2017

#zftrainees

Three Ways Down the Silk Road

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Tags: Careers, TraineeCommunity
In the 15-month ZF Global Trainee Program, participants will become acquainted with work at ZF, rise to the challenges of a daily work routine, apply the knowledge gained during studies to successfully complete international projects and start a promising career at a highly-innovative automotive company.
ZF Trainees, November 09, 2017
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ZF Trainees are a group of young people taking part in the ZF Global Trainee Program. In the #traineeblog they give insights about the life as a ZF Trainee.
Going abroad for a longer period of time is always an experience. Possibly more so if the cultural differences are bigger. Compared to American and European cultures, Asian cultures can be quite different, which makes staying in China for 3 months especially interesting. China is often called a country of opposites, and in many ways we have found that to be true. This is however something that everyone experiences in their own way. That is why, instead of offering a single perspective into living in the global megacity of Shanghai, we want to offer you three perspectives.

Traveling on schedule (most of the time) and through an easy to navigate metro system was also a great experience. What surprised me most is the ease of life that the availability of apps for just about everything brings with it. Anything from ordering food, ordering taxis, taking bikes and paying is possible with your smartphone. I know I’m going to miss some of the WeChat features I use daily. Another thing that changed out of ordinary western life was the necessity of carrying an umbrella and a battery pack, while unexpected, easy to deal with during the stay.
In conclusion, China is a mightily diverse and relatively easy to navigate country (well, the touristic locations anyways…) that is leading by example in many field of technology (payment, mobility, convenience). I can recommend a visit or prolonged stay to anyone, especially in Shanghai, where all western conveniences are also still available in case you get homesick.
For me it was the first time in China and even the first time in Asia. However, since the trainee program has started, I knew that I want to go to China. I’ve worked already a lot with Chinese people and I wanted to understand the culture and behavior better, while living there for 3 months. So I tried to do local things as much as possible and to travel around in China, to get a comprehensive view of the country, rather just an impression of Shanghai. And of course, I also had a couple of assumptions before I arrived. Some of them got true and for others it was completely different.

Each one of the trainees in Shanghai has had a different reason to go to China, as well as different experiences in Asia beforehand. This offers a broad spectrum of ways to experience the cultural and general differences.To start things off, I’ll tell you a little bit about my experiences. As the most veteran Asia-traveler by number of countries and duration of stay, I was perhaps the least perplexed or surprised upon arriving here in Shanghai. Chinese food is ubiquitous in the region, and other food (Hong-Kong, Indian, Malay, and Thai) is also readily available in the city we called home for 3 months. Knowing how to use chopsticks and having a penchant for spicy food, I felt right at home. What surprised me a lot was the cleanliness of the streets, which turned out to be due to an army of cleaning personnel swarming the city every day.

First of all, I personally was really surprised that Shanghai is not as crowed as I thought. Except of going to really famous places at Friday night such as East Nanjing Road or of course to the metro at rush hour, I would say the amount of people at the streets is the same as in other big cities in Europe. However, it’s very interesting to observe what people do at the streets, from sport in the morning and evening to mobile karaoke, everything is possible and sometime you can even join if you want. If you once get into the situation to enter a really crowed metro – and I’m sure you can’t avoid this completely - be aware that if you wanna go out of it, you shouldn’t expect the someone will step away rather you have to fight for path ;)
However, in general the metro is really convenient and you can go nearly everywhere. Furthermore, I really like the variety of food and especially street food. The only issue for me was breakfast, because I’m used to eat some sweets and most of the food in China is savory and even spicy, no matter the time of day. A really nice and also surprising experience in regards to food was a fruit shop at the opposite side of our house, which is opened for actually for 24 hours. Even if I came back late from my incredible travel experiences (I will tell you in another post about it) – a could always get some fresh fruits for the next morning.
Finally, I will actually miss some of the extremely convenient offers in China such as the rental bikes, which you can find all over the country and you can have a lot of fun, by ringing the bell in different rhythms, because everyone is ringing it continuously or AliPay, an App with which you can pay nearly everywhere in China and transfer money to friends within second. I’m sure if our next beer list comes and we need to transfer small amount of money to someone of our batch, we gonna wish to have AliPay.As one of the “newbies” for the Asian culture from this group, I will say I was the most perplexed the first days I started this enriching experience. Now I can realize how naïve I was for underestimating the potential differences that I heard in advance that I could face on my daily life activities once I got here. From some of them I was pretty aware, for example; the long commuting time to get to work. Which after a while, I was also surprised on how other skills improved after traveling for that long, such as time management, concentration (from talking in crowded places) and patience. Especially patience…on the last days I got to the point where I could really say “Oh we are here already!” and that even helped as practice for other trips.

Now I can realize how naïve I was for underestimating the potential differences that I heard in advance that I could face on my daily life activities once I got here. From some of them I was pretty aware, for example; the long commuting time to get to work. Which after a while, I was also surprised on how other skills improved after traveling for that long, such as time management, concentration (from talking in crowded places) and patience. Especially patience…on the last days I got to the point where I could really say “Oh we are here already!” and that even helped as practice for other trips
For the list of things that were a complete surprise for me I can mention: food and the overall dimension of the city.
For the food I can say that it was surprisingly good but different at the same time. I could find breakfast menus that I would have never imagine before! And regarding the city, of course I knew it was big but it is hard to picture in your mind something like this until you see it yourself right in front of your and even more when you have other cities as references (yes, even Mexico City)

For the list of things that were a complete surprise for me I can mention: food and the overall dimension of the city.For the food I can say that it was surprisingly good but different at the same time. I could find breakfast menus that I would have never imagine before! And regarding the city, of course I knew it was big but it is hard to picture in your mind something like this until you see it yourself right in front of your and even more when you have other cities as references (yes, even Mexico City.As one of the “newbies” for the Asian culture from this group, I will say I was the most perplexed the first days I started this enriching experience.

So all in all, great experiences! We are very thankful for this opportunity to expand our boundaries, leave our comfort zone, and experience a different culture intimately. We hope that our experiences will invite you to travel out of your comfort zone as well!