China Elevator Stories

“The Difference In Salaries Is Out Of Proportion”

I chat with a stranger at a noodle restaurant in Shenzhen.


Ruth Silbermayr-Song


One day in May 2013, I’m at a Lanzhou noodle restaurant near my apartment in Shenzhen. While I’m waiting for the food, I send my fiancé a voice message. When the guy sitting across the table from me hears that I can speak Chinese, he starts chatting with me.

He points at a huge picture on the wall that shows the grasslands in Gansu, and tells me: “I have been to that place.”
I reply: “It looks beautiful and reminds me of the grasslands in Sichuan and Yunnan.”
“The area where I’m from looks just like this. I’m from Sichuan.”

I ask him: “How long have you been living in Shenzhen?”
“I have been living here for ten years. I have studied in Shanghai before I moved here.”

I ask him: “What’s your major?”
“Software, IT. That’s also my work here in Shenzhen. Do people in Austria know Shenzhen?”
“Some do, some don’t. If they don’t know it, I’ll tell them that it’s right across the border from Hong Kong. Everyone knows Hong Kong.”
He says: “You’re right. Hongkong is really close. My company’s headquarter is located in Luohu district of Shenzhen, right next to the border. The company also has a branch in Hong Kong. Our company’s Hong Kong employees who do exactly the same job as the Shenzhen employees earn a lot more than the latter. An employee in Shenzhen earns around 5000 Yuan a month, while one located in Hongkong will earn 40,000 Yuan monthly.”
“Wow, that’s a lot more.”
“It is. Living in Hong Kong is expensive, food is expensive as well. A simple noodle dish like the one I’m eating costs only 8 Yuan in Shenzhen, but would cost 30 Yuan in Hong Kong. Even though Hong Kong is more expensive, I still think the difference in salaries is out of proportion, it’s a bit unfair.”

Have you ever had a similar conversation?