I hope everyone had a nice Easter weekend. As you can imagine, Easter is not a recognized holiday in China. There are Christians here, however, both Chinese and foreign, so the day was observed quietly without all the chocolate eggs and bunnies. No peeps in sight!
I spent Easter Sunday observing my usual routine - Morning coffee at McDonald's, walk through People's Square, Window shopping at Silver Plaza Department Store (a little uncomfortable when all the sales girls follow you around to see what the foreigners touch), and finally, grocery shopping at the downtown supermarket where I stock up on the week's necessities. I usually spend somewhere between 100 and 200RMB ($14.62-29.25) weekly, but sometimes up to 400RMB ($58.50) depending on the amount of foreign foods I am purchasing. Foreign foods are big ticket items and I usually only buy them once per month. Here are some tables of prices that I observed at RT-Mart during the last two weeks:
1USD=6.838RMB (13 April 2009) When I first came to China over three years ago, 1USD was equal to 8.2RMB. Sigh.
These are the foreign foods that I buy. Mostly they come from the US, Germany, Spain, the Philippines and Korea. I have no idea how the store has come to stock these specific items, but they are pretty much always there. We know when a fellow expat has been by the store, however, when all the cans of spring water packed tuna are gone. In that case, we have to make do with the soybean oil packed kind.
The top beer brand in China is Tsing Tao from the city of Qingdao. Qingdao was colonized by the Germans in the 1800s and the city still has a slight German feel. Yanjing and Snow are national beers of lesser quality, also a Pilsner style. Immense is the local provincial beer and along with Tsing Tao the brand we drink the most. Foreign beers are the usual suspects - but we hardly see anyone drinking these. In a restaurant the prices will be inflated to ~10RMB per bottle for Tsing Tao and ~20RMB for a Budweiser/Heineken. In discos, the prices will be much higher.
Fresh milk is not something you are going to find here, unless you travel to a dairy. Actually, this is the case for much of the world. For example, in my husband's country of Spain, when you buy milk, you buy a cardboard box that will stay good, unrefrigerated for several months. I don't like milk so I don't really know what the taste difference is. Milk is booming in popularity here due to advertising stating milk will make the body strong and tall. Although Asians are by and large lactose-intolerant, children here drink lots of milk and yogurt. And you can see it, too, as the average height is slowly creeping upwards. Tea is king, of course, over coffee. In supermarkets, there is not a lot of choice beyond Nescafe. To buy real coffee, you need to go to Shanghai or Beijing. The tea example I have given in the table is for a medium quality well-known brand. You can buy bags much cheaper and bags much, much, much more costly.
I don't really like to buy meat and seafood for cooking here. I prefer to just go out to a restaurant, but then again, I'm no chef. The seafood is kept cold on ice and is generally very fresh. The meat in the supermarket is refrigerated and appears to be healthy and red. Butchering techniques, however, are a far cry from what we are accustomed to. Take a chicken for example, if you ask for a whole chicken to be cut up, what you will end up with is a bag of hacked bits. I have seen chicken separated into breasts, thighs and legs, however. Buying meat from street markets is a big no-no for us. The meat is left out on a slab all day with no refrigeration. Not sanitary enough for us, I'm afraid! The lunch meat style foods, such as bacon, salami and ham are not too different from what we have back in the US, although they might be slightly sweet. Sometimes you encounter things like "corn dogs", which are in fact small hot dogs with pieces of cooked corn inside.
Fruits & Vegetables
As you saw in a previous post, most of our fruits and veggies come from the street market, where we pay prices a little cheaper than those listed above.
Non Food Items
I am listing here the prices for the high-end products that I buy. They are higher quality and much more expensive than local brands. I just don't think one should skimp on things like toilet paper and toothpaste.
Our Chinese neighbors here in Linyi would not buy half of the things I have listed above. They are very thrifty and generally eat lots of rice, noodles & bread with vegetable dishes sprinkled with a little meat. When we go to the supermarket, we often have little old ladies looking through our cart out of sincere curiosity. They often can't believe that we spend several hundred RMB in one go. If you're wondering, it is hard to go back to the US or Europe for holiday!!
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