Culture shock in the Paris of the East


Hear No Evil

Early on after the move, without having access to a Chinese bank account, I needed to pay my mobile phone bill in person in a China Unicom store. I went from store to store with my Google Translate message in Chinese trying to add money to top up my account. Time and time again I was turned away, in most cases, virtually chased out of the store by a rabid screaming Chinese assistant. I didn’t understand why this was not working, so I called the English speaking hotline for China Unicom. They confirmed that I could top up the mobile account in store and suggested that because of the language barrier, I should call the hotline in store and hand the phone over to the representative so they could explain what I needed.  Good solution.

So I proceeded to my nearest China Unicom store and found myself sitting opposite the representative, let’s call him Barry, and handing my phone over so he could speak in Chinese with the China Unicom hotline. Barry is your typical phone store geek kinda guy. Greasy hair, glasses, slightly pudgey and pale with spotty skin and a sneery disinterested type of expression.  Barry likes phones. Barry likes tech. Barry doesn’t necessarily like people or his job.

There is a lot of back and forth that takes place with my iPhone as the intermediary.  I am eventually asked for my phone number, my name, my money and I am presented with a receipt to notify me that the transaction is complete and my phone is now well funded enough to resume full service. Yay.

It is at this point that I muse out loud to myself, “Hmmm, I wonder how long this will take to update…”.

Barry looks up at me and says in the level of diction usually reserved for Shakespearean thespians, “Just turn it on and turn it off and it will be updated”.

I blink a few times. Thinking that this action alone may clear my ears, because surely that was not the Queen’s English that came perfectly formed and articulated from Barry. Barry!!! The guy that chased me out of his store three times, not understanding my explaination of my phone woes and just engaged in a 15 minute charade in Chinese with the China Unicom hotline. Barry!!

So as the first monkey says, we hear no evil.

See No Evil

It is incomprehensible just how much you can take for granted the simple things like walking on a sidewalk unobstructed by pedestrians until you do something wacky and crazy like move to China. For those of you playing along at home, I’m sure you would think that the sidewalk congestion is logically due to the high volume of pedestrians banked up in front of you.  And while this is sometimes the case and the general flow of pedestrian traffic is agonisingly slow due to the slow walkers, the biggest threat you face is always from oncoming pedestrian traffic.

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