The layout of the table
In China, the layout of the table is very different than in France because the utensils used are not the same. First, according to custom, round tables are the most practical and the most popular because everyone is at equal distance from the middle of the table where are put all the dishes.
Then, the differences keep going with the flatware which is far away from our usual cutlery. In fact we can find in a Chinese table the famous Chinese chopsticks, a small plate, a bowl and a spoon. The chopsticks are made of bamboo or reusable plastic and they have their rules. First we must never planted his chopsticks in a dish because it reminds the ink sticks used for funeral rites, then break a pair of chopsticks in the house of a host can be understood as a death threat, rub a pair of chopsticks before starting a meal is a sign of politeness meaning the pleasant prospect of a meal with friends and finally cross a pair of chopsticks on the plate is a sign of death, chopsticks should be laid in parallel.
All these beliefs around the chopsticks are very interesting because they show that the Chinese are always sensitive and attentive to their customs and that they perpetuate some traditional beliefs.
Another difference is that generally there not glasses on the table because the Chinese are not used to drink while they are eating. It also happens that the traditional paper napkins are replaced by scented hot towels.
The seating plan
In China, the guests are placed according to their "honour", defined either by age or by social status. The place of honour is located in front of the entrance door of the dining room and if possible, facing south. The place near the entrance door or located facing north are the less important and generally reserved for host (master house). Tradition wants that women are being separated from men by each occupying a different side of the table. Finally with a square or rectangular table, if there are only two persons, they must be on two consecutive sides of the table.
The service / The course of the meal
The service and the course of the meal in China is different than France because we do not eat in the same way. Indeed, the Chinese do not eat individually in their plate as in the West, all the dishes are brought on the middle of the table and everyone help one self directly into a small plate what he wants. Thus, everyone can create the blend of flavours that he wants. Normally there should be at the middle of the table as many dishes as there are guests.
I think this way of eating creates a friendlier atmosphere during the meal because the host does not have to get up constantly to serve everyone.
The rhythm of the meal in China is given by the guest of honour. No one should eat before he starts eating. It is better that everyone takes small portions at a time and the host must ensure a good filling of the plates of its neighbours. Finally at the end of the meal it is not polite in China to finish his dish to show his host that we have eat enough and that we have enjoyed the cooking.
Behaviour during the meal
In China aspects of behaviour completely derived from those in western. This is the cultural difference that I noticed the most since I arrived in China and this is the one with which I have the most trouble. Indeed, it is common to see Chinese people eating with their fingers, eating their noodles with a lot of noise their head into their plate, spitting cartilage on the table or even burping at the end of their meal. In France, if someone would do such things, he would be considered very rude and nasty. In China it is definitely not dirty and that's normal. This cultural difference is so big that it can dampen a lot of people who do not have an open-minded. The Chinese are often categorized as “dirty in table” by the Westerns because they are doing the opposite of what has been educated us in France.
At the end of the meal in a restaurant in China, there is no discussion of dividing the bill because it is considered like socially unacceptable.
Share the bill for the Chinese is considered as a sign of avarice. I think this comes from the way the food is eaten. In China everybody share the dishes, whereas in France everybody chosen individually its dish for which he pay.
In China the true honour is to pay for its friends, so the fight is big and it is often common to see a scene of dispute to know which one of the guests is going to pay. Even if you are not the richest, it is customary to offer to pay the bill. This tradition in China has a lot to do with the concept of “face”, that means that the Chinese like to be socially recognized and valued as a person. I love this cultural aspect of Chinese, because I think it shows their huge generosity.
In China It is also customary that the guests reorganize other diners for pay the bill in their turn.
To fully integrate myself in my new country, I thought this was important that I find out about the geopolitical situation of China. My first article in this topics is about the geographical localisation of China and the government political orientation.
About its geographical localisation
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is an East Asia state, delimited by 15,000 km of land borders , shared with 14 countries : Russia , North Korea , Mongolia , Vietnam , Laos , Burma , India , Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan , Tajikistan , Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. China also has a sea area of 14 500 km.
China is the third country in the world by area (after Russia and Canada) and the first by its population. The total area of the country is about 9.5 million square kilometers, which is the equivalent of Europe.
About government political orientation in China
The advent of the People's Republic of China in 1949 brought a profound change in the country's institutions. Since then, China has developed four Constitutions. The first, led by Mao Zedong in 1954, was modelled on the USSR Constitution of 1936 was the most Stalinist and the most totalitarian. Mao Zedong imposed the communist collectivism and the unique-party system dictatorship. Two other constitutions succeeded it in 1975 and 1978. In 1982 a new constitution was accepted, more consistent with the new directions of the regime. Nevertheless, the People's Republic of China is defined as "a Socialist State of people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants". This corresponds to a centralized unitary state completely managed by the Chinese Communist Party.
Nowadays, the political system in China is based on local structures. Indeed, there are in the whole country 22 provinces, 5 autonomous regions (self-governing regions), 30 autonomous prefectures (sort of departments) and 124 autonomous districts. Each member of these structures are elected by the population. The provinces, autonomous regions and prefectures have the right to decide on important cases and to make regulations. Generally, autonomous regions are dealing with their internal affairs. Despite these local structures, Beijing's control is real. Indeed, each structure has a correspondent responsible to liaise with Beijing Government.
Moreover, a control is often kept on the population through the control of information, propaganda, censorship and threats of repression.
The main current leaders.
Xi Jinping, who since March 14, 2013, held the position of President of the People's Republic of China, Chairman of the Central Military Commission and General Secretary of the Communist Party in China.
Zhang Dejiang: Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
Yu Zhengsheng: Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
Harry Wu, the Former political prisoner and survivor of Chinese labor camps died on 26 April at the age of 79.
Born in Shanghai, Harry Wu was just a student when he was sentenced to life imprisonment at the age of 23 years and jailed on April 27, 1960 in forced labour prison camp of Laogai after he criticised the Soviet Union which were at that time an ally of China. The Laogai were the forced-labour camps in China. The term comes from the Chinese words lao, meaning labour and gai, meaning reform, hence the term “reform through labour”
Mr Wu spent 19 years inside 12 different camps, an experience he said “turned him into an animal, fighting over scraps of food so he would not starve like millions of others”. In 2011 Mr Wu confessed to the BBC that he intended to commit suicide twice, because he felt that death was better than life.
Following political upheavals consecutive at the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, he was released in 1979 after 19 years of imprisonment. After his release, he went to the United States to work in geology, but quickly turned into a human rights campaigner. That is why in 1991, he decided to return in China to film clandestinely the forced labour camp reality of the Chinese communist regime.
After this travel he founded in 1992 The Laogai Research Foundation in Washington DC. The foundation has for purpose to expose human rights violations in China’s prison system. He also successfully campaigned to introduce the term Laogai in the Oxford English Dictionary.
In 1994, Harry Wu was naturalized American. One year later he took the risk again to return in China, but this time, he was arrested at the Chinese border and he was kept in detention for 66 days and sentenced for spying to 15 years of imprisonment. He was finally expulse from China under the American pressure.
In November 2008, he inaugurated the Laogai museum at Washington. The museum explain the history and the structure of the Chinese prison system with pictures, officials papers and old prisoner uniforms from the personal archives of Harry Wu or from donations of former prisoners. This museum aims to commemorate the memory of thousands of victims of these camps and educate the public on the atrocities committed by the Chinese communist regime.
It’s been now 3 weeks that I have been to Beijing with my 4 flatmates and I decided to write an article on this little trip of 4 intense days full of discovery and visits.
#DAY 1 The temple of heaven 天坛 and the forbidden City 紫禁城
For the first day we had the chance to enjoy beautiful sunshine and pleasant temperatures. We first went towards the temple of heaven.
The Temple of Heaven is a complex of religious buildings located in the south-eastern part of central Beijing in the historic district of Xuanwu. It is considered as the completion of traditional Chinese architecture. His disposition is a symbol of the Chinese belief, so the basis of the park is square, like the Earth, while the top is round at the image of the sky.
At the time, the emperor was considered as the “son of heaven”, responsible for the link with the heavenly authority to maintain good order on earth and good harvest. Thus sacrifice ceremonies practiced in many temples of the park were very important.
After a long walk in this park of 267 hectares we went to the famous Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City was the imperial palace in Beijing Imperial City whose construction was ordered by Yongle, third emperor of the Ming Dynasty.
The most common foreign name is "Forbidden City", which comes from the fact that as the residence of the Chinese emperors, their families and those in their service, its access was forbidden to the people.
Also called Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing. It is a real city within the Imperial City, in which the Emperor of China and his entourage were practically under house arrest, only coming out in very rare occasions.
The Forbidden City covers an area of 72 hectares and is surrounded by a wall of 10 meters high and 6 meters wide, itself ringed by a wide moat of 52 meters, which is accessible by four doors.
The construction of the Forbidden City lasted 14 years from 1406 to 1420 and more than one million workers enslaved have worked there.
Feeling of the day: Lots of walking and visiting. We tried to see as much as we could. But these places are so huge they would take days to see everything.
In the evening we went to an excellent restaurant to taste the Beijing specialty: roast duck. The waiter brought the whole roast duck and cut it in front of us, then we eat the duck with all the garnish: vegetable, rice, pancakes and sauce. That was really delicious, one of the best dish I tasted in China!
#DAY 2 The Great Wall of China 长城
The second day was spent visiting what I expected more: the Great Wall of China 长城 . After 3 long hours of bus punctuated by endless traffic jam and ½ hour of mini-van to reach the mountain we finally arrived at Mùtiányù 慕田峪.
Mùtiányù is a section of the Great Wall of China located in Huairou District, at 70 km in northwest of Beijing. This section was used as a defence barrier in the north for the capital and the imperial tombs. It was built for the first time in the middle of the sixth century, in the northern Qi dynasty. The Mùtiányù Great Wall has the largest and the better quality construction compared to all the other sectors of the Great Wall of China. Built mostly in granite, the wall is 7 to 8 meters high and its top is 4 to 5 meters wide.
After arriving at the top of the Great wall by chairlift, we walked and climbed the many steps of the wall with an incredible views of the mountains and the forest park. At the end of the day, we chose to go down the wall by an unusual way ... in slide. It was really fun and the landscape was great.
Feeling of the day: I think that was the thing that impressed me the most since I arrived in China. That was really impressive and breath-taking. I really would like to return there one day in my life.
On Sunday morning we went visit the drum tower. After climbing the steep stairs that lead to the 24 drums showroom at the top of the tower, we enjoyed a drum concert. The drum tower was rebuilt in the XV century. Once, the drum rolls marked every 2 hours, dividing the day into 12 periods corresponding to the signs of the Chinese horoscope.
Then, we visit the bell tower, simpler but still offers a beautiful view of the Hutong and the city of Beijing.
On Sunday afternoon we went for a walk in the famous Hutong of Beijing. The hutong are an assembly of narrow passages and alleys, there we can see traditional houses opening onto various courtyards. I found the atmosphere of that place very mysterious and calm, it was quite relaxing.
DAY 4: The Summer Palace 颐和园
For our last day in Beijing we decided to go visit the Summer Palace, the latest “unavoidable” of our travel guide.
The Summer palace is located outdoors the downtown, it took 1 hour subway to get there..
The Summer Palace is a remarkable set of gardens, pavilions, temples, galleries and bridges around the peaceful Kūnmíng Lake 昆明湖. Formerly, the Imperial Court took refuge there to escape the sweltering summers of Beijing. At the time, the Emperor Qianlong, the fourth of the Qing Dynasty, made great transformation of this imperial garden, indeed, everything that the imperial family wanted during his holiday was built.
We visited a lot of temples and then we walked around the lake before to coming back to the hotel to get back our luggage and to go to the airport :(
This travel was really enriching and amazing, I have seen things that I never thought I would ever see in my life like the Great Wall of China or the stunning edifices of the Forbidden City. I will forever keep unforgettable memories of these 4 days.
To see all the pictures that i took in Beijing clic here
Description of my university
I started my semester in the Shanghai University of International Business and economics (SUIBE) at the end of the month of March.
The university is located on two campuses, one in Gubei and one in Songjiang. Songjiang campus is the most modern campus, it covers 100 000 m2 of education infrastructure in a dozen of buildings. The weak point of this campus is it is at 1h30 subway from downtown. That is why I choose to study in the Gubei Campus which is in the downtown of Shanghai. This Campus is really small but it is enough for study!
The Shanghai University of International Business and Economics was Founded in 1960. The university consists of 12 schools: the School of Business, School of Foreign Languages, School of Finance, School of Law, School of Management, School of Accounting, School of Tourism and Event Management, School of Business Information Management, School of International Education, School of Continuing Education, School of WTO Research and Education, and finally the School of International Studies of which I am part.
SUIBE offers 32 undergraduate programs, covering five fields of disciplines, economics, management science, literature, law and natural science.
The university welcomes more than 10,000 students in the undergraduate and graduate programs and some 2000 internationals students in various programs. SUIBE University has been an active player in international exchanges and built a lot of partnerships with more than 80 countries.
What about the housing?
However I chose to live in a flat with my friends because we wanted to be in flat sharing and have a huge and nice place in the downtown of Shanghai.
We also found a flat for 5 persons located in Zhongshan Park. This is just from 1 step of metro of the university and this is near Jing’an Temple and People square. The flat is in a building full of foreign student just like us. It’s really a pleasure because we met a lot of people studying in different university in Shanghai. It’s so nice to share our experiences and to hang out with them.
What about my first day and the integration?
My semester abroad started the 15 of March with the information day. Actually it was more like 1 hour to be aware of the courses that we could choose and their description. That day we have been received by Me Lu, our adviser in SUIBE University. She welcome us very warmly and been really nice to all of us.
I have seen all the other exchanges students on my first courses, the 21th of March and at my greatest despair, there have been no integration thinks organized.. It’s really a pity cause because of that, I had no really chance to meet the other students. I think it is maybe because we are studding in the small campus and no in the big on located at Songjiang. It’s must been in here that all the events are set up and where all the student life take place.
Our class is composed only of foreign students, mostly of French people but there are also a lot of Dutch and Korean, some German and some American people. The number of students depends on the course but generally we are between 30 and 40 students.
So now, let’s talk about the “International Business Program”, basically the main thing why I am here!!
Many courses were offered at my university but the majority were on the Songjiang campus (1h30 subway downtown Shanghai). That is why I have chosen to take only the courses offered on the Gubei campus (downtown). To be honest it was not really a choice because I had to take 5 courses and only 7 were offered.. I also took Chinese culture, Strategic Management with Asian focus, Supply Chain Management, How to do business in China and finally, Strategic Marketing in China.
Concerning the content of the courses, I have to say that they are all very interesting because these are topics that I never studied in France. In Chinese culture we learn about all the fundamental like the Chinese tea, the Chinese medicine, the Chinese cuisine, the martial arts and so many other. It’s really instructive to understand Chinese life. In strategic Management we studding a lot of case study to see how companies manage their strategy and their goals. Supply Chain management is a courses completely new for me, there we learn how the logistics issues works in the companies. How to do business In China is about all the formal procedure to set up a company in China and how to make it work and finally Strategic Marketing is about to understand how the marketing operates in China. I didn’t take Chinese basics because I thought it was a shame to learn a language so difficult for 4 months knowing that I will not speak it afterwards.
"Tai Chi in Chinese Culture class"
We have class only the afternoon from Monday to Thursday so we have a lot of time to visit, travel, hang out and do some physical activities.
The ambiance during the class is a little bit disturbing because I don’t actually feel like I was in class, everyone is so relax, they are on their phone, their eat, drink, talk and laugh out loud as if they were at home and the most confusing that is the teacher doesn’t even seams bothered !! I noticed that it was the Dutch people who mostly do that so it’s probably due to a cultural differences because in France nobody would dare acting like that.
My new Social life and sport routine
In China, social life is often played via WeChat, THE most popular means of communication. Everyone in china use WeChat, so it is very easy to organize events and to keep in touch with people that we meet at parties or in everyday life.
If you enjoy sport, Shanghai has much to offer. Me and friend wanted absolutely have a physical activities but our university did not offer anything interesting that is why we choose to join a sports hall. In there we can go to the swimming pool, to gym, to sauna and we can also follow a lots sport course like Zumba, dance, bodybuilding, cycling, Yoga, body combat and so many other. It’s a good way to unwind and to keep fit !!