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Ask Pingping and Jules-Asking about Income
    2008-12-08 11:47:46     CRIENGLISH.com

 P: You know Jules, there are some questions Chinese people ask that in your country might be considered impolite. These include asking someone's age, their marital status or their income. These questions are very common in China and are not meant to cause offence.

J: Yes. For example, in the west we consider matters relating to income to be private. It's something that I would never ask my closest friends about, or even my parents. To me Chinese people seem to be concerned with others' people's income and very relaxed about asking each other "what's your salary". Why is that?

P: I think it may be related to the fact that in the past the gap between people's salaries was not so large. For instance, some people talk freely about this with their colleagues. Or when friends meet they might discuss whether their incomes have increased or not.

J: Would you best friends be aware of what you earned? And would you know what they make?

P: Yes. If you do not really want to tell him or her how much money you make, you can give a vague answer like, bu4 duo1, meaning 'not much'. And you know Jules, recently it's common that some young people would show their salaries on the internet.

J: What information would they put online?

P: They may put information about their basic wage, allowance, bonus etc. This helps people learn the income differences among various jobs.

J: We also have similar lists of occupations and the salaries they attract but people don't put their names to them.
Don't you think some people would be embarrassed when they saw that their salary was not as high as their friends or colleagues?

P: Actually, they would feel the situation was unfair, rather than feel embarrassed. For instance, the income of those working in the field of telecommunications, the oil industry or electricity industry enjoy at least four times the salary of those common textile workers. But anyway, it's a way of learning about other people's lives. Otherwise you'd never know about it. Do you agree with me?

J: Right. It seems to me that some people also ask about the price and the place where you bought some thing.

P: yes. I'm ok with it. For example, when I saw my friend had beautiful new clothes, I'd like to ask her where she got them, and what the price was. You know that in China, especially in the market, you can bargain for what you buy. To me, after learning about the prices first hand, I'd know how much to pay in the future. You see?

J: Oh, I see. Would Chinese people freely ask each other how much they paid for a house?

P: Yes. It's ok. We'd ask our friends how much their apartments are valued at, or how much he or she paid for their house.

J: Oh, right. Are there some other reasons behind people's asking the price?

P: Yes. To some extent it may relate to the "mianzi", literally meaning face. Let me give you another example. One of my Chinese friend got a present from her husband and it was a pair diamond earrings. When I talked about their price, she seemed to be very proud of that. And the Chinese would like to talk about expensive things with their friends, which would give them the feeling of superiority.

J: So, Pingping, how much was your house and how much do you earn?

P: I'm afraid that information will have to wait until another program.

J:  Today we talked about "asking about income" in China. If you've got any comments, suggestions or would like to suggest a topic or even tell us if asking about income is acceptable in your country - you can contact us at CRIEnglish.com or send us an email to

P: "Ask Pingping and Jules"@cri.com.cn

J: See you next time.

P: See you.

(Many thanks to Duggy Day for production and audio-editing.)

Previous Episodes (Please click to listen):

Ask Pingping and Jules--Greetings

Ask Pingping and Jules--Singles Day

Ask Pingping and Jules--Lucky numbers in China 

Ask Pingping and Jules--Chopsticks



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