Monday, October 25, 2010

The People's Money

As I mentioned in my last post, life now is starting to revolve around regular family-type events, like soccer, school, and work. Having said that, however, there’s plenty of new things that are now part of our lives.

Yesterday, for example, I carried a big heavy envelop full of cash to my language school, to pay for my next set of Chinese classes. Most places prefer cash over bank transfers, as cash is faster and more reliable than transferring funds between banks. I've heard that especially between banks in the SAME city this can be quite problematic. As a result, I dragged around a huge pile of 100 yuan notes. Good thing I had a big bag, because it did not fit in my wallet.

By the way, there are actually three names that are used for money here. The currency itself is called RMB, which stands for Renminbi, "the people’s money". The main unit of it is the yuan, but in spoken Chinese (at least here in Beijing), people say “kuai” instead of yuan. So a replica of an ancient Ming vase will be 5000 kuai (or perhaps 200 kuai if you negotiate it down to a reasonable level).

One yuan can be divided in 10 jiao (sort of like a dime or a “dubbeltje” if you will), which in normal life is called a mao. You can see some notes of 1 and 5 jiao in the pictures below.

One thing I had to got used to with the money (other than the physical effort involved in carrying all those notes) was how prices are described. If something is $1.50 or €1,50, you simply say something like “one blah blah fifty”. But if something is ¥1.50, you actually don’t say "one yuan fifty", you say “one yuan five”. And along the same lines, ¥1500 would be called "1 qian 5" (qian = 1000). Interesting, huh?

Please do check out my money in the pictures here -- on the right is the pile of notes for my language school. (Thieves take note: the money is already gone!)

5, 10, 20, and 50 yuan notes:

1 jiao (the "dime" or "dubbeltje"):

5 jiao:

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