09/27/12

First impressions of autumn semester’s courses

I have now sat on each course of mine atleast once and have some general idea what all the courses are going to be about and how the teachers are. Based on that I decided to make quick “first week review” of my courses this semester at Sun Yat-Sen University.

Like many of you remember, I’m studying Chinese as a Foreign Language undergraduate degree and my specialization is Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language.

Compulsory courses

中文报刊阅读

This course will help with our newspaper reading and we  use a textbook called 报刊阅读教程. I know that this course will be boring, challenging and headaching for me, my vocabulary isn’t where it is supposed to be and it’s hard for me to motivate myself to study things that I find boring. I also believe that skills learned through this course will be very useful in HSK exam as the exercises are similar to the HSK reading section.

口语

We have a very interesting teaching on this Spoken Chinese course, his accent is very far from standard! But that’s not really what we are concentrating anymore at this level (even we should do that on our own, practice pronunciation and tones). The teacher is surprisingly good in this course too, humorous, talkative and has a clear plan what we are going to do. Our book 高级汉语口语 includes texts, vocabulary, idioms,  exercises, sentence patterns and group discussion topics.

I think we don’t have induvidually that much speaking time in class, but looks like the course will teach us how to use those different sentence patterns in speech. I might be able to use them in essay writing, but in spoken language I often tend to use very simple language.

现代汉语

Modern Chinese course continues with Chinese Characters and Grammar sections. This course is not for learning to language, but for learning about the language. According to our first homework, it seems that our teacher will often give as assigments to compare our native language to Chinese. During the semester we also have to make 1000 characters long “mini thesis” about comparing a grammatical point in our native language and Chinese. I bet this is going tobe hard, but also excellent practice before the real deal next year! Last time I didn’t get that good grade from Modern Chinese, so this semester I have to work harder!

写作

Last semester’s Spoken Chinese and  Introduction to Linquistics teacher is back and teaches essay writing now for us. Teacher told us that at this level she won’t pay attention to character writing anymore and we can type all of our homeworks. We can even type essays written at class if we bring our own laptops! This semester we will write song, movie and book reviews for example. We also learn how to make survey report which might be helpful for many students when we start writing out bachelor thesis next year.

综合

And of course we sill have our Comprehensive Chinese course that will continue to develop our reading, vocabulary and grammar. The teachers is a very unique person and a very demanding one. The first classes have been way over my head! I really have to use a lot of time to prepare for these classes. I already have a feeling that this course will be one of the hardest ones this semester.

汉语课堂活动设计

As our specialization is Teaching Chinese on this course we will learn how to prepare useful classroom activities. Based on the first lesson today it looks like we will have quite a lot of homework from this course. The final exam is going to be to write a classroom activity plan. This course does sound quite interesting!

汉语语言要素教学

Last semester we learned how to teach different course, this time we will learn how to teach different aspects of Chinese: pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, characters. During this course we also have an assigment to act as a teacher and teach a certain part of a textbook chapter. We can choose if we prefer to teach the pronunciation, vocab etc. section.

太极剑

Yes, taiji witha sword is a compulsory course for us! (As is normal taiji which i propably take next semester.)We still haven’t got any lessons from this and I just hope to pass it and have that mark on my papers. I’ve learned some normal taiji before, so maybe that could be an advantage?

Selective courses

汉语熟语

I’m learning from my mistakes and taking only one selective course this semester! It’s called Chinese Idioms and the teacher is one of my favourites. A big part of this course will be chengyu, but we will also go over other types of idioms. The textbook we use is something our teacher have gathered together from many sources, I believe it can’t be find from bookstores. I hope that this course will help me with both reading and speaking, as idioms are a big part of Chinese language. Even though it’s a selective course, it will be hard work thanks to our strict teacher and hard material.

 

So here are all of my courses for this semester which will last until January. I’m going to have to study harder than ever to have good grades and make progress as fast as is needed. Only 16 months left until graduationg, 16 months left for (some kind of) fluency!

09/15/12

Us Stingy Foreigners

What do Chinese people “know” about us foreigners. First, foreigners have money. Second, foreigners are stingy! Not always true, but that is the image my Chinese boyfriend and many other Chinese have of us foreigners.

Chinese generosity means the one who invites is the one who pays the bill. The birthday girl or boy will treat others to dinner. A guy will pay for his girlfriend. Everyone knows this rule in China, being generous gives you face. Being stingy makes you lose it.

And us foreigners then? We go Dutch! Or AA制 like they say it in China. Every time I go to eat with someone my boyfriend will ask later on who paid and then roll his eye and shake his head if I say we all pay for our selves. He just can’t understand how us foreigners can be so stingy! He considers it bad manners.

What is even more unbelievable for my boyfriend is that I don’t pay for my sister or brothers if we go to a restaurant together. I might sometimes pay, but often we go Dutch. According to my boyfriend I should of course pay because I’m the big sister!

My boyfriend is already planning to treat his family for dinner when it’s his grand mothers birthday in a few weeks. But the last time I tried to pay for my own grand mother she got upset and insisted seeing the bill so she could pay me back!

I think both ways of paying have their time and place. Towards family members it’s of course better to be as generous as possible, something I could learn from the Chinese. But in a big group of friends it’s much easier to go Dutch.

What do you think? Do you prefer paying and treating others or you do want to pay separately? Are you already used to the Chinese way of being generous?

09/10/12

Getting ready for a new semester at the Sun Yat-Sen University

Registration

Registration to the Sun Yat-Sen University is not Hell’s Kitchen, but Hell’s Registration! It’s badly organized and people don’t know how to line up. When I got to the office at 7.30AM there were already 20+ students waiting. Door opened at 8.30AM and I was ready at noon, right before the staff’s lunch break. Of course I still have to go to the Entry and Exit Administration Division of Guangzhou PSB to apply for a year’s residence permit, but luckily that’s the same procedure every time.

So now I have gotten rid of my money, paid the tuition fees for the year, it’s time to wait for next week in order to buy textbooks on Wednesday and start class on Thursday.

Grades from last semester

During the registration I also finally got the rest of my grades from last semester! I was feeling really down in June when I got the first grades, but luckily the situation wasn’t as bad as I had thought. I even got a tiny recognition as having the best attendance record of my class! (Remember, my class has only three students.)

And my grades? 100 being the perfect score I got:

  • 高级汉语综合(上)Advanced Comprehensive I 84
  • 现代汉语(上)Modern Chinese Language I 84
  • 汉语写作(上)Advanced Chinese Writing I 81
  • 汉语语言技能教学 Introduction to Teaching Chinese language (Teaching different courses) 79
  • 高级汉语口语(上)Advanced Spoken Chinese 87
  • 对外汉语教学引论 Introduction to Education of TCSL 88
  • 语言学概论 Introduction to Linguistics 98

These were the compulsory courses. The least happy I was with 84 from 现代汉语 because my class mates got much higher scores (90 and 89) and also with 79 from 汉语语言技能教学 because I really don’t want anything less than 80 from compulsory courses.

New semester

We will get our schedules for the new semester next Wednesday, but we should have the following courses:

  • 高级汉语综合课(中)Advanced Comprehensive II
  • 高级汉语写作 (下) Advanced Chinese Writing II
  • 现代汉语 (下)Modern Chinese Language II
  • 汉语语言要素教学 Introduction to Teaching Chinese (Pronunciation, Vocab, Grammar, Characters)
  • 高级汉语口语 (下)Advanced Spoken Chinese II
  • 中文报刊阅读 Chinese newspaper reading
  • 汉语课堂活动设计 Activity Designing in Chinese Language Class

Besides these I have to see if I can finally attend taiji and/or taiji with a sword, because those are compulsory courses as well. We also have selective courses, but I try not to take those (or too many) in order to have time to work.

Conclusion

After all I might not suck in learning Chinese and I’m excited about the new semester beginning next week!

I hope posts like this one are interesting to at least some of you.

09/5/12

Overview of US Expatriate Tax Requirements Living in China

Guest post by I.J. Zemelman, EA. Tax Operations Director at Taxes for Expats.

Bottom Line:  File Your Taxes Every Year

As a US expatriate working overseas you must file your US federal taxes annually just as you would if you were living in the United States.  Why?  Because your total world income determines your tax liability – not simply the income you receive in the states.  As an American expatriate, though, you have more tax saving options than those with a stateside residence. Such provisions include:

  • The foreign earned income exclusion, which allows you to exclude up to $92,900 of foreign earned income from your US taxes,
  • The foreign tax credit, which allows you to offset the taxes you paid in your host country with your US expat taxes dollar for dollar, and
  • The foreign housing exclusion, which allows you to exclude certain household expenses that occur as a result of living abroad.

With proper planning and quality tax preparation, you should be able to take advantage of these and other strategies to minimize or even eliminate your US expat taxes.  Please note that even if you do not believe that you owe any US income taxes, you still have to file a return – or you may lost the deductions!  For more information, see our guide for US Expat Taxes and the list of US Expat Tax Deadlines for more information.

Tax Rules for US Expats Living and Working in China

Every individual who is working in China is subject to ITT (Individual Income Tax).  Additionally, any expat who is employed by a business or corporation in China which is sustained by foreign investments is subject to ITT upon their arrival in China.

IIT is typically withheld from employees’ wages by their employer and remitted to Chinese tax authorities every month.  All withheld taxes are due no later than the 15 of the month following the month in which wages or salaries were earned.  At the end of the tax year, employees are required to file an ITT declaration of all taxes withheld throughout the year to the Chinese tax authorities.  These declarations are due no later than March 31 of the following year, and late filing penalties of up to five times the amount owed can be assessed for late declarations.

ITT declarations are required to be filed annually by any tax payer who is liable for ITT in China and meets any one of the five conditions outlined below:

·         Earns an income in excess of RMB120K

·         Earns an income from 2 or more sources within the People’s Republic of China

·         Earns an income from any source outside of the People’s Republic of China

·         Earned taxable income from which ITT was not withheld

·         Meets any other condition established by the State Council

Types of Annual Income

·         Salaries and wages

·         Income derived from personally-owned commercial or industrial housing

·         Income earned as a subcontractor

·         Income earned from subleasing

·         Compensation for services as a laborer

·         Compensation for work as an author

·         Royalty income

·         Investment income (dividends, interest, etc)

·         Income derived from a transfer of property or lease

·         Incidentally earned income

·         Any bonus received

What are the ITT Rules on Expatriate Income?

Individuals who are working in China for a China-based employer through which all wages paid are considered to be Chinese-produced wages will be liable for ITT.  Individuals working in China for a foreign employer earning wages which are not considered to be China-sourced will only be subject to taxation after a certain period of time.

Expats who are working in China on a temporary assignment lasting less than 90 days out of a calendar year are exempt from Chinese taxes.  If the expat’s home country has an active double taxation treaty with China, the threshold for exemption is 183 days.  Individuals who remain in China for a period lasting longer than 90 days (or 183 days where applicable) will be subject to ITT on all income earned for work conducted in China, despite the source of the income.

Timeline of ITT Liability

Taxpayers who live in China for a period lasting greater than 1 year but not more than 5 years are not only subject to ITT on China-sourced income, but also foreign earned income which leads back to an organization located in China.  Expatriates who live in China for a period lasting longer than 5 years are subject to taxation on their worldwide income – no matter where in the world it is sourced.

If an individual lives in China for 5 years and on the 6th year spends less than 1 year in China, the 5 year calculation period will start over and the expat will once again be eligible for the 90 day/183 day tax exemption rule.  In order to be considered as ‘not living in China for a calendar year,’ an expat must be out of the country for a period lasting longer than 30 days or more than 90 days altogether.

ITT Rates

ITT is assessed according to progressive income levels, and the ITT rate ranges all the way from 3% to 45% of each month’s taxable income.  Taxable income is figured by subtracting a standard monthly deduction from employees’ actual monthly earned income.  The deduction is RMB3,500 for locals (except residents of Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) and RMB4,800 for foreign nationals working in China.  If you have paid into China’s social insurance program, you may be able to deduct your contribution amount from your actual earned income, as well.

Monthly Calculation of ITT Liability

Calculating ITT is generally easier for residents of China than for expats working in China.  Expatriates need to consider the length of time they’ve spent working in China as well as the source of the income they earn.  See the chart below for help calculating your ITT liability.

Non-Taxable Employee Benefits

As indicated earlier, almost every type of income is considered taxable by Chinese tax authorities for the purpose of ITT.  Like the United States, however, there are certain expenses which may be exempt from taxation under ITT regulations assuming other criteria are met.  These expenses include:

·         Housing cost reimbursements

·         Travel fare for up to 2 home leave trips per year

·         Reimbursement for relocation expenses

·         Reimbursement of qualifying meals, language training or children’s education, and laundry expenses

Note:  Cash allowances paid to an employee to compensate for anticipated work-related expenses will be completely subject to employee taxation.  Tax liability may be reduced if other reimbursements are made for items such as entertainment, fees for a social or health club, communication expenses, and a variety of other reimbursements which are not covered by an allowance.

The article is merely an overview of an overwhelming amount of US expat tax information. For additional help, please contact the experts at Taxes for Expats today!

09/3/12

My Second Day In China

Dear Travel Diary,  2nd of February 2010

I tried to take a shower again at the hostel but the water was freezing! Luckily warm water was available when I got back later that day.

Today I used 10RMB for breakfast, 20RMB for ticket to the Forbidden City, 33,50RMB for lunch and dinner, 58RMB for memory card reader and 30RMB for late night snacks.

Me and one Finnish girl also traveling in Beijing at the moment agreed to explore the city together this week, so I met her first. We were supposed to meet at Tian An Men so I headed that way. This hostel isn’t that far from there so I decided to walk, sun was shining today!

When I got to the Tian An Men a foreign guy came to me an asked where I’m from. After telling him I was from Finland he continued in Finnish “Are you Sara?” We had actually changed a few messaged online before the trip and he just managed to spot me in the middle of the biggest square in China! What a coincidence!

The Finnish girl had already gone to Forbidden City when I gave her a call so I hurried up and met her there. We didn’t use that much time inside the palace area, so I really have to go there again before I leave Beijing!

Our next stop was a food garden in one of the shopping malls in Wangfujin shopping street. I ate fried rise and chicken which was a delicious!

When I came back to the hostel and wanted to update this blog for you I met a Finnish guy who was staying at the hostel with his friend. I had a nice chat with them at the hostel’s restaurant, but didn’t continue to a night club with them. It’s their last night at the hostel so perhaps I’m never going to see them again.

Tomorrow I will go to the railway station to try to get some tickets to Pingyao!