One day in May 2013, I’m at a Lanzhou noodle restaurant near my apartment. While I’m waiting for the food, I send my then-fiancé now-husband a voice message. When the guy sitting across the table from me hears that I can speak Chinese, he starts chatting with me. After talking about where I’m from and similar topics, he points at a huge picture on the wall showing the grasslands in Gansu, saying: “I’ve been to that place.”
I: “It looks beautiful and reminds me of the grasslands in Sichuan and Yunnan.”
He: “The area where I’m from looks like that too. I’m from Sichuan.”
I: “How long have you been living in Shenzhen?”
He: “I’ve been living here for ten years. I have been studying in Shanghai before coming here.”
I: “What’s your major?”
He: “Software, IT. That’s also my work here in Shenzhen. Do people in Austria know Shenzhen?”
I: “Some do, some don’t. If they don’t know it, I’ll tell them that it’s right across the border from Hongkong. Everyone knows Hongkong.”
He: “You’re right. Hongkong is really close. My company’s headquarter is located in Luohu district of Shenzhen, right next to the border. The company also has a branch in Hongkong. Our company’s Hongkong employees who do exactly the same job as the Shenzhen employees earn a lot more than the latter. An employee in Shenzhen earns around 5000 RMB a month while one located in Hongkong will earn 40000 RMB monthly.”
I: “Wow, that’s a lot more.”
He: “It is. Living is expensive in Hongkong and food is more expensive too. For a simple noodle dish like this one (pointing at the food he’s eating) you’ll pay 8 Yuan here, while in Hongkong you’ll probably pay around 30 Yuan. Hongkong is more expensive, but I think the difference in salaries is out of proportion, it’s a bit unfair.”
We talk for a little longer before I have to get going to meet up with my fiancé and to leave Shenzhen for our wedding in Austria.
Have you ever had a similar conversation? I’d love to read your comments.