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Tian Ying: "We have to surmount more obstacles"

10.01.2013

The three months of lectures, high-end visits and journalistic practices have not only deepened my understanding about Germany and enriched my experiences as being a foreign correspondent, but also lent me a greater sense of responsibility to be a media ambassador between China and Germany.

During the three months, I have gained deeper understanding about German media practices as well as the general mentality of German people. For instance, in our visit to Der Spiegel, we were told that Der Spiegel's editorial doctrine is to tell readers what they should know rather than what they want to know. I was impressed by such strong confidence and sense of social responsibility of this elite media organization. Also, I've learned that Euro-centric mentality is still prevalent among German society, giving rise to ignorance about or indifference to China issues, a good example being a German political science professor asking us whether there are bananas in China. Setting such extreme case aside, the fear and frustration stoked by being overtaken by China do exist, raising a question that how should Germany manage the rise of China.

Through internship at Die Welt and field researches, I've got the opportunity to experience working as a foreign correspondent, which will definitely benefit my future career. Working in a foreign country, we have to surmount more obstacles, for example, language. I still remember interviewing visitors to the Documenta in Kassel who came from different countries. As few of the people I spoke to could actually communicate with me in English, I decided to reach out to more, and bit by bit, I still managed to get a first-hand feedback from audience of this renowned art exhibition. Furthermore, I've also learned how to search for and build contacts in a foreign country. During the three months, I've got interviews with Hamburg's public utility company, Hamburg Wasser, a German actress and a handful of German China hands. My published works include, "Focusing on water retention: Hamburg sample of rain management ", "Feature: Kassel Documenta showcases avant-guard arts", "Interview with Knaller Frau: humor comes from difficulties of life", „Polyester unter den Pagoden: Eine Chinesin testet Hamburg's Mini-China auf dem Rathausmarkt“, co-finished by a colleague at Die Welt and me.  And I am still working on several other stories which might be published after I return to China.

During the three months, German people have impressed me a lot for their honesty, being scrupulous and professional. Each time when there was something that my interviewees were not so sure about, they verified the details afterwards and informed me, which made my job easier. Besides, I've learned that German society highly values honesty and creditworthiness. After mistakenly selling me a night train ticket for which my "Deutschland pass" was actually not valid, a ticket lady with DB told me it was a fault on their side and assumed the responsibility and allowed me to travel with the invalid ticket.

While deepening my understanding about German society, I've also keenly felt the tremendous differences lying between the two cultures. For instance, Chinese culture values seeking common grounds and shelving differences, so as to avoid conflicts, whereas German people are inclined to take clear sides. I think this is born out by a quote of a German reporter I know: "There has to be personal opinions in the news article, being objective is boring." However, as a result of such cultural differences, misunderstanding between two peoples is inevitable. For instance, a German reporter who has been to China for three months is baffled by a phenomenon he discovered: Chinese young people respect parental opinions a lot when it comes to their choices of life partners. But when I told him that Chinese parents would also like to do such sacrifices for their children as migrating to cities where their children live to look after their grandchildren, the German reporter was also surprised. I told him that Chinese inter-generation relationship goes like this that both generations are deeply involved in each other's lives. He has seen one side of the fact, but the other side is also indispensable for a correct understanding. On this, we reporters from both countries still have a long way to go. 

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