since I wanted to develop my experiences in marketing, I asked to help in the department’s management of social media and in-house internship promotion strategies, which they were happy to let me assist in.

Day to day jobs consisted of compiling daily newsletters, writing industry reports for Chinese companies and at the time, researching subjects important to the company’s European expansion. Positivity and general approach to work can hand you more responsibility than other interns – I had a fair amount of management responsibilities regarding the department, which was a great learning experience!

The first month was particularly busy; I arrived just in time to compete in the company’s annual sports day. While we complained amongst ourselves at having to attend training sessions after work and at weekends, I definitely appreciated the opportunity to experience company culture at Wicrecend, learn more about its subsidiaries and most importantly develop camaraderie with Chinese colleagues – choreographed cheerleading routines tends to do that. Working in the international department, it’s easy to feel isolated from other employees, but the sports day and training sessions provided the perfect ice-breaker!

Picking at mozzy bites at Hangzhou Tea Plantation

Events & Opportunities:

Alongside the internship placement, CRCC plan monthly events to further your personal connection to and knowledge of China. We spent one morning with the Sunshine Community Centre, which helps individuals with disabilities and found it a wonderful experience to meet and interact with others outside the sphere of business. Business seminars were also organised once a month, providing insight into Chinese business culture from people with years of experience working in China.

Mandarin classes are also provided, taking place once a week after work and lasting 1 ½ hours. Since I was the only one in my group who had previously studied Mandarin, CRCC was really helpful in catering to this and after trying out classes in the first week, arranged classes more suitable to my level, which was basically one-on-one tutorage!

In between such hectic work schedules and events, it is possible to explore outside of Shanghai, taking day trips to nearby cities (Hangzhou is great for tea lovers and getting a little dose of nature) or even weekend trips to Beijing for those wanting to tick the Great Wall off their bucket list. CRCC advertises comprehensive tours with Dragon Trip to interns, but as long as you book tickets in advance you can generally plan out your own trip for much cheaper!

In Sum:

While I can’t say that everything about this experience was perfect, in terms of convenience the programme with CRCC was an easy way to experience working life in Shanghai without the stress and hassle of worrying about anything else. I returned to the UK with invaluable insight into working in China, experience for future jobs, friendships spanning international borders and of course, the drive to return and work abroad in the future! If you have any experience with CRCC or interning in China, I’d love to hear more!

For more information on the programme I applied for, see this page!

P.S. Click here for visual summary of my internship abroad 🙈

P.P.S. Follow my new Instagram hehe > @rookieexperiences

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