Living like A Local in China: Lessons On Money
It’s always a big change when you move to another country, especially when you are heading off to the developing world. Expats in China are always concerned about the adjustments they should make so that they can live comfortably yet sparingly. But ever heard of a saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Likewise, when visiting, working or living in China or any other place why not try to experience it from a locals perspective? China is an enormously diverse country, and each and every region has a unique climate, community, culture, and cuisine. As an expat in China, you should learn the ins and outs of keeping expenses low and try to save as much as possible.
China has a renowned personal saving rate which is the highest in the world. The Chinese households have up to 34-53% of their income while Americans save just 2%. Their main reason for saving is not only cultural, but the Chinese people do not like to carry debt and often make large purchases such as houses and cars in total cash. Credit cards are just beginning, and citizens in China mostly operate with money. It is very practical for a foreigner to adapt to the Chinese saving culture by learning how to live like a local.
All this begins when you walk around shopping malls or brand stores then meet new faces that are happy to see you. They will then welcome you into their neighborhoods, and when you start feeling comfortable among the locals, you get immersed into their cultures and start participating in all the things they do at a local level. In this way, you will be regarded as one of them and get free passes for many things.
How to adapt to the Chinese Culture and save money
1. Love the freebies.
Always go for the free amenities in hotels, take some condiment packets from the fast food joints, free tours, and consider free samples at Costco. There are always somewhere that something is offered for free which you would have to spend money purchasing it, do not hesitate going for it such as free tickets to watch a movie, or free lotions and soaps at hotels. Point to note is that be careful only to take the genuinely free giveaways and avoid illegally taking items that are not meant for you because it can land you in trouble.
2. Eating street food.
Do you want to be part of the community? There is no better way than indulging in some of the delicacies prepared along the streets. Lower your guards down or better still get out of your different high horse and just enjoy a snack with the locals and have fun with it. The meals can range from an egg, pancake, BBQ skewers or even hot soy milk. It is not a big deal, and it doesn’t reduce you, instead it’s a big measure of character, how you trust the locals and how they can trust you back.
While at it, it saves you money plus you will start getting more favors from the community since you are part of them and not an outsider. Western food is always pricier even way higher than in the west and therefore if you can survive without real Italian pasta, sandwich or coffee, you will save yourself some bucks. But not to worry since China has some tasty alternatives.
3. Ride the bus.
For transportation if you want to cut the costs as much as possible, the ride a bus for intercity travel, the bus and boats are always cheaper compared to the planes and trains. The bus is also the perfect way to tour the city since when you see something that intrigues you; you simply get off at the next stop, fed your eyes the get back to the bus and keep moving.
4. Learn how to haggle till it hurts
Many foreigners are ripped off when they purchase goods in China. Expats in China must always remember that bargaining in China is considered fine art; hence, one should learn one or two tricks of the trade before deciding on buying. The rule of thumb is the product always around 20-30% the asking price, so bargain with that understanding and if the seller doesn’t budge starting walking away and they come running to you.
5. Ride a bicycle or take advantage of China’s cheap, modern and fast rail network.
The subways are great hence buy or rent a bike and have some fun exercise while mingling on the wheels with other locals. With the unbelievable traffic jams in the main cities of China, a bicycle might be just what you need to save you the nightmare of the rich car life while giving you a taste of what’s local. Also, China’s trains are everything, modern, super affordable, stylish, comfortable and most importantly fastest. Why would you miss an opportunity of enjoying such greatness while saving some bucks while at it?
6. Eat at home and pack leftovers for lunch.
In Chinese culture, home cooked meals are always the best since they present the perfect time for family bonding as well as good on the pocket. It is way cheaper when you prepare your meals at home and pack the leftovers to bring to school or work. If you are on a budget or even otherwise, it can be quite expensive to eat at the restaurants on a daily basis, and if you incline towards saving, it should be the last thing you plan to do.
7. Go to Cheaper/Free Sights
As one great mind once said, “The best things in life are free.’ Therefore, some of the perfect ways to experience China do not ask you to pay a dime. Get the different mentality out of your head and do things that locals do such as strolling along the Bund, enjoying the county parks and Hongkong’s beaches and watching tai-chi in a park.
8. Don’t Explore China during expensive peak times
During summer and likewise peak seasons, everything is expensive, the hotels, the parks, and any other attractions. The locals would prefer to experience China during low seasons e.g., in winter because it not only saves on it to avoid the touring crowds and have a quieter stress-free experience. Also, avoid public holidays since most of the attractions will be super expensive and crowded.Just save for the same experience during low season and enjoy the same amazing China but for less money with up to 60% savings.
9. Exploring less expensive destinations
China is rich in culture, tourist destination, and attraction. The fun does not just begin in Beijing, move to Shanghai then end in Hong Kong. These areas are pretty costly and if you want to save, steer clear of such area and be more adventurous. Discovery China’s hidden fortune in less expensive not so famous areas.
China is quite a strong saving culture which is a quite positive influence. Saving is not complicated; it is an act of self-discipline, small behavioral shifts, and small sacrifices. For the world’s economy to grow then individuals must be better consumers but what happens next when you consume everything and remain in debt for the rest of your life? It’s a bullet too painful to take for the economy. Living in China as a local is impressive yet resourceful since you learn about independence and a lot of all these other good things that you never thought could be possible such as saving.
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