Are foreigners in Beijing poor?
Let’s start by saying: the answer will probably be no (as a general statement).
But imagine yourself moving to China, your mind is full with prejudice, such as – Chinese are smaller, China is very cheap etc.
And now imagine the shock when you are not taller than most people you see! And certainly not “wealthier” comparing to the population you run into, but the opposite..!
Imagine walking down the street and seeing an 18 year old drive a Ferrari / Porsche etc.
Well, how should I put it – It kind of make you feel like your flight landed at the wrong place (alienation anyone?).
Now let’s go into details a bit:
The living costs in the big cities – Beijing for example – are amongst the highest I have encountered!
What is “highest” you ask? if you go to a “Chinese super market” the prices of basic products – such as rice, vegetables and some fruits are OK, but if you go to a “foreigners super market”, the prices are unbelievably high! (for example 1 regular cabbage can get up to 5$, olive oil can cost 20$ easily).
And it’s not only the super markets, it seems more like a “trend”.
If you go to any non “local Chinese” restaurant – the prices are as high and higher than in the origin country of the food (except for 1 or 2 restaurants).
And it doesn’t end at groceries or food.
Beijing apartments for example are extremely expensive (for rent) – 1 bedroom apartment at “nice” area will start at RMB 10K (1650$) and will go up to RMB 25K (4100$) and north.
Obviously there are always more affordable apartments – but those will require some compromise.
The above spectacular seems possible because of a “Nouveau Riche” wave in the big cities (Beijing, Shanghai etc), Which basically means that almost on every corner you will find a new and big shopping mall, filled with unaffordable goods (for most people).
It will usually not be too full (to say the least) and by that malls you will see the newest cars from the most prestige (or pretentious if you will) brands and makers workshops.
Now, with that being said – most likely the majority of the population in Beijing is not rich, not even close, but still, somehow – those newly rich “pop to the eye”, getting everyone’s attention.
There is a Chinese word for ‘Nouveau Riche’ – ‘tuhao’, and Oxford English dictionary is actually planning on adding it to the 2014 edition as lately it is being used more frequently.
The word “tuhao” (土豪) originated in ancient times, and it comes to describe a wealthy man / landlord.
The word tuhao also has some negativity about it, as those “tuhao’s” used to “bully” those beneath them – the actual translation of the word is “Tyrant”.
So, as it turns out – it doesn’t really matter how much money you make, you can always feel poor in China (or “less fortunate” :)).
**Despite of everything that I wrote above – China in general and Beijing in particular (for me) is a great place to live in..! at least for a while:)