Archive for the ‘Shanghai’ Category


Give your bank teller a little appreciation

June 23, 2019

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Banking, banking, banking. It is the time of year when I procrastinate too long about doing the bank transactions we need for our vacation and end up having days of misery and multiple trips to multiple banks. The days of misery are a given no matter when I do the banking, so that is the reason for the procrastination.

I have written about banking before. Read it here.

This year we needed to exchange two currencies – Euros for the trip and USD for family expenses. Some of these amounts would then be sent by wire transfer and some of the Euros taken in cash. Seems simple right? No. Currency exchange and wire transfer can only be done on the same day IF you are sending the money to your own account in your home country. To do currency exchange and pay a bill by wire transfer in the same day is forbidden.

Also, all of these transactions take huge amounts of time. I have not gotten out of a bank in less than an hour, and often double that.

I started the process on Wednesday. I went to the bank nearest my workplace even though I hate that I have to climb the stairs to the second floor because the tellers on the first floor are for VIP only. I took all my documentation: passport, expert card, bank card, employment contract, two months worth of tax receipts and salary slips. Back in October the tax laws changed. So did the tax receipts. This particular bank branch has not kept up with the changes and turned me away (after I had been there for 30 minutes or so) because they said my tax receipts were not right because they did not have the official stamp.

So, next day I go to HR at work and say “what’s up with the receipts?” The answer is that they are just fine and I should go to a different bank branch. I ask for a referral to a better (more friendly) bank branch.

That afternoon we are into a taxi and off to a second bank branch. We manage the USD exchange, but have to cut the Euros exchange to a smaller amount than we need because my tax receipts and salary slips don’t exactly match up and do not represent enough money to cover the whole exchange. Note that this has nothing to do with the balance available in my account. This is about proving that I earned the money and paid the taxes on it. When I receive the receipts and slips from my employer, it is the salary slip for the current month stapled to the tax receipt for the previous month. Since I had only brought two sets of stapled documents, I had only one set of matching documents – the receipt and slip for April.

The teller had asked if I wanted to do a wire transfer, too, so I said “yes” even though I knew from previous experience that you can’t do the exchange and transfer same day unless it is to yourself. We needed to pay our language school tuition ASAP, so I gave it a try. I gave her the form from the same transfer done last year with all the bank account numbers and addresses and names, etc. All she had to do was type that information in on a new form. Which took a long time and when she finally gets to the spot on the form giving the reason for the transfer, which is important because it tells the recipient what we are paying for, she realized we were not putting the money in our own account. She refers the matter to a man I presume to be the manager who tried to tell us in limited English that we could not do the transfer. We fought about it a bit. I asked him how people pay their bills? He suggested that I transfer it to my own account in another country and pay it from there. I said we cannot do that. We left unhappy and frustrated. Both the shortage of currency exchange and inability are partially my fault for not having a third tax receipt and for pushing to see if we could do a transfer even though I knew it wasn’t allowed from previous experience. However, the real root of the problem is the red tape wrapped so tightly around every transaction.

Next day (#3) we try a third branch after I leave work. When we get there it looks like this.vacant business space

The space is vacant and the sign has been torn off. Day 3 is a bust.

Day #4 is Saturday. The branch closest to our apartment is open from 9am-4pm. So, we walk there around noontime. I have extra tax receipts in addition to all the other documentation I need. When I sit down at the window (all teller windows have chairs, because whatever it is you want, it is going to take a while) I tell him I need to do 2 wire transfers. I start with the transfer to pay for our language school tuition. Again, I hand over the receipt from last year which has all the correct information on it. It takes 40 minutes to complete this transaction. He has to type up the transaction. I have to proofread and sign the form. After that, he and a woman standing behind him type and stare at the computer for a long time doing who knows what. Then he prints out a form for the fee that I am paying in yuan for the pleasure of this experience and I have to sign that, too. In there somewhere, he asked me if I had previously changed the money from yuan into Euros using my salary. This makes me nervous because I do not want him to reject my transfer on some technicality even though it is a different day. He then needs me to go across the lobby to a computerized kiosk and print out an account statement. The kiosk is NOT bilingual, so someone has to come help me figure out what to press to get it done. The only explanation we can think of is that the bank does not allow the teller to look at my account record to verify my previous transactions. I have to print it out for him.

After 40 minutes the first wire transfer is completed. He thinks I’m done having forgotten that I said 2 wire transfers when I sat down, so he is not so happy when I indicate that I now want to transfer the USD to my US account. Thankfully, this only takes 22 minutes (yes, I timed it with the stopwatch on my phone).

There is more ahead. We still need Euros in cash. We learned by our bad experience in India that we need to have enough cash to cover the hotel just in case card transaction does not work. When you are staying 5 weeks, that’s a sizable amount. Currency exchange at the airport is limited to the equivalent of $1,000 USD. We also know from experience that you cannot do the currency exchange and immediately receive it in cash. So, this will be a two day affair. Make sure I have enough tax receipts and matching salary slips. Make sure I don’t go to the branch that does not accept the new tax receipts. Go back a second day to get the cash OR go to a second branch on the same day to get the cash as they will be blissfully ignorant that it is a same day transaction.

Now, any Americans reading this post next time you are in the bank and you can perform a transaction using only your bank card and one picture ID and it takes less than 15 minutes, you should thank your bank profusely for their good customer service. Grab your teller and give him or her a big old sloppy kiss on the forehead.


It’s getting easier

June 22, 2019

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

A few months ago, a message went out at work asking for our input in preparing new hires for their transition to living and working in Shanghai. What apps or information did we think were helpful, even essential, for living in Shanghai. I responded with a list. Thinking about it, I realized just how much easier things are after only 4.5 years here.

When we came we had to go out and shop for groceries and carry them home either by walking or taking a taxi. Taxis had to be physically flagged down and this was sometimes very difficult. Anytime we needed to buy something other than groceries, the big challenge was finding a store that had what we wanted. It was a multi-day project starting with research online and then a weekend expedition to find the store and hope for success.

Home delivery and online shopping existed for those who speak or read Chinese, but not so much for us foreigners. Over the years these started to appear for us. Epermarket, Fields, and Kate & Kimi online groceries with home delivery all popped up about the same time. Sherpa’s restaurant home delivery was early on the scene. Now the majority of our grocery purchases are done online and many of our restaurant meals are delivered to our door rather than eaten in the restaurant itself. We have gotten old and lazy.

Taobao, one of the major online market places for just about everything, finally provided BaoPals, the English interface that allows us to shop for just about anything and have it delivered. It makes getting baking soda and the right brand of cat food so much easier.

The most difficult transition was DiDi, the taxi booking app. It was only in Chinese initially. To entice the drivers to take the booked rides over picking up fares that flagged them down on the street, they offered more money for booked fares. This made it very difficult for foreigners to get a taxi. An English app finally did appear. I didn’t make that transition until DaddyBird was in the hospital this last January. The hospital was fairly easy to get to, but flagging a taxi home was quite a challenge. Using DiDi made life so much easier while I was traveling back and forth everyday.

WeChat Pay is the other revolutionary change. WeChat is a social media platform and is rather awkward to use for that purpose. However, the addition of a “wallet” connected to my bank account has allowed paying our utility bills in moments rather than having to figure out where the local office might be and physically going there to try to pay the bill in cash. One of our favorite vegetarian restaurants has a QR code on the table. To pay I can just scan the code and pay what we owe via WeChat Pay. No need to wave to the waitstaff to ask for a bill, etc. Money can also be transferred to any of my WeChat friends. I can transfer grocery money to my husband, pay the monthly cleaning bill by transferring to our housing manager, or split the bill when dining in a large group by transferring my share to whoever is paying the whole bill with their card.

One thing is true about China. They make great leaps forward. For the most part, they skipped over landline phones and went to mobile. They have leaped in a short period of time toward a cashless society. Paying with a phone app has caught on quickly.

When we first came to China, people had their own bicycles and the metro stations were crowded with them. Then came the onslaught of share bikes. Now, many people do not bother owning a bicycle because they can just grab a share bike and not worry about having their own bike locked or stolen. The share bike companies, of which there were too many, are falling by the wayside, but they have made a major change in behavior.

white cat drinking out of a plastic water fountain

I was hard pressed to find a photo relevant to this post, so here is a picture of Oliver the Loud, Eater of Steel Wool drinking from the water fountain we ordered online and had delivered to our door.



None Can Recommend – Joys of Banking

May 6, 2018

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Banking is one of the guaranteed areas of culture shock when you live abroad.

Let’s talk banking in the U.A.E.

What was strange:

1. The bank required a letter from one’s employer certifying employment and listing the salary figure.

2. There was no such thing as a joint account.

3. One could and was actually encouraged to write post-dated checks.

4. We had a credit card with the bank and they drove us crazy with constant calls to verify our transactions. If they didn’t reach us to confirm the transaction, they suspended the account, but only after letting the transaction go through. They did this over $.99 iTunes transactions.

5.Even better was when we were using our debit card in a store and the store received a “not authorized” response, so that we had to pay in cash or do without, yet the bank showed the transaction as authorized and withheld that amount from our account until the transaction expired 8 weeks later, or longer.

6. There was a limit on how much we could withdraw per day, no matter how high our balance was.

In America:

1. The bank doesn’t need to know where you work and does not ask how much you make. If they do ask, they take your word for it. You can open an account with a government issued ID and proof of mailing address (and money, of course).

2. Joint accounts are common and easy to establish.

3. Post-dated checks are illegal.

4. I never had to speak on the phone to my credit card company. They never suspended my account, either.

5. Rarely are debit transactions falsely rejected.

6. You can purchase whatever your balance allows. ATMs have withdrawal limits.

The checks DaddyBird received always led to interesting and inconsistent bank transactions. Since we did not have a joint account, depositing a check written to his name was a challenge. The first one, we took to the bank it was drawn on and were able to cash it. The next time we tried that, they refused. A few times we were able to deposit checks into my account, but I had to go with him to do this. The corker was the time that the check was made out in just his first name. Our bank wouldn’t let us deposit it because the account was in my name only and they suggested that we go to the bank it was drawn on. We did and they cashed it, even though it just said “Paul” and they didn’t even ask for ID.

Frequently, people posted a message on Twitter saying they wanted to change banks and asking for a recommendation. I have never seen a response actually recommending a bank. Most responses are “don’t go with XYZ, they are terrible.”

Some of these frustrations may come from the lack of protection for the bank against fraud.  I have no expertise in finance law, but judging from the amount of bank paranoia over every transaction, here is no FDIC or similar protections there. They spent a great deal of time and effort straining at gnats. I was constantly getting calls from the bank or having to call the bank. I have never talked to a single institution that much before or since.

The result was very bad customer service and the impression that the money belongs to the bank, not the customer.

Let’s talk banking in China.

1. The bank sent employees to my place of employment to set up the account. It was a bit of fiasco with lots of paperwork, repeatedly signing my name, and entering my pass code multiple times. I had to provide my passport, expert card, and a copy of my employment contract.

2. Again, there is no such thing as a joint account.

3. There are no checks.

4. My debit card works at stores and ATMs without a problem. The account has never been blocked or suspended. We don’t have a credit card.

5. ATMs have limits, but I haven’t encountered a daily debit transaction limit.

6. Transferring money out of the country or changing to another currency is a huge pain in the butt.

I recently had two of these pain in the butt experiences. I needed to pay the registration amount for a professional conference by bank transfer. I went to the bank, thinking I had all the paperwork I needed. The employees did not speak much English, but we managed to communicate what type of transaction was needed. A man at a kiosk near the entrance took my paperwork and typed up the form that was needed. He typed the information into the computer and printed it out on a triplicate form. Apparently, his computer and software do not connect to the software used elsewhere in the bank. So, then I took the typed up triplicate form to the teller who shuffled a lot of papers, making me sign 4-5 of them.
THEN my passport wasn’t correct. I had a new passport, as the one I entered the country and set up the bank account with had expired. She needed to see the old one, which I had not brought with me. Never mind that the new one has a notation printed in it indicating the number of the old passport. So, I had to take all my paperwork, go away, and come back the next day.

One day 2, I started over with the guy at the kiosk showing him my triplicate form from the day before. Once I got to the teller, she started with the paper shuffling again, more signatures, and my old passport does the trick. I leave the bank thinking that it is all finally done. Ha! Later that evening, I get a call from the bank. They need the mailing address of the recipient. The SNAIL MAIL address. I asked if she could take it over the phone. No. I had to come back a third time. The necessary mailing address was on the invoice that I had presented to them, but the kiosk guy had not typed it into the triplicate form.

SO, day 3, back to the bank again. I get the kiosk guy to type the form up again and insist that he include the mailing address. (Remember he is typing this up on a computer, but the information is not stored or communicated to the teller, except via the printed triplicate form.) Also, I do not speak Chinese and the bank teller does not understand much English, so I can’t say “remember me? I was here yesterday and you need the mailing address.” So, I hope that she will recognize the transaction and get that I am just there to fill in the missing info. Otherwise, I may be paying this thing twice. Luckily, I see that she has figured it out and pulled out the original triplicate form. I sign a bunch of papers, yet again. Transaction finally finished. Only required leaving work early three days in a row to walk to the bank and jump through the hoops.

Before our Christmas trip to Prague, we had a similar experience. Daddybird wanted to have enough euros with us in case we had any problem checking into the hotel like we did in India. Unfortunately we waited until the week we were leaving to do this bank transaction.

Daddybird went to the bank to attempt to change yuan into euros. He was told he would need a copy of his employment contract and passport, unless he wanted just 500 euros. So, he got the 500 euros.

I went with him the next day (day 2) with my passport and employment contract to do a larger amount. The clerk shuffles my paperwork around and then finally says he needs my tax form (proving that I have paid China taxes on said money. I pay China taxes on every yuan I get before I get it.) SO, I ask why he didn’t tell my husband that the day before? No answer.

Day 3, back to the bank with contract, passport, and tax form (which I had trouble finding). We go through all the paper shuffling and paper signing routine. Then the clerk explains that we now have 2000 euros in our bank account, but he cannot give us the cash. We can come back tomorrow to get the cash. I manage not to have a stroke or explode. However, we CANNOT come back the next day because we are getting on a plane in about 8 hours. The clerk explains that there is a regulation against making the currency exchange and receiving the cash from the same bank on the same day. Wouldn’t want to deprive China of MY money, ya know. The only solution he can offer is that we go to another branch of the same bank and see if we can withdraw the cash. Which we do, but only after I give the clerk a piece of my mind about good customer service and that not telling us everything we needed to know up front the first time and requiring us to come in 3+ times to get our own money was not good customer service.

Lesson learned. I now know to take all possible documentation with me, even things I might not need.


City Blocks

October 2, 2017

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

long city street

During a video conversation with my in-laws, DaddyBird described my walk home from work as “a few city blocks.” I had to disagree. I have no idea what the measurement of a “city block” is.

Above is the first of these “city blocks.” The flat roof near the top of the trees is the gym building of my campus.


Next I have to cross this pedestrian bridge.


Looking back from the pedestrian bridge.


Then I have to walk down a pedestrianized street. I counted 26 restaurants down one side of the length of this “city block.”


Then I have to turn and walk down this street to the next intersection – the green light.


Where I turn again. At least I am now on the street that we live on, but still a long way to go.


It was pouring rain this night. My umbrella was soaked through as were my clothes and shoes.


You can see the waterfall from this drain pipe.


Finally, I get to the bridge over the foul smelling waterway.


There is our building. Not there, yet, because the entrance to the compound is what I call a city block away from the bridge and once in the compound, I have to walk back to the building.

According to Google maps, it is just over one mile. In the pouring rain and stopping to take pictures, it took me an hour to walk home.


Shanghai Sacred Places

December 16, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

December is time for the Historic Shanghai Sacred Places tour. We enjoyed seeing a variety of religious buildings – some still in use, some turned into museums, and some repurposed to something completely different. To see all the pictures, click here.


So Rude!

December 11, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Rudeness is a topic that has been ruminating in the back of my mind for a while. Having lived outside my home country for 8 years now, I endeavor to avoid using the word “rude.” Unfortunately, it is a frequently used complaint by expats and vacationers.

I recently watched a Youtube video by a young Irish woman who had a terrible vacation experience in China. I’m a little surprised that I was able to watch the whole thing because she was painting all Chinese people and the whole country with a broad brush based on her bad experience. I think her accent helped make the story palatable. That, and watching her wretch in reaction to the habit of spitting. As the story (rant) went on, it became more and more humorous. I am not posting a link here because I don’t think she really deserves more views.

She did have a truly unpleasant vacation experience and the company that arranged her travel and hotel ripped her off and she did not get her money’s worth. However, that doesn’t mean it is okay to say all Chinese people are rude, cheating, etc.

Rudeness is a culturally defined concept. What is rude to one culture is expected or overlooked in another. Expecting your cultural standards in another country is both stupid and, let’s face it, rude.

The unwritten rule in China (urban China) seems to be “keep moving.” For example, cars rarely stop, slow down, or wait. If the car in front of them stops or slows down, they drive around it. If there is a pedestrian in the cross walk, they drive around the person rather than stop and wait. Scooters, motorcycles, and bicycles do not stop for red lights. They just blow through the intersection, pedestrians and oncoming traffic be damned. In terms of pedestrians, the keep moving rule applies there, too. A crowd funneling into an escalator just keeps taking little steps and pressing forward and eventually everyone gets on. People getting onto a train or into an elevator don’t wait for people to get off. Keep moving!

I was waiting for an elevator once with a mother who had a stroller and a middle aged Chinese man. When the elevator came, I moved forward based on my American culture of “ladies and old people first” and the Chinese man moved forward based on his cultural rule. We squeezed in simultaneously. We exited the same way. The mother with stroller could probably call us both rude.

I could gripe constantly about the “keep moving” practice, especially the scooters, but that just wears at the soul. (If I do go off the deep end, it will probably be because of the scooters.) The “that’s so rude!” attitude isn’t constructive. On the bright side, when we return to California (famous for bad driving) we get to look around, pleasantly surprised, and say “the driving here is so considerate!” It’s all relative.


front loader tractor on city street

I see your rural tractor and raise you an urban front loader.



Playing Catch Up

November 5, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

I have been terribly remiss in posting to the blog. Procrastination is my forté. So, having looked through my photos to see what we’ve been up to since summer, I find:

  • Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
  • Yuyuan Garden
  • Quixia Garden
  • Soong Ching Ling home
  • A weekend in Tokyo

large jellyfish

In early August, we went to the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. We got there in the early afternoon and found that there was a very long ticket line. It is open until 9 pm, so we decided to come back later to see if the line would be shorter. Unfortunately, we decided to go to the nearby shopping mall and see a movie in the cinema there. We ended up seeing Time Raiders in 3D on the IMAX screen. The movie itself was horrifically bad. The sound was brain bruisingly loud. 3D always gives me a headache. I was so glad to get out of there alive.

Back to the aquarium, the line was very short by the time we returned, so we went in and found it very pleasant, since there were very few other people there and we could enjoy the exhibits at our leisure. If you want to see all the pictures, click here.

tree framed by a window

In September, we visited Yuyuan Garden for a second time. This time we were with Historic Shanghai and had a knowledgable guide (author of The Classical Gardens of Shanghai) to tell us about the history and symbolism of the garden. Despite the fact that the garden is surrounded by bustling city and crowded tourist shopping, it is amazingly peaceful. To see all the pictures, click here.

Chinese garden wall with vase shaped doorway

In October, we visited the Quixia Garden in Jaiding. We had seen it from the outside on our previous visit to Jaiding. It is a combination of a Daoist temple and three private gardens that were donated to the temple and united into one. It is quite beautiful and was very peaceful. Chinese gardens are not really about plants. They are an effort to bring the mountains (where the gods live) into man’s living space. Therefore, the garden design is more about the structures built and not the plants. Plants are an afterthought. However, this garden has far more foliage than most. To see all the pictures, click here.

framed picture of Soong Ching Ling

Also in October, we visited the museum in the former residence of Soong Ching Ling. If your knowledge of Chinese history is as sketchy as mine was before coming to the country, Soong Ching Ling was one of three sisters who were married to prominent and powerful men – Sun Yat Sen, Chiang Kai-shek, and H.H. Kung. Soon Ching Ling is called the mother of modern China. She was a highly educated and strong woman. To see all the pictures, click here.

Tokyo street

In mid-October, we made a quick weekend rip to Tokyo to crash the vacation of our dear friends Mali and Zarina. It’s hard to do or see much in two days, but here’s what I learned about Tokyo. It is very clean, although public garbage cans are few and far between. Drivers actually drive in the lanes and obey traffic rules. No one jay walks. No one runs red lights, so it is safe to cross the road. It is amazingly quiet, despite the large population.People are very polite. I had the best airport experience, ever. We had a great time being with M & Z. You can see the pictures here.

There. All caught up. I’ll be in Beijing for two days this week, but it is for work and not touristy pleasure, so I doubt there will be much of interest to share about that. Our next travel plan is to head to the U.K. for Christmas. Looking forward to the cold weather, shopping for sweaters (or jumpers, as they say), and visiting another dear friend.