I remember having a conversation about moving to China with some friends back home, most of which proceeded to ask, “so China is cheap, right?”. Right. And wrong. And sometimes, I can’t even tell. This is what we students like to call the “China Cash Complex”. Suddenly, there is no way in hell I’m paying 60 kuai for a taxi (that’s only $10, and it’s usually divvied up between like four people – not a lot right?) and bottled water in a vending machine is 5 kuai? I’d prefer to drink the acid water out of the tap. (I exaggerate, I think I did drink it once.) Let me introduce you to the China Cash Complex.
So if all this stuff is meant to be cheap, how do I go through 500 kuai in about five seconds… Is it because I buy 50 kuai worth of bao zi (包子) in a week, or is it because I say “oh I can do 10 kuai/20 kuai” to about everything. Or maybe I just have zero sense of budgeting – I sincerely apologise to my parents, but I take zero responsibility. Maybe it’s slightly my fault.
Here’s the general lowdown on what’s cheap in China (from what I’ve learned):
- Food. Specific food. Specifically, dumplings, street food, street meat, mystery meat, noodles, soupy noodles, all noodles, various noodles, Yang’s.
- Transportation. Going from Australia where it would cost me $5 dollars to go ten seconds down my street in a taxi, $10 dollars for a half hour cab ride seems pretty good to me. Plus a few stops on the metro (地铁) costs roughly 50 cents. Hi, I’ll take that any day, thank you.
- Fake anything. As long as you can bargain. In Chinese. Also, say you’re a student. A poor one. Walk away a little, but not too far away. Still haven’t mastered it, will keep you all updated.
- Drinks. Yeah, there’s definitely the possibility of fake alcohol, so unless you’re totally fine with having your oesophagus being burned by nail polish remover, pay a little higher for this one.
And what’s not:
- Food. Specifically western food. Peanut butter, 50 kuai cereal which says American/British but may or may not be imported from Russia, even M&M’s cost more than pork buns, which is a little concerning.
- Any designer brand of any kind. Just buy a fake, no one can tell. Seriously, no one cares whether or not your Converse are fake or not.
- Pets. Why a stray little cat would cost me like 700 dollars is beyond me. I just wanted a mangy little kitty, not for you to take all my money.
Except even with just sticking to cheap things, which most things are, my money just seems to fly away on street noodles and Sherpa’s (literally invention of the gods – home delivery of almost every cuisine). I’ll get an on campus job one day. One day. But until then, I will buy less bao zi (包子) and
try and stop spending my money on Family Mart ice cream (冰淇淋).