salaries in China
May 3, 2011 12:29 AM   Subscribe

How does a RMB 650k salary in a large Chinese city like Beijing or Shanghai compare to a $100k salary in San Francisco, California?
posted by dcrocha to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just yesterday Business Insider had an article comparing the lifestyle you might have with a $100k salary in 21 cities across the world, based on cost of living and taxes. Beijing and Hong Kong were included; SF was not, although some other USA cities were.
posted by JumpW at 1:15 AM on May 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sorry: Shanghai was included, Beijing was not.
posted by JumpW at 1:17 AM on May 3, 2011

Best answer: In general, as the cost of living is much lower, your RMB will go a lot further. It depends on if you have a family, if you are paying for international school fees, etc., what kind of apartment you want to rent, but for one person, on that salary you can live like an absolute king in China. Even in the most expensive cities, and even taking into account the rising rents and inflation that has seen food prices rise considerably. On this salary, you could rent a luxury apartment, eat out every day in posh restaurants, go for massages, take nice holidays, have a maid come in twice a week, etc. and still probably save some money.

Keep in mind this is a country where starting salaries for white-collar workers is 3K RMB (36K a year), if they are lucky. I made a fraction of what you are talking about, and not only do I live in a higher income bracket than I ever did in New York, I still managed to save a decent amount.
posted by so much modern time at 1:21 AM on May 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Many people with that kind of salary post regularly on the Shanghai Expat forums. They may be able to give you a more detailed answer. Expect mega-snark, though.
posted by msittig at 1:23 AM on May 3, 2011

650K RMB per year is a king's ransom in Beijing or Shanghai. You will be, by Chinese standards, very wealthy. If you live in a luxury apartment and consume mostly imported products and goods, and eat only out in Western restaurants, costs will be higher but you'll still be rich.

If you plan to rent a medium-nice apartment and eat chinese food a good amount of the time you will be even richer!

120K per year is already upper-middle class by chinese standards.

How many people are you supporting?

I make a fraction of that, and live in nanjing, which is cheaper than Beijing and Shanghai. still, I have been able to save lots of money and never feel limited by not having enough.
posted by bearette at 1:51 AM on May 3, 2011

by way of comparison, software engineers at IBM china can expect 元120,000/yr, and this is very good pay indeed. Kids coming out of college can only expect half that, even at prestigious companies, starting out.

The statutory minimum wage is 1160/mo in Beijing, so by that scale this is 46X the minimum wage, or almost a million USD a year when scaled relative to the US minimum wage.

IME how this works though is the closer you live like a po' Chinese person the closer you will live like a millionaire, and the closer you like like an expat the closer this salary will just be equivalent to making $100K in SF.
posted by mokuba at 2:24 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just for reference, I rode my bike to work each day and had no car. I did not bring my lunch to work. There were many, many weeks that I lived off of way less than 100 quai, and I ate well (not fancy, but well).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:05 AM on May 3, 2011

Best answer: The most I ever made in China was about 20k RMB per month, maybe a third of what you're looking at. Except for getting a much nicer apartment, I'm not sure what I'd do with all the extra money. I typically lived on maybe 5-7k, ate most meals out, took taxis rather than the bus 90% of the time, went on weekend trips, went out to bars, got massages, bought clothes, books and home furnishings on a whim--basically lead an economically care-free life. Above 8k I ended up saving or putting towards major purchases. This was in Beijing and Shenzhen, so I'm not 100% sure about Shanghai.

Now if I made the kind of money you're talking about, I guess I'd start paying a lot more in rent in a much better neighborhood, but you're still only talking about a small fraction of your monthly salary on rent, unless you're going to live in one of the expat compounds or something really ostentatious.

Now, for some things, no amount of money can make up the differences between Beijing and San Francisco. All things being equal, I'd probably be happier making $80k in SF than $100k in Beijing, just because of weather, clean air, lack of insane crowds, etc. But you won't need to give up much on material comforts overall. Certain luxuries like massages or taxis will be almost trivially cheap in Beijing on your salary.
posted by skewed at 10:45 AM on May 3, 2011

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