Monday, January 24, 2011

Painful paperwork

I think I have enough blog material soon to make a book about “painful paperwork stuff you have to do as a laowai in China.” The book could include some different sections, such as:

• Horrible experiences at the bank
• Heart attack potential situations at the Visa office
• Not being listened to at the police station
• Trying to get your deposit back from your landlord (hahaha, good luck with that!)
• Different fainting spots at the hospital when there to do a medical check

For me, the bank has been the worse by far. Before I went to Australia, for instance, I headed over to my bank (ICBC) to ask if I could use my Unionpay card at ATMs in Australia, as I had read that you could online.

-No! said the bank clerk.

-But.. on unionpay’s homepage it says…

-It’s impossible. Doesn’t work.

-Eh… OK. Not even at the National Australia Bank (NAB)?


-Eh… OK, well then I have to exchange some currency.

-Oh, that’s also very troublesome! You will have to stand in a long line for that. I suggest you don’t do it here….

-Right.. thanks for your help.

Guess who headed over to Perth, located a NAB ATM and withdrew money! And, in some stores (that had EFTPOS machines) I could even pay with my Unionpay card! This just proves that the people at the bank don’t even listen to your questions, they just say no so that they don’t have to deal with you anymore.

Yesterday at the police station, I had another, classic experience of “there is no standard as different rules apply to different people.” I have all my papers in order, but since I have a new passport since a week back, I needed to renew my police register form so that it had the same number as my passport.

“Fortunately” a friend of mine had done the exact same process just 2 days before, and told me that it was simple:

-You don’t need anything more than your old registration slip and your new passport!

-Really, it’s that easy?

-Yeah! Real easy!

Could something ever be easy when dealing with authorities over here? Sounded foreign to me. So, just to make sure (…) I packed my lease and brought my wallet along to station.

And, very well.

-We need a copy of this, a copy of this, and this, and this…

-But my friend only needed to show her old registration form…

-That registration form is the only thing we don’t need..

Of course I didn’t have copies of my lease and my visa page… so there I was again, running between the police station and a copy place down the road (thank GOD it was open! Last time I was in a similar situation it wasn’t and then I had to go into a real estate office and bribe the workers in order to get them to copy 5 document for me).

Anyway, once everything was in order I got the form that I needed. But man, this stuff is daunting! Especially since different rules seem to apply to different people. And it changes all the time. Ahhhrg!


Sara said...

Sounds so familiar! I've learned never believe the first answer a Chinese official/worker gives you. If it's something important I will ask several times. Like I was hunting my package my mom had sent me and spent maybe 6 hours in two different post offices to get my package. I asked maybe 100 times do they have my package and if not, where it is. It didn't help, I still had to go again on Christmas morning to get my package. 太麻烦!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jonna
it looks like the bank teller said no waiting for you to 'bribe' him/her...

i had a friend who went to china to get 'married' to a chinese national so he could migrate to australia in the most legal way. They wouldn't issue a marriage license straightaway until she paid them 'extra' for the service. She told me the way to get things speed up was to pay them 'extra'.

talk about greed and corruption!

Hmmm said...

And this country is supposed to be the next no 1 superpower in the world? Yeah, I think so...

flyingfish said...

Man, that sounds like I real pain.

I've had my share of similar experiences, for sure, but they were mostly, like, 15 years ago. I'd thought things were improving. Guess not!

@Sara, I've had the exact same post office experience, except in my case it was possibly even worse, as the boxes contained medication I had to have that wasn't available in China. Thank God for 孙哥, the awesome family friend of the folks I worked for, as he was able to help me sort that one out before I went completely spare from the aggravation!

And Jonna, you should definitely write that book!

anke said...

Oh, this post makes me miss China! Seriously, the bureaucratic mess sounds so funny and not-boring once you no longer live there.

We had to transfer money out of the country several times, and the rules were different each time. It often seemed like there were no real rules, but we just had to convince the bank clerk somehow that we were "worthy" -- by first providing arbitrary paperwork, and then refusing to leave unless she transferred the money :)

But we never had problems with landlords though -- our first landlord gave us back more than he had to, and took us out to dinner, and our second landlord let us stay longer than we paid for. What happened in your case?

Jonna Wibelius said...

Sara -Oh, don't get me started on the post office. I've given up on them long time ago. So many packages from back home never made it here. Nowadays I get everything sent to my office, or I ask people to send it with EMS.

Anonymous -bribe?! Whooot? How was I supposed to know that, the woman just said "no no no!" I have never bribed anyone in my life, how do you learn how to do that? That's just silly!

Hm -well the obsession with paperwork here obviously has a good reason: control freak. This country wants to know everything about you.

flyingfish -hehe, maybe I will one day. Although it won't be a funny read. Just painful..

anke -wow, u sure had good landlords. Our second landlord started sending us emails accusing us for stealing (!!!) the MANUAL of the microwave (!!!) because she couldn't find it once we have moved out. When we nicely stated that we hadn't taken it, she replied saying:

-It's OK, you don't have to feel ashamed. I can offer you to buy it from me if you really want it. Just don't steal it. You need to compensate me for it.

As if we would want to buy a microwave manual?! JESUS!

Anonymous said...

this is common in asian or poor countries countries, where they wait for 'bribing' [where they hint at you to negotiate with them to say "okay how about i pay you abit extra so we can speed up things so no problems for both of us?]to happen cos they don't get paid well on their jobs so they make a big fuss by lying to you by saying No we don't do this, no we can't do this etc.

Emil said...

No copy of your visa? Oh nooo you didnt! Copies are the holy rule, never go anywhere without them!

I had all the experiences you describe. But the worst by far was when I was moving and wanted to send all my savings home.

The prossess was something like this.

1. File a report on new passport, and changes to my account. (Though the banklady and all the others in the bank was sure it was stolen, and I were a criminal. As two passport just proved I had to be a spy or something similar. This was a small local bank I had been using since I moved there, and they all knew me well)
2. Renew yellow book, as the old for some reason was "full".
3. File a missing report for lost old yellow book
4. Get new yellow book
5. Open new account on the new passport
6. Get yellow book for new account
7. Transfeer money from old account to new account
8. Take out the money from my account
9. Change currency into USD
10. Change currency into NOK
11. Find a chinese person to put in the money and send it to my account abroad, as if you live in China as a foreigner on a business visa you can not send out more than something like 2000rmb

In the end the paperwork was about 40cm high, and it took more than 3 hours. And that was only because I was going home the same day, otherwise it might taken days.

Lisa said...

Hey Jonna

Love your blog and look forward to reading updates!!

can i ask, do you have a standard unionpay card or is it a credit card? we are soon leaving china to travel a little through europe before heading home to australia and i'm wondering if i can use the card to withdraw money in another country or if i need to transfer money home and pay lots of conversion fees in the process or just carry alot of cash on me! (don't really want to do this!). I have a standard long card with a union pay symbol on it (not a credit card).


TimN said...

Nordea is even worse. I have a bank account in shanghai pudong development bank. Their service was so good, no bank in sweden can compare. No fee for internet banking, debit card. Nordea charges you hundreads for the internet banking and the debit card. Their branchs and ATMs are everywhere in Shanghai. Only ten minutes walk, I can find the nearest branch of SPD bank. Walking 45 minutes I can come to the Nordea. One city, only one Nordea. ATMs. maybe three in the whole city. When I first coming to Sweden, I was shocked that there is no cash deposit machine in Sweden as I expected that Sweden was very advanced country. No 24 hour self banking exit in Sweden, even though Nordea close at 3:00 pm and the whole weekends.
The staff of Nordea were not very helpful. Its like they never worry of being fired. They charge me fees by mistake several times and feel like nothing.
I am already fed up with Nordea. So yeasterday, I just came there to end my relationship with them.
Close account in Nordea. Happy Now.
Jonna, do not fool people who have neve been to Sweden, Sweden is not a heaven. A PHD student only get 16000 yuan after tax in Sweden, with the same qulification, you can easily get 10000 yuan in Shanghai. Compared the fees charged by Nordea, you will get what I mean. And this salary is not low for average swedish people.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Lisa- u can use unionpay in china everywhere, works like a charm! But call ur bank to check w them just to make sure. Do u have NAB? I used my chinese unionpay card at NAB atms in aussie!

Tim- what r u on about? Where in this blog am I writing that Swe is the best? Im not fooling anyone and Im not comparing swe to china? How could I? Swe has a population of 9 million, in Shanghai there r more than 20 million ppl! U cannot compare numbers of ATMs etc. I use another bank than nordea in swe and I have never had any issues, then again, I dont even go to the bank but prefer to use my internet bank. Muuuch better! If u wanna write a blog about how bad u think sweden is feel free, go ahead. This blog is not bout swe though.