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Trusting in China ~ Who, When and How?

Issues of Trust

How long would it take you to accept putting all your money into a complete stranger’s account in order to transfer it to your bank, to pay for your mortgage? … It took me as long as saying ‘OK’ yesterday (17/05/13), when I was unexpectedly faced with the situation.

Imagine this scenario:

You’re in a foreign country, with a culture totally different than what you’ve become accustomed to. You’re living there – you’re an expat. You’re working there, as a law abiding citizen and there comes a day when it turns out that the same law restricts you to the point of suffocation. You’re paralysed – check mate! You discover you haven’t been given the whole truth upfront; that ‘of course you can make international transfers from this bank account’ which you were told on opening it was empty noise; your Western employer skipped this aspect when you touched the angle of having to send your entire salary into your mortgage account regularly.

What do you do?

Having left some savings back home meant that I could carry on gathering all I could into this account in the Bank of China until this month, when the inevitable had to be carried out.

  • I’ve arranged it with a trustworthy international money carrier to execute the transfer, but the bank told me they wouldn’t allow me to transfer the local currency into this company’s account – I would have to buy euros and then transfer the sum; out goes the company!
  • I returned to the Bank of China with this month’s salary to be added to what I could save so far in more than half a year, all set for everything to go, the clerk went through all the calculations, we’re ready to proceed, but the bank told her we couldn’t do it, as the account holder was a foreigner… a Chinese person would be allowed to transfer internationally but I wouldn't; so, out with me as a player in this game!
  • My interpreting colleague would be allowed to open an account in her name and make the transfer, but she didn’t bring her ID card… out she goes!
  • We called my boss, who turned up with his ID card and the good will, but it would cost 3 times as much as it cost me to open my account with the same bank; that was for covering the yearly maintenance fees, which didn’t make sense since we were only going to use the account for a matter of minutes! Out with this option, I decided…
  • My colleague turned to me, having busied herself in the meanwhile with a friendly chat with one of the girls who gathered around us to witness the palaver, to tell me with her ever victorious smile ‘She’ll do it!’. ‘She’ was a short, young clerk who just appeared, attracted by the fuss, like a bee to honey, with a look on her face as if to say ‘if anybody cares to use my offer that is…’. My all efficient mummy-colleague explained that ‘she’ had an account with the bank AND had all the necessary cards upon her and then all eyes turned to me, my eyes turned to ‘her’ and then I said OK and … in steps the complete stranger!
  • We dealt all our cards and passport out, on the cashier’s counter, the pin machine was tickled twice on this occasion and … out goes all the money from my account! Not having what else to talk about during the minutes this operation took, I asked the girls what would they prefer me to bring them – a tea, a coffee or cakes instead, for the kindness, but they politely turned me down.
  • It was time to move to a higher cashier’s desk, where they took another 200 yuen off me, in payment for the service, which of course… I had to hand out the ‘her’ again, ‘she’ returned with a receipt, but it took a while until I dared the question ‘Don’t you need this?’ pushing my slip of paper with my home bank details under the cashier's nose…
  • She took it, transferred the long codes on a separate stack of yellow, pink, azure blue papers, took ‘her’ documentation and scanned it into the computer with a scanner that also took ‘her’ picture, looked at us after all this and said ‘is this correct?’ handing me the colourful receipts, I checked it out and it was! They confirmed it would take up to 3 days for the money to be available in my bank account; we exchanged many thanks among us afterwards and… out went a happy bunch who managed to get rid of all the surplus money they had!

I did take ‘her’ name down and I shall surprise them with a plate of delicious cakes once I can say confidently that … in went my money into my banksters hands back home! It's now Sunday and the sum appears in my home account intact, with the date of 17/05/2013!


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