In a previous blog, I had talked about my attempts to open an account at the Construction Bank of China because in America they’d assured I could transfer money from that bank directly to my account at little to no charge. I only needed to bring a tax certificate and my passport, but the tax certificate would be granted only after my first salary had been deposited, which happened on October 10th in the afternoon, and since Elina, our coordinator, had told me I could have it that day, I asked her on October 11th.
Elina said that in order for me to get the tax certificate I needed a copy of my passport. Unfortunately two weeks before, Linda, the school finance/international/foreign affairs person, had asked me for my passport to apply for my one year work visa, and gave me a receipt that would act like a legal document for the time being. I found a copy of the passport in my email and printed it, but I had bought a ticket to go to Taiwan so I needed my passport back asap, for which Linda requested the passport receipt, so now I had neither.
I asked for permission to go to the bank after having been working for 8 consecutive days, once there I asked if anyone spoke English though I had a note in Chinese from Elina, sat in front of the first teller who said a little, and handed the note to her. She asked if I had American dollars in my account. “No, I only need to transfer money to my account in the United States.” She asked something to the other teller, then turned back to me, “For transferring money to the US you need dollars.” “Take the dollars out of my account then.” “Do you have dollars or yuan in your account?” “I work for a school here, they pay me with yuan.” “Oh, no. You need dollars.” The other teller intervened with a combination of Chinese and English; then my teller asked, “How much do you need to transfer?” “$1,000.” “You can’t transfer 1,000 dollars. In China, only 500 dollars a day.” “Okay then.” Another teller approached, he told me to give him my passport. I answered that my boss had my passport to get my work visa, but I had my bank card. He said, “We can do it with the receipt.” “My boss has the receipt too because I asked her for my passport, for traveling purposes.” We all smiled uncomfortably. Then one of them asked, “Do you have a Chinese friend? A foreigner can transfer $500, but a Chinese person can transfer $1,000” “Oh, excellent! Do you want to be my Chinese friend?” I joked. They said they were sorry they couldn’t help me.
The next morning I explained everything to Elina emphasizing the Chinese friend part. She looked flustered, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. A Chinese person can only transfer 50,000 dollars a year and I already used my transfers.” “Do you know any Chinese person who can help me?” I inquired desperately. “I’m going to ask Mr. Cho, our director. If he hasn’t used his $50,000 maybe he can go with you.” She left and returned with Mr. Cho. Much Chinese was spoken, then both left and came back with a third person. “Funn Yi will meet you at the school gate at 7:50 am tomorrow, and she has a car.” I grinned, said thank you in Chinese, Funn Yi left and I turned to ask Elina if I still needed my passport even though I was going with a Chinese person. Another teacher interjected, “Yes!” But Elina said there was no need if I was going with a Chinese citizen; however, during lunch she said I’d better ask Linda for my passport just in case. I texted Linda, and hours later she responded, “I plan to go get it tomorrow morning because I have some work to do this afternoon.” I started to pray that showing up at the bank with a Chinese person would give me enough credentials to finally transfer the money to my American account.
11th Is A Charm!
Once Funn Yi and I arrived at the Bank of China I started to speak:
-I need to transfer money to my bank in the US, and I come with a Chinese person to help me.
-How much do you need to transfer?
-You can only transfer 500.
-I know, but she can transfer 1,000.
-Is your money in her account?
-No, I have my money in my account.
-The money needs to be in her account for her to transfer.
Oh gosh… I didn’t even know this person and I had to put my money in her account?
“Okay.” The teller took both our debit cards and started working. Then he looked up, “Sorry, the printer is not working so I write your transfer here” on a paper with a carbon copy. What can I do? I’m in another country. Trusting God is my only alternative. He asked Funn Yi to enter her password a few times, then I had to enter mine, after which he announced, “Your money is in her account.” Funn Yi had to go to get a ticket for the 1,000 dollars, at her return we started transferring the money. I had to provide my American account number and SWIFT code (I had asked at school what this was, and very solemnly my co-worker answered, “Well, it’s a code they have at the bank and they call it ‘swift'” Really!?) I also had to provide my bank address. The teller continued working in front of his screen, kept typing on the computer, and scribbling on paper. Stopped to make me aware the transfer would cost 200 yuan, the equivalent of 30 dollars; then gave me the hand written receipt and told me to wait 4 to 5 days for the transaction to show in my statement.
Three days later, the money was in my American bank, and I was happy, but there had to be another way. Our coordinator says it’ll be easier and cheaper once I set up my online banking. In the meantime, I have asked her again for my tax certificate. This week she gave me back all the documents I had provided. “They can’t give you the tax certificate yet, maybe in December.”
TIC (This Is China)…