The Chinese currency
The Chinese currency is called ‘renminbi’. In Mandarin, it literally means the people’s currency.
The yuan is the basic unit of the renminbi. It’s the Chinese equivalent of a dollar or a pound.
Everything for sale in China is expressed in yuan.
However, on the street people usually say ‘kuai’ instead of yuan. This is like saying a ‘buck’ in the US or a ‘quid’ in the UK.
Renminbi is China's national currency (pictured: 100 yuan note).
One yuan is made up of 10 jiao (or mao), which in turn is made up of 10 fen. This makes everything easy to count.
If you visit Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan, you'll need to use the local currency. Renminbi is legal tender in mainland China only.
You'll earn a generous local salary when you're teaching in China.
However, the money you make in China may not stretch very far when you return home.
That’s why it’s important to keep exchange rates in mind if you send or bring money home.
Exchange rates as at September 20, 2020 are as follows:
|Country (currency)||Exchange rate|
|New Zealand (NZD)||4.52|
Putting the exchange rate into practice – an example
Jimmy, an American teacher in China, spends 15 yuan on a bowl of dumplings.
To calculate how much this costs him in US dollars, he divides the figure by 6.79. Jimmy’s meal works out to be about $2.20. That's cheap!
Take a look at this page if you'd like to see the cost of everyday items in China.
Bargaining in China
If you enjoy the art of bargaining, you’ll love shopping in China!
The country is full of bustling markets with clothes, gifts and other merchandise, and negotiating the price you pay for these goods is the norm.
Ask for the cost of the item and give a counter-offer of around half or two-thirds. The vendor isn’t likely to give it to you for half price, so you’ll need to go back-and-forth a few times until you arrive at a price you’re comfortable with.
Haggling is part of Chinese culture, so when you’re out shopping it’s important to think and act like a Chinese person. They would never accept the first price they’re given!
Bargaining is common at places like this across China.
Note that you generally can’t bargain at shopping malls and high-street shops.
The longer you teach English in China, the better you'll become at getting the lowest prices at the markets.
And most vendors have a calculator on hand, making it easier for you.
To get a grasp on how money works in China, and to be able to bargain, it’s a good idea to learn the numbers in Mandarin.
Even knowing numbers 1 through 10 will help you outside the classroom.
Luckily, Chinese numbers follow a pretty logical sequence. Although 200 breaks the pattern, with a bit of practice you should be able to count up to 999 with relative ease.
As a teacher in China, it would be rare that you would need to spend 1,000 yuan or more on general living items, so learning up to 999 is considered a relatively safe level.
Are you ready to start counting?
|Number||Chinese character||Pinyin (how you pronounce it)|
|21||二十一||èr shí yī|
|101||一百零一||yī bǎi líng yī|
|110||一百一(十)||yī bǎi yī (shí)|
|111||一百一十一||yī bǎi yī shí yī|
|120||一百二(十)||yī bǎi èr (shí)|
|121||一百二十一||yī bǎi èr shí yī|
|999||九百九十九||jiǔ bǎi jiǔ shí jiǔ|
Don’t worry if you find you're struggling to learn the numbers.
You’ll have plenty of real-life practice in China. Your new Chinese friends will be eager to help you too.
Ultimately, you're not expected to have any Mandarin skills to teach in China. All you need is English!
Find out all the requirements to teach in China here.