Beijing is expensive. It is not as expensive as say, New York or London (although if you wanted to, you could certainly make it so), but it is definitely more expensive than second tier Chinese cities like Kunming, and probably rivals smaller American towns for certain expenses.
The expense doesn’t bother me most of the time, afterall, my salary is higher here, and although I spend more due to the fact that certain things — like English language books — are more available, I do save more than I did in Kunming. However, the prices of some things occasionally manage to surprise me — like when we spent 500RMB taking my mom and dad out for Mexican food, or how getting my son immunizations routinely costs about 200RMB (and immunizations are FREE for Chinese kids!). However, the cake was not just taken but snatched straight from my hands when I went to the OBGYN yesterday.
I suppose it serves me right for choosing a private hospital for baby #2, on the recommendation of some other online moms. Beijing has a plethora of hospital options and I’d already ruled out expat staples like Beijing United Family Hospital and Peking Union as too expensive. Beijing United lists their price for the birth alone as 50,000RMB, but they’re an international hospital with foreign doctors and most, if not all of their patients are using overseas insurance policie provided by their cushy expat packages. That kind of hospital is clearly out of my budget, but I chose a good private Chinese hospital, one that offered water births and was open to allowing my husband in the room. It seemed like a good compromise. I’d been twice already before yesterday’s appointment, and each time had set me back a couple hundred RMB. Expensive, compared to Kunming, where my routine checkups would run about 20RMB apiece, but not unheard of.
But then yesterday I showed up, on an empty stomach because I’d been told I needed to do some sort of blood test requiring no food be in my body, where they’d screen for all sorts of diseases. I obligingly sent my husband off to pay while I had my blood pressure taken. He comes back about 5 minutes later and says he doesn’t have enough money. That can’t be right, I think. We’ve just hit the bank, we have at least 1000RMB on us. The test costs more than 1000RMB? Indeed it does, 1200RMB to be exact, for a blood test.
To put things into perspective, in Kunming it cost 1300RMB to give birth to my son, and that included a private room and this “kit” the hospital makes all parents buy that includes a baby blanket and pillow and some other stuff. I think my husband half expected me to insist on going through with the test, so I could see his relief when I just told the doctors straight out no, no way could we afford to spend 1200RMB on a blood test. That it was ridiculous, no way was I going to pay the same amount on one blood test that I spent having a child. The doctors tried to convince me that every hospital in Beijing was like this. That’s just the difference between Beijing and Kunming, they said. Well, I said to my husband, if that’s the case I guess we’ll have no choice but to go back to Kunming to have our second!
I would have expected something like this from an international hospital catering to expats or overseas returnees. That’s why I didn’t choose such a hospital. This was a Chinese hospital, no foreign doctors, hell, no English speaking Chinese doctors even — although they seemed to have treated some foreigners before, it was clearly aimed at a Chinese market. Anyhow, I guess no fancy hospital with waterbirths for me, it’ll have to be a full on Chinese hospital again for #2, because we just can’t afford those sorts of prices. 1300RMB for a blood test is scary, not because I can’t afford it, but because it means the cost of the birth (which you never know exactly ahead of time, but with some digging you can usually get a ballpark figure), which they had estimated at about 10,000RMB, would probably end up being more like 20-30,000 given the hidden costs, etc. So tomorrow we’re going to check out some Beijing maternity hospitals which, according to Chinese people on the internet, are more in line with what we spent in Kunming and have good reputations just the same. Wish me luck!
In other, related news, we purchased tickets to Kunming for July 16th, and will stay in Yunnan until August 1st or so. We had originally planned on Thailand, but that plan was stopped by red-tape involving my son’s passport, then we planned on Xinjiang, but we all know what happened there … so Yunnan it is. My husband has never visited Lugu Lake so that’s the plan, after a short visit with in-laws and friends in and around Kunming. I got myself a new camera, bit the bullet and got a used DSLR, so I’m looking forward to taking it on a real test drive somewhere with nice scenery (and really bummed that place won’t be Xinjiang, but oh well). I’ll be sure to post pictures when I return!