Banking in China: YEY!
I’m going to have nightmares about banks when I eventually leave China…
Last week’s Friday morning I went to an organization to pay a fee and was met by a phrase that you don’t often hear in China: “Oh, sorry. We don’t accept cash. You have to put the money into our account!”
“I have to put the money into….. but that means that I have to go to the bank?!” Yikes!
But wait, it gets better. Because I couldn’t go to just any bank. I had to go to the 农业银行 ‘Nong ye Bank’–the farmer’s bank. Wohooooo!
This bank isn’t as common as Bank Of China, so I jumped straight into a taxi and told the driver about my mission. He turned out to be a friendly, happy man who was totally up for the challenge of going for a “Nong Ye bank” hunt with me.
We passed around 83468346 other banks (or at least it felt like it) before we hit jackpot. As soon as I stepped into the bank I knew it was going to be a painful experience: Long lines of people that were standing disturbingly close to each other, and my presence resulted in the usual giggling (what IS it that is SO funny about me?! I keep wondering! A self-conscious person would die over here).
Since I’ve had the (un) pleasant experience of visiting banks in China before, I was determined not to commit the usual mistakes. I had a bagpack full of documents (everything from flight tickets to lease contracts to passport and student ID –you NEVER know what they want to see at a Chinese bank!), and, instead of simply lining up, I went to a bank man aka security guard sitting at a desk and told him about my errand. He stopped giggling as soon as he realized that I could speak Chinese, and just like that, I went from a ‘freak’ to a ‘smart laowai.’ (Love how that tends to happen more often nowadays). I presented him with my papers from the organization: some official documents with name, account number and so on. He glanced at it before he pulled out a drawer and handed me a slip. Tam-ta-daaaaam!
But his friendliness didn’t end there. Now when the ice was broken and he had realized that I was practically a local (…..) he wanted to ‘help’ me fill in the slip. Meaning: find out everything about my errand: Who was I paying to? How much? Why? Did I often come here to pay? Did I think the sum was appropriate? (there is no such a thing as privacy in China!)
We filled it together and then I went to line up. There were about 3 people in front of me, and 2 minutes after joining the line, there were another 6 behind me. The girl next to me was standing so close that when she coughed I could feel her breath in my neck. Mmmmmmm…. Fresh!
When I had been lining up for 10 minutes an old man suddenly arrived, and placed himself next to the line. He looked at us all, giggling nervously, showcasing some cash and a bankcard in his hand. He obviously wanted to put some money into his account, but, he wasn’t keen to line up. So he simply stood next to the line. It didn’t matter that the security guard came and told him. He still just stood there, giggling and waiting. And, when it was the man who was standing in front of me turn, the old man cut in:
-You don’t mind do you?! He said. It’s OK if I go first?!
I was just about to roll my eyes when the man in front of me said:
-Yes I do. Go and line up like everyone else.
The old man frowned and looked at me.
-Oh no no no…. not in front of me! I said.
When it finally became my turn I handed over the slip, a bag of documents and the money. The bank clerk clicked and clicked, looked at the slip, clicked a little bit more, and then started saying something into the microphone, which, by the way, must be the worse bank idea ever here in China. It’s simply impossible to hear a word that people who speak into it says?! People speak so fast anyways and when they speak into the microphone it just becomes a mash of words that sounds like “shshhshshshhshshshssssshhh.”
Fortunately, my new friend, the security guard, was keeping an eye on me and it didn’t take long before he came to my rescue.
-She’s saying that the account number you’ve filled is wrong. There is a 0 missing. You have to re-fill the slip.
At first, I refused, thinking everybody were up to some huge scam. But then, the clerk handed over a new slip where I saw the name of the organization I was supposed to pay to, and their account number. And she was right: the account number they had given me, was indeed missing a "0". The organization had given me the wrong number. Nice.
Some slip-filling, lining up and waiting later I finally handed over a slip with the correct account number. But the clerk still seemed to be having problems reading my numbers. In the end, she took a new slip and filled it herself. Then a nod and the magic words: Haode (=OK).
Done, for this time.
I immediately phoned the organization and told them about them giving me official papers with the wrong account number. At first the woman on the phone didn’t believe me, but 5 minutes later she called me back, laughing nervously and apologizing.
Well, that only took a good 1,5 hours of my Friday afternoon. And you want to know the best bit about it. In 2 months of so, I have to go back to the same bank. I seriously cannot wait!