Living in China

What Is The Truth In China?

Photo by Life is a wonder

Those of you who like to complain as much as we Finnish people do, here’s a interesting story for you. It happened last Tuesday when a two exchange students, a married couple, were leaving the dorm and heading to the railway station.

When they first arrived to Guangzhou and to that dorm for foreign students, they paid a deposit of 1000 yuan. They also paid for their stay until 20th because the ladies in the dorm office refused to let them pay only until 14th which was the day of their leaving. First the office ladies didn’t want to give back the deposit money and my friends had to make a call to the university office and Teacher X answered the phone. Few phone calls later dorm ladies accepted to give back the money. But that was only the beginning.

Then the couple wanted to get back the extra 1030 yuan they have paid for their rooms. Teacher X had promised them face to face that their rent is 30 yuan per room per day. That would make the total of 5520 yuan in 3 months when they had two rooms. But for some reason the university had sent the dorm a document that said the students should pay 6550 yuan in total.

Soon all of us, the couple and we friends helping them, found out that spoken words don’t matter at all in China. The only truth is what is written on a paper with a stamp on it! Of course my friends didn’t approve it because they were promised a smaller rent by Teacher X. So they called her again and in the phone she promised to tell the dorm office ladies to give back the money. But while handing the phone to the ladies Teacher X hung up! This happened few times and we were all screaming to the dorm ladies, to each other and wishing that Teacher X would run as far as she could, because she really wouldn’t want to meet us.

After few calls we found out that Teacher X had to ask a permission from the Dean of university. My friends got really worried because they were already supposed to be on their way to the railway station. But how could they just forget more than 100 euros?

Lots of swear words were used in every language we knew. We understood that it wasn’t the dorm office ladies fault but their attitude wasn’t helping the situation at all. Their faces told it all: We don’t give a **** what happens to you. Everyone was just sifting the responsibility to someone else.

After almost two hours later Teacher X finally told the dorm office to give the money back. The lady already had the money in her hands but she was hesitating. At least four of us were telling her that just give the money right now. Finally she did so and the couple hurried to the taxi waiting for them and are now happily back to Finland.

Is there any way to stay calm in that kind of situation? Because in my experience if you play nice, you get nothing here in China. If you believe what people are saying to you, you always pay too much for cheap stuff, you can’t send Christmas gifts to Finland or you lose money. I don’t like losing my temper and many times I regret it afterwards. But sometimes there just isn’t any other way to do it if you’re not ready to lose a lot of money.


  • lj

    i really hate these people as well,they just want to get your money but do nothing,especial the university office,and this the so called reality in china.we have to get used to it as well.’cause this the truth living everywhere .so think it twice before you make a decision,and take care of yourself^^

    Sara Reply:

    LJ, Thanks for commenting once again. So does Chinese people have these kinds of problems as much as we foreigners? The people don’t care and therefore don’t want to help you? This happened me last week in a post office when I was looking for my missing package.

  • SaM

    well…. i signed the contract with the organization, it said that i only work for 5 days a week.. but it ends up working 6or 7 days a week…..their words doesnt mean anything….

    Sara Reply:

    Sam, I’m sorry to hear that about your job. Is there anything you could do to get the 5 days a week? Or does many companies think that they can decide what they want because there will always be people that want a job? So if one doesn’t agree, there are million others in the line?

    Sam Reply:

    well.. there is always people lining up for a job, even the salary is so bad. Well, they dont think human is a valuable asset to the company. So bad.. well.. maybe it is time to hunt a job again…

    Sara Reply:

    Sam, It’s hard to make a difference to work situation when there is always someone to ready to do the job no matter how hard and badly paid. What kind of job are you looking for?

  • Finlanren

    Hmm, referring to the blog entry, in Finland we tend to record phone calls and go to consumer rights ombudsman if we have slightest problem. Man this blog entry makes me feel bad about moving back to China, currenlty I’m just working in Europe and missing Beijing

    Sara Reply:

    Don’t feel bad about going back to Beijing, Finlanren. There are so many things in China that make me see red, that make me angry or sad, but I still just love to live here. It’s not sunshine everyday, but every single day I can learn something new. Sure as a student the life is still pretty easy and in some other life situation I would maybe choose Finland.

  • C

    it seems like you (non china people) have to fight tooth and nail to get your money back.

    It’s just lip service and a pack of lies. I ‘d feel their frustrations.

    Sara Reply:

    Thanks for commenting C! I think sometimes some people want to try if we don’t want to fight for our money. But many cases it is that they are afraid to make mistake and take responsibility. They always want to give the decision making to someone on a higher level so there won’t be any problems fro them later.

  • JD

    There are good things and bad things happening everywhere, but those things you have encountered really make me sometimes feel ashamed as a Chinese. I am in middle-class,and owning a few apartments, most of my tenants are migrants, some of them have to leave for another city for better-paid jobs before the contracts end, According the contacts,I should keep the guaranteed-money,if my tenants leave before the ending-date we both agree to. But I never do so. Sometimes we have to think in others’ position. most people in this country love money,taking it as the most important thing they need. That’s why we always hear people talking about corruptions. Chinese are living in lies for decades, The current ruling party had promised the people a better life before they seized the power in 1949. A lot of people staved to death during 1958-1960. They even changed the history by lying to the people that they kick the Japanese invaders out,not the National Party,making the people believe they were the heroes. The Culture Revolution made people fight against each other. After the Reforms in 1980’s,people started to have a little better life and realized how important the money was. Most people work hard for their money, some officers even risk to take bribes to become rich. On micro blogs(twitter-like service),we can always know more than what the newspapers and television-news tell us. People hardly trust the government, they try all the way to make money, hoping getting rich in their way and believing money can guarantee their happiness. Last year,a student in grade school made a controversial statement that he would want to be a corrupted officer when he grew up. What kills people here is not the money,but the greed.

    Sara Reply:

    You seem to be a very nice person JD. Giving back the deposit rent is a generous thing to do. It must be a big sum for those migrant workers.

    For me it’s hard to understand the relationship between people and money in China. Even though my family isn’t rich, my life have still been so much safer than it have been for poor people in China. I think I can’t fully understand the importance of money when I haven’t felt hunger because I haven’t have money for food. But then again it’s a different thing to be middle-class and still be so greedy for money and always want more of it.

  • B.

    I have a better story. When I first signed the contract with the local school they said that they can’t pay for the visa for me but they can help me to get one (like provide all the papers and so on). During the last year I had many problems with my visas and I told my boss many times that I really need a legal working visa cause I’m willing to stay in China, I have a family here and this thing is very important for me. She was always very nice and understanding (or I thought she was), she said many times that guys in the office are working on it to get all the papers I need so that I’ll be able to go to my home country with all the documents to do it legally. Seriously, we talked about it sooooo many times. Then it came to the time arrangements – when will it be possible for me to go back home? It was a huge problem for them cause my classes were very popular, I had so many students that they didn’t want to let me go even for one week (so they wouldn’t lose money because of canceled classes). And each time I talked with my boss about it she tried to delay it but still she was saying that sure, they will give me the papers and I’ll go home for one week and come back with the visa. Then two weeks ago I said that it’s been one year already, my contract will expire soon, my current visa will expire two months later and this is the right time to go home. And then my boss looked at me very surprised and asked if I can get a tourist or business visa in Hongkong! I said nothing and went to the office and told those guys that there’s no way that I’ll live and work in China for many years (cause I want to live here) with a tourist visa (for Christ sake!). It occured that they had no documents for me at all and they said that I can get a working visa through an agency (which is, let’s be honest, not totally legal) BUT I have to pay for it on my own (around 13000 rmb, they said). Whaaaaat??? Let’s forget the thing that it’s like two times more than the price of the plane tickets (I know that the’d never pay for that) but what about all our conversations and their promises? They’ve lost my trust completely and I already knew that I can’t stay there but I just told them that I won’t pay for it on my own. And guess what? They said that they can pay 30% if I’ll sign another contract with them at least for three years! Gosh, how generous! Forget about another contract! Which means that the’ll have to cancel my classes, they’ll lose sooooo much more money than they’d pay for my visa… But yes, the boss was so damn nice and promised me a lot, pity that it meant nothing.