Njóttu lífsins – eru ekki greiddir skattar í Portugal?

Njóttu lífsins

Þessi fyrirsögn er á greinum um hve dásamleg skattaparadís Portúgal sé og hvernig nýjar skattareglur og tvísköttunarsamningar hafa gjörbreytt umhverfi í landinu fyrir útlendinga sem komnir eru á eftirlaunaaldurinn.

Þessi ágæta fullyrðing er á síðu sem heitir nuna.is   https://www.facebook.com/valhallaparadis/?ref=br_rs

og sýnist mér vera rekin af hinum þjóðkunna fyrrverandi forsetaframbjóðanda Ástþóri Magnússyni.

Mikið væri þetta allt gott ef satt væri.

Á síðunni er fullyrt að tvöfalda lífeyri sé ekkert mál og íbúð keypt fyrir ekki neitt.

Ráðstöfunartekjur eiga að tvöfaldast og tvær milljónir aukalega á ári fyrir hjón sem nýta sér tilboð það sem herrann er að bjóða upp á.

Sýndar eru í töflu “staðreyndir” málsins og er þetta plagg líklega frá janúar 2017, alla vega er útreikningur TR frá þeim tíma.

Ég ætla ekki að tala um tölulegar villur í þessu sambandi en bendi þó á að gengi krónunnar hefur eitthvað smá með verðlagið að gera þar sem launin eru í íslenskum krónum.

Ég hef búið í Portúgal í rétt 7 ár. Í janúar á næsta ári, 2018, eru 7 ár síðan ég kom hingað.

Ég er eftirlaunaþegi og fæ eftirlaun mín frá Íslandi og tel mig þekkja nokkuð vel hvernig skattlagningu er háttað hér í landi.

Í auglýsingu Ástþórs er gert ráð fyrir að komið verði á fót Íslendinga nýlendu í Algarve.

Hann gerir einnig ráð fyrir því að fólk sé í Portúgal rúma 6 mánuði á ári og flytji lögheimili sitt til Portúgal.

Einnig gerir hann ráð fyrir að sumir eigi fasteign á Íslandi sem þeir þurfi ekki að selja til þess að kaupa aðra í Portúgal. Hann gerir ráð fyrir að fólk muni leigja í gegnum leigufyrirtæki íslenska íbúð sína og hafa tekjur fyrir það. Svo gerir hann ráð fyrir að fólk gæti verið á Íslandi, líklega þá í eigin íbúð þar, í nokkra mánuði ár hvert. Síðan á að vera hægt að skreppa til Íslands þegar fólk vill. Hinn ofboðslegi gróði af uppátækinu gerir það mögulegt.

Hann talar einnig um Golden Visa sem er í gildi hér í landinu en það er ekki fyrir venjulega eftirlaunaþega heldur hina ofur ríku.

Þegar ég sé svona auglýsingu og gylliboð fyllist ég hryllingi. Maðurinn segist þekkja vel til aðstæðna hér og birtir meira að segja af youtube vitnisburð þeirra sem hafa látið drauminn rætast. Ég sá nú engan Íslending í þeim viðtölum.

Þegar ég flutti hingað var hávær umræða hjá stjórnvöldum, þáverandi stjórnvöldum, um að útlendir eftirlaunþegar ættu ekki að greiða skatta í landinu. Þetta gekk svo langt að þeir komu fram í sjónvarpi hvað eftir annað og lofuðu gjörninginn, sem reyndar aldrei varð að veruleika. Sumir lögfræðingar héldu þessu fram blákalt og þegar ég var að stíga fyrstu skref mín í skattaumhverfi landsins varaði Finance apparatið hér í bænum mig við því að trúa lögfræðingnum. Þeir sögðu mér að þetta væri ekki rétt. Það væri eingöngu verið að tala um þetta og ekkert hefði verið samþykkt.

Málið komst aldrei lengra en að tala um það.

Á milli landanna gildir tvísköttunarsamningur og samkvæmt honum verða allir að borga skatta einhvers staðar. Það kemst enginn hjá því.

Ég var ekki ríkisstarfsmaður og þar af leiðandi borga ég mína skatta í Portúgal. Hefði ég verið ríkisstarfsmaður og fengi eftirlaun sem slík væri skattskylda mín á Íslandi.

Hér í Portúgal eru mismunandi skattþrep eftir tekjum.

Til frádráttar sköttum hér er hægt að fá frádregin virðisaukaskatt af sumu og er það ráðstöfun frá 2015 og gerð til þess að reyna að koma í veg fyrir undanskot frá skatti. Einnig er til frádráttar kostanður vegna veikinda.

Þar sem ég fæ eftirlaun mín frá Íslandi færast þau sjálfkrafa inn á íslenska skattskýrslu ásamt inneign á bankabók eða reikningum í banka um áramót ásamt eignum á Íslandi. Allt er þetta sjálfvirkt og þarf ég ekki annað en að samþykkja gjörninginn.

Um vorið er mér svo gert að skila inn lífsvottorði, bæði til TR og Lífeyrissjóðs. Það er gengið úr skugga um að ekki sé verið að greiða bætur til einhvers sem býr og hefur lögheimli í himnaríki.

Skattskýrsla mín hér í Portúgal byggir á uppgefnum tekjum á skattskýrslu frá Íslandi. Þær tekjur eru greiðslur frá TR og Lífeyrissjóði. Tekjurnar eru reiknaðar yfir í Evrur og færðar á portúgalska skattskýrslu, sem skilað er í maí. Þar sem kerfið hérna er flókið hef ég endurskoðanda sem gerir mína skýrslu. Ég passa upp á öll fylgiskjöl og reikninga og endurskoðandinn reiknar út og gengur frá skýrslunni. Þetta er allt tölvuvætt hér.

Portúgalskri skattskýrslu, eða afriti af henni, þarf ég síðan að skila til TR.

Í desember á hverju ári þarf ég að senda umsókn til RSK og biðja um frískattkort, til þess að ég sé ekki látin borga skatt á Íslandi af eftirlaunum og öðrum tekjum á Íslandi og vera þar með tvísköttuð. Tvísköttunarsamningar á milli ríkja eru til þess að koma í veg fyrir slíkt. Ég hef engar tekjur hér í Portúgal svo það er einfalt. Hefði ég hins vegar tekjur hér mundu þær lækka eftirlaun mín frá TR á Íslandi.

Þeir pappírar sem ég skila til RSK eru staðfesting skattyfirvalda í búfesturíki um skattskyldu og heimilisfesti, ásamt erlendu skattframtali vegna fyrra árs og væri um tekjur að ræða þá tekjuvottorð vegna fyrra árs.

RSK gefur síðan út frískattkort sem þau senda til TR og Lífeyrissjóðs og gildir það í eitt ár.

Eins og sjá má af framangreindu er ekki skattfrelsi hér í Portúgal. Þeir sem því halda fram vaða í villu.

Ég hef spurst fyrir um það hjá yfirvöldum hér í landi hvers vegna sumir útlendingar borga skatta hér og aðrir ekki. Það er hægt að sjá á síðu IRS tvísköttunarsamninga sem gerðir hafa verið ásamt fleiri upplýsingum eins og til dæmis flokkun skattprósentu. Svörin sem ég hef fengið, bæði hér í bænum mínum og í höfuðstöðvum í Lisboa, eru að Ísland sé í raun eina landið sem fylgi því eftir að fólk greiði skatta í öðru hvoru landinu og þá samkvæmt tvísköttunarsamningum.

Það er fullt af bretum, þjóðverjum, svíum, dönum og hollendingum sem ekki greiða skatta hér en búa hér allan ársins hring. Þetta fólk nýtir sér heilbrigðisþjónustu og vegakerfi ásamt allri opinberri þjónustu, en sér sóma sinn í því að svíkjast undan skattskyldu.

Mér er vel kunnugt um að þó nokkur fjöldi Íslendinga sem búa á Spáni greiða ekki skatta þar. Þeir greiða skatta á Íslandi en ættu að greiða skattana á Spáni. Þeir sem ekki búa á Spáni meira en 6 mánuði á ári geta verið heimilisfastir á Íslandi og notið þeirra kjara sem þar bjóðast. Þeir sem búa meira en 180 daga á ári á Spáni en eru skráðir á Íslandi og njóta bóta sem þeir væru búsettir í Íslandi eru auðvitað skattsvikarar og ekkert annað. Fólk hælir sér af því að þetta sé hægt og er bara nokkuð hamingjusamt með gjörninginn.

Ég er ekki frá því að Ástþór sé ekki alveg inni í dæminu um hvernig skattkerfi virkar og hann gæti kannski sest niður með einhverjum frá RSK og fengið þau til þess að útskýra málið.

Það er alveg ljóst að enginn kemst hjá því að borga skatta einhvers staðar sé hann eftirlaunaþegi frá Íslandi. Annað eru hrein skattsvik sem enginn ætti að vera hamingjusamur með, eða stunda.

Ég vara fólk við því að taka fullyrðingar nuna.is alvarlega. Þær eru logandi af rangfærslum og blekkingum.

Það er alltaf til fólk sem leitar allra leiða til þess að svindla á þjóðfélaginu, hvar svo sem í heiminum er, en það fólk er sem betur fer ekki í meirihluta.

Ég tek undir það sem kemur fram í hinni makalausu auglýsingu Ástþórs að það er ódýrara að lifa í Portúgal en á Íslandi. Gengi krónunnar spilar inn í hve miklu ódýrara það er.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

 

 

 

 

Just a thought

9th of December 2017

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Good morning

I have not posted anything for a while here but will now make up for it this weekend.

Being retired means busy all the time, at least for me.

Even though I don´t write here I try to put something every day on my Facebook page but I promise to make amends and start to write again regularly on my blog page.

After being sick for 2 years and finally recovering there is so much to catch up with. Now I can get into my car and just go wherever I want and enjoy life again. What a difference, and I am grateful.

I hope you all have a great Saturday and I will tell you a lot soon, very soon.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

Portuguese SAGAS – Just a thought

1. December 2017

Today is a cold day here in my land. I woke up in the morning, looked out the window and there it was! There was frost on the grass. Frost on the cars. Now the sun is shining, the frost has disappeared from the grass when I look at the view outside my office. A beautiful day it is.

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The first day of the last month of the year is on.

What a year!

I am grateful for everything that has happened during this year. It has taught me patience, gratitude, empathy and to be optimistic, ALWAYS.

I have been blogging in Icelandic and I found my way to WordPress for my English blog. I quit the Icelandic one but continue my English one.

Last month I began my new life. I was well enough to travel around my country.

I like it when I just get out of my house, into my car with my GPS and fly somewhere. Sometimes I have decided and even planed where to go, but there are times when I suddenly decide to go north or south. Just on the spot.

Even though my heart does not allow me to get into a plane my life is not over. I might even be able to travel by air next year. Who knows? I don´t and I just enjoy the now. The now is mine and tomorrow will be.

Next year I am going to spend a month, I hope, in a wonderful place up north. Peace and quiet, enjoying the land and visiting new places in the spring. Even though my little land is small, just like a slice of Spain, it is beautiful and has lots of small villages and the people are friendly and willing to talk to a strange foreigner. It will be a joy.

Today is the 1st of December and then the castle in Penela opens the December event. Every year in December there is a market and different happenings inside the castle. People from outside Penela come for a visit. The village is full of cars. There are cars everywhere and people walking up the hill.

Penela is a village of hills. Sometimes, when foreigners move to the country, they find out that their physical shape could get a little bit of overhaul!

Although after few weeks in the village they do get used to the hills, or at least know where not to go on foot!

Many foreigners do have high blood pressure and the hills are good exercise for them. Perhaps they might cut down the intake of alcohol and salt but who cares. They can go to the hospital if needed, or can they?

The urgency doctors in the hospitals know the foreigners in the land. They see them coming after a fall, while perhaps drinking too much.

Now it is December and perhaps more foreigners drive their cars in my land after drinking the vine in the restaurants or even after a party in the fancy houses. Should they drive? I think that would be drunk driving.

When I had been in my land just few weeks a foreign couple invited me to have dinner with them. They picked me up, took me to the restaurant where we met another couple a Portuguese one who also came by car. We had dinner and they drank a lot, A lot. Before we left the restaurant the manager invited the couples for drink and there was more vine and everyone got quite drunk.

I was new in the country.

I did not know where to get a taxi.

I had to get home.

I went into the car with the couple that invited me. The driver, the man, was quite drunk. I was scared to death.

I never drink vine. I usually don´t get into a car with those who have. This time I did not see any other solution.

We got home unharmed. This was the first and the last time I ever got into a car with someone who had been drinking. I drive my own car and am safe.

Perhaps there are road accidents in my land because of the drunk driving. It may be but it’s not just the Portuguese drivers who get into their cars after several bears or many glasses of vine.

I hope everyone will be safe during this December but just remember not to drive after drinking vine or bear. Please!

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

 

 

 

Portuguese SAGAS – A trip to Casas da Fraga

 

26.november 2017

Last week I travelled to Tondela and on my way there I visited a place I have been looking forward to see for a long time.

This was CASAS DA FRAGA.

So what is this place?

Well, it is a resort outside the main stream. It is a quiet beautiful place where you drive through Beijós, a small wonderful village where you have everything at your fingertips.

 

In the little village there is a restaurant, if you want to eat out, or even if you want to have a takeaway.

In Casas da Fraga you have everything you need. The houses are wonderful. Every house has a name. They are bright and insulated. Insulation is not common here in Portugal but these houses are special. They are cool during the summer and warm during the winter.

The ceilings reminded me of my bedroom in China. The wood beams smiling at you when you wake up in the morning. What more can you wish for?

The bathrooms are big and wonderful.

Everything is clean and notably well taken care of.

There is a washing room, shared for all the houses, if you want to wash your clothes during the stay.

The swimming pool is not too big but wonderful and fits into the environment.

There is a barbecue and you can pick organic fruits and vegetables from the garden to use for the cooking.

Peace and quiet is what I noticed and the collection of old things outside is quite remarkable.

If you want to travel around the nature you can do that by bike if you prefer. Long walks or short ones listening to the sound of the river are at your fingertips.

When I was in the area, last week, the houses were empty. This is the time of the year people don´t travel too much. I know the houses are occupied most of the time and even though there are people in every house there is privacy. I am definitely going to spend some time in Casas da Fraga soon.

I could imagine myself enjoying the peace and quiet, listening to the birds, watching the river, visiting the village and talking to the people there.

Resorts like this are heaven on earth. We just have to find them and that’s why I am telling you about my discovery.

I know the people take good care of everyone that stays in Casas Da Fraga. You get breakfast, which is included in the price and then you are on your own, more or less. You cook and you eat out. You travel to Viseu, which is beautiful and you absorb the history there.

I have never seen the machine that grinded the olives, but there is one for display outside Casas Da Fraga. There are olive trees and you can buy olive oil in the little shop that belongs to the resort. There are also honey and jams for sale there. I can promise you the price is not high. It is just the same as if you go to the market or even to the shops.

I saw some interesting things that reminded me of old times in Iceland. For example the milk container we used when I was a child. We went with container like that and bought milk from the milk shop. A wonderful childhood memory it was just looking at the container in my new land.

I look forward to my stay in Casas Da Fraga next spring or during the summer. It will be interesting sitting there writing about my life in China and preparing that book while enjoying the luxury of nature in my new land.

Portuguese SAGAS – Trip to the south

P_20171123_133317.jpgPortuguese SAGAS – trip to the south

24.11.2017

Yesterday I drove 200 kilometres to the south.

I wanted to see the pine woods, or what was left of them.

I also wanted to listen to the sound of the sea and experience my beach without all the tourists and sunburned people.

I was going to Viera de Leiria and Nazaré.

Few days ago I went north and had already seen the devastation there.

Now it was to see the south.

I drove for 8 minutes from home, and there it began. The devastation is endless.

There were burned houses, burned woods and I dreaded to see my favourite pine wood.

I have gone to the beach every year, to Viera de Leiria, and on my way there stopped in the pine wood to collect pines for the winter. I don´t like too much to sunbathe but it is nice to be able to pick up several bags of pines, fresh ones, just from the trees, and think about the cold winter days when they will light up my fire. There were always lots of pines so it took about one hour or even less to fill up the car. Then I went to the beach to have lunch in a restaurant where my friends grill fresh fish, just coming from the see in the morning, and have a wonderful reunion. After lunch I usually spent some hours at the beach, listening to the waves whispering their poems, and I even sometimes did lie down to let the sun warm my skin and produce vitamin D for the winter.

Those were the days where I left home in the morning and came back in the evening. I sometimes stopped on my way back home to pick up berries, the white ones that look like the black crowberries we have in Iceland.

I loved the smell of the pines. The beauty of the huge trees never stopped to amaze me.

Yesterday was different.

I drove through the pine woods. They were no longer green. Nor they were black. Kilometre after kilometre there was just black and blacker as far as I could see.

I could not stop to take the photos, so they are taken from my car while driving.

I just wanted to show you what happens when the terrorists decide to attack a tiny country and destroy the livelihood completely.

Somewhere the men had begun to cut the burned trees. There were holes, huge holes in the landscape. While driving through the wood I contemplated about how it would be next summer? No wood, no trees, just the vast nothing, like a huge hole in the heart of the land.

After driving through the pine wood I entered Viera de Leiria beach. The village is unharmed but standing there looking all around at the black trees I thought about the tourists who last summer were just enjoying their holiday with the family and all they could see was fire, fire all around the village and no way out.

How did they feel?

Will they ever be the same?

Will they come back to Portugal?

I parked my car and took a long walk around my favourite beach. Not many people around. Maybe one who looked like a tourist but the others are just people who live in the village and have their livelihood from the work during the summer.

I came across a sailor who was preparing his net for next summer’s fishing. He sat there, outside his coffee shop, relaxed and talking to his friends. A peaceful moment and not far away there was a man grilling fish for his customers.

The cats and dogs were enjoying the pleasant warm day, sitting in their road waiting for something or just living the moment.

Some shops were open; they are the ones that never close. The Chinese one and a shoe shop never close.

The supermarket was closed. Perhaps the people who live in the village go to Viera and buy their goods there during the winter.

The fish market was closed and this time I could go inside! Usually I am the outsider there and just looking at the strange faces the seamen have brought to land. There are many ugly fish faces during the summer but after grilling they taste like heaven.

After strolling around and enjoying my visit I left and headed to Nazaré. There was nothing but destruction most of the way. I drove through Nazaré and kilometre after kilometre the same, burned trees as far as I could see.

I just drove by the national road. I did not have the courage to drive into the villages on my way; I could not bear to see the devastation there.

We lost 90 people, at least in this area, during the early summer terrorism. We have lost many more during the rest of the summer.

We have lost houses, we have lost the woods, and we have lost the joy and the happiness. We have lost the climate. It will never be the same and after the land has been cleaned there will be nothing but weed. The weed will grow but that is not what our beautiful little land needs.

When I headed for home it was raining heavily. We need the rain. I drove through Pombal on my way back and there was the black horror again, even though the rain and the dark night had taken over the destruction stuck out.

I have not been to Lousa or Gois. Not yet. I will go there soon. I want to share with the world the terror we went through this year in my little land.

We can never forget that there are humans whose greed has no limits and they don´t care what they destroy as long as they profit.

What kind of world is this becoming?

We have to join hands and change the horror into something better. The power is in our hands, it is not in the hands of the terrorists.

Today it is raining again. That is good. We need the rain but it will not last many days. That is probably not too bad. Many trees around the roads are not straight anymore. The drought has defeated them and they lean over the road in many places.

The electric vires are among the trees. In many places they have melted in the fires and the people don´t have electricity or phones.

I saw in the news today that the drought has moved north and reached southern Europe. The climate change is a reality. There is no way around it, but we can change the evolution. Let´s join hands and stop using at least one chemical in every home. Have you ever thought about the cloths softener you use when washing your clothes? Do you know how harmful they are? Did you know that some people have difficulty breathing when you are handing your laundry outside their apartments?

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

Portuguese SAGAS – Tondela – fires

22nd of November 2017

Last Monday I went north. I have not been able to travel a lot the last 2 years but now I am well again and my habit, just hopping into my car and driving towards the adventures, can flourish again. What a relive.

After driving for about 8 minutes towards Condeixa from Penela, the sadness grips your soul. Everything is black on one side of the national road and the other side is green and beautiful.

Driving continues and when I left Coimbra I drove into the vast area where everything, every tree and even some houses were black.

I arrived in Tondela and sat down with my friends, my Portuguese family, who has in a way adopted me here in my new land.

We talked about the fires and the people who had been trapped in the little village, and could not get away. There was no way out. The fires were everywhere on both sided of the road.

I sat at the kitchen table with my friends and looked out through the window. What I saw was just destruction and so close. I could almost touch the burned wood with my hands.

The fires in this area erupted when the hurricane tossed the wind and with it the flames from a fire who most likely had been made by man.

Everything was thick by smoke, the air black and difficult to breath.

Some people left the little village by foot. They headed to Tondela. They were lucky. A car came and picked them up. Had they been on foot a bit longer the flames might have caught them.

When a fireman called the police and asked them to close the roads he was told there was no one available. Everyone was out trying to control the mess. No one came to help in this village. The fires roared on both sides of the road to Tondela.

This was the night when my family went to bed and woke up to the horror. This was the night when they thought they would not survive.

This was the night when the fire tried to destroy the little church but someone managed to save the church.

This was the night when the companies, the garage, the company with all the new cars burned down.

This was the night when the family lost its house but the insurance will compensate and they can build the house again. The family did not just loose the house. They lost all the memories. All the little drawings and things the children and grandchildren had made for them during decades. They lost all the photos. Everything. These are things that no insurance can compensate. They are lost forever.

People don´t want to talk about what happened. It is too painful. They have searched the ruins, trying to find something but there was nothing. Now the ground has been cleaned and the new house will rise but the sorrow will last for a long time. New memories will be made and eventually the people will learn to live with what happened but they will never forget.

The little village and many others are in morning. The Christmas is coming. There won’t be celebrations like before. This year will be quiet and contemplation around the holidays.

I drove for 2 hours and the horror was everywhere. Yes, one day everything will be green again, but that is not next year.

Those who have not experienced the horror of driving through the fires can not comprehend the feeling. I was on my way home 5 years ago and the fires had closed the road. The police took us through. I have never in my whole life been as scared. I can still feel the hand around my heart. The hand of horror. It is not like I am thinking about it all the time, but when I see the smoke and fire every time I enter my balcony it creeps into the mind again.

This summer I did not travel. I did not dare. I was at home as much as possible. I was a prisoner in my home. It was difficult breathing and the smell was inside the apartment, even though the fires were not at my doorstep.

Now it’s winter in my little land. The danger is almost over for the time being. There might even be some rain during the next days. We need the rain.

Traveling now is easier than during this summer. Now I can travel to places where the woods have already caught the fire . There is something very wrong. Something needs to be done. This can not happen again next summer. Now the government has to do instead of talk.

I don´t know how to solve the problem. It is said that the helicopter companies get a lot of money for helping and there is corruption there. I don´t know about it but there are videos on You Tube that show what happened.

Corruption is a ruthless enemy.

What can I do to help?

Can I do anything?

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Yes I can.

I can plant trees. I have got permission and on Monday I saw where we might plant the new ones. The people need to see something happen. They need hope. Hope comes with action. I am going to give 72 trees this year and 73 next year and so on. One tree for every year I live. This will be my contribution and I hope I can lift the spirit of the little village just showing them I care.

Everyone can do something like this. I would like to appeal to those who live outside my country, all around the world, to donate something to help build the woods again.

Next year the climate in my little land will be different. It will be warmer and likely more windy. My country needs help.

If you have any ideas how to help please let me know. Although, I ask you not to give money to the government. We don´t know how or when or even ever they would use the money to plant new trees. There have been donations for those who were caught in the fires during the summer and they have not been distributed.

I am not giving the money for my 72 trees to the government. I am going to buy the trees and plant them with my friends. That’s the only way I can be absolutely sure where my contribution will end up.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

Chinese SAGAS – a private tutor in Min Hou

Chinese SAGAS – My life in China – private teacher in Min Hou

After finishing my job in Hwa Nan I began to tutor a young boy, He was just 6 years old and came to my house every morning. I think I was more as a baby sitter than a teacher but the family wanted him to know the customs of foreigners. They wanted me to have him tidy up, to clean and so on, the usual housekeeping. This was not easy and he was just a tiny boy.

They paid me well and I needed the money.

When I began my job in Quanzhou I thought the little boy would not come anymore. I was not in Min Hou every day, but could be there during the weekends. The family wanted me to teach him during weekends and I agreed. I would come back on Friday evenings and go again on Sunday evenings. It would be fine to come home. Someone needed to take care of the house.

The mother, who is in fact not the mother, her brother is the father, took me to their hometown during the spring festival. She wanted to introduce me to the Chinese tradition and show me the house they are building.

I have never seen anything like it. Several thousand square meters on 5 floors, with a huge garden and a handmade flower fountain made from jade. It took the workers half a year to cut it out. Another fountain with a different statue beside it. Tea table made of jade is in the garden and at the top floor, which is going to be a playground; there were 2 peacocks in a cage up there, in the shadow.

In the basement there is going to be a wine cellar.

On the ground floor living room and kitchen.

On the first flor would be the parents’ bedroom, a huge space.

On the second floor they would put the guestrooms and on the third floor also guestrooms.

On the 4th floor the playground and there would also be some animals in the area. I did not quite understand if it was inside the house or in the garden.

The couple have 6 children and some grandchildren.

The gate was closed when we arrived and someone, a relative, I think, came and opened for us. He also took us on the tour around the house. Everything was just concrete and dust, No decoration yet.

This family has a stone factory and they export statues, tiles and all kinds of stones to Europe, Asia and Amerika.

The mother of my student often goes abroad on business and for leisure. She is 27 years old and is going to stop working after 2 years. Her dream is to come to sales in Paris. Her father is 62 and the mother a bit younger. I have also seen the grandmother and one sister. In fact I was teaching one in the university but have not got a clue who she was. You don´t see it on the surface which student is from the extremely rich and who is not.

When the little boy came to my home he always came by a company car. He came in black cars with private chauffeurs. Black cars are the rich people’s signature!

The city where they are from is somewhere close to the airport, I don´t remember the name but it is famous for textile production. When we walked around I saw some beautiful houses, huge ones, but most of the houses were rather shabby. I wondered why the extremely rich and the poor ones lived together in this area.

My face fell to the ground when I realised that those who lived in the shabby houses were the rich ones too. They just live like the poor ones and collect their money. They don´t want to leave their friends and their city and prefer the simple life, was explained to me. It is difficult to comprehend. The public gardens are huge, grand temples and then the tiny houses almost falling apart.

I did wonder if some of my neighbours in Min Hou were in fact the rich ones, even though they lived like the poor oens.

Everyone in the village was curious. Not many foreigners visiting and now my friend was becoming famous in the area. She was not very pleased and said it was enough to have a father who was famous. No matter if people are rich or poor, they are shy. Shyness is cultural in China, especially among the girls. Although I thought that the ones who had travelled abroad would have more confidence, but this day in the village I discovered how unsecure they are. It is important to keep face and a foreigner who takes a lot of pictures is not good, if you want to lay low.

I saw some little kids and they liked being photographed in the park. We were even invited to someone’s house but did not go in. It was not proper for my friend and she was already becoming too famous and did not want to add a visit to the fame!

I enjoyed the day with my friend and my little student. On our way home we stopped and got something to eat. The Chinese are always hungry. We got some traditional cakes with vegetables, very good, but perhaps not that healthy. I ate one, while my friend had 3, but I liked it a lot. There are small trailers all around where the people sell their hot food, the street food. Some foreigners’ don´t like them and say the food is not clean. I don´t agree. I love this food, it is hoot and different from the restaurants. After walking or spending a time outside it is nice to stop by these trailers and have a chat and something different to chew on.

Tutoring the little boy during my stay in Quanzhou did not happen. The family never contacted me again about that. I called and they told me he had decided he wanted to do something else and a 6 year old who is supposed to have everything in his live had of course the final say in the matter.

Learning English was not at the top of his list.

Hulda Björnsdóttir