UPDATE 2016 ~ This page was originally written in 2006 (Has it really been that long!?). Some ten years later you’d be lucky to get 9 yuan to Pound Sterling..So you’d think it would be better to save…. however, this has been counterbalanced by the huge increases in costs of living in Changchun (especially food!), and the wages for foreign teachers, which are only a little higher than they were back in 06. Purchasing power is not what it once was! plus ça change..
Firstly, anyone that tells you there is money in teaching English in Changchun (and China as a whole to an extent) is speaking out of their behind. If you’re interested in saving money, then go to Korea or Japan where you can easily make 4x the pay of Changchun.
However, the Yuan has quite a high spending power in Changchun, but outside China it’s like toilet paper to me (£1=15yuan) – unless you are from another developing country, like Nigeria or the Philippines, then it is isn’t worth saving.
In Changchun your Yuan goes a lot further than in most other Chinese cities, and you can easily live a very comfortable lifestyle. Most things are pretty cheap (imported food items excluded) and you may find it difficult to spend all your salary. If like me you enjoy the Chinese cuisine then you can quite easily eat for no more than 10 Yuan a day.
Understandably the locals will try to get you to pay the foreign price for things though negotiating and driving a hard bargain can be quite a lot of fun. Personally, If there is something expensive that I want, I won’t buy it myself. I’ll get someone Chinese to do it on my behalf. This is not because I don’t know how to negotiate with the Chinese, it’s because often the vendors will not lower their prices as much to a foreign face. I’ve also found that in doing things that entail a lot of money (i.e. renting an apartment) it’s best to avoid the transaction completely, simply acting as a financier never showing you face!
Something I learnt very quickly was to stop converting the price of things back into pounds every time I considered a purchase. You have to keep remembering you’re being paid in the local currency, using such a comparison is a false economy and will ultimately lead to you running out of cash!
I remember thinking ‘wow this meal only cost 300元, back home it would have been at least £100!’ but in real terms 300元 is actually quite a lot of money. (A similar meal would now be 550-650元 in 2015, and yes wages have not doubled in that time…)
For example, a bottle of Coca-Cola from a shop should cost you 2.5元. (4-5元 in 2015) That’s only 17.½p, which will buy you nothing in the UK. However 2.5元 here is enough to buy me lunch at the university canteen, though that’s not somewhere I would advise eating at too often!
Here’s an idea of the price of some things:
- Mineral water (500ml) 1元
- Bus ride 1 元
- DVDs 6元 (Can no longer buy these as of 2011! Government finally shut down the pirates!)
- Computer CDROM 3元
- Harbin beer (630ml) 1.8元 (4-5 yuan in 2015)
- Kebab 0.5元
- Mcdonald’s Double Cheeseburger 8元
- Pack of Instant noodles 1.5元
- Dinner at restaurant for one person 5元 (15 yuan in 2015)
- Taxi up to 2.5Km 5元
- Petrol 4.5元 per litre
- Rent 1000元 per month for downtown apartment (this is 2.5k in 2015! Ouch.)
- Dove chocolate bar 5.5元
- Cheese (200g) 20元
- Draft beer at a bar 30元
- Western standard hotel room 100元
- Pet cat (20元)
- Fake Rolex (18元）
- Mp3 player 512mb (400元）
- Flick Knife (20元)
- Warm coat (200元）
Since the renminbi isn’t yet a fully open currency it can be a difficult to get your yuan changed into real hard currency- especially if you are planning to change money that was earned in China from part-time work (i.e no tax paid) Officially you have to have the correct documentation including your Foreign Experts Certificate, your original contract and the official tax invoices from the government. Then depending upon the day of the week and the exact moment in the space time continium, the nice people at the Bank of China might just convert your money for you, minus the ‘fees’ of course! 🙂
The other way (and the way i recommend) is to go to the Bank of China branch just south of the junction at tongzhi jie and xian dalu (同志街和西安大路) during any weekday. Here you will be able to change your yuan pretty easily with one of the shady looking characters lurking in the foyer of the bank. Actually it isn’t as shady as you think, they will go into the bank and get the foreign currency out of an account at the bank – so you know its genuine money. Of course, the bank manager is in on the scam and may even take a personal role in helping you with your unauthorised transaction. The rate of conversion you can get from the unauthorised route is very good (I guess only the bank manager takes a cut!), unlike the official way whereupon you will pay commission plus transaction fees.
Most Schools will pay anything from 4000-6000元 per month, depending on the hours.
Private language centres will generally pay more, though you may be required to do more work and you won’t get a paid winter vacation.
A typical university contract is 5000元 for 20 hours teaching a week. This includes a free, furnished apartment and paid vacations plus your round-trip air ticket paid in full. If you work at a university you should expect a minimum of a fully paid vacation plus travel allowance (usually 2200元) If you sign up for two semesters. You should expect to have your air-travel reimbursed one-way for a one semester contract. Be aware that many of the not so good universities will try to get you to sign a contract without this stipulation.
Usually you are paid monthly in cash and you may or may not pay tax on this. If you earn less than 4800元 a month then you should be exempt from taxes, anything over 4800y元 is taxed at 10%. Often the university will pay you your air-fare reimbursement in a lump sum payment after the first semester and this should not be taxed as it is classed as a bonus, not a salary. I say this as many Foreign Affairs Officers like to skim from the foreign teachers’ salaries and will claim it is for ‘tax’ purposes. If in any doubt request an official tax invoice. 🙂
The minimum rate of overtime for teaching in Changchun is 100元 per hour, anyone telling you 70 or 80 is trying to trick you. Never do overtime work for anything less. You can get anything up to 150元 per hour if you work for the right people. Also when doing overtime work make sure you are paid cash the end of the day’s work. Don’t be suckered into being paid monthly, as this puts you into a position where you can lose a lot of money when they decide not to pay!
Technically, If you work for a university you are not allowed to work for other outside organisations. However I have never had a problem doing extra work as long as it doesn’t interfere with the full-time job.