Tag Archives: money money money

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ATM

7 Dec

I had a run-in with the financial industry this past week. It was both amusing and frustrating at the same time, so I thought it would be best to share with you all as well, to highlight how life actually works here in Chengdu for ex-pats.

Long story short, after purchasing some desperately needed clothing, I found myself scrambling for cash even though I had a perfectly valid credit card, an equally legit debit card, and a pile of emergency USD. I hate it when that happens. Hong Kong might be the financial heart of Asia, but Chengdu certainly hasn’t caught on to the wonders of digital transactions.

So, I went to the bank and exchanged some of my dollars for yuan. This was about as difficult as you would expect. Unlike a Travelex in the airport, the bank is willing to take those dollar bills off your hands, but it is not a convenient experience. I was turned away from the bank on campus because a) it was a weekend, b) I didn’t have a passport, and c) that was handled by the main bank outside of campus on the First Ring Road anyways. I grumbled and on Monday, I headed to the ICBC just out of North Gate.

ICBC, or the Industrial Bank of China, is a big one. Think Bank of America big. In order to deal with the flow of customers, very few of whom could be trusted to queue properly, ICBC installed little tickers where you would select which kind of teller you needed and take a number. Sort of like a high-tech version of grabbing a number at a deli counter. I grabbed a number. I eyed the window. It said exchange on it and there were faded versions of the dollar sign, rmb, yen, and euro. I sat for about a half hour, passing the time by writing postcards, and when my number was called I headed on over.

The bank teller on the far side of the window was not impressed. “You need to go to that counter. I don’t do currency exchanges.” She waved me on. The electronic marquee above the window called out the next number.

I went back to the touch-screen machine and eyed it thoughtfully. Somewhere, somehow, I would be able to press the right combo of options and get what I wanted.

It was at this point when I was approached by another female banker. She asked me if I needed any help. I nodded and smiled with glee – I didn’t have to deal with the unforgiving machine, which had already dispensed several slips of paper that I had stuffed in my bag as failures. I explained that I wanted to change money.

She led my to the “Fill In Counter” and handed me a form, mercifully in English. I can do it in Chinese, but I prefer not to fill out official paperwork in a foreign language if I can help it. (Yes, this is English-language privilege running rampant and I do not care.) I was thankful I had my passport this time, as my NY drivers license isn’t really a valid form of ID out here. They photocopied it and sent me to another desk.

I sat and watched as the third banker started to painfully input my passport information into the computer. “There’s a surcharge.” She said. I nodded. “Sure. Whatever.”

She continued to imput the information. And then the fun part. My paper work was stamped half a dozen times in various places, initialed at least twice, and then I had to sign. But I still didn’t have my money. Oh no. This banker handed me yet another slip of paper. I started at it balefully, but thanked her and went to queue again.

At this fourth and final window, I had to hand my passport and paperwork over again, but this time she asked for the dollars as well. Yes! I thought. We were near the home stretch. The teller, another young twenty-something woman, ran each and every dollar through a special machine, probably to verify they weren’t clever counterfeits. Since I’m not in the business of laundering money, it went through. Then, after several more enthusiastic thumps of the stamps (including a special managerial chop that was used), I was handed a pile of paperwork to sign before my money was handed over.

I thanked her profusely and left, giddy in the knowledge that I was no longer poor. Of course, that was when I received the text from my editing job that the payment from last month had finally gone through. Gah. All that aggravation, for nothing.

In conclusion, change your damn money at the airport.


First Standard Publishing

11 Nov

Hi. My name is Jane, and I’m a sub-par English Editor.

I’m sorry, Internet.

Way back when, I was offered an editing job by a very nice British girl who was heading back home. She said it was easy, you occasionally got to read interesting things, and the money was decent. All of these things were true, I found.

However, I also found that the turnover was quick, deadlines short, the work was sometimes headache inducing, and my grasp of grammar and the English language would be slowly worn away, like a rock is worn down by water.

I’m back to my old ways. Today I handed in about 5000 words on the rules and regulations on getting a platinum credit card here in China for the Societe Generale. Yeah. It’s not really out of the ordinary: I’ve edited books on architecture, a press release on tennis, papers, short stories, consumer complaint forms, and more.

Well, I say edited

I used to be the kind of editor who would spend half an hour on a paragraph, making sure everything flowed and was perfectly true to the meaning of the Chinese original copy. That lasted about two short assignments. When I was handed the book – a 160 page Word Document with a two week schedule – I broke about two days from the deadline with over two-thirds left to edit. They weren’t paying me nearly enough to justify this sort of work, I rationalized to myself as I used SpellCheck and the Grammar function to catch the major offenders. If they wanted great work, they’d give me more time. I was only one step in the editing process, I consoled myself. I began to only go after the serious grammatical errors. If it sounded weird, well, it wasn’t my problem if they had a shit translator. (Or used Google Translate.) I was just supposed to make sure there weren’t any major faux pas in the work.

When people look at Chinglish and think to themselves, why on earth hadn’t the company hire an editor, the answer is well, sometimes that they did. I’m really sorry, Internet, I am.

But they’re still not paying me enough to fix everything.