Sunday, 21 September 2008

Bad Eggs

A common recurrence I have seen while living in China is that hordes of people think that I am made of money. Why? Because I'm a foreigner. It's true that I get paid above the average wage for a Chinese person in this city, but I'm certainly not earning a fortune like so many of the millionaire Wenzhounese who drive around in their huge 4x4 Porsche cars all day.

Usually this way of thinking isn't a worry, but other times it can be tiresome. Shopping for many items can be very different here, mainly because some goods don't have fixed prices -- they can be bargained down. For something like a bottle of water, you would expect the shop assistant to sell it at a reasonable price that should need no energy for haggling. Sometimes, things can be different if you are a "wai guo ren" (the more polite way to say "foreigner" in Chinese). A drink that was once 3 RMB will now suddenly cost 4 RMB, or a pair of shoes that should be 150 RMB will be sold for 250 RMB. This kind of practice is even more common in tourist hot spots, they will rip you off left, right, and centre. I will not forget the time I bought a small statue of one of the terracotta army figures in Xi'an for 80 RMB (haggled down from 200 RMB) thinking I'd got a bargain. Soon after, I found the Dutch guy -- who was in our group -- had bought two larger statues at a total of 40 RMB from the shop next door. To add insult to injury, my terracotta emperor was beheaded in my bag on the way back to Hangzhou from Xi'an.

The reason I'm writing this is because I was once again hit by the rip-off yesterday. Kimi and I were on "Wu Ma Jie" (translates as "Five Horse Street"), a high street in Wenzhou where many of the major shops reside. After eating our dinner we were ready to go home, but too lazy to walk all the way, so we decided to get one of the many rickshaws -- cycled not pulled -- that plague this city. As soon as we walked up to the group of them huddled together at the end of the pedestrian street, the drivers were charging 10 RMB when usually it is 5 RMB. Just out of principle we would not accept being charged double the standard fare. We tried to get the price down but to no avail. We were about to leave when one of the drivers commented that it was 10 RMB because I'm a foreigner ("lao wai")*. This angered me slightly, so I called him a "bad egg" (ben dan) -- quite right too I thought. The stroll home was probably better for us anyway.

A lone rickshaw cycling near my home

I have just finished putting up on the wall some various photographs that I had printed yesterday (2 RMB per photo) of family, cats, home and sightseeing. Kimi and I also hung up the two hand-made-kind-of-Indian-looking fabric pictures I bought from Wuzhen last weekend. My room actually feels more like a bedroom and less like a prison cell now.

The two hand-made pictures from Wuzhen (the lady is in the living room, and the elephant in the bedroom) and my small wall of photographs


大眼睛熊 said...

Umm ur apartment looks more like home now! :D

Mabel Poon said...

Ha! I could saw 2 cats on your wall, but not very clear, can you show me these pic?