Friday, October 14, 2005

Cost of living

I have started thinking in terms of Chinese currency, instead of US dollars. When you first arrive in China you can't believe how cheap everything is. You see a price tag and you immediately divide by 8 to get a rough idea of the cost in USD. It makes buying things very easy indeed, because even relatively expensive things are still really cheap. Now I find myself thinking that the 40 RMB I paid for the steak dinner I had last night was a bit pricey. I have to remind myself that is only about $5 US. I've already touched on the subject of DVD's being dirt cheap (fake, not always reliable, and breaking every copyright law that exists, but still cheap). You can buy full seasons of TV shows for 20 RMB ($2.50) and new movies for less than the cost to see it in the theater. But verything
else is so cheap also. Below is a small list of examples from the top of my head with the approximate prices listed. Clearly some of these items can vary in cost, but these are average prices.

Bicycle: 130 RMB ($16)
Nice shoes: 100 RMB ($12)
Jeans: 15 RMB ($1.80)
Dinner for eight people at a nice restaraunt: 120 RMB ($14)
60 GB external hard-drive about the size of an ipod: 200 RMB ($24)
Adobe Photoshop CS 9.0: 6 RMB ($0.80)
CD's: 12 RMB ($1.45)
Leather Jacket: 200 RMB ($24)
Haircut, shampoo, shave, 2 hr head/arm/hand massage, and anti-hairloss treatment: 60 RMB ($7.20)

Ok, so you get the picture. It seems the only way to spend a lot of money on something here is to buy a western brand. If you want a Sony DVD player for example, it will cost you more than it probably would at home. For some reason the Chinese seem willing to spend a lot of money that they don't have on cell phones, so they are pretty pricey too. And the bicycle listed in my example would not exactly be fit for mountain biking... bikes here don't have any gears, don't always have pedals (hard to explain), and I think are made with Soviet-era steel left over from tank production... these bikes weight a ton. They are the Oldsmobile "boat" of bicycles.