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Foreign students barely make ends meet
Once upon a time, Shanghai was considered a cheap place to live by
expatriates. watches Thatâ€™s hardly the case now. replica patek philippe calatrava Foreigners living in the city,
especially students who arenâ€™t on fat salaries, are finding it harder and harder
to cope with rising prices.
In fact, Shanghai is the second costliest city in China for expats, after
Hong Kong, according to a survey released in July by US consulting firm Mercer.
In world rankings, Shanghai comes 14th, up two notches from last year. best replica patek philippe watches Itâ€™s now
more expensive for an expat to live in Shanghai than in New York, according to
â€śShanghai is a very costly city to live in,â€ťsaid Yie Mon Kyaw, 22, a student
from Myanmar in her junior year at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.â€śLiving costs,
excluding tuition and accommodation fees, have gone up about 35 percent in the
last three years.â€ť
Indeed, inflation has been a persistent economic problem for China in recent
years as food, housing and other daily costs rise, pinching the pocketbooks of
ordinary peopleâ€”both locals and expats.
Shanghai's Consumer Price Index in September rose 2.5 percent from a year
earlier, according to the Shanghai Bureau of Statistics. replica patek philippe nautilus Housing rose 4.7
percent, while food prices gained 4.6 percent.
Yie said she has had to reduce spending to cope with the rising costs of
food, clothing, transport and entertainment.
She first came to Shanghai in August 2010 to do preparatory course work for a
major in cultural industry management at the School of Media and Design. best replica patek philippe watches At the
time, her monthly living costs were less than 2,000 yuan (US$322), excluding
tuition and accommodation fees, she said. best replica patek philippe watches Today, those same costs have risen to
about 3,000 yuan.
Yie has adopted creative strategies to save money. She shops at a nearby wet
market and at a low-cost supermarket at the campus on Dongchuan Road in Minhang
District. Fluent in Mandarin, she is able to bargain over prices with street
vendors. She often cooks her own meals in her dormitory kitchen, usesâ€śblack,â€ťor
illegal taxis, watches for big discounts at department stores, books film
tickets via online group-purchase websites and buys clothing on Chinaâ€™s largest
e-commerce platform taobao.com.
To earn some money, Yie crafts jewelry from jade, gemstones and pearls bought
in her native Myanmar. She sells the jewelry to friends and online. Her mother,
a jewelry designer, has a shop in the southwestern province of Yunnan. Her
parents subsidize some of her daily living costs and the 60,000 yuan in fees for
tuition and accommodation every year.
Food is a big expense for expats, especially for those who prefer their
native cuisines and have to buy imported products to make hometown dishes. Yie
said food costs her at least 2,000 yuan a month.
In her hometown of Rangoon, a bowl of noodles costs about 7 yuan, compared
with 12 yuan in small, down-market Shanghai eateries.
Foreign students often donâ€™t like the food served in university canteens, she
said. Many prefer to eat out. For Yie and her friends, Thai restaurants are the
best because the cuisine is close to Burmese in style and taste. A meal out
costs about 30 yuan per person, on average, after friends split the bill.
Her prowess at bargaining is a godsend.
â€śI ask food stall owners if they would charge me less or give me extra
shallots or red peppers for free if I buy other vegetables,â€ťshe said.
Transport is also a drain on the pocketbook. Yie said when she first came to
the city, the minimum taxi fare in Minhang was 10 yuan. Now itâ€™s 12 yuan.
â€śIf we are in a group of three or four, we sometimes hail taxis because we
can share the cost,â€ťshe said.â€śBut if we are just two, we take the Metro.â€ť
When Yie and her friends go to downtown areas like Xujiahui, they
useâ€śblackâ€ťcabs because the campus is far on the outskirts of town and Metro
travel is not convenient. Even with the discount a friendly driver gives them,
the cost to get from the campus area to downtown Shanghai still runs about 30
yuan per person, she said.
Whenever she comes across clothing she likes in shops, she searches for the
brands on Taobao, comparing prices carefully to look for the best bargains.
â€śClothing in department stores in China is way too expensive,â€ťshe
She also visits Qipu Road, a well-known market for cheap clothes, and
bargains for the best prices.
She recalled with a smile the stall owner who wanted 100 yuan for a piece of
clothing. She countered with an offer of 15 yuan.
â€śShe started cursing me, but I have a thick skin,â€ťYie said.
The shop owner told Yie 15 yuan was impossible. Yie countered by offering 20
yuan and said she would buy two pieces at that price. The deal was done.
Itâ€™s harder to bargain when it comes to entertainment costs.
â€śCinemas are expensive,â€ťshe said, noting that a ticket can cost up to 100
yuan during popular weekend screening times. Buying tickets with Chinese friends
at group-purchase online sites helps cut the cost.
Yie said she is vigilant about watching for sales.
â€śI ask shop assistants when sales will be on, and then I call friends from
New Zealand, Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia to invite them on a shopping
trip,â€ťshe said.â€śSharing information is invaluable.â€ť
Like many expats, Yie complains about price-gouging.
â€śI have been overcharged a lot of times,â€ťshe said.â€śThe most unpleasant
experience in Shanghai is visiting doctors."
Once when she was suffering from a stomach ailment, she was charged 4,000
yuan for medicine by a traditional Chinese medicine doctor at Shanghai Hongqiao
Hospital. The doctor said her intestinal track was in serious decline.
Her parents, concerned about the diagnosis, took her to a hospital in
Singapore. Doctors there said they could find no serious problems and said the
medicine she was prescribed in Shanghai should not have cost more than 800 yuan.
â€śI donâ€™t dare go to hospitals in Shanghai after that experience,â€ťshe
said.â€śAnd many overseas students tell of similar experiences.â€ť
Yieâ€™s roommate Lynn, an American student who declined to give her surname,
also said she has found it tough to live on a limited budget amid rising
â€śStudents are not rich, and many overseas students donâ€™t get much financial
support from their families,â€ťsaid Lynn.
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