Pengyou = Friend, and yesterday was a friend-filled day. First we went to the Dirt Market, Panjiayuan. This place is only open on weekends and it is packed full of vendors, shoppers, and pretty much any Chinese art, souvenir, antique, etc. you could ever hope to find. Some people get uncomfortable with the constant shouts of “Look here, I give you good price!” and by the sheer notion of having to haggle. But these are people who have not yet discovered the pure joy of a truly great bargaining session. So, here’s a lesson in Chinese Bargaining 101:
1. Learn the numbers. Yes, the vendors have calculators. You can use that, as well, for emphasis or to cover up your crappy pronunciation. But you need to understand what they are saying, and you need to at least attempt to speak. Always say your offer out loud FIRST, then show them on the calculator.
2. Learn these basic Chinese phrases: “Tai gui le!” (Too expensive!) “Wo bu keyi” (I can’t!) “Qing gei wo pianyidianr” (Please give me cheaper.) Use these phrases each time they state their price, and be as animated as possible. But in a lighthearted manner, never serious or angry. This is supposed to be fun, remember.
3. If you, like me, are blessed with a youthful appearance, you can also use this phrase, which almost always brings the price down about 1/3 more than the vendor would regularly offer: “Wo shi xuesheng, wo meiyou qian!” (I am a student, I don’t have money!)
4. In order to determine how much to offer and how much to settle on, follow these guidelines: the first price they say used to be half as much as what you really should be paying. But Beijingers have gotten used to foreigners and they are ready for the Olympic Onslaught. They’re now saying prices as much as 3 and 4 times as high as what you should pay. So, when they name their first price, depending on how high it is and what you are trying to buy, go low, low, low. Example: they say 300 kuai for a pocket knife, you offer 25 or 50. Yes. Really. They will act shocked and dismayed, but they will lower the price to around 270.
You need to up your counter-offer, but just a little. Employ one of the phrases I mentioned above, and then offer 75. More shock and dismay, slightly lower price offered. 250. Use another phrase, be extra-animated, and offer 90. They will give yet another counter offer, this time even lower…maybe 200 or 190. This is when you do the WALK AWAY. You say “Wo bu keyi, tai gui le!” and slowly start to turn away. They will grab you and give you an even lower price. 175. You are SO CLOSE now! Offer 100. Use hand gestures to say that you really can’t afford more than that. They will either give it to you for that price, or they will give you one final counter-offer. Go 10-20 kuai higher than the 100, and they will agree. Boom! You have successfully haggled in a Chinese market.
Mao and I are proud of you.
So, yes, yesterday at the market I had a fabulous time and I even made a new friend, Wang Da Wei. He’s already sent me an e-mail, in fact. Yay for new friends! These friend cards Mark ordered are coming in very handy. So, the next time you are in Beijing and it is a weekend, please go to Panjiayuan and look for Wang Da Wei’s stall. He sells lovely silk-covered journals, chopstick sets, fans, purses, and a variety of other items. And if he doesn’t sell it, he will go and find it for you and the best price. Tell him Leah sent you. He’ll be a little scared at first of you superior bargaining skills, but he will certainly appreciate the business.
Shout out to Wang Da Wei: Ni hao, pengyou! Wo gaosu wo.de Meiguo de pengyou zai Zhongguo lai kan ni!
We also went to the cool artsy 798 area to meet my aunt Jill’s friend Alonzo Davis. He’s a very nice guy, incredibly well-traveled, and also happens to be a magnificent artist. We also got to meet his friend and Beijing guide, Claire, who is also an artist and has lived in Beijing for a year. Hi to you both! We really enjoyed meeting you yesterday, and checking out all the art galleries!!
Now we must prepare for an almost-28-hour train ride to Guilin/Yangshuo. I love trains. Woohoo! Who knows what new adventures await? We’ll be out of touch for a day or so, but don’t worry…we’ll be back with more stories and pictures!
Much love to all of you, thanks so much for reading and commenting!!