• Koreen Liew-Young

TBGTB: Bartering

Here’s to the second instalment of The Beginner’s Guide to Beijing. People love China for so many things….the mystery, the culture shock, the food, the randomness (see the picture below;)…and then there’s the shopping.




Bartering is not about trying not to get ripped off at the markets, while you browse for the latest fashion, but it’s about negotiating a price that you and the vendor are both happy with.  It’s quite common to do ­­at the markets…. but don’t try this at the department stores.


Here’s a breakdown for those who are new to this process.

  1. Never show the slightest interest that you like something in their store.  The vendor can smell it out and once they know you like it, it will be harder to negotiate.  When you ask “Duo shao qian?” (How much does this cost?) hold your most extreme poker face.

  2. When the vendor gives you a price, casually mention it’s too expensive ("tai gui"), turn away completely from the vendor and walk towards the door. This is a good test to see if the vendor is interested to barter because some are more so than others.   If you have exited the shop entirely, the vendor may chase you down with a calculator and either ask you to name your best price, or convince you to come back into their store.  GAME ON.

  3. If you are feeling nervous about naming your price, always start with half, it’s a comfortable amount.  The vendor will probably work their way down towards your price and meet in the middle around ¾.  For those who are really want to be a hard ass, name something even lower and hold your ground and keep exiting the shop (while still holding your pokerface and saying it’s too expensive)

  4. If the vendor does not call you back, they are not into bargaining and you are possibly at a wholesale market where prices are generally pretty cheap.

  5. The more you barter, the more you will get used to it, and be more adventurous with your starting prices. It’s a little like a poker game, sometimes you get a really good price, and sometimes you just can’t win at all.  However, if you miss out on a purchase, there’s probably another shop around the corner that you can have a go at.

Updates on Julian and Koreen.

We’ve been living in an apartment, and had to get a permit with the police station after signing the contract with the real estate agency.  Who knew sorting accommodation would be so complicated?


My cousin Kim came to stay with us after she was playing volleyball in Chengzhou, and we tried two different restaurants for Peking Duck.


Classes have started at the Beijing Mandarin Academy and Julian and I are in different classes due to my minimal knowledge of mandarin. The people studying are from all over the world which is really cool.  In my class, I have people from Russia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Italy, Africa, France and Korea.  We both have three hours of class every day, and also have tutoring on the side which we do at our local café.


I’m really pleased that I have improved immensely.  Initially I was not confident in ordering food for myself, but now I'm fine to do so, (pictures on menus and handy chinese dictionaries on your iPhone also help with the language barrier.) Sure the person over the counter might correct my tones, but they're pretty happy to take orders from a foreigner.  I've also managed to make conversations with taxi drivers and random people while eating lunch.  Most people are generally interested when I say I'm from New Zealand and studying in Beijing as a foreign student, then the conversation gets slightly awkward when I run out of things to say or don't understand them.


We have also met up with Wendy and Yining, friends from Auckland who are here currently.  We went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, which brought back memories of my previous trip to China in 2005.


Two weeks down, nine to go!!

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