A Gripe

Passports: $640

Medical Examinations: $600

Visa Fees: $705

Cost to UPS Visa forms to Chicago and back to ourselves: $50

Plane Tickets: $2735

Train Ride to Fort Lauderdale: $182

1 Extra Bag Checked: $70

Extra (Unnecessary) Car to pick us up at the airport: 300¥ ($48)

Tickets on the High Speed train to Tianjin: 180¥ ($29)

4 Months Rent Up Front: 18000¥ ($2860)

A Year’s Worth of Water Up Front: 1800¥ ($286)

New Medical Examinations for New Visas: 1086¥ ($172)

(Unnecessary) Photos for New Visas: 250¥ ($40)

New Visas: 1200¥ ($190)


$8607 (54174¥)


These are the individual costs we incurred to get to China. Going down the list as far as the extra checked bag, those are all expenses we anticipated. Then it starts to get fun. I won’t go into that unnecessary car again, as I already explained it in the first blog, but the biggest single expense for us moving to China was not one we anticipated, and that was having to pay 3 months rent plus a months rent in deposit when we signed our lease. I mean, we knew about it 2 weeks before we left the US, but up until that point, we were told 2-3 months. I realize this may be normal for Chinese people, and people in lots of other countries, but for Americans, who pay their mortgage month by month (and also have to sell body parts illegally just to be ale to set foot on Chinese soil), it is a little difficult to come up with this amount of money. Then while we are signing the lease, about to hand over 18000¥, we are informed of an additional 1800¥ of utilities that the landlord so kindly purchased for us (it is also hard for  us Americans to cope with the thought of paying for water a whole year before we use it, when we’re in the process of being slapped with all kinds of other unexpected fees and our bank account is dwindling).

Two weeks later, we are required to go to the Travel Clinic and have physicals done (will describe in juicy detail in a future post) so that we can apply for new visas. Apparently spending $700 in the US to get permission to go into the country is, apparently, just that, permission to enter. We will be kicked out again if we do not get NEW visas within thirty days of entry. So we go for “physicals” that are just a ridiculous formality created to get another 500¥ out of the pockets of foreign victims (native Chinese pay half that for the same physical).

Some of our admirers this morning.

More Admirers - I wonder how much money we'd make if we put out a hat to collect money...

Once the physical reports are ready, we bundle up our children and take them out on a blustery winter day to meet someone from Brian’s company (we wait for about 25 minutes in the freezing cold surrounded by Chinese people admiring/checking the clothing of our children – sometimes I just pretend I don’t know what they’re saying when they tell me the kids are too cold) who takes us on a 30 minute taxi ride to a building where we have to walk up three flights of dangerous, dirty stairs, dragging our two strollers and three children behind us (a building equipped for the handicapped is not very common in China), to a row of five chairs at the top of the last set of stairs, where we wait for a few minutes for someone to come out and ask Brian the following questions: “How big is your house?” “You have three kids? Who is going to watch them?” and one other question I couldn’t hear because the kids were loud. Then we drag the kids and strollers back down the stairs (much worse than going up), back out into the cold, and walk two buildings down, up a steep flight of stone steps to a room about the size of Piper’s old bedroom with about 15 people in it, all waiting in line to have their passport photos taken. We wait for probably 20 minutes (an eternity with 3 antsy children who have nowhere to stand because the only open space is right in front of the door), all sit for our photos, wait another 10 while they are printed, and then take all of the accumulated paper work down one set of stone steps outside, to a second set of stone steps directly across from the first, and sit at a desk where they arrange all of our paperwork for about thirty minutes, take the barcode that came with each set of our passport photos, but give all of the photos back to us, as they do not actually need the pictures (now I have 8 sets of mug shot style, but with surprisingly good color, photos of our family – Christmas cards for 8 lucky people perhaps?). Then they tell us they will keep our passports for a week and when we return, we will pay them 400¥ a piece (what?!). As we walked out, a little shocked at the unexpected expense (pardon us for being so naive), we remarked between the two of us that the Chinese government forcing us to pay so much just for the privilege of living in their country is a little like someone slapping you in the face repeatedly and making you pay for the privilege of taking it. Actually, Brian said something worse, but you get the idea.

We waited by this sign this morning. Pastoral corn juice or cheese milk tea, anyone?



  1. Ouch!!! Four months rent and utilities. Did you tell them you just wanted to rent, not to buy? Thanks so much for keeping us updated. I keep chuckling about you being Ambassadors for China’s one child policy :). So thankful that God has sent some friends your way!

  2. The rent is normal but 1800 for utilities is crazy. That better be for electricity too because I’ve been here 6 years and haven’t spent 1800 on water yet. Oh wait it’s winter I bet that was for your heating, It’s a strange set up here.

    The small office was a small local police for local police registration? If so your landlord is supposed to pay that not you. However they try to pawn it off on you. Next time make sure you tell them Chinese law says the landlord pays the Laowai tax and don’t let them pass the buck.

    1. She said she wasn’t going to pay it. We told her we heard she was going to say it, but that we knew she had to. But it turns out it’s in the contract that we pay it. But we were told that still means she had to pay it, but we were too beaten down to fight. They didn’t end up charging us anything at all. The small room was where passport photos get taken. And the 1800 was toilet water, “drinking” water and a little elctricity, I think 130 RMB worth. It’s just what was on the top up cards at the time. She will reimburse us for whatever we don’t use when we move out. And we’re probably moving out at the end of a year.

  3. Apparently they only need one photo for both twins so ya know… that’s money savings right there 😉

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