Today is our third post in a series designed to help make some everyday aspects of life here cheaper, easier, or more functional. We’ll offer five hacks per post.
Have a Hohhot hack of your own? Leave a comment for us!
Read our previous hacks:
Hohhot Hacks, Part One
Hohhot Hacks, Part Two: Kids in Hohhot
ELEVEN: I’m too lazy to wash and cut salad greens and vegetables.
I like to eat salads, but some days it seems like more work to properly wash and cut the greens and other vegetables. (Yes, I truly am that lazy).
Hack: Visit the liang cai counter at your local grocery store.
Most of the larger grocery stores (Hua Lian, Carrefour, Spar, Vanguard) have a counter like this that sells 凉菜 liang cai or cold dishes. They almost always have endive, shredded carrots, cut or shredded cucumbers, broccoli, mushrooms, and sometimes spinach. They have lots of other things too, but most of the others aren’t generally found in salads in the West. You can ask for it without any of the sauces, take it home, and add the dressing of your choice. I usually add it all to romaine or leaf lettuce and throw in some tomatoes. They may think you’re crazy for not wanting the sauces, but I’ve already done it at most of the big supermarkets so you can almost guarantee you won’t be the first 🙂
TWELVE: Eggs are hard to get home without breaking.
I know that now you can get eggs that come in very handy plastic cases. However, those cartons are a relatively new concept here in Hohhot, and the eggs not in the carton are almost always cheaper. The problem is getting them home without cracking the shells. Whether it’s bumpy bike rides or people crowding into you on the bus, your non-carton eggs probably won’t make it home in one piece.
Hack: Crack the shells
All of them. Just go ahead and crack all of them into a plastic bag before you leave. I learned this trick from my Outer Mongolian classmates when I was a student at Nei Da. Double or triple bag it to prevent leakage and just bring them home as a liquid. You can use a large spoon or measuring cup to scoop out what you need when you need it. The only thing this won’t work for, obviously, is boiled eggs. But for any other use-baking, scrambling, frying, etc, it will work.
THIRTEEN: Rugs are expensive.
Where we lived in the southwest United States, most homes have carpet in at least some of the rooms. For us, it just feels “homey” to scrunch up your toes on carpet. Also, with our little ones running about, we think our neighbors may appreciate our attempt to at least somewhat muffle the noise. However, even small area rugs aren’t that cheap here. The 1.7 X 2.4 meter size were 600 RMB and the larger sizes a few thousand RMB when I priced them last.
Hack: Buy carpet at any made-to-order size and get the edges sewn.
Most carpet stores can cut any style of carpet to any size and sew the edges so they won’t fray. The price depends on the style/quality of carpet, but for somewhere between 30-50 RMB per square meter, you can get an area rug made for cheaper than you can buy one. Some stores will sew the edges for free, others charge a few yuan per meter.
The styles above were purchased at run yu for 30-40 MB/square meter. I have a trike so I didn’t have to pay to have it delivered, but you’ll need to consider how you’ll get it home.
The cost to cover an entire living room was less than the pre-made small size rugs.
You can go ahead and get the carpet installed wall-to-wall in your house, but that will be pricier and, in my opinion, a bit harder to keep clean. (I could write an entire post here about methods I’ve seen locals use to clean carpet that did NOT involve a vacuum, but we’ll save that for another day).
FOURTEEN: Stuff breaks all the time.
One of the things I like about living here is that generally you can get any item repaired without having to purchase a new one, contrasted with the US where you can almost always buy a new item for the price it would cost to repair.
This problem isn’t just us, right? Appliances, clothing, suitcases, shoes, household items….something is always broken. Here are a few tips for saving money on replacements.
Hack: Get it fixed!
replacement parts on tao bao:
We broke the canister to a blender while staying at a friend’s house and were able to find the replacement canister on taobao for much cheaper than the whole blender would have cost. We’ve also bought replacement parts for an air filter, vacuum cleaner, computer, cell phone, breast pump, and much more on taobao. You need language skills or a kind local friend to do it, but it’s nice not to have to re-purchase the entire item.
replacement parts from distributor:
We needed a part for our washing machine and even though it’s an older model, you can go to a store that sells the same brand and they should be able to help you figure out how to order one.
Almost every local dry cleaners can repair clothing items for you or do minor sewing projects.
These guys are awesome. Some are located on corners with bike repair guys, and some have small shops. They can (obviously) repair shoes, but we’ve also had them repair suitcases.
second hand appliance stores:
Most second hand appliance stores can also repair appliances. If they can’t help you, they can probably refer you to who can.
Most hardware stores will have the names and numbers of various handymen, plumbers, electricians, etc who will be able to repair a large variety of the stuff you have broken.
FIFTEEN: You can’t buy clothes that fit here.
I am tall, even by American standards, which makes me much larger than the average Chinese lady. This means clothes and shoes that fit properly are hard to find here. When me and another American girl played on the basketball team at Nei Da they had to custom-order our uniforms: size 4XL!
Hack: Get them custom made.
If you are someone who is shaped differently from the average Chinese, you can get almost anything made to order. There are some small shops that do this kind of work, but the five-four market is probably the largest and most well-known. (It’s located just north of the Shang-ri-la).
This market is lined with chops that sell cloth. Each shop has books of clothing styles you can choose from. They can truly make almost anything. Traditional Chinese clothes, Western suits, dresses, shirts, whatever. If you don’t want to choose from the book or if you just really like something that you have, take it with you. They can use your item as a pattern to make a garment just like yours. I’ve taken in jeans that fit well and had them make another pair like them.
Prices clearly depend on the kind of fabric you’re choosing, your size, and what you’re having made.
A few cautions/tips if you’re going for the first time:
- If you don’t have an item with you, they will measure you. In public and probably comment out loud to others about your measurements.
- In my experience, they tend to make garments with much higher waists than is standard for clothes purchased in the West so if that’s not the style you’re going for, be sure to communicate what you want beforehand.
- Definitely try it on before you leave. They can make further adjustments if it doesn’t fit right.
- Again, in my opinion, the idea of “the customer is always right” isn’t really a thing at the 5-4 market so they may try to convince you to do something other than what you requested because it’s not their general way of doing it or because they don’t think it looks good. However, if you want something done a certain way and are clear about that, they will generally do what you ask if you state it clearly.