First Impressions: A long way from Galway; 5232.46 miles to be exact

Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City

The entrance of the Forbidden City at Tian’anmen Square in Beijing

Well I have now being in China a full week and what a week it has been! I come from Ireland, a small island adrift on the edge of Western Europe. We are 4 million people strong and our tallest building is approximately 15 floors high, everyone speaks English and it is very much a westernised country. So you can imagine the culture shock that met me as it dawned on me that knives and forks were a thing of the past, that rice has replaced potatoes and that the usually chatty taxi journeys I was used to back home were just not possible here. Beijing is a huge change from what I am used to, but I suppose that is why I came to China, for the experience and the challenge.

So far Beijing is incredible. It’s so big and there are so many people! I admit that I did not prepare myself for the language barrier. Thankfully, I am taking Chinese lessons twice a week and my work colleges are helpful with pronunciation, the way you speak Mandarin is very difficult, it is like a tongue twister. I did not realise that the tone of your voice can change the meaning of the word.

Besides the language, I can’t say everything else is what I would have expected; I never even considered some of the street smells I have smelt. But it is all a great learning process and cultural enlightenment!

I can now inform everyone that I have mastered the art of chopsticks. Every meal, even noodles, you are given chopsticks and, at first, I was a bit apprehensive. It was difficult but it was either learn how to use them or go hungry. I have now grown accustomed to them. I love the food, but after a bad experience on the first day where I ordered what I later found out to be chicken cartilage I was a little put off. Dumplings, although not that adventurous, are so delicious. I attended the traditional Chinese street market where I partook in some more questionable dishes such as deep-fried cockroaches and scorpions, not for the faint of heart. I also noticed that the supermarkets are huge over here compared to the local shop I’m used to. Some brands you can tell what they are like Oreos and Coke, but of course it’s just all in Chinese now.

I went to Tiananmen Square on Saturday and it was very crowded as it was the last day of the Chinese week-long national holiday so all of the Chinese from all around the country came to see it. It was the smoggiest day so far, “smog” here is actually the polluted air and it just looks like smoky fog. It’s a real shame because after it rains the smog clears and you can see that Beijing is a beautiful city. The views would have been amazing because the architecture and area is so beautiful, but we couldn’t fully appreciate it due to our impeded vision.

The group I went with were stared at and people took our picture constantly because we look so different, as none of us are Chinese. One woman actually asked me to take a photo with her son. I bent down to kind of put my arm around the child and then she plopped him into my arms. That was something I was not expecting.

I started work on Monday the 10th of October. It was great, I felt very welcome as I was greeted by my supervisor and boss. Very genuine guys both of them. They are both American so the language barrier was not a problem. I am currently working on the online marketing aspect of CPG as well as learning just how CPG operates as a business and what their USP is. In the coming weeks I hope to get more involved in the international aspect of the business as well as helping them to grow their online presence through the utilisation of the social networking scene.

  • John Allen- CPG Business Intelligence Intern

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