I got this email today.
I found your blog in Google. It is a very interesting and informative web site. My salute to you.
My wife and I are both Chinese living in the U.S. We are planning to move to shanghai early next year. When I talked with my family about the move, they all said it’s a very bad idea. They said to live comfortably in Shanghai you have to at least earn 500,000 RMB yearly. Also, unlike in the U.S. people in China usually work harder and with a lot of overtime. Is it
really true that you have to earn that much? How does people with average income manage their life then? How do you think about it? My wife already got an offer from a top fortune 500 company to be research scientist. I have yet to find my job but it probable will be in IT or computer software field. The work hard and overtime part really scares me. I don’t mind
work hard but to be forced to work hard will be another story. Here I work as a software engineer in a small company in a small collage town. Life is really slow and peaceful. Can you post something about your life and work? I mean, when do you go to work, how late will you come home, is your boss pushy, are you coworkers work abnormally hard, how do you spend you weed ends, evenings, Do you write all your post at work? It doesn’t have to be about yourself, just the life of regular white collar worker will be very helpful to us.
Going back to China is a hot topic among overseas Chinese these years. It is as hot as the topics of going aboard in the previous years. It is due to the booming economy in China and the big changes in the country. I have many close friends who just came back to Shanghai. This is what I heard and what I saw.
How Comfortable do you Mean by “Comfortable”
“Does it need 500,000 RMB annual income to lead comfortable lives in Shanghai?” Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on how you define “comfortable” life. What is your standard?
Think about how much $$$$ 500,000 RMB is in a city where the overall average annual salary 17,904 RMB (1492 RMB * 12) (src). That is 30 times more than the city’s average income. Even the white collar’s average salary just reached 38,447 (src).
Many people with 1400 RMB income claim they are leading comfortable life already. But I guess you may think they are leading miserable life according to your standard.
Does an apartment of 150 sq. meter for a family means comfortable?
You can buy some good apartment at 7000 RMB/sq. meter or some nice apartment at 10,000 RMB/sq. meter. Monthly payment is about 7000 RMB for 20 years… Use this calculator. People with 1000 RMB per month don’t buy houses. They rent.
Is a car included in your definition of comfortable life?
Budge for 100,000 – 200,000 RMB. If you take public transportation, 2 RMB per ride for many buses, and 3 RMB on Metro.
Do you think you have to send your child to really good schools?
Local schools charge 1000 – 2000 RMB per semester. Meanwhile in the same city, some good American schools charges 15,000 – 50,000 RMB. My friend spent 1000 USD on the school bus for his child alone, not to mention the tuition. So, it is all about your own choice.
Do you want to eat the foreign way or the local way?
Local white collars go to BigBite (or Dashidai). The average cost per meal is 20 RMB. 50 RMB per person is considered reasonable price in restaurants. Poorer people go to cheap food stores. They charge 5 – 6 RMB per meal. They don’t go to restaurants.
If you want to eat the foreign way, there are many places a cup of ice water costs you 75 RMB. An average working lunch costs 70 – 150 RMB. I went to one in Xintiandi before. The life in that restaraunt is really too expensive to be comfortable for me. Where to eat and how well you eat is all about your choice again.
Do you want to dress the local way or the “international” way?
150 – 300 RMB for woman dress (white collar) is considered good, or common (ladies, correct me if I am wrong here). White collars buy it. Parkson Shopping Center claimed their major targeted customers are young ladies with monthly income around 6000 RMB. People with 1000 RMB income buy clothes at 30 RMB to 50 RMB at places like Tianlin Road, where I have lived nearby. All the brands are local. If you want to dress up like you do in New York, or Paris, just go directly to Armani in the Three on the Bund. A shirt can easily cost you 2000 RMB. If you call it comfortable life, 500,000 RMB does not look like a decent number. What is your choice?
Want movies? Want bars? Want drama?
Movie costs 30 – 60 RMB. Average cost in bars varies from 10 RMB (beer) to 100. Drama costs 100 – 200 RMB. Make a plan of how many times you want to go there and you get the number yourself.
I just listed some costs for your life, in the order of money needed. Please note: this is only in Shanghai. Keep in mind that Shanghai is among the most expensive cities in China already. Beijing is similar. If you want to try smaller cities, like Luoyang, where I was born, life is completely different again. I can guarantee you that with 1500 RMB, you can lead very nice life there. The “very nice life” is by the local standard, not the Shanghai standard, not the western standard….
Do I Have a Conclusion?
To answer your question about whether 500,000 is good enough, basically, it is good enough. If you know the average monthly salary for a 4-year university undergraduate is 1800 – 3000 RMB, or 3000 – 5000 RMB for graduates (masters); if you also know that MBA’s salary is only half of the number you gave, you may have the idea of whether it can lead a comfortable life.
Going Back? A Bad Idea?
At least from all my friends who just returned, it turned out to be very good idea to get back. I had a friend who returned to Shanghai months ago. He came back and had a two week vacation in Shanghai. Soon after he returned to U.S., he relocated his whole family to Shanghai. The only thing he regretted was he didn’t buy a house during the two weeks in Shanghai. The price raise in the 6 months surprised him a lot.
In IT industry, undergraduate students have to work hard to earn 36,000 RMB per year, and I don’t know how hard you need to work if you aim at making 500,000 RMB or higher. :-D
Shanghai is such an interesting city. The pay is not the same for the same work. The best situation to relocate back to Shanghai is to find a position in U.S. company and the company send the person to China, typically, the person will enjoy the U.S. pay (sometimes higher due to the relocation package), which is much higher than China. These positions generally do not need you to work hard. From what I heard, many of the positions are just a local representative of the head quarter, and there is no real work to do. (I do not mean to offend anybody. It is the conclusion of my limited survey to some friends). Go to haiguinet.com for more information. Many returnees are there.
It is not about Comfortable Life. It is about Opportunities
If you want comfortable life – in the U.S. Standard, stay there. If you want to reach exactly the same standard of life in Shanghai, the cost is higher than in U.S. For example, I read a foreigner didn’t want to use the local water from the pipeline because it does not reach “his standard”, he built the private water supplying system and feed the system with canned purified water. He is just crazy and I bet his water is more expensive than in his hometown.
If you want to embrace the change and opportunity, come back. China is a huge market and there are so few players on so many fields. Let me try to show you some examples:
- It is not easy to rent a car yet. There is no good rental company like Avis.
- It is not easy to book train tickets online (like Amtrak, or Eurorail);
- There is almost no local good canned cat food (this is the problem the two cats brought me);
- Something that costs 0.5 RMB are traded at several Euro in Europe (I am talking about the decoration balls on the X’mas tree);
- More and more people coming to China but there is no good service to help them (the reason why this website became popular);
- In IT industry, there is no good broad band application yet, although near 20 million people are connected to the Internet already. Miracles like Shanda (SNDA) emerge every day..
The blank areas need some one who knows the land to fill in. My friend who just came back told me: “I can clearly see what I look like after 30 years if I stay in U.S. – everything is well planned and preciously calculated. However, I don’t have any idea of what my life will be in 5 years in China. It started to change everyday from day one after I set my foot back to this land.” I agree.
If you are not interested in these, stay where you are now.
My Work? My Life?
If you want to know my work and life, take some time to check this blog if you have time. I have more than 800 articles like this one on my blog. There are 181 articles in Life category.
In the articles, I talked about my Car, my Friends, interesting things in my life, and where I go during weekends, and Holidays. I also included new things I Learn. I guess you know better about Me from the articles.
“Do you write all your post at work?” I don’t, most of the time. It does take me quite some time every night to write something. I sometimes sleep as late as 2:00 AM. It is 1:58 am already and I have spent one hour on this article.
(Top secret: I will change the time for this post to November 11, 23:mm, to make sure this post still falls into the previous day. I am trying to keep the one post every day rule. Some previous entires posted at 23:mm are very likely to be posted later than that time. :-D)
The choice is yours.