I visited my friend in Hong Kong last weekend at the same time that I went to a journalism conference. This friend is from mainland China, so it was interesting to hear both her nostalgia for her home as well as her perspective on Hong Kong, where she has been living, working and studying for the last three years. She kept saying that Hong Kong was so expensive, and I have to agree that 6,000 HK dollars for a tiny two bedroom apartment in the north part of town did seem steep.
Still, I think I blew her mind when I informed her how expensive the mainland has been getting. Granted she never lived in the more expensive cities of Shanghai or Beijing, but even in her hometown in Northeast China, she didn’t understand how her parents and friends were spending money.
Her mom was buying 70 RMB movie tickets, and her friends barely batted an eyelash at a 1000 RMB dress. She didn’t understand how they could afford new apartments and designer bags with 3,000 per month salaries. She couldn’t believe that rent for my brother’s crummy two bedroom apartment near Peking University in Beijing went from about 3,000 RMB per month to 6,000 RMB in the last two years. She assumed that at least food is still cheap, but when I told her that an average Chinese meal out with friends was around 30 RMB (which I thought was cheap), her inquiries ended in a wail of despair.
The average salary for a white-collar worker like her in Hong Kong—8,000 HKD—is significantly higher than the average 5,000 RMB in Shanghai and Beijing or 3,000 RMB in second and third-tier cities on the mainland. She longs to go back home, but prices on the mainland that seem to be starting to rival Hong Kong made her reluctantly reconsider.