If you’re planning to go to China or have imagined about shopping in China, you probably have thought in your head of how “cheap” it will be here and how many things you’ll buy when you get here. I’m here to tell you that idea is not exactly the case.
Yes, goods and services are relatively affordable here but that normally only applies to things produced and made in China. For example, any products Nike sells here are more than you would pay in New Zealand. A pair of shoes that would usually cost you $180NZ would be $190NZ here. On the other hand, H&M goods are really cheap here. Questionably cheap almost. A plain crew shirt would cost you around $5.58 NZ with the current exchange rate. Aside from the economies of scale with being made in China, it is also cheap because of the material that is used to create the clothes. The clothes here are made with regards to the climate. At the moment, it is currently 32 degrees Celsius but according to the weather app, it “feels like 37 degrees Celsius”. From that, you can imagine how thin and light the material of the H&M shirt is.
Another thing that surprised me is the food. Food in campus cafeteria is very affordable. In fact, you can probably satisfy your hunger after running a full marathon with $10NZ on your WeChat account. In our University’s cafeteria there are numerous amounts of restaurants with different specialties to choose from: Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Halal as well as different delicacies from various regions of China. Having become a uni-cafeteria-addict, I can confidently say that you can feed yourself here with a budget of $150NZ a month. The only downside I would say is that some restaurants don’t provide an English translation of the menu. What we do as international students if this is the case is that we use our google translation app to take a picture of the menu and once we’ve figured out what the translation is, we show the photo original photo to the person manning counter. Otherwise, if it is the type of restaurant that sells ready-made food, we just point at the food and hope that it is the type of meat we think it is that it will taste good. It really is quite fun!
You may have to extend that food budget though if you’re planning to eat outside campus. If you’re planning to eat at a restaurant here, perhaps in one of the many malls nearby, food will cost you more or less the same as the ones in New Zealand. That price varies depending of the type of food you eat. Normally, ‘western food’ such as Italian and American style cuisines are a little more on the expensive side. This is probably due to certain ingredients like cheese having to be sourced outside or in a particular part of China. Pizzas from Pizza Hut for instance, are a little more expensive here compared to New Zealand. That extra cost is not only because of the ingredients but also because the Pizza Hut here are not just a pickup and go establishments but also a sit and dine type restaurants.
What I’ve learned from being here so far with regards to spending is that even though food and clothes might be cheap, you should not spend more than necessary to feed and clothe yourself. In the end, if you keep buying things just because it’s ‘cheap’, your expenses will stack up and you won’t even notice it unless you do some budgeting. What I would recommend is that you spend wisely on food and material things so you can dedicate more budget to travelling within and around China.