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Internships in China – Background, Tips and Tricks

Author: The expert team from ICC-Portal (China-Blog und Interkulturelles Training)

China is and always will be an appealing place for Germans to do an internship. The strong economy and the many international companies in the Middle Kingdom offer interesting opportunities for applicants with various degrees and career goals. At the same time the country is an inviting place to broaden cultural horizons and collect intercultural experience. In the following is some important background information and tips for anyone who is planning an internship in China.

How important is knowledge of Chinese?

Knowledge of the Chinese language is certainly a big advantage. But an internship in China is also possible without this ability. For students and graduates without extensive China experience or knowledge of Chinese, German and international companies present an opportunity, or Chinese firms and organizations who work together with foreign countries. For interested parties who have spent a longer time in China and who have better command of the language, an internship in a purely Chinese company or organization is recommended at least from a language aspect. However for that you must also be able to cope with a different business culture.

Do you have to pay for an internship in China?
Fundamentally internships should not cost anything. Of course costs for the flight, accommodations and food have to be expected, but the question arises as to why interns should pay money to companies or organizations where they wish to contribute something. The sometimes overpriced staffing firms for China internships should only have their existence confirmed and supported if you are very financially independent, would like to forgo your own search effort and can be certain that the intermediary side will uphold what they promise. Paying for an internship shouldn’t be considered a matter of course when you think about how many national and international students and graduates are looking for internship spots in China. This also depends on the employer, which is also true in other countries.

What is the usual length of an internship in China?
In general you should bear in mind that it takes a certain amount of time before a person has settled in in China. For that reason the stay shouldn’t be too brief. After their time with a company interns often go on a tour of China, which is highly recommended once you have actually made it to the Middle Kingdom. With some organizations, like for example the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you have to apply at least six months in advance. The minimum length for an internship there is six weeks. Numerous companies require a minimum length of three to six months so that the initial training effort will pay off for them.

Insider tips and assistance for an internship in China?
In China too it is worthwhile to look for the so-called “hidden champions.” The big names like Siemens, VW, etc. are understandably deluged with internship applications. An alternative to VW or BMW could for example be a smaller, but still very successful German company that supplies equipment to the German car manufacturers. Something similar can be said for the choice of location: those who can’t or don’t wish to go without western products and lifestyle will be happiest in cities like Peking, Shanghai or Hong Kong. Otherwise it’s an exciting challenge to live and work in regions that are not so strongly characterized by foreign influences. Students who require financial support for their internship have the opportunity to enquire with the international office of their own university to see if there is financial assistance. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) should also be mentioned, as they offer financial help for certain internships in foreign countries when an early application is filed.

Tips and addresses for the application
In general similar rules apply for applications in China as they do in other countries. A complete CV (with photo) and a proper cover letter are common courtesy. A neat appearance and polite behavior at the interview, whether online or offline, is also recommended. Some German applicants in the past have been surprised that Chinese HR personnel asked personal questions that are uncommon in Germany. That could possibly be related to the fact that in China the private care of ones parents is more important for employees than in Europe. In addition German applicants were also surprised by what was from their point of view a confusing application process with Chinese firms. Reasons for this can be extended decision making channels that are not revealed to the applicant. Here it is recommended to remain patient and friendly. Of course careful research to find a suitable employer comes before the application for an internship in China. The vast number of German companies who are represented in China cannot all be listed here. A quick check of the web page is usually enough to find the list of job vacancies in China. This is true for government organizations, NGO’s and other organizations. Of all the online portals SinoJobs is worth mentioning, Germany’s unbeatable number 1 for internships and jobs in China and in a China context.

Good tips for living and working in China are offered by the
Deutsch-chinesischer Knigge.

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