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Problem with Bincai Airport Pickup


PaulB
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I was planning on being here three months, but it sounds more and more like it's only going to be one month. I got a call from Bincai saying I can rent an apartment for 2200 rmb, but it's 10 minutes away by cab. They hinted that if I don't want this place I'd have to find another on my own.

I planned the trip expecting to pay 1200Y for rent and 700Y for tuition, but if I take this place my monthly costs will be as follows:

Rent: 2200Y

Tuition: 700Y

Transportation: 400Y (assuming 10Y per trip, 2 trips per day, 5 days per week)

Visa extension: 960Y (although this is due to my lack of foresight)

Total: 4260Y ($625 USD)

I could live and study quite comfortably on less than that in Taiwan. Sorry if this getting a bit off-topic.. but should I stay and pay the money, or cut my losses and go to Taiwan?

Edited by PaulB
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Doesn't solve your whole problem, but you can probably get to and from school by bus for only 1 RMB each way. Why not go take a look at the apartment and at the same time inquire about bus connections? Nothing to lose by doing that. And if the apartment is suitable, perhaps you could share it with another student.

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Got these questions in a PM and figured I'd answer them here to bring some closure to this thread.

I'm thinking of enrolling into Bincai, hows your experience with the school so far? Any tips?

The class: we started with 4 students but by the fourth class there were 7 (one new student each class). The pace was very slow and I didn't feel like I was getting much out of it. The free one-on-one tutoring, however, was invaluable. I got to ask the tutors how to say the important phrases you don't learn in class (e.g. "do you have a boyfriend?"). I would highly recommend signing up for the free tutoring if you enroll.

The staff/school: the staff members were very apologetic about everything and I forgive them. Despite what happened I will still recommend the school because I think it's a great place to learn. Get in touch with Tommy Lee directly to avoid any miscommunications -- he and his girlfriend are very cool and will make sure you're taken care of.

I can almost say I enjoyed my stay in Harbin. I met some great people, ate a lot of good cheap food and learned a decent amount of Mandarin in my short time here. But there are some things that I won't miss:

(1) the dirtiness. If it's windy you're bound to get dirt in your eyes. If you're not careful walking, you might trip over the random rocks on the sidewalk or pot holes in the streets. Many locals litter as they wish, don't clean up after their dogs and aren't shy about peeing in public.

(2) the crazy bus drivers, taxi drivers. Just the drivers in general.

(3) people smoking in small restaurants with no ventilation.

(4) need to be very patient with people. "I will be there at 2:00pm" means "I might get there by 2:40pm" - this happened a few times when I went looking for apartments with a friend and I've been told this is standard all over China.

I'm in California right now low on funds not knowing whether I should get a tourist visa then change it to a student visa when I enroll or just do that now...

What are your expenses a month?

Unfortunately I've decided to cut my losses and go to Taiwan to study because of the costs. Here would be my expenses in Harbin:

Rent: 2,200Y

Utilities: 200Y

Internet: 100Y

Tuition: 700Y

Transport: 400Y

Visa costs: 960Y

Total: 4,560Y ($668 USD).

This isn't a lot of money, but given that I can study in Taiwan for less it makes sense for me to go there instead. Taiwan has warm winters, is more developed (better infrastructure, public transportation, internet, etc.) and less oppressive than China (you don't have to use 3rd party software to access Youtube). Here is what I expect to pay in Taipei:

Rent: NT$ 10,000 (to share a decent apartment in the Da'an district)

Utilities: NT$ 1,000

Internet: usually included in rent.

Tuition: NT$ 6,800

Transport: walk to school

Visa costs: free

Total: NT$17,800 ($546 USD).

So if you're like me and you have a USA passport, I would recommend studying in Taiwan. It's a better environment for less money, the way I see it.

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Sorry to hear it didn't work out for you here.

I got a call from Bincai saying I can rent an apartment for 2200 rmb, but it's 10 minutes away by cab. They hinted that if I don't want this place I'd have to find another on my own.

I'm quite confident that they didn't even really try to find you accommodation. I have about 10 colleagues living in that area, some in really nice apartments, and their accommodation is all around the 900 - 1000 RMB/month mark.

I can almost say I enjoyed my stay in Harbin. I met some great people, ate a lot of good cheap food and learned a decent amount of Mandarin in my short time here. But there are some things that I won't miss:

(1) the dirtiness. If it's windy you're bound to get dirt in your eyes. If you're not careful walking, you might trip over the random rocks on the sidewalk or pot holes in the streets. Many locals litter as they wish, don't clean up after their dogs and aren't shy about peeing in public.

(2) the crazy bus drivers, taxi drivers. Just the drivers in general.

(3) people smoking in small restaurants with no ventilation.

(4) need to be very patient with people. "I will be there at 2:00pm" means "I might get there by 2:40pm" - this happened a few times when I went looking for apartments with a friend and I've been told this is standard all over China.

This is going to be the same, or worse, in other places throughout China. Ask anyone who lives here in Harbin who has also traveled to other places throughout China and they'll tell you that Harbin is very clean compared to many (most?) other Chinese cities. We actually get a blue sky to look at (almost) daily!

Unfortunately I've decided to cut my losses and go to Taiwan to study because of the costs. Here would be my expenses in Harbin:

Rent: 2,200Y

There's a good chance that your rent was quoted so high because you were only looking at short-term rent. However, it's most likely that those looking for your were lazy and didn't want to really find you suitable accommodation. 2,200 RMB/month is very unrealistic. It's very possible to find a comfortable 40 - 50 sqm apartment for 700 - 800 RMB/month.

Utilities: 200Y

Unless you're running a heater/AC unit 24/7, paying this much in utilities per month is unreasonable. My wife and I don't pay more than 50 - 75 RMB/month.

Internet: 100Y

This is average. In some places it can be up to 120 RMB/month.

Tuition: 700Y

Bincai actually provides the best bang for your buck here in Harbin, and probably could rival many other places throughout the country. You get 10 hours a week in class, plus 2 hours a day of one-to-one. That's 20 hours a week, or 80 hours a month, all for less than 20 RMB/hour, the same you'd pay a university student to tutor you privately. That's a great deal and you won't find better elsewhere.

Transport: 400Y

Sure, if you're taking taxis everywhere, you'll pay this or more. However, as an above poster mentioned, if you're taking the bus you significantly minimize this cost.

Visa costs: 960Y

This is a horrible deal. If you're looking to stay short-term, go for a 90-day newable tourist visa. That will get you more than three months for around US$100.

Total: 4,560Y ($668 USD).

No offense, but for someone who did their research and a bit of groundwork on their own, I'd estimate costs as follows:

Rent: 1000 RMB/month (splurge on a nice apartment)

Utilities: 100 RMB/month (again, over estimating)

Internet: 120 RMB/month (overestimating)

Tuition: 700 RMB/month

Transport: 60 RMB/month (taking the bus and occasional taxi)

Visa: 700 RMB (one-time payment)

2680 RMB (US$392) for your first month (because of the visa expense)

1980 RMB (US$290) for the following two months

There'd be another visa expense at the end of the third month for the extension.

You could even throw in an extra 700 RMB (~US$100) for "fun money", which is actually enough for quite a few splurge weekends, and you'd still have much lower expenses than quoted above.

So if you're like me and you have a USA passport, I would recommend studying in Taiwan. It's a better environment for less money, the way I see it.

Firstly, there's no way you'll be paying less in Taipei than what you've originally calculated for yourself here in Harbin. Taipei is an expensive city and the cost of living is much higher than Harbin.

Also, and this all depends on priorities, but anyone serious about learning standard Mandarin should look at studying in NE China, particularly Harbin. The Taiwanese are (largely) unintelligible to mainland Chinese. If you're interested in doing business with Taiwan, or studying that area of the world, go for it. Otherwise, learning standard Mandarin based out of NE China is an absolute must.

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You're welcome to start a new topic about that . . .

Pity things didn't work out - sounds like Bincai aren't too bad, but I would have expected them to come up with a better accommodation solution. Maybe their agent didn't tell them whatever he should have, but he's representing the school, therefore the school needs to step up and fix things he gets wrong. That said, sounds like going direct to Bincai would avoid any issues there.

Thanks also for writing that up and putting it in public rather than just replying to the pm - as I've said before, information out in public can potentially be useful to hundreds, maybe thousands of people, information in a pm useful to one at best.

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Paul,

Sorry you had such a rough time there. May I ask, is this your first time in China? (You sound kind of green.) Hope you like Taipei better, but I'd be amazed if you find it less expensive than Harbin.

Edited by abcdefg
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(1) the dirtiness. If it's windy you're bound to get dirt in your eyes. If you're not careful walking, you might trip over the random rocks on the sidewalk or pot holes in the streets. Many locals litter as they wish, don't clean up after their dogs and aren't shy about peeing in public.

I have been to Harbin and its not as dirty as some of the other places I have seen in China

(2) the crazy bus drivers, taxi drivers. Just the drivers in general.

Thats China for you!! Also South East Asia is the same, if not worse than China

(3) people smoking in small restaurants with no ventilation.

Thats everywhere in Asia. As a non-smoker I dont like it but its not that much of a problem as I dont have to spend all day there!!

(4) need to be very patient with people. "I will be there at 2:00pm" means "I might get there by 2:40pm" - this happened a few times when I went looking for apartments with a friend and I've been told this is standard all over China.

Sure is the norm as most people run on there own time!! But its like that all over the world so I dont really see the big problem. It always gives me time to have a chat to a few locals!!

China is not the place for everyone. So you should have done some better research before you arrived. Or even better still have an open mind and treat it like an adventure.

My adventure in Asia is just over 5 years long and Im still loving it!!! :clap

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You're welcome to start a new topic about that . . .

Well, no, I don't agree that it's going to be a new topic because I'm wondering if PaulB is going to be able to access instruction in standardized Chinese both in Harbin and in Taiwan. That's a concern in his decision making, or should it be a concern in his decision making?

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where's the new topic? :mrgreen: if nobody starts it, let me just put it here: I think this is a myth. I've never heard that at any point in time people speaking 普通话 and 台灣國語 couldn't communicate, on the contrary, I've heard many stories to the opposite effect (mostly Taiwanese going to the mainland, or the two groups interacting abroad). In Taipei I once heard a lecture from a professor from Beijing who said that many Northerners think that 台普 (which they are exposed to through the TV) sounds cute.

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So if you're like me and you have a USA passport, I would recommend studying in Taiwan. It's a better environment for less money, the way I see it.

I live here, and can tell you for sure your analysis is incorrect.

R.O.C. visas are not free, you can only visit free for 30 days as an American if that is what you really are. That 30 day entry cannot be renewed, only actual visitor or residence visas can be extended within Taiwan. So you'd have to factor in the cost of visa runs. If you convert from a visitor to a residence visa, you'll pay extra due to reciprocity with the USA's high visa costs.

Unless your diet consists of fruits on sale, cold noodles from 7-11, and cheap street food, your food costs in Taiwan will be substantially higher than Harbin. Want to cook yourself? You'll find the cheapest apartments don't tend to include any kitchen facilities whatsoever. Hence, you'll have to add money for whatever appliances you would need (which also cost more than on the mainland).

Addressing other incorrect assumptions about Taipei:

1. I've also tripped on rocks and unevenness in sidewalks in Taipei. Old streets are particularly bad for uneven sidewalks, at least where scooters are not parked blocking the sidewalks.

2. Drivers in Taiwan are even worse than in mainland China, and it isn't just limited to cars. You have to deal with the smell of gas scooters that will drive anywhere there is space, or could be. It is not uncommon to get hit by careless people riding scooters. I got hit twice yesterday, a friend recently broke her leg from a hit-and-run.

3. Internet speeds in Taiwan suck unless you happen to live in a building that has FTTH. My numeric speed is supposedly 8 times faster than what I had in mainland China, but in actuality it is much slower.

4. In Taiwan, people tend to arrive at events one hour after the appointed time, so if you want to meet at 2pm, you'll likely see them at 3pm.

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I'm quite confident that they didn't even really try to find you accommodation. I have about 10 colleagues living in that area, some in really nice apartments, and their accommodation is all around the 900 - 1000 RMB/month mark.

There's a good chance that your rent was quoted so high because you were only looking at short-term rent. However, it's most likely that those looking for your were lazy and didn't want to really find you suitable accommodation. 2,200 RMB/month is very unrealistic. It's very possible to find a comfortable 40 - 50 sqm apartment for 700 - 800 RMB/month.

Yep, your colleagues told me about their apartments. I'm convinced that their rents and the rents you speak of are only for long-term stays.

I met up with a local girl (friend of a classmate) one afternoon to look at some apartments. Out of around a dozen potential places in the newspaper classifieds, only three were willing to rent for 3 months. They were 1500, 1800 and 2200 yuan per month, and they were very bad deals for their respective prices.

If you're looking to stay short-term, go for a 90-day newable tourist visa. That will get you more than three months for around US$100.

Are you sure about this? I spent the last hour trying to find a recent link on Google that would corroborate this, but all I get are pages that say L visas can be renewed twice for 30 days each, for $130 each time.

China is not the place for everyone. So you should have done some better research before you arrived. Or even better still have an open mind and treat it like an adventure.

I agree I should've researched more, but I disagree with the latter part of your post. I came to China by myself, with no friends here, to learn Chinese from the bottom-up. When faced with hardship, I made (in my opinion) a decent effort to make the most out of the situation, and I'm still being positive about it.

Well, no, I don't agree that it's going to be a new topic because I'm wondering if PaulB is going to be able to access instruction in standardized Chinese both in Harbin and in Taiwan. That's a concern in his decision making, or should it be a concern in his decision making?

This link discusses studying Mandarin in Taiwan versus Mainland China. I wouldn't do the article justice by summing it up and possibly adding some bias, so I would suggest taking a look at it and making your own judgments.

R.O.C. visas are not free, you can only visit free for 30 days as an American if that is what you really are. That 30 day entry cannot be renewed, only actual visitor or residence visas can be extended within Taiwan. So you'd have to factor in the cost of visa runs.

Addressing other incorrect assumptions about Taipei:

You're right about visas not being free. If you get a landing visa, it is for 30 days and not renewable. Visitor visas, however, may be extended up to 6 months without leaving Taiwan if you are studying Mandarin (source) and cost US$36 per application (source). Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Also, I only mentioned those things about Harbin stating that I would not miss them. I never assumed that those things weren't in Taiwan. Just wanted to clear that up in case there's any confusion.

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PaulB, for what it's worth, I think you did fine. You ran into trouble, you tried to deal with it, and decided you could solve things by going elsewhere. The smoking and being late things are all part of the culture shock, you would have gotten over that in time, but you didn't stay that long. You'll run into other things in Taiwan to get culture shocked over, and you'll get over those and have a good time.

As the link to the ESL forum says, you can learn Mandarin in Taiwan just fine, and with the Mandarin you learn there you can make yourself understood all over China, with only very minimal issues. (Taiwanese is of course a very different cup of tea.)

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