How much money do you make?

“How much money do you make in a month?”
“How much is your rent?”

These, as well as many others, are questions about living costs we get here in China quite a bit. And you may be thinking to yourself “OK with a friend, it’s not that big of a deal” and you would be right, if it were a friend asking you this. But in China that’s not the case.

A common conversation with a stranger may include the above questions. Here’s a quick scene that plays out here nearly daily. I’m talking with a cab driver and within minutes it turns into “What do you do here?” and I say “Oh I teach English” which is immediately met with “How much do you make?” And the reality is that a lot of strangers have no problems asking you this.

It’s funny because China isn’t a direct nation in their communication style and America (for the most part) is. But an American would typically not ask another American how much he made or what he pays for rent or any other living expense for that matter (especially not if the other person were a complete stranger). We’re just not open about money.

And to be honest, I don’t (at this point) have a conclusion for why this is. Why is it that we will be direct about so many things, but money isn’t within the boundaries of most social interactions? Why are the Chinese so indirect about so many things, but have absolutely no problem asking a complete stranger how much he makes? It boggles me.

Its questions like these that excite me. I live in China and am able to grow as a person as I see flaws in my own cultural systems and learn about someone else’s. Like I said I don’t have answers, only observations. And only a warning for anyone traveling or moving to China to get used to questions they normally wouldn’t be faced with.

Enjoy this day,

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