I have come to a conclusion: The only good people working in Chinese banks are the security guards. So many times I’ve walked into a bank and asked the security guard something like “Can I pay the phone bill/power bill/whatever I need to do here?” and every time he’s answered quickly, efficiently and politely. And many times the guard has helped me fill out the necessary forms and made sure I had everything correct and ready for the teller.
Everybody else I’ve had to deal with in banks here? Well, at best they’ve been competent and as efficient as the red tape will allow.
Today was a perfect example. I needed to send some money to lzh’s brother to convince her father to go the hospital and get a rather serious wound taken care of. So I walked into the Agricultural Bank at Qinghuayuan, looked around, saw I needed to take a number from some machine somewhere and looked for the machine. The security guard saw me and grabbed a number from the machine for me. Then I told him what I needed to do, and he got the necessary form, made sure I had everything I needed, then helped me fill out the form, making sure I wrote all the right stuff in all the right places.
Oh sure, once I’d found the form I needed I could have done it all easily myself, but it was nice to have this guy helping, he made the whole process so much easier. Bureaucracy always gets me a bit flustered and I always hate filling out forms, even in English. I’m terrified of making a mistake and the bank teller/whichever other bureaucrat pushing a button which opens a trap door below me, dropping me into the oubliette where they dump people who make minor mistakes filling out forms, to spend the rest of my short life forced to listen to the Carpenters’ greatest hits played on out of tune bagpipes while I’m slowly eaten alive by baby crocodiles. This, of course, never happens, but it’s comforting to have somebody make sure the form is filled out correctly and I have everything necessary before I get to the teller.
And he didn’t give me any of that “Oh my god! A foreigner! What do I do? Wait! It speaks! Shit! How do I deal with it?!” bullshit that I’ve had to put up with from a wide variety of people in a wide variety of places. No, he just dealt with me like an ordinary bloke dealing with another ordinary bloke. Come to think of it, every bank security guard has treated me this way. And no, this wasn’t the White Skin Effect: “White person! Quick, bow, scrape! Kiss his feet! Kowtow 99 times hard enough to crack the floor tiles and fracture your skull!” No, this was the exact opposite: The Ordinary Bloke Effect: He treated me exactly the same way he treated every other person who asked for help. I noticed, as I was waiting for my number to come up, that every one who asked for help, regardless of skin colour, gender, age, accent, national origin, clothing, class, whatever, was treated the same way. He had information that people needed, and he politely and efficiently passed that information on, ‘cos he’s just an ordinary bloke like the rest of us, and there are times he, too, needs a little help. And every bank security guard I have ever come across does the same.
Well, eventually my number came up. The teller, as it turns out, wasn’t bad, exactly. He did his job quickly and efficiently. But he was one of those wankers who suddenly loses all powers of speech and listening comprehension when confronted with somebody whose skin is a slightly different colour.
And that sums up my experience of the people working in ’s banks.
As for yesterday’s New Zealand culture class: Well, very predictably, the students did a very short, basic search for “新西兰” and got some very superficial information from Chinese websites only, despite me telling them to search in English and preferably search for New Zealand websites. Of course, my white skin makes it physically and biologically impossible for me to know that New Zealand websites are far more likely to give them more detailed and more accurate information about New Zealand culture than the first few random Chinese websites that a Baidu search for “新西兰” turns up.
Actually, there’s an idea, maybe I should see what Baidu turns up…..
And most of the information they found had only a tenuous link to “culture”, at best. Sorry, folks, but when I told you to research New Zealand culture, preferably in English looking for New Zealand websites, I did not want you to come back and tell me that New Zealand’s highest mountain was Cook Mountain. Nor did I want you to tell me that ’s weather is very good. And I certainly didn’t want you to come back and tell me the usual “It’s a beautiful country” bullshit that you tell everybody who is neither American nor Japanese. Really. I was hoping (unreasonably, obviously) that maybe we could actually have a well-informed, intelligent discussion about culture.
So for Friday they have to research both rugby and literature. I’m sure at least half of them will tell me that rugby is American football. I’m sure that if any of them actually finds any information about literature, they’ll only be able to tell me the Chinese names of the authors and their work.
Oh, and while I’m at it: Please, please, please, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER EVER TELL A NEW ZEALANDER THAT YOU THINK KIWIS MUST LIKE SWIMMING BECAUSE AUSTRALIA HAS A GOOD OLYMPIC SWIMMING TEAM. You have a brain in your head, you are capable of rational, logical thought ( cynics: Stop. Chinese people can, and do, think logically, even by your lofty standards). And besides, there are easier ways to kill yourself.
So, here’s hoping they do actually do some proper research by Friday.
And on a more positive note: I’ve got that magical cellphone signal-using wireless internet card. It’s an A-link V8 CDMA 高速无线上网卡 from 中国联通. I’ve been told not to install or use until Friday, though, ‘cos it costs 98 kuai per month, so if I used it now, I’d have to pay 98 kuai for these three days, which isn’t worth it. I’m sure I’ll spend at least that much on the dial-up, anyway, but who cares?