tea at the black market money exchanger’s

If you’ve lived in China for any amount of time, you know that exchanging RMB for the currency of your home country can be an awful hassle. There are considerable restrictions on money exchange, and this also applies to Chinese citizens as well. I’ve found it easier to give my parents RMB for them to exchange on the streets of Hong Kong instead.

While in Changchun, I once tried to exchange 10,000 RMB into the equivalent amount in USD so that I could set up a bank transfer to my account in California. I had to go three times, get all of the necessary paperwork, and in the end, I still didn’t end up doing it myself. I gave up and asked my friend who already had the whole thing set up–I gave her the funds, she exchanged the money and arranged the bank transfer.

At Bank of China, you can exchange up to 3,000 RMB and simply show your passport instead of going through the entire befuddling process. But 3,000 RMB isn’t a lot of money.

Or, you can skip the whole system and go to your friendly neighborhood black market money exchanger.

Yesterday, our friends needed to exchange a large amount of money since they are moving out of China. As we were all going to Sanyuanli market anyway, we tagged along.

The money exchanger’s place of business, or, to be less polite, his business front, was a tea shop. A rather expensive tea shop. Instead of waiting interminably for your number at the bank, filling out millions of forms only to be denied, we were invited to sit down at the tea table. Our friends handed over 70,500 RMB and received 10,000 USD in return. The only hassle was in counting the money–it’s a lot of work to count all of those bills!

Even the rate of exchange was better than what you would get at the bank.

Then we sat around, drank jasmine pearl and pu’erh tea and admired the daughter of a friend of the family who was there, running around and drinking yoghurt.

It was one of the best pu’erh teas I’ve ever had.

There are many, many times in China where doing things illegally is much easier than doing it legally. This is certainly one of them.

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