Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Movin’ up: from poor freelancer to slightly rich writer

with 3 comments

I’ve written about being a poverty-stricken writer before. Tales of squalor and survival. On having to eat street-cooked sweet potatoes for a week because I was waiting to be paid. On readjusting attitudes toward money, or rather the accumulation of it, beliefs which I still hold. But now the going should be easier.

I recently moved into a new apartment. It’s in a nice area of Beijing where rich couples stroll around in the evenings. It’s like a little community, a more cosmopolitan part of a city that’s usually gritty – Beijing is perhaps one of the more squalid capital cities of the world.

My old room cost me RMB 1200 a month, or £120. It was a tiny little place, where I could almost touch the walls, just big enough for a single bed, a desk, a sink and a wardrobe. My girlfriend commented that it was the smallest and horriblest place she’d ever seen someone living in (thanks!) and that the bathroom was like the setting for the movie SAW.

The new place is RMB 2400 a month, or £240. I will go to a Beijing IKEA in the near future to furnish the place. I’ve taken on a part-time tutoring job for an eight-year-old Chinese girl. The monthly fee from this pays the rent. I get RMB 10,000 a month (£1000) from my full-time job at the TV company. My freelance journalism pays around £300-500 monthly, depending on my own productivity.

In total then, my monthly salary is around £1600, or 16,000 Chinese RenMinBi. In the UK, £1600 to live on per month is not too bad although this would depend on where you lived. In London I can imagine, after rent, bills, transport and food, it would not stretch very far.

But in China, even in Beijing, this is quite a comfortable salary, what a 35-year-old manager might earn at a medium-sized media company so I’ve been told.

It has taken me seven months to reach this stage. For about seven months now, my UK bank account has been in the red, where I’ve made fervent use of my bank overdraft to finance rent deposits and visa runs to Hong Kong. It is just now back in the black.

The Chinese bank account, after paying for three months rent in advance and a deposit, still has left a sizable residue that will easily tide me over until my next paycheck. Which I will use for a 20-day vacation in Thailand. Life is alright, for now…

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3 Responses

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  1. […] increasingly overpopulated. But good deals can still be had. For example, I lived in a place that cost me RMB 3600 for three months (£120 per month). In China, you often pay for three months at a time. My apartment now, which is […]

  2. […] more comfortable. Accommodation is around £250 to £300 (although you can find digs a lot cheaper: I stayed in a hovel for seven months that cost £120 per month). And £300 for monthly living expenses should see you through. Having […]

  3. […] moved through a relationship (the loveliest I’ve had). I went up in the world by moving in to a nicer apartment. I gained some great new bylines. I lost freelancing momentum. I lost some enthusiasm. I regained […]


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