Beijing, Mr. Wang and Mrs. Li


Mr. Wang Longsheng and Mrs. Li Yanhong are a couple from Shaanxi. They are employed by the government to clean the streets in the Lidu area of Beijing.


Their working hours are from 6 am to 5 pm every day of the week. Their total income is 3,000 RMB per month. The government is providing them with a house and a big courtyard where they can sort and store the waste they collect during the day. As they don’t have to pay for rent, they can save money. For their living expenses they need 300 RMB per person per month.


Mr. Wang and Mrs. Li seem to get along very well. When we ask them “what is the secret of a happy marriage”, Mr. Wang tells us that they have been together for 19 years without a single fight. Whenever they have a difference of opinion, they will imagine themselves in the position of the other and try to understand where he/she is coming from.


Mr. Wang invites us to their house. The family is living in a quiet hutong. The house is spacious and has a proper heating in the winter. In front of the house is a park along a river.


Like in many houses in hutongs, there is no bathroom. They have to use the public toilet and for a shower they visit a public bathhouse. They prefer to pay 20 RMB for the shower instead of the regular 10 RMB. For 20 RMB you get a private room for two (two men or two women; there are no bathhouses with mixed gender sections).


Their 18 year old son is living together with them. He graduated in his hometown in Shaanxi province and then came to Beijing for work. He occasionally has part-time jobs, but currently he is unemployed. He spends most of his time chatting and playing games online. Sometimes, he also does sit-ups to work out.

He dyed his hair orange. According to him, it is quite popular among young people to do so.

At high school he shared the classroom with 60 to 70 other students. Almost all of his classmates went to big cities or are planning to do so. Except for the ones with the highest marks; they went to university.



When we are visiting Mr. Wang, we meet his mother and mother in law. They are visiting Beijing for a couple of weeks. Their husbands had to stay home to take care of the corn fields in their hometown.


According to Mr. Wang, they all enjoy their lives in Beijing. Thinking of what they miss most, the answer is (like we heard from many people originating from Shaanxi) the Yangrou Paomo, the famous dish with pita bread soaked in lamb soup.




Beijing, The JinLin Bathhouse


Jin Jun works in a convenience store in the LaiGuangYing area and Si JiaGui works in a bathhouse next to the store. These two places, together with a store for golf accessories, belong to the same owner.


The JinLin bathhouse opened around nine years ago. Business is not good anymore because many residential buildings have been demolished in recent years. Just a few customers are left in the area, but soon they also will have to move elsewhere.



Jin Jun lives in the area for over ten years.  He has no idea yet where he will go to when the bathhouse and the shops will be demolished.


During the daytime there are no customers anymore. In the evening they receive between 20 and 30 customers. It costs 10 RMB to take a shower or a bath.


The bathhouse has a male division and a female division. In the middle of the male division lies a big bathing pool. There are showers, a barrel for bathing, two tables for rubbing your back (or having it rubbed) and a sauna room. In the female division there is no bathing pool and bathing barrel. There is no toilet in the bathhouse. Customers who want to use a toilet have to go outside and use the public toilet.


Si JiaGui comes from Anhui and he has been in Beijing for four years. He says that, when business was still good in the bathhouse, they had over a hundred customers per day.


The bathhouse used to offer foot treatment and massage services, but it doesn’t have these services anymore.