Profile of the Beijing Man

Updated: 2013-06-21 15:00

By Tiffany Tan (China Daily)

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Wei Dongjian doesn't look like a man who works nonstop. From his easy smile, relaxed posture and animated speech, you'd never guess he has been working every day this year – except for a week during the Lunar New Year holiday in February.

Wei, 30, is business development manager at a Beijing interior design firm, part of an industry that has benefited from the Chinese capital's housing market boom.

Like your average Beijing employee, Wei receives a monthly salary of 6,000 yuan ($965). Through commissions, he can more than double his take-home pay to 14,000 yuan, so he chooses to work seven-day weeks during their peak business season. That's from January to May each year.

The rest of the time, he takes one day off a week. He doesn't mind, since he moved from his native Shandong province to Beijing in 2005 specifically to become his own man.

"I don't think about being tired," Wei says in an interview at home one Sunday morning, between answering work-related phone calls and text messages. "Since my basic salary isn't much, I need to work hard to earn more."

Wei used to splurge on clothes and shoes from his favorite brands G-Star, Zara, Timberland and Diesel. Now, like many Chinese men preparing for marriage, his priority has shifted to saving money to buy an apartment, maybe even a car.

For 3,000 yuan a month, he's currently renting a cheerful one-bedroom apartment outside Beijing's East Fourth Ring Road – which he shares with his fiancée. To get around, he cycles, takes a bus or hops on the subway.

But Wei is fortunate to have a girlfriend and future in-laws who aren't demanding a home, jewelry or a bulging bank account as a condition to marriage.

"When a woman gets engaged, it's usually a ceremonious affair. The man's family is asked to bring betrothal gifts," his fiancée Wu Yuanping, 25, says from her perch in the living room, in front of the couple's desktop computer.

"My dad didn't want anything. He said, 'Don't even bother with an engagement party. You guys don't have the money to spend.'"

Wei added: "Her mom said to spend as little as we could. She cooked for us, made us soup. It was great."

But if there's one thing that his wife-to-be wants, it's that they move to Guangzhou in the next few years, where the climate is milder, and where she can escape Beijing's notorious smog.

From the cost of housing and food to the occasional travel, the couple spends 7,000-10,000 yuan a month. Everything else goes into their savings account.

He and Wu plan to open a clothing shop once they're in Guangzhou.

Ultimately, won't moving to Guangzhou mean escaping Beijing's rat race? A life where they can properly spend weekends together?

"We don't care how tiring the work is," Wu says. "What matters is that the money will be worth our effort."

Wei Dongjian couldn't agree more, even if it means continuing to live without days off.