If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably decided to take that big step: You want to go East. In that case: Congratulations! Your decision will allow you to learn and experience the world from a totally different point of view.

At this point, you probably even know to which Chinese city you would be going to. However, if you still haven’t decided, still hesitating whether or not you should move to China like Julien or would like to see if there’s any information that might convince you on another option, then keep on reading.

Two Options, Two Profiles.

Bird's Nest with the moon Before thinking about doing a pros and cons list, here’s a brief overview of the main contenders (China is a big country and it has many other cities, but as you can probably tell, these 2 are the biggest). Let us begin with China’s capital: Beijing. Formerly known in the western world as Peking, Beijing is a city located at the north eastern side of the country. It has a population of over 19 million and is naturally the nation’s political and cultural center. It was also the country’s host city for the 2008 Olympics, which promoted its modernization. Shanghai is China’s largest city (over 23 million) and is located in China’s central east coast. Its connection to the ocean turned it into a major trading city, making it now China’s definitive industrial and economic powerhouse.

Regarding the way of life, there are very clear distinctions between the two Chinese cities. Beijing is comprised mostly of SMEs (that’s Small and Medium Enterprises for short), while Shanghai has concentrated the big corporations. Beijing is a major hub for the country’s politics, culture and language; while Shanghai leads the way for entrepreneurship and business, as well as being a major nightlife player (they don’t call it “Paris of the East” for nothing). It all boils down to this: if you’re a modern businessman, Shanghai is your choice, if you’re a hardcore tourist or want to have a firmer grasp on Chinese culture and politics, then go to Beijing.

Both cities are larger than life (unless you are used to living in a city with a population of more than 15 million people), so choosing one of these cities in relation to its level of “urbanity” is unnecessary. If you’re basing your choice only at a touristic and cultural level, then Beijing would be the way to go. The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall (only 2 hours away) are all within reach at China’s capital. On the other hand, if you see these and all other attractions as something you could do “over a weekend”, then take a closer look at Shanghai. It is the commercial and financial center of mainland China. It has seen a lot of economic growth over the past years and it’s also by many considered as “mainland China’s Cosmopolitan City”.

Learning as part of your experience

The learning process will begin as soon as you set foot on the Asian giant. Be sure to open yourself to new ways of doing things, new sights and new smells. You will also learn to adapt to China’s sounds, particularly derived from China’s unique language.

Speaking of the Chinese language, be warned: whichever city you go to, you will have to know some Chinese. For this reason, while you’re in Shanghai or Beijing; take some time to check out Hutong School. This Chinese language school will help you use and understand the language, which will make things a lot easier for you (just check out the website: Hutong School).

When studying abroad is not enough…

Intern abroad! Whether it’s to get some extra knowledge or some extra points on your CV, doing an Internship in Beijing or Shanghai can help make your going abroad experience even better. There are companies which only require fluent English or fluency in any other language. Therefore, the language is not a barrier to get an internship in Mainland China. In the end, and in any of these cities and regardless of the language, do not worry; there will always be a chance to experience the international working environment.

How to get an Internship in China? Or more importantly: How to secure an internship in China while still in your hometown? There are many websites where Chinese or foreign companies in China will post available places for internships. Of course, some of the websites are more reliable than others. If you want 100% reliability, look for an internship-placement provider, such as Internship Network Asia. You will find that it is at the very least, a very good starting point for your internship search in mainland China (click here and check it out: Internship Network Asia).

And the winner is…

First off, by now you should realize that both cities are excellent options to do your going abroad. Each city can cater to your specific needs. If you study political science or you are an avid tourist, Beijing offers a wide variety of options. If you don’t want a total 180 degree change, there’s a reason why they call Shanghai the most “westernized” city of Mainland China.

So actually, the winner is YOU! Think about it: regardless of which city you’re going to, you will be constantly exposed to a culture and way of life which is different than everything you’ve seen before. You will get the most of it not only as a foreign visitor, but as the world-class citizen you can aspire to be.  So prepare yourself, do your research and have a safe trip!

José de la Luz Sáenz Garza, Marketing Assistant Intern at Hutong School/Internship Network Asia.

Hutong School was founded in 2005 in order to provide Western students, graduates and young professionals internships and Chinese language courses in China.  It is the only fully licensed Chinese language school under European management and is the school of choice for anyone who wants to study Chinese or find an internship in China.