My foreign name is too long for ICBC

Two weeks ago I wrote about the Chinese supermarket experience and I would say that going to a Chinese bank is an interesting event too. I have an account in ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China), but had some problems with it. When someone tried to transfer money to my account the bank said my name was written wrong. How could I not know my own name?

I went to the bank yesterday to solve the problem. Luckily there was a bank clerk whose English was quite good and I didn’t have to rely on my weak “banking Chinese”. The answer to my problem was obvious. Chinese name usually consists of three characters, on some rare cases it can be four. But I happen to have not only one first name, but two. In total my name is 21 letters.

That is just way too long for their system and so my name was written all together with no spaces and they also dropped the last A from my second first name. Wouldn’t have figured that out on my own.

The fun part about going to a bank is to see how many staff members are needed and how many different kind of stamps are used. I wanted to register for the online bank so I would have less visits to the actual office in the future. In total three bank clerks and three stamps were needed.

One clerk translated and two handled the registration. There was one big stamp on the table that is used by the clerk who is working behind the table at the time. Then all the bank clerks also have a small individual stamp so it’s clear who have handled which client and signed which papers. My online bank registration papers needed to be verified by two persons so in total I got one big stamp and two smaller ones.

While I was waiting for all the paper work to be done, a young man came to the counter next to me. He had a big black bag with him and he started pulling out hundreds of thousands of RMB. I had never seen that much money in my life! Was he a business man and came to deposit his profits? What kind of business could that be?

In general you can trust banks in China. I have lost my bank card once and when I went to the bank to collect it they were really careful about checking my identity and that I truly was the owner of the card.

Or does some of you have opposite experiences about the reliability of Chinese banks?


Buying a camera in Hong Kong – Don’t! (Part 3)

Still smiling few hours before scam number 2. Trying to act like a real expat!

Earlier this week I told you how I ended up buying my camera in Guangzhou because the prices were the same (or higher) in Hong Kong. Other reason to do that was that I got fooled really badly while trying to buy Canon 1000d. But that wasn’t the end for my camera hunt. I still needed one more scam to get me run back to mainland.

Scam number 2

(Lory, this is also a true story!)

This also happened in TST, but I don’t remember the street. So play it safe and avoid all the cheap camera stores in Hong Kong!

We had a long chat with this salesman, but here’s a short version of our discussion:

Me: Hi! I’m buying a camera and would like to know how much this Canon 1000d costs.

Salesman: That’s 4000HKD.

Me: Really, that’s quite expensive.

Salesman: Come inside, take a seat and you can try it.

Lots of small talk like where are you from, where do you live, do you know any Cantonese and so on.

Me: It was closer to 3000HKD in one other store.

Salesman: Let me see if I can make a better deal for you.

Me: 3500HKD, that’s still on the high end. I have quite tight budget.

Salesman: Come on, this is a very low price.

Me: And you surely have the camera? I just want to ask because in the other store they sold the camera to me and then they didn’t have it!

Salesman: Of course we have it. You pay, you get the camera. That’s how we do business.

Me: Well, that’s still little bit too much for me. I buy it right now if I can get it with 3200HKD.

Salesman trying to bargain like he really was selling me the camera.

Salesman: Okey, this price just for you. You pay now and we get the camera for you.

Me: Where do you get the camera?

Salesman: This is little bit older model so we don’t have it in the store. I have to get it from my office.

Me: I don’t know. I got fooled once in this same situation today and don’t want to see that happen again.

Salesman: That is not going to happen. I know that other stores do business like that, but we don’t.

Me: You are absolutely hundred percent sure you have the camera and I can buy it?

Salesman: Absolutely!

Me: Fine. Here’s the cash, go get the camera.

Salesman: While we are waiting I can show you another camera that you can buy next when you come back.

Showing the same Fujifilm camera that they tried to sell me in the first scam. Now the tricks come along. He also changed the white balance settings in the Canon and compared it to Fujifilm. Then he started talking about flash and other gear I should get.

Me: I have already decided which camera I’m going to buy.

Waiting for few minutes while the Salesman realises that I’m not going to buy the Fujifilm.

Salesman: Hey, I just heard that we don’t have the Canon.

Me: What?! You said that you are absolutely sure you have it! So you do business like the rest of the stores!

Salesman: (Don’t remember how he exactly said it, but something like this:) So why you trust people.

Me: So you tell me I shouldn’t have trusted you! How can you even make business like this?! Lying to my face! Give me my money back right now!

Salesman: Here’s the money, you can count it.

Again cursing my way out of the store. Unfortunately I only cursed in Finnish even I can curse in Cantonese too.

What just happened (again)

I just couldn’t believe what happened and it was the second time on the same day! I became so angry that my friend suggested we go to a nearby Irish Pub to cool down.

So why did I believe him? In the beginning he didn’t use any tricks, in the beginning he didn’t try to sell me something else. Those tricks only started after I paid. And again I want to remind you, that in Guangzhou it’s normal in wholesale stores that you pay first and then get you product from the storage.


  • If you want to buy a camera in Hong Kong you should go to the big stores like Fortress, Broadway and Suning.
  • Don’t believe salesmen.
  • Do your research well before buying. Check the prices and ask around.
  • In Hong Kong get the product first and only after that give the money.

Buying a camera in Hong Kong – Don’t! (Part 2)

On Tuesday I compared the prices in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. The conclusion was that even though there are rumors that cameras are cheaper in Hong Kong, there’s no need to rush there to shop. In the comments Mike reminded us that there are cheap stores in Guangzhou too, but you just have to know what you’re buying and know about the different guarantees.

Today I’m going to tell you the first story of the camera shop that tried to trick me into buying something I didn’t want.


Scam number 1

It happened on the Peking road and you can see the shop in the picture above (from Google Maps). This is how it happened:

Me: I’m interested in buying a DSLR camera. Could you show me something cheap and good for beginners?

Salesman: Sure. Here’s the Canon Rebel XS (1000d).

Me: How much is it?

Salesman: That’s 3800HKD.

Me: In the other shop they said it’s about 3000HKD.

Salesman: Come sit here and take a look at the camera. I can give you a good deal.

Sitting with my Finnish friend in front of the salesman and trying the camera. Salesman doing some small talk.

Me in Finnish to my friend: I’m sure soon he’s saying how it’s a “special price for you my friend!”

Me in English to the salesman: I like it but it’s little bit over my budget.

Salesman: Don’t worry. I can give a special price for you my friend. And later on when you buy a new camera or your friend wants one, you can come back here.

Me: Okey, that’s good.

Salesman: Playing with his calculator. What about 3500HKD? It’s a very good price for a camera like this.

Me: I’m not so sure. But I could buy it right now for 3200HKD.

Salesman: No, that’s way too little. You see how good this camera is!

Me: I have a budget so there’s nothing I can do.

Salesman: Fine. I’ll ask me manager. Asking something from a other salesman in Cantonese. Okey, my manager said it’s okey.

Me: Good. Can I see the new camera?

Salesman: This is little bit older model so we have to get it from the storage. You pay first and then we go get the new camera for you.

Me: Okey. Here’s cash.

Salesman takes the cash, counts it and writes a receipt. We start waiting for the camera.

Salesman: While we are waiting I can show you a camera you should buy next time. It’s Fujifilm XXX (Can’t rememer the model) and you can see how much better it is compared the camera you are buying.

Salesman takes a picture with Canon and then with Fujifilm. The latter one looks much better but that’s because of the white balance setting in the Canon are the worst possible.

Me: Looking at the Canon. Where can I change the white balance?

Salesman: Takes the camera from my hands. I’ll show you. Oh, wait. I’m sorry the battery is dead.

Me: Oh, can you put a new battery?

Salesman: Sorry, that’s the only battery we have.

We continue waiting for the camera I bought. Me and my friend already understood that he want’s us to buy the Fujifilm camera that’s only slightly more expensive than the Canon, but perhaps in reality it’s not as good as the Canon. Salesman is trying all the tricks he knows to sell us something more expensive.

Salesman: You know, I’m already working over time and I have to go now. Here is my manager and he knows you are waiting for the camera and he will close the deal with you.

Salesman leaves and we still continue waiting for the camera.

Manager: I just got a call from the storage and the Canon Rebel XS is only in Japanese. Is this okey for you?

Me: What? Do I look like I understand Japanese?

Manager: It’s an older model so it’s only in Japanese. But we can give you the English manual.

Me: Are you kidding me?!

Manager: If you don’t want it you can buy something else or get your money back.

Me: You bet I’m getting my money back! Is this really the way you do business?!

I left the store with my money and kept cursing in Finnish all the way to the street.


What just happened

The salesmen in Hong Kong are clever. They know what to say to make you feel good and “become friends”. They know how to change the settings in the cameras in order to make you buy a more expensive camera. But in reality the more expensive one might not be better one.

At this point I thought that they really didn’t know that they don’t have the Canon in storage and had to come up with something so I would choose an other camera. In Guangzhou it’s normal that you pay first and then you get the product from the storage or warehouse. I thought that’s just normal.

I also thought that this particular store was just an isolated incident. I didn’t know that this is the way most of the small and cheap Camera stores in Hong Kong work.

Later this week I’ll tell you how naive I was and how I got fooled the second time. It’s even better!

Click here for part 3 and find out how the scam number 2 happened!


Getting to know Guangzhou: Xiadu Street

Here’s the Xiadu Street (下渡大街) that begins next to the apartment building I’m living in. It’s a shortcut to Lujiang metro station (鹭江站). Unfortunately I can’t see this village from my window, but when ever I walk through it, it reminds me of my first home in China in the Nanting village (南亭村). Lots of small shops where you can find meat, vegetables, fruits, household items and a guy who can fix your bicycle.

If you’re an expat living along the Binjiang East Road (滨江东路) in the Haizhu district (海珠区) and haven’t experienced the back streets yet I advice you to do so. There’s a lot to see, buy and sometimes especially smell.