06.30.08

Introducing the HiPhone; Strategic Product Branding in the Middle Kingdom

Posted in Business 'n Economics at 5:42 pm by Benjamin Ross

China is one of the few places in the world where the iPhone is not available…technically. This of course doesn’t mean affluent people in the Middle Kingdom aren’t making use of that slick, little device which has changed the way the world thinks about mobility. They just go about it a little differently.

Chinese iPhone
The new HiPhone being sampled by a shopper

It’s no secret that slews of p!rated materials are available for sale in the Middle Kingdom. During my time living in China, I managed to purchase a “Northface” fleece jacket for $25, a pair of “Adidas” basketball shoes for $12, and countless DVDs for 1 dollar a piece among many other products of questionable origin. With China’s entrance into the WTO and its emerging presence on the international trade scene, controls against p!racy have begun to clamp down. One result of this has been new brands and product lines which still piggy-back on the success of established names, but are not exact clones of the originals. This is accomplished by designing slightly modified replicas, rather than copying the original verbatim.

Consider this product—the Chinese iPhone. However, on closer inspection it is not an iPhone at all, but rather the new HiPhone. HiPhones sell at around $200 US, and contain much of the same functionality as the iPhone. The packaging and form factor are virtually identical to the iPhone. However, nowhere on the product or packaging is written any mention of “Apple” or the “iPhone” name.

iPhone in China
Does this packaging look familiar?

Inside, the operating system of the HiPhone is quite different from that of the Apple device. Its interface is not as sleek, the graphics are poorly designed, and the touchpad does not allow the user to “stretch” the size of a webpage using two fingers, as can be done on an iPhone. However, for many Chinese users, it is not the functionality per se, but the outward appearance and form factor which are most valued in a mobile device. In this respect, the HiPhone is good enough, not to mention comparatively cheap. Accordingly, they are selling quite well in Beijing.

For a more established example of this marketing phenomenon, consider the popular Chinese athletic apparel brand Qiaodan. Qiaodan sells shoes, T-shirts, shorts, and other sports gear through official Qiaodan storefronts all across China. Unbeknownst to those who do not speak Chinese, “Qiaodan” is the Chinese name for (Michael) Jordan. Like the original Jordan insignia, the Qiaodan logo contains an image of a bald male figure, basketball in hand, jumping through the air. Except unlike the original, the man in the Qiaodan logo has his right knee bent inward instead of extending out (see image). To casual observers, the difference easily goes undetected. And for Chinese speakers, it is only natural to assume that “Qiaodan” would be the same brand as “Jordan.”

Qiaodan Chinese Jordan
A Qiaodan outlet store in Tianjin

Products such as HiPhone and brands such as Qiaodan represent a growing trend in Chinese product lines. Rather than making exact copies, the original gear is used as a model to design a new product which is strikingly similar to the original, yet not identical. Thus the new products, although of completely different design and origin, appear to be the same as the name-brand originals. Based on my limited legal knowledge, this would seem to also alleviate the potential issues with copyrights that could potentially lead to these operations being shut down. As China’s economy continues to expand, this method of product-design is only bound to increase as China becomes an increasingly vital player on the world market.

HiPhone

 

06.29.08

The Human Classified Ad

Posted in Business 'n Economics at 2:33 pm by Benjamin Ross

Take a look at this scene I saw today while crossing a sky bridge over the Northern Third Ring Road.

human classified ad beijing sky bridge

The man in the picture is trying to find someone to rent his two-bedroom apartment. He is doing so by standing on the sky bridge with a small sign and then entertaining questions from potential renters. With Beijing’s high population density, sometimes even using one’s own human labor as a classified ad can be more efficient that placing one in a newspaper or online.


 

06.28.08

problems with my blog…need your help

Posted in Announcements at 9:24 pm by Benjamin Ross

As many of you have probably noticed, my blog has been having some problems of late. Sometimes it loads great, other times not at all, and lately here in Beijing it has been opening, just incredibly slowly. I have narrowed the problem down to three possible reasons, but I need a little feedback in order to get this solved. So if you are reading this and have the time please send me an e-mail to bensinchina at yahoo.com answering these 3 simple questions.

What country are you accessing this site from? (If you’re in mainland China, please list province and city too.)

Have you experienced any times where this site would not open at all?

Have you experienced any times where the site loaded, but very slowly?

If you haven’t experienced any of these problems, please by all means let me know as well. I need to know where the problems exist, and where they don’t. Thanks for everybody’s help, and hopefully this situation will be rectified ASAP. Hope everyone’s enjoying their summer.


 

Beijing Then and Now—Changes from ‘06 to ‘08

Posted in Beijing, Olympics at 1:22 am by Benjamin Ross

Outside of Fujian, there is no place in China where I have spent as much time as Beijing. The last time I was here for an extended period of time was back in fall ’06 when I was working on another ethnographic project. I spent six weeks here in the capital city on fieldwork, which also gave me enough time to begin to adjust to the daily rhythms of the city. Since that time, Beijing has undergone rapid change associated both with the preparation for the Summer Olympics, as well the typical pressures associated with being a rapidly expanding Chinese metropolis. After some consideration, I decided that the best way to illustrate all of the changes I have observed was to split them into two categories—“There is more ________in Beijing than there was two years ago” and “There is less ________in Beijing than there was two years ago.” Here goes.

There is more___________in Beijing than there was two years ago.

Apple Gear

Before I left China last August, I could count on one hand the number of iPods and Apple computers I had seen in China. However, nowadays Apple gear’s popularity has exploded exponentially, and a trip through Zhong Guan Cun (Beijing’s largest electronics mall) will now reveal even more vendors selling Apples than there are selling Lenovos.

Beijing skies
Beijing skies, on a “clear” day

Pollution

I have been in Beijing two weeks now and so far on only one day was I able to decipher a slight hint of blue in the sky. People say that the air quality has improved over the years, but I don’t recall ever finding it this hard to see, not to mention keep the dust off my hangers.

Mass Transit (barely)

Beijing plans to have four new subway lines open in time for the Olympics. Even if the Olympics weren’t coming to town, these additions are long overdue as Beijing’s subway is hardly adequate in dealing with such a large and spread-out population. So far only the new north-south line has opened, with another line tracing half of the third ring road, as well as ones to the airport and Olympic Center scheduled to open before 8/8. It remains to be determined whether that will all happen in time. At least you don’t have to wait in line for a person to tear your ticket anymore though.

Traffic

You know there’s a traffic problem when you haven’t even been gone from a place two years, and you can already tell that getting anywhere requires significantly more time than it did before. Between the construction, an outdated highway design, and the sheer number of new vehicles hitting the streets every day, Beijing’s traffic is worse than ever. Hopefully the new subway lines will take some of the stress off of Beijing’s severely inadequate road system.

National Pride

With the Olympics coming to town, politically sensitive issues abroad, and the outpouring of compassion over the Sichuan earthquake, Chinese nationalism is at a peak. One need not walk far in Beijing to see locals sporting the now omnipresent “I Love China” T-shirts.

There is less ___________in Beijing than there was two years ago.

Plastic Bags

In the past, I have frequently maintained that the Chinese waste far too many plastic bags. Apparently the Beijing authorities agree, as on June 1 vendors were banned from giving away plastic bags for free. From what I’ve observed, the rule appears to be being followed rather strictly here in Beijing. What I’d be interested to find out though, is to what extent it is being enforced in other parts of the country. If properly enforced, this new regulation would stand to make an enormous positive ecological impact on both China and the whole planet.

Nigerian Drug Dealers

Back in the day, a walk through Sanlitun (Beijing’s main bar street), or basically anywhere in Chaoyang (Beijing’s embassy district) would yield several conversations like this: I’d be walking casually down the street and approached by an unfamiliar African man.

African guy: Hey man, where you from?

me: The US, how about you?

African guy: New York City, wanna buy some hash?

You could easily swap “New York City” for “Los Angeles” and “hash” for either “weed,” “ex, ”“pills,” or “K,” but the basic gist was the same. During this trip, I haven’t been offered drugs once.

Beijing China rickshaw
Hutong rickshaw drivers like this one in Qianmen are now a thing of the past…as well as all the African drug dealers in Sanlitun.

Hutong Rickshaw Drivers

One of my all-time favorite areas of Beijing is the patch of hutongs south of Qianmen (which was also the de facto red light district during the Qing Dynasty period). One of the pleasures of the area were the rickshaw drivers who would take you through the hutongs on their man-powered rickshaws. Most of them had signs on their bikes advertising their services. Whenever the police would come by, they would all flip their signs behind their handlebars, even though it was still blatantly obvious they were soliciting their services. Once the police left, it was back to business as usual. I took a long walk through the area a few days ago, and didn’t see a single rickshaw.

Beggars

This would be seem quite odd for Beijing, Fuzhou, Chicago, or really almost anywhere, but in the two weeks I have been here, I have not been accosted by a single beggar…not one!

Foreigners

Because of the recent changes to visa regulations, many foreigners who have been living in Beijing for years are now finding themselves being forced to leave the country and wait until after the Olympics to reapply for visas. As a new wave of foreign visitors flocks to the capital city for the Olympics, another wave of longtime residents will be flocking out.
For anybody having issues getting back into China, check out the post I wrote last month on obtaining a 90 day Chinese tourist visa.

My intention is not to sound overly negative about Beijing in the weeks leading up to the Olympic Games. However I do think there is still room for improvement, if Beijing is to achieve all it had planned to when it originally was awarded the games back in 2000. Regardless of what happens over the next two months, I am quite confident Beijing will be a much better city after hosting the games than it would have been without them. The improvements to infrastructure, transit, and the environment should have a positive effect on Beijingers, China, and the world as a whole. It’s just going to be interesting to see how it all plays out…And this is precisely why I am here in China at this vital junction in Chinese history.


 

06.26.08

More Scuffles with the Bank (continued)

Posted in Chinese Bank Rants at 10:09 am by Benjamin Ross

Remember my little issue I had at the Beijing airport where the ATMs were saying I had exceeded my incorrect password limit? Well, today my worst fears were confirmed. I went in to Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), and after waiting in a 30 minute queue, explained to one of their employees my situation—in a nutshell that I had been jetlagged, half asleep, and barely functioning after 22 hours of travel, and had entered my password incorrectly twice at the ATMs at the airport, thus somehow exceeding the limit of 4 incorrect logins. (Apparently trying to get money out of a broken ATM counts as an incorrect login). Well, for the past two weeks, every single Chinese ATM has been rejecting my card on account of those two incorrect password attempts. I had brought my ATM card and passport to the bank, and asked if they could reset my incorrect login attempts so that I could access my money. Seems like a reasonable request, right? I have my passport; I do actually know my password, and am 100% sure I could get it right\ now that I haven’t been awake for 30 hours straight. It would seem fairly obvious that I am, in fact, Benjamin D. Ross, and not some random impersonator trying to steal his 1400 RMB. But nooooooo! Here’s what the clerk told me.

“This is not a Beijing ICBC card. It was opened in another province. So all you have to do is just go back to the ICBC branch where you opened the card, and you can reset your password there. Matters such as these always need to be handled at the branch where you opened your account.”

“I opened this account in Fujian.”

“Well, then just go back to Fujian and straighten it out there.”

“Why can’t I get it done here in Beijing? I have an ICBC account and this is an ICBC branch.”

“It is for the protection of our customer’s deposits.”

“I think that’s pretty stupid, and all it is doing is protecting the cardholder from withdrawing his own money.”

“Actually, It is a very stupid system, but what can we do? You are going to have to go back to Fujian to get your money.”

Now, fortunately I do plan to go back to Fujian during this trip, and can (presumably) get this all straightened out when I go back. However, imagine if I wasn’t going back to Fujian on this trip, which seems like an entirely plausible situation. Or worse yet, imagine if I was Chinese, and had no foreign bank account to fall back on. What if I had been traveling in Beijing and the same situation had happened? What if my wallet had been stolen? How would I get back to Fujian to get a new card if I had no access to my bank account? How could I buy my train ticket without any money? With 1.3 billion people (officially) in China, and many of them traveling around the country, I would imagine this problem occurs every day.

This is a common problem with many of China’s state-run enterprises—lack of centralization, at least in terms of customer service. Namely, that systems are set in place assuming that people would never actually get up and move about the country. If I want to buy a round trip train ticket from Beijing to Fuzhou, I have to wait until I get to Fuzhou to buy the ticket back to Beijing. In any city, you can only purchase train tickets which originate from that particular city. Same holds true with cell phones. Previously when I had a Fujian SIM card, it was nearly impossible to buy more minutes outside of Fujian when I would travel. Typically, when my phone ran out of money, I would have to contact a friend in Fujian, have them buy a card, charge my phone up, and then pay them back when I returned. On this trip, I haven’t really ventured far from Beijing yet, so I’d be curious if this policy has been modified at all.

The moral of the story is, however, DO NOT under any circumstances forget (or enter incorrectly twice) your ATM password or lose your ATM card. The Chinese banking systems are not equipped to handle people who are mobile. You will likely be setting yourself up for much more trouble than you ever bargained for. Personally I am curious if I will actually be able to straighten this whole mess out once I do get to Fujian, or if I have just made an unwilling charitable contribution to ICBC.

cont’d in More Scuffles with the Bank, Part 3:  Assets still Frozen, Hope on the Horizon

By the way, I’ve decided that my qualms and skirmishes with Chinese banks have accumulated to the point where I am now honoring them with their own category.


 

06.25.08

Chinese Vending Machines: Peanuts and Condoms and Sex Toys…Oh My!

Posted in Personal Anecdotes, Random Goofiness at 9:24 am by Benjamin Ross

In a country where raw materials are proportionately more expensive than labor, it doesn’t make much sense to invest in machinery to take the place of human work…yet. At least not as much as it does in more developed countries with higher wages (see vending machine situation in Japan). Accordingly vending machines still haven’t made much of a dent in the Chinese market. This is why several days ago I was quite surprised to see two vending machines right smack dab in the middle of a busy intersection in Tianjin. Until that point, the only vending machines I have ever encountered in the Middle Kingdom have been the ones in the Shanghai Pudong Airport which sell bottles of water and Snickers bars for 20 RMB.

chinese vending machine
The machine on the left sold the usual mix of cold drinks…Coke, Sprite, Red Bull, fruit juice, and so on.
But the machine on the right was no ordinary vending machine. Here are some of the products I found inside.
snacks, including peanuts, dried peas, and Japanese rice candies
home pregnancy tests
men’s “long lasting oil,” little fish ornaments to hang from your cell phone, Wrigley’s Doublemint gum
cigarettes and various inuendous objects such as the “Spicy Sister” women’s wet towel
condoms
playing cards and “sexy underpants”
and even cute little bear toys for the kids, right behind the sexy underpants
I’m not exactly sure how to translate the product on the left, but I can tell that it is some kind of oil (anybody know what 神油 is?)…and then my own personal favorite, a Japanese product called “The Magic Finger.”

…And who is to say that the Chinese aren’t “open” (or extremely efficient for that matter)? At least now you know where to go the next time you and your partner want to play cards and eat peanuts while chewing Doublemint gum, and then have a wild long-lasting, well-lubricated, sexual escapade (with protection), smoke a cigarette afterwards, and then call each other the next week with fish-ornament-draped cell phones to find out the results of the pregnancy test.


 

06.23.08

Comments now functioning properly

Posted in Announcements at 8:10 pm by Benjamin Ross

Just like Beijing is preparing its city infrastructure for the upcoming Olympics, I have been trying to get my blog up date for 8/8/08 as well.  One of the changes was to do something about the mountain of spam comments I have been receiving of late, which are now taking a rather large chunk of my time to sift through.  In doing some editing to the PHP I made a little mistake which disabled the comments, only to uncover it today.  Everything should be working well again, and if anybody has any more problems with it, shoot me over an e-mail to bensinchina at yahoo.com.


 

06.19.08

The Globalization of Chinese Street Vendors

Posted in Business 'n Economics, Food and Drink at 5:57 pm by Benjamin Ross

Culinary globalization is no longer shocking in the Middle Kingdom, as foreign fast food and restaurant chains are now ubiquitous in all major cities. In fact, in the shopping center near my apartment in Beijing alone, there is a McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Dairy Queen, Yoshinoya (Japanese fast food chain), and even a Sizzler Steak House. But what has been surprising me now that I am back in China, is to see that the globalization of food has even trickled down to street vendors who typically only sling Chinese goodies. Consider this Tianjin street vendor selling “Japanese style sushi.”

Despite its proximity to Japan, sushi has historically been a relatively tough sell to the Chinese, who have a general aversion to eating anything raw, be it fish or vegetables.

In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t brave enough to try any.


 

06.14.08

First Impressions of Beijing’s New Airport Terminal and More Scuffles with the Bank

Posted in Beijing, Chinese Bank Rants, Travel Log (Asia) at 12:35 pm by Benjamin Ross

The clock on my computer says 1:22 AM, but at this point I’m not even sure if that’s accurate or not, nor do I care. All I know is that I am in Beijing, with a boatload of traveling behind me and a ton of sleep in ahead.

My first impression of China on this trip was that of something which will be many peoples’ first impression of China in the years to come—the new international terminal at Beijing Capital Airport, which opened in March in anticipation of the Summer Olympic travel rush.

My very first ever impression of China also was at Beijing Capital Airport back in March of 2004. This, of course, was before the new glitzy terminal had been built. I remember exiting the 747 directly onto the tarmac and being picked up by a multi-segmented truck which looked like it had been left over from the Cultural Revolution days. During the bumpy ride to the terminal my mind couldn’t help but wonder where I came up with this crazy idea to move to China.

As I alluded to above, the new international is glitzy. I can’t think of any better term to describe it. It’s modern, clean, and well-lit, yet still has that same neutral, grey, Chinese-airport ambiance to it. Passengers exit directly onto terminal gates, and then are shuttled to the baggage claim via a modern-style tram, similar to those in international airports around the world. It’s a major improvement over the previous setup, and although it may seem superficial, this new terminal will certainly give foreign visitors a more comforting first impression on the Middle Kingdom.

My only qualm with the new terminal may be the issue of money. (longtime readers of this blog know that I already have a history of skirmishes with the Chinese banking system). I still hold an Industrial and Commercial Bank of China account, and had planned on withdrawing money as soon as I arrived in Beijing. The new airport terminal has ATMs from the big 4 Chinese banks, and in accordance to custom, half of them were either out of service or out of money. This was the case for the ICBC ATM. It was brand spanking new, with a premium, flashy, bright color screen, and was enclosed by a glass door to give privacy to the user. I’m sure it would have been a pleasure to use…if it had been working properly. To make matters even more frustrating, I had to insert my card, type my passcode, navigate through several menus, and then wait 2 full minutes for the machine to “process my request.” It was only after doing all of this, that the screen politely informed me that it was out of service.

I walked across the hall to the Agricultural Bank of China ATM, inserted my card, entered my password, and requested 300 RMB. (For a small fee, card holders from one Chinese bank may withdraw funds from another). The ATM replied that my password was incorrect and I would need to try again. I hadn’t used my card since I was last in China in October of ‘07, and while I wasn’t 100% sure of my password, I knew it could only be one of two different combinations. I inserted my card again, ready to try the second password. I was told I had exceeded my incorrect logins and could not proceed.

Seeing where I had made an error, I went up to the fourth floor to the Bank of China ATM to try the alternate password which I knew by process of elimination, had to be correct. As soon as I inserted my card, I received the same memo I had gotten from the Agricultural Bank—“incorrect logins exceeded.” Apparently, the different banks are linked in their quest to stop the problem of ATM card thieves from correctly guessing passwords…on their second try!

Near the Bank of China ATM was a currency exchange booth. As a general rule, it is never a good idea to exchange currency in an airport because of the ridiculously low rates, but I was going to need to pay for a cab. I had no other choice. The current exchange rate between RMB and USD is just under 7 to 1. I handed the woman behind at the currency exchange a 20 dollar bill. She gave me 86 RMB. This would barely even be enough to pay for the cab to my apartment. I returned the RMB, and taking back my 20, headed back to the Bank of China ATM. Finally, I settled on drawing money directly out of my US account, international transfer fees and all—something I try to avoid doing, especially when I have RMB already sitting in a Chinese account.

The scary part of this is that a) I speak Chinese b) I have lived in China for almost 4 years and c) I have a Chinese bank account. If it was this much trouble for me to get money, I can only imagine how difficult it would have been had it been my first time in the country. Well, at least the new terminal looks great! By the way, here are some pics.  And also, the banking saga is continued here.

Beijing Capital Airport
Beijing Airport New International Terminal
Beijing China Airport

 

06.12.08

What to buy in China…What not to buy in China

Posted in Travel Log (Asia) at 2:06 pm by Benjamin Ross

This past week I’ve been spending my time getting everything ready for my upcoming trip to China. This will be the fifth time traveling from the United States to China, so I have my routine down pretty well. Before my first trip to China, I distinctively remember a feeling that I would need to buy all necessary items for my trip before I left the US. While there certainly is worth to the old Boy Scout adage of “always be prepared,” you can save yourself quite a bit of money buy waiting until you arrive in China to buy certain products. Here’s a rundown, from my experience, of what to buy in China, and what to buy before you go to China.*

Contacts and Eyeglasses

The last time I bought a pair of glasses in the US, they cost me $250 USD. The last time I bought a pair in China they were only 400 RMB (approx $60 US). The frame quality was similar, and I could see perfectly out of both of them. For this upcoming trip to China I plan to buy 2 new pairs of glasses, a full-year supply of contact lenses, and athletic goggles. When I figured everything out, I estimate I will save around $500, compared to buying them in the US. Moral of the story: stock up on eyewear in the Middle Kingdom, and save yourself a bundle of money.

Footwear

Last week I bought a pair of Teva sandals. They cost me 50 dollars. I bought my previous pair of Tevas for the same price two years before I first left for China. I wore them throughout my junior and senior year of college, before finally throwing them out after my first semester in China (a total of nearly 3 years). After that point, I went through a series of Chinese Teva knock-offs each purchased for around 100 RMB (approx $14 USD). The longest any of them lasted before completely falling apart was four months. I’ve had similar experiences with athletic shoes and hiking boots. Additionally, if you wear bigger than a size 10 US, don’t even think about shopping for shoes in China. You’re wasting your time. Footwear may be cheap in China, but when you consider how often they need replacing, you pay almost the same as you would had you bought the name brand. Do yourself and your feet a favor and buy your footwear before you go to China.

Note: Name brand shoes such as Nike and Reebok can be purchased in most Chinese major cities, but will typically cost more than they do in the US.

Cigarettes

Chinese cigarettes come in many varieties, both expensive and cheap. The ones I most often see smoked by foreigners cost around 7-8 RMB a pack (approx $1 USD). Currently cigarettes in Chicago are selling just under $8 a pack. So from a cost-basis standpoint, it’s certainly worth it to puff on those Zhong Nan Hai’s while you’re in the Middle Kingdom. Be warned however, from my limited cigarette smoking experience, Chinese cigarettes are considerably stronger than American ones, and contain more even tar and nicotine. Most Chinese kiosks do sell “Marlboros,” but 99% of them are just Chinese cigarettes in Marlboro packaging. If by chance you are looking to gain some face with Chinese men, bring a carton of real Marlboro cigarettes to distribute as gifts. Make sure the recipients know these Marlboros are the real ones, purchased in the US, not bought in China. Do not give cigarettes to Chinese women as gifts.

Toiletries

Toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, combs, brushes, cue tips, hairspray and just about any other bathroom product imaginable can be purchased in China for a fraction of their cost in the US. There’s no reason to risk having them leak or explode during your flight, when you could just buy them in China cheaper than they would cost back home. The one exception to this rule is deodorant, which by in large the Chinese do not use. When it is used, it is somewhat of a low-volume specialty item and can be more expensive than it would be abroad. In major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, deodorant can be purchased in most department stores, but if you’re going anywhere else, you may want to bring your own, just to be safe.

Electronics

These days, many name-brand electronic devices such as laptops, cell phones, PDAs, and cameras are produced in China. However, this does NOT mean they are cheaper when purchased in the Middle Kingdom. In fact, most name brand electronics are actually more expensive in China than they are in the United States. The only electronics which will be cheaper in China are inexpensive, off-brand, Chinese-made devices such as MP3 players and cell phones. However, the quality on many of these devices can be suspect. From my experience, you’ll be lucky if they last more than a few months. To avoid any hassles, buy your electronics before you go to China.

Cell Phones

Chinese cell phones all use SIM cards. The SIM card can be taken out and replaced by another one, effectively switching your cell number. If your phone uses SIM cards, try taking it with you and buying a Chinese SIM card (approx $5 USD). For owners of phones which do not have a SIM card slot, you are going to need to buy a new phone in China, which is not cheap (the cheaper ones start at around $100 USD). However, the service will be much cheaper than what you would pay for an international plan. If your phone uses the cards, take it with and try your luck. If it doesn’t, just leave it at home.

Clothing

Most clothing in China comes in 2 kinds. There’s the expensive, glitzy, name-brand stuff, of which each article costs more than the average migrant worker’s monthly salary. Then there’s the cheap stuff, in which each item usually costs no more than a meal at McDonald’s. I have encountered two major problems with cheap Chinese clothing. Firstly, like shoes, the quality is generally not good. If you buy a shirt for 20 RMB, look at it like clothing rental, since it’s probably going to fall apart after a couple washes anyway. The other problem is that Chinese clothing styles are very different from those worn in the West, and finding clothes which appeal to Western tastes can be a taxing experience. If you’re tall, matters will be even more complicated. I’m 6 feet 1 inch. When I would finally find a shirt or pair of pants in China which appealed to my tastes, more often than not it wouldn’t come in my size anyway. Make matters simple and buy your clothes before you get to the Middle Kingdom.

With all this in mind, my bags are packed—clothing, shoes, deodorant, and electronics all in place. Next post will be coming from Beijing.

*These comparisons all come from US prices. I can’t vouch for prices in other Western countries. Anybody care to comment?

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »

china china china mandarin mandarin mandarin beijing beijing beijing shanghai shanghai shanghai chinese chinese chinese China Chinese Mandarin Taiwan Beijing Shanghai Taipei Lhasa Tibet Asia China travel Chinese lessons Mandarin lessons learn Chinese Hong Kong Xi'an Great Wall China tours