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Decided: Moving to Kunming


reloKate
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My husband and I have decided to go ahead and make the move to Kunming for at least 6 months, and attend YNNU during Spring 2009 semester. So the next step is to work out our budget to make sure it's feasible for us.

The university costs are fixed at $1900/semester (for 2 people). According to these forums, accommodations (rent and utilities) range from 750¥ - 1050¥ ($110 - $150) per month and transportation is inexpensive. I'm assuming that our shopping costs will be low, as we are both outside of the standard clothing sizes available in China - so our purchases will be limited to things like DVDs and day trips (including entrance fees) to neighboring cities and town.

The only costs I can't seem to get a real fix on is food. I know that going out for dinner is probably the best way to meet locals, but I can't imagine eating out for every meal. Yuck! We go out now maybe 2-3 times a week for dinner, and will probably keep that up in KM. That being said:

- What should we expect to spend per month for groceries for 2 adults? (That is, with minimal Western imports)

- What is the daily class schedule for the language program (complete beginner) at YNNU?

- I am African American and my husband is British. Will we have difficulties in Kunming as an interracial couple? I have scoured the 'net for information about black people in Kunming, and have found nothing. Are there non-African black people (maybe Black-Britons or African Americans) in Kunming at all, working or students?

(I have read numerous horror stories of blacks in China who were shunned or berated by white westerners more viciously than by the Chinese. So I want to be sure that I can have some kind of social life in the event that I am unwelcomed by the local citizens or the non-Chinese foreigners. I have to have someone besides my goofy husband to talk to.)

- I have an MA in International Studies - will it be difficult for me (both as an African American and as a non-Chinese speaker) to find a job in Kunming, after the semester is complete, that does not involve teaching English? After all, we would like to relocate to China, not just visit for a few months!

- Is it reasonable to assume that we can get by on $1000 (minus accommodations/food/transportation) of miscellaneous spending money?

Okay, I suppose this post is long enough. Thank you in advance for any helpful answers. :wink:

Kate

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I have an MA in International Studies - will it be difficult for me (both as an African American and as a non-Chinese speaker) to find a job in Kunming, after the semester is complete, that does not involve teaching English? After all, we would like to relocate to China, not just visit for a few months!

This question comes up on a semi-frequent basis. Here's what I said in your last post, guessing that this question was coming:

"What skills do you have that a Chinese (who will work for a fraction of what you will) doesn't have? Finding work other than teaching English isn't very easy, especially with no Chinese language skills, and expecting to continue an American standard of living. It will take you at least a year of full time, hardcore study before you could successfully operate in a Chinese-speaking work environment, and that's only if you work very hard. These same questions will apply to most Asian countries you could move to, only finding non-teaching work in some other Asian countries is more difficult than China, as you may first have to prove that you possess a skill that a local doesn't have before being allowed to fill the position."

It's no joke. What can you offer a Chinese company that a Chinese person can't? There are MANY Chinese who can speak English, albeit not very well, but they've already got something you don't, since you don't speak Chinese. Most Chinese work for less than 2,000 RMB a month, some barely more than a 1,000 RMB. Can you live that way? Why should a Chinese company give you more than that when you don't speak Chinese and have a degree that many Chinese also have? These are the things that a boss at a Chinese company will be thinking. In other words, it isn't that easy finding non-teaching work. Anyway, you can find more information about this by searching the forums. Here's a link that has recordings of foreigners speaking about different aspects of life in China: http://www.bizcult.com/content/?cat=7. There are two by an American woman who worked in a Chinese company for a while. Not overly insightful, but probably contains some useful info for someone new to China.

Most of the black people I know are African. I have known a few black Americans, and in my city (Hangzhou) they weren't treated any differently than the white Americans by the ex-pat community. In my experience, white/black race issues seem to fade into the background a bit in China because after some time one realizes that despite the color of our skin, as fellow American's (or perhaps just fellow Westerners) we have MUCH more in common with each other than we do with Chinese. It also seems that a white and black American have much more in common with one another than black Americans do with Africans.

The biggest racism you'll will probably face will be from Chinese. Chinese can be rather racist, and there's no taboos about using racist slurs publicly. Very little of that kind of talk will make it into English, so it won't be obvious until you learn some Chinese. I'll spare you the stories of some of the things my black friends have heard Chinese say about them, thinking they don't understand Chinese. You need to have some thick skin to live in China, even if one is white.

I get by on a less than 2,000 RMB a month, but I live very simply. I don't take taxis; don't eat a foreign restaurants, but eat out every day (mostly noodles, fried rice and jiao zi); movies, music, games and even sometimes books I download, so those are free; don't go out to bars . . . If you're interested in being thrifty, avoid getting caught up in the ex-pat party scene. Yunnan, like all Western China, is much poorer than the East coast, where I live, so the cost of living is supposed to be much lower (but so is the pay). If you're careful you should be fine.

Enjoy your time in China.

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kunming housing costs are rising. although you should be able to find something

suitable for around 1000, you should probably budget in around 1500 to be safe.

hard to give an estimate on food costs, not knowing what you normally purchase.

if you don't want to teach english, perhaps you could teach international studies at

one of the universities.

the schedule at ynnu is apparently random. don't expect fixed times every day over the

course of the week. could be 10-12 three days a week, and 8-10 & 3-5 the other two.

i wouldn't expect you to experience any difficulties with the westerners here (we're

even nice to the french!). those with rascist tendencies are less likely to spend long

periods in developing countries. from the chinese, you'll probably find a lot more

curiosity, although much of what they know of black people, especially in the u.s.,

comes from movies, so in conversations you should expect questions relating to the

most common media stereotypes.

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I started studying at YNNU for the Spring 2008 semester as an absolute beginner and the class schedule I have is as follows:

Mon 8am-12pm

Tue 8am-12pm

Wed 10am-3pm (1 hour lunch break)

Thur 10am-3pm (1 hour lunch break)

Fri 8am-10am

We have a total of 18 classes per week:

4 classes – listening

4 classes – speaking

4 classes – writing

6 classes – comprehension

As Mr Stinky said classes will run from 8am-5pm, although it's unlikely that you would have more than 4 classes in one day.

We also have two elective classes per week which you choose a few weeks after you start; these can range from calligraphy, painting, massage, mahjong, HSK, and others.

The apartment I live in costs 1400 RMB per month, excluding utilities and is less than a 10 minute walk from YNNU. It is about 80sqm and has two bedrooms (one of which I use a study room), a western bathroom, reasonably large living area and basic kitchen. It also has electric heated water which I’ve heard is essential come the rainy season.

You can expect to pay around 1000 RMB per month for one bedroom place, or perhaps with two bedrooms further away from the university or with more basic bathroom facilities.

You should be able to get by on 2000 RMB (per person) per month fairly comfortably. I have a budget of 3000 RMB per month but about a third of this goes on trips to nightclubs in the Kundu area of Kunming. I also eat out at local Chinese and western restaurants 2-3 times a week. You can get a good meal at a restaurant from 20-25 RMB upwards per person, including drinks.

YNNU has a reasonable canteen where you can get lunch for around 5 RMB. It is also open for dinner if you’re really strapped for cash and want to save money.

Be aware that you will have some set-up costs after you arrive:

400 for your visa

100(+) text books

200-1000 mobile phone

200 internet set up

The apartment I rent was fully furnished but had little in the way of pots and pans in the kitchen so I had to buy cutlery, kitchenware etc which cost around 1000 overall.

I have met a few black-Americans and the odd Nigerian but they are few and far between. From my experience all the foreigners that I have met get on with each other irrespective of race. I have met Chinese with some fairly strong views on certain nationalities, particularly the Japanese, but beyond the usual curiosity factor of seeing a non-Asian face I would imagine you’d experience very few problems.

Feel free to PM me if you have any more specific question about study at YNNU.:)

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Wow, all this advice is so great! Thank you to everyone who responded, it's helped a LOT.

lilongyue, you are totally right about jobs - and it's something that I didn't consider much. And that's probably my own American bias coming in, which makes me feel ashamed. I suppose I was thinking more in terms of American organizations in Kunming that were looking for American employees (I have seen a couple, that are based in DC) so I was checking to see if I'd have an "in" - but what you say makes complete sense.

mr. stinky, thanks for the tip about rental costs. I don't know why I assume that everything is static, even though where I live, rental prices are increasing, as well. I'll account for 1500¥ per month for rent, just to be on the safe side, and will hopefully find myself delightfully surprised if, in February, rent is only 1000!

khyber, i really appreciate the daily schedule. it's exactly what I was looking for! in fact, all the info you've provided has been ace. I will definitely be PMing you soon.

:)

thanks again, everyone! hope to see you in KM next year!

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you are totally right about jobs - and it's something that I didn't consider much. And that's probably my own American bias coming in, which makes me feel ashamed. I suppose I was thinking more in terms of American organizations in Kunming that were looking for American employees (I have seen a couple, that are based in DC) so I was checking to see if I'd have an "in" - but what you say makes complete sense.

Don't feel bad, it's a natural response after always hearing about all the American and European companies that have gone to China to do business. One gets the idea that there must be tons of work waiting here in China. What they don't tell you is that 99% of the jobs those companies produce are borderline sweatshop factories, if not outright sweatshops (not to mention the pollution they create in China, and unsafe working conditions . . .). Of the jobs offered in China by Western companies that I've researched, most positions available to non-Chinese have been very high level management of one kind or another, requiring many years of experience, or related to engineering, or some other math and/or technological field. If one is interested in working in some kind of international NGO, then law degrees are often times required, or degrees in economics. If you're really committed to a life abroad, as an American citizen you could look into being a Foreign Service Officer, a part of the U.S. Department of State. That's what I'm going for, and will be taking the exam in July. The Sate Department website has a lot of info about the positions, you may want to take a look at it.

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Feel free to PM me if you have any more specific question about study at YNNU
I will definitely be PMing you soon.
Or you could just keep posting here, and that way future readers will be able to benefit from the answers too.
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a bit of detailed rental and utilities info:

2 bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom (tub and toilet), small sunroom. 4th floor. clean.

less than 10 minute bus ride (3 lines) to YNU/YNNU/ELCEC. 5 minute walk to carrefour.

monthly rent 700 rmb, unfurnished. one month deposit, usually pay 6 months rent in

advance. factor in one month's rent agency fee.

area closer to schools and green lake are much more expensive.

utilities:

television: 24/month for 100+ digital tv. (or buy dvd's for 5 rmb)

internet: 960/year unlimited adsl

gas: 10 rmb bimonthly

electric: 160 rmb bimonthly (fridge,computer,water heater,space heater)

this is over the 'winter' so factor in running the heater

water: 30 rmb quarterly

cellphone: 600 rmb annual contract with free phoneset, previously used recharge cards

at about 50 rmb/month

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  • 9 months later...

if either of you who attended YNNU are still around...did you like it? love it? ...and do you know anything about the dorms on campus?

..and if you want to throw in anything that would sway/deter me from going to kunming to study...please. feel free :)!

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  • 4 years later...

 

I get by on a less than 2,000 RMB a month, but I live very simply. I don't take taxis; don't eat a foreign restaurants, but eat out every day (mostly noodles, fried rice and jiao zi); movies, music, games and even sometimes books I download, so those are free; don't go out to bars . . . If you're interested in being thrifty, avoid getting caught up in the ex-pat party scene. Yunnan, like all Western China, is much poorer than the East coast, where I live, so the cost of living is supposed to be much lower (but so is the pay). If you're careful you should be fine.

 

 

 

 

I live the same way in Guangzhou (except I cook, which basically means eating healthier for about the same price as eating out for noodles), and I can make it on 2000 a month. Mind you, my rent is free. Expensive stuff includes clothes, medicine, books...

I have travelled extensively in Yunnan, in the back country roads of Banna, Dehong, and Baoshang (some might regard these areas as 'touristy' but I sure didn't see any tourists (except Chinese tourists at the Tengchong volcanos), as well as Kunming, and I beg to differ that Yunnan is glaringly poor relative to the East, though wages may be much lower. Everywhere I went the cities (lovely places like Ruilin and Techong) were clean, the infrastructures intact, and the people busy and healthy. Moreover, prices were not much cheaper, and usually the same, as they are here in Guangzhou. Kunming is another ugly (sorry Kunming folks) urban sprawl that is just as expensive as any other big Chinese city. It's a 'once was beautiful' city. Nor did I notice that grave of a difference between the supposedly very backward Guizhou and other parts of China either.

 

I don't know about Shanghai or Beijing, but Guangzhou is a mixture of the monied upwardly mobile class and a very substantial migrant labor population. The skyscrapers are gorgeous, but there are also beggars, sweatshops, bicycle rickshaw haulers, and grotty shanties. I think that's a more realistic view of modern wealthy China, reminiscent of migrations to California in the 19th Century. Everyone is looking for a better life, but to be honest most probably don't find it- at least not the first generation. Sorry for blabbing off topic, but perhaps the point can be emphasized- here in Guangzhou, Westerners (along with Africans and a host of other nations China is doing business with) either succeed at entrepreneurship, leave, or if they are native speakers of English (but not always), teach English. Even one area they can compete in if they know Chinese, translation- pays so little compared to English teaching that it's just not worth it. English teaching for the time being is in high demand. I wonder if Chinese will still feel that they need native English teachers a couple of decades from now? In Japan they're a dime a dozen, reducing English teaching in that country to Working Holiday.

 

I'll be living in Kunming to attend YUN next September and I'm bracing for a higher cost of living, not a lower one. For part time jobs I'll be looking for what I've been doing for the last twenty years- English teaching. At for at least 150 yuan an hour (would not take less), that adds up pretty quickly.

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