Meagan Trayers '15: Interning in Beijing

Today I started the second day as an intern at Beijing West Tube Inspection Ltd. Beijing WTI is an industrial engineering company that performs inspections and tests for oil and natural gas pipelines all over China, and I will be spending the next two months in their Beijing office helping assist in meetings, proofreading documents, and learning about how the Chinese do business. Our office’s view and location are absolutely stunning. I live in the student district, which is just northwest of Beijing’s downtown. I commute by subway (or as the Chinese say, di tie) to WTI’s office near the Olympic Park in Bei Yuan Lu North, which is northeast of my apartment. The feel of the Bei Yuan Lu is much different from the student district- it is much less congested, there are a variety of shopping malls and restaurants within a couple blocks of the high rise where my office is located, and on clear days I can see the mountains from the window by my desk!

Chinese Business Customs

Meagan Trayers '15While office culture in China and the US is fairly similar, there are a few key differences in how the Chinese do business. During my summer internship in DC, many employees would come into the office as early as 7:00 am to beat rush hour traffic and would leave around 3:00 or 4:00 pm. In Beijing, it seems as though most offices open around 9:00 or 9:30, and employees will stay as late as 6:30 pm. From what I’ve observed, people usually take their hour lunch break around 1:00 pm, and going out to eat is the norm here, as I’ve never seen anyone bring their lunch to work. I really enjoy going out to lunch with my supervisor and the other employees in the office- I get to try new foods, and I even get to practice my Chinese with them! For breakfast and snacks, you can find many street food vendors selling hot 煎饼(pronounced Jian Bing), a delicious savory egg crepe that I personally like to enjoy with hot soy milk.

The Chinese also have some customs that many foreigners may not be familiar with. For example, when a Chinese business associate hands you their business card, it is important to accept it using two hands, and put it in an important place such as your wallet or a card holder, never your back pocket or in the bottom of your backpack. Another custom I’ve observed is that when someone compliments you, the response “Na li, na li?” which translates to “where, where?” is like saying “who are you complimenting? It can’t be me you are complimenting.” It is tricky to translate into English, but it is just a polite way of showing humility and modesty. Finally, although I have not attended an international business meeting, I have heard it is thoughtful to bring a gift for your business associates or prospective clients. For foreigners, a small gift from your hometown would make a nice sign of appreciation for your client’s time and effort to meet with you. Your Chinese associate will probably initially refuse the gift when you first offer it out of politeness, but they will definitely appreciate your kindness and gratitude!

I am looking forward to these upcoming weeks at Beijing WTI, and am excited to learn even more about Chinese culture and improve my Chinese with the help of my coworkers. While I am sure there will be challenges, I am so grateful for this experience and am so happy to have settled in at my new internship!

Published by Alane De Luca, Executive Director, Center for Experiential Learning