You will inevitably pay some learning money when it comes to your life in China. If your Chinese is not up to speed and people realize it they will oftentimes try to get the better of you. This is not because all Chinese are out to get the better of outsiders. It is because as a foreigner you are likely to frequent certain places (e.g. the foreigner markets) where it is part of the business model to try to squeeze every penny out of unassuming 老外. And because you are just as likely to visit these places early on during your China adventure you will be left with a bad impression of Chinese. It is advisable to rise above it however, as otherwise you will stand yourself in the way of making a lot of brilliant Chinese friends.
Silk Street Market, the cradle of haggling (c)
The real estate agent rip off
You are likely to make your first real bad experiences with Chinese through your real estate agents. The industry seems to invite characters of questionable character anywhere in the world (or perhaps you start to become shady as soon as you enter the industry) and China is no different. They will try to get the better of you nine out of ten times and be aware that as long as no money has been handed over things will all be smooth and people will be nice to you. But as soon as money starts changing hands you will find yourself talking to deaf ears with any after-sales problems. It’s just the way it is.
Would you trust them with 3 months rent?
The shopping rip off
During their early days in China, everybody pays the foreigner premium when going shopping. The Chinese live a haggling culture and any prices are just there for show. Exclude from this statement department stores, restaurants and supermarkets which have fixed pricing. But basically anywhere else there is room or even need to haggle. Especially the foreigner markets will give you horrendous prices to start off with in expectation that you will start haggling. Scenario: you want to buy a pair of fake jeans, the seller quotes you 400 RMB you should start at 30-50. You will probably meet at between 50 and 80. Always quote the price you are willing to pay and if no deal just walk away. If the price is ok, the seller will agree acting upset.
Your main tool of communication while haggling
Useful Chinese words
- 老外 foreigner
- 砍价 to haggle
- 中介 agent
- 饭馆 restaurant
- 超市 supermarket
- 百货 department store