Given that my Chinese wife and I recently moved to the US a subscriber suggested that I blog of some observations she might have here in Mei Guo. My wife is a person, remember, who grew up in rural China and has never been to Shanghai, much less traveled outside of China.
It’s a pretty easy assignment. She loves the air and comments on it daily when we go for a walk. She loves the water, too, although I’m still having difficulty convincing her that you can actually drink the water straight from the tap. (We don’t live in Flint.)
By far her overall assessment of America is that it is SLOW, SLOW, SLOW! We moved into a new townhome and when I started calling service providers and repair people they were always courteous and friendly but the earliest available time slot was at least a week away. In China no consumer would accept even the next day for a service or delivery appointment.
I finally gave in to her incredulity and demanded that she make the next call. She agreed and when the customer service rep said, “Five days,” she smiled, looked at me, and said, “Five o’clock. Oh, very good. Thank you.”
The rep, of course, corrected her and explained that it would be five ‘days.’
“Oh, you must give birth to the worker first. I understand.” (I made that up.)
She just doesn’t get it. Our subdivision is still under construction and they are building a new unit next to ours. On any given day there are 5-10 workers there. (Yeah, go America! Jobs!) She thinks, however, they have stopped work. In China there would be one hundred and the whole thing would be built in a week.
Flashback: When I first moved to Beijing in 2007 I inspected the house I was supposed to move into the next day with the realtor. It was 4:00 pm.
I was devastated. “This house won’t be ready for another month,” I said with some knowledge of the topic.
“No problem,” the realtor said. “The owner will bring in 50 men and they will work all night to make sure she meets the deadline. She won’t give up a month’s rent.”
At 9:00 am the next day I showed up with my moving company and the house was not only ready but had been cleaned from top to bottom. It was my first lesson in China Time.
The worst has been the US Postal Service. I’ve been here almost two months and am still not getting mail.
At first they said that they would not go into an active construction site. Fair enough. The developer, however, one of the three biggest in the country, worked out a deal with the postmaster. The company spent $5,000 to have a temporary bank of mailboxes set up where the USPS would deliver.
Now here’s what I don’t get. The location the USPS agreed to is just off the entrance to the sub that all construction traffic must use. My box is just off the entrance that only existing residents can use. Not for me to decide, but it doesn’t make sense.
Still, a week went by and no mail. I don’t look forward to the mail, mind you, but I want to see my bills or my credit score will suffer and we all know what that means. HELL!
So I go to the central USPS office yesterday to find out what’s up.
“Oh, we aren’t delivering to that sub.”
“Why not? I was told by another counter agent here that you were.”
“There’s a dispute with the mail carriers in the area.”
“Isn’t there an issue with good jobs in America? I’ll take that job. I’ll take both jobs, in fact, for the pay of one.” (I made that up, too.}
“So, how will I know when the dispute has been resolved?”
“When you see the mail truck.” (That is a true statement.)
“But the mail truck won’t come to my home. They will only go to the temporary boxes on the other side of the compound that no one can see.
“You won’t call me?”
Other than that, my wife constantly comments on the number of churches in America. “People are bored,” is her explanation.
She’s not against religion. She just doesn’t totally get the idea of giving your hard-earned money to the church every week. I’m working with her.
Other than that she constantly negotiates with the store clerks that she will pay cash if they don’t charge her tax. She doesn’t want to give the government anything. I explain to her that no one is ever going to take her ‘deal’ because they would get in a lot of trouble and that they also have sales tax in China; it’s just in the form of a VAT tax so you never see it broken out. (Europe uses the same system and it makes a lot of sense.)
Now she needs to get a driving license. Has to get a learner’s permit first, of course, but they don’t offer the test in Chinese. Although they did until two years ago. Can’t blame that on Trump, I guess, but I suspect it’s the same sentiment.
The latest challenge was opening a checking account for her. Or with her. It didn’t matter. They have all of these new laws. I showed the banker (huge bank) her green card, her SS card, and the title to our house with her name on it. The title wasn’t on the list of acceptable proof. A lease or rental agreement would be okay.
It’s a townhome and I have a bill from the Homeowner’s Association with her name on it. “Sorry, that’s not on the list.”
“She really needs a driver’s license.”
“She doesn’t have one. We lived in a city of 22 million people and took public transportation everywhere. We thought we were contributing to a better environment.”
“Sorry, this is America. She needs a driver’s license or a state ID to open a bank account.”
“Oh, we can get a state ID. What does that require?”
“Proof of a bank account.”
“You ARE kidding, right?”
“No, I’m sorry. Those are the rules. I didn’t write them.”
This is a woman who weighs less than 100 pounds, has a valid green card, a valid SS card, and wouldn’t be a threat to the toy poodle next store. But she can’t open a bank account.
But we’re doing fine overall. I’m quite happy to be home and my wife seems content overall. You can’t ask for much more than that.
I am quite disappointed that I moved back during an election year, however, but that’s another matter.
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