Thursday, July 22, 2004

the money

in china they use the RMB. i forget what it stands for, but it's only rarely that anyone other than me calls it RMB. [i say it because RMB is so tones to mispronounce!] but me saying RMB is like someone in america saying, formally, "how much is that in US CURRENCY?" instead of using the more common term "dollars" [chinese equivalent: yuan] or the slang "bucks" [quay]. as for conversions, 8 yuan = 1 dollar. and it's not like in other countries where the exchange rate changes every day. it was 8:1 years ago, and it will be 8:1 for years to come.

anyway, the minimum-wage worker in china makes roughly 500 yuan/month. and prices here are low enough that they could live on that...they don't have big families, you know. however, we are paid 1500 yuan/week, which seems exorbitant. i would gladly do this teaching for free. and that salary doesn't even include living in this nice hotel and the 3 meals/day we get during the week. so this whole experience is somewhat of a boondoggle, even though by american standards, our weekly salary is low--less than 200$, which is obviously not a lot for full-time teaching.

but getting back to the prices: stuff simply costs less here. a good example is the bike accessories i bought. [the new mountain bike was 35$, also a good example]. a nice lock: 10 yuan. baskets for each side of the bike: also 10 yuan. a helmet: 45. the bell: 6. these are fractions of the prices we would pay in the States. also one interesting example [because why do these cost 2-3$ *each* in the States?]: a 4-pack of Colgate toothbrushes: 10 yuan. a huge fresh chinese pastry/bun, filled with creme: 1 yuan. sandals: 20. shorts: 30. korean dinner: 30. japanese: 30.

i am telling you all of this because i have been thinking a lot about american prices...wondering why things cost what they do, especially when the sale-price doesn't seem to be remotely related to the production or delivery cost. i think i like it here, where things seem to cost not only what i want them to cost, but what they should cost!!


ps. this isn't to say that everything is being "given away"...there are always a few stores on each street or in the mall that sell items such as Nike or Adidas, at what i would call "western prices"...these are radically unaffordable for the minimum-wage worker, but then again, this is true in america too. hmmmm.

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